06 September 2019

Playfree analysis and your next steps

Have you read the ICAEW Case Study Examiners’ report on the July 2019 exam, Playfree?  Whether you are sitting Case Study for the first time or failed Playfree, it is full of useful information about what the examiners are looking for you to do, and not to do.  We have summarised the key points for you, and shown those of you who were unsuccessful in July what to do next.

Review of the exam

Requirement 1 was a conventional analysis of the Playfree Income Statement down to Gross Profit, and candidates also had to advise the board about warranty claims on zipwires and any adjustments to the 2019 accounts.  They needed to analyse revenue using the additional divisional information provided.  There was sufficient information in the Exam Paper on 2019 to supplement that provided in the Advance Information for candidates to develop their analysis.  The structure provided for answering the “twist” will have reduced their decision making.

In Requirement 2 candidates were asked to calculate PF’s revenue, cost of sales and profit before and after design costs for a new contract with Tyron, with both the usual and LTT surfacing.  They had to evaluate the assumptions and the information about the “new-style” holiday parks, including  business trust and ethical issues.  The calculations were straight forward given the guidance in the Advance Information.   As the “next logical step”, candidates could have calculated the price using the actual margin for 2019.  The assumptions for discussion were the 25% and 50% cost increases, the use of 2016 cost base, possible discounts, missing costs and the timing of the contract.  This was a straight- forward requirement, with only the need to do 2 sets of calculations a possible concern for candidates in terms of time management.

Requirement 3 was the evaluation of the financial, operational and strategic issues (including business trust and ethical issues) relating to a consultancy contract for Kent County Council, a strategic opportunity identified in the Advance Information.  The financial appendix required the calculation of the profit for the 3 elements of the contract.  There was nothing in the content that should have caused candidates concern.

Overall, the content of the exam requirements was clear and not unexpected.  There was detailed guidance to candidates on how to structure their answers to all three requirements.  Those that had prepared well, and made use of all the information provided in the Exam Paper in their discussions, should have found this Case Study well within their capabilities. 

Review of the Examiners’ report

Overall, the examiners emphasise the crucial importance of:

  • In advance, thoroughly understanding the Advance Information for yourself
  • In the exam, integrating your knowledge of the AI with the new information provided, managing your time effectively, and covering all 4 elements in your report (an Executive Summary, and a balanced answer across the 3 requirements).

The quality of the underlying report, good technique (using the essential data, analysis, judgements, conclusions and recommendations provided in the main report) and time management played a major part in determining the quality of the Executive Summary.  The performance differentiator was identifying the most important factors: the implications of the tender success rate, the operational aspects of the Tyron contract, and the IT aspects of the KCC proposal.

Requirement 1 was the analysis of Playfree’s 2019 results to Gross Profit and was well answered by most candidates.  Most candidates met the examiners’ requirement to produce a 4-column analysis in Appendix 1.  The main performance differentiators were using the divisional table to explain the 2019 performance of all 3 revenue streams, integrating the Advance Information with the new information, and commenting on the enhanced maintenance contracts.  The discussion of the zipwires warranty provision was the weakest part of most answers.

Requirement 2 was the evaluation of the proposed contract with Tyron for the new-style holiday parks, and was well answered.  Most candidates used the 2016 contract as a template, found the calculations straight forward, and worked methodically through the playground specifications in their discussion.  Weak candidates did not demonstrate their scepticism sufficiently on their assumptions underlying their profit calculations, nor covered enough of the specifications in their discussion.  The use of LTT as an ethical issue was generally well discussed but weaker candidates overlooked the Eversley bid.

Requirement 3 required an evaluation of a proposal for consultancy services for Kent County Council, and was the weakest part of many answers.  The profit calculations for each element of the contract were straight forward, but weaker candidates made basic errors under time pressure.  Most candidates used the Exam Paper to structure their commercial discussion, the differentiator being the discussion of the IT issues.  Those that did not produced an un-focused answer, with the discussion of IT being particularly poor.

The report spells out the key messages contained in our free video: “How to prepare for your Case Study exam”.  You need to:

  • Be well prepared and master the AI to understand the business thoroughly
  • Cover all key aspects of the exam to obtain an even spread of competent grades
  • Manage your time effectively to produce a balanced report
  • Make good use of the case material (both AI and EP) to describe the wider context
  • Question assumptions and demonstrate your professional scepticism
  • Address the relevant business trust and ethical issues
  • Give appropriate attention to your Executive Summary.

What now?

If you were unsuccessful in your July 2019 Case Study attempt you need to understand what went wrong, and start planning NOW for your re-sit.

1. Request your Marks Feedback from ICAEW

The examiners say this document is "worth its weight in gold", and we agree. It will help show you where you are going wrong, giving you a starting point for your next phase of revision. Send yours to us (, and we'll help you interpret it free of charge.

2. Get the Playfree Examiners' Report from ICAEW’s website

Listed under the resources section of their website as a "Case Study July 2019 examiners’ report and marks plan", this document is essential reading. Having sat in many key development, marker training and results determination meetings ourselves when we worked at ICAEW, we can tell you that the things written in this Examiners' Report are the things they say to each other during this process. We have summarised the report above, but you should download the full document and read through it, making notes of things that are new to you, things you think you need to improve on and the things you do well.

3. Complete our Playfree Self Analysis Questionnaire.

We have used the Playfree marking key to create a Playfree Self Analysis Questionnaire. Use this checklist to see where you struggled or might have missed out on marks. Self-analysis can be hard and it is important to be honest - if you ticked 'good enough' for everything then you don't understand what the examiners are looking for.

4. Read the ICAEW Illustrative Scripts

ICAEW have also published 2 student scripts, along with the examiners' comments. This is another chance to see what the examiners are looking for in a passing script, so make sure you read these and make some notes about the style of writing and important things to include.

Once you've completed these tasks, you will feel ready to move on from Playfree and start planning your preparation for November.

Work with us

Our average pass rate for resit students is 25% higher than the worldwide equivalent. Book now and pass in November:

Classroom - 5, 3 or 2 day courses using Mock Exams based on the November AI and focused on your exam technique

Online - Can't make it to London? We have an online option for you, from complete tuition to supporting material