How to Use Value Chain Analysis While Preparing for the Exams

Value Chain Analysis

This continues a series of posts that looks at preparing for an exam using some of the same concepts that you might study for the CMA, CPA, or CIA exams.

Value Chain Analysis

Value chain analysis helps a company understand which processes add value for the customer and which processes do not. If the company can reduce or eliminate activities that do not add value for the customer, then the company will lower its costs without having to reduce the price because the customer will not notice any difference in the product or service after the non-value-adding activities have been removed.

From an exam preparation standpoint, value chain analysis can similarly help you identify the activities that do add value to the exam preparation process and eliminate those that do not. Eliminating non-value-added activities will not reduce your ability to pass the exam, and will give you more time to do value-adding activities.

Value-Adding Activities

Some of the activities that do add value to your exam preparation process are:

  • Reading the textbook
  • Answering good practice questions
  • Studying incorrect answers to questions to help you understand common mistakes
  • Watching exam prep videos
  • Asking questions of exam experts
  • Reading some exam advice and guides on-line
  • Making your own study notes, especially for topics that you find difficult
  • Reviewing previously-studied topics
  • Discussing the exam with other candidates

Activities That Do Not Add Value

Examples of activities that I know candidates sometimes want to do but do not add value to the exam preparation process are:

  • Spending too much time reading exam advice or tips. The only way you can prepare for the exam is by actually preparing (i.e. performing the value-added activities). Just reading exam advice or tips will not prepare you to pass the exam.
  • Answering non-exam-based questions. If you search for questions online, there is a great risk that the questions you find will not be relevant to the exam.
  • Asking questions to people who are not exam experts. Colleagues, professors, or other users on general accounting forums do not have the exam in mind and may give answers outside of the scope of the exam.
  • Trying to find “shortcuts” to studying. There are no shortcuts to passing the exam and there is no secret knowledge that substitutes for spending the required time studying and learning the material.
  • Memorizing practice questions or repeating practice questions so often that you know all of the answers. The questions on the exam will be different than the practice questions.
  • Spending time and money on multiple question banks from different providers. Because all providers have access to the same previously-released exam questions, the questions will be mostly the same no matter which question bank you use.
  • Trying to guess what topics might or might not be tested on your exam. Because the exams use large question databases covering all of the topics on the syllabus, you need to be prepared to answer questions on any topic.

As you are studying for the exam, ask yourself if your activities are value-added to the main objective of learning the concepts tested on the exam. Anything that is not accomplishing that objective is non-value-added and can be eliminated from your studies.

What are some other value-added activities that you do to prepare for the exams?

Brian Hock, CMA, CIA