Being the forum moderator for OBU I have answered many frequently asked questions and I also added some relevant comments due to my experience as an OBU marker for the BSc honors degree in Applied Accounting. We are hopeful that the students coming to our OBU forum will benefit from these questions.
For RAP completion, how long does it take?
This depends on the availability of the time as well as the grade that you are hoping to secure. A period of three months as a general guideline is sufficient for a good RAP if during that time you work steadily. Normally there is a correlation between quality and the time spent, therefore, if you want a good grade, do not rush it, review your work objectively while also making the necessary revisions as you move forward. This is one way to improving your RAP but this also needs to be added into your timetable. Students that have finished their RAP in 4 to 6 weeks are unlikely to get any other grade than a C.
For students who do have English as their first language what evidence is required to produce their ability in English?
ACCA administers this and not the OBU. The following links provide details of the qualifications to meet with Oxford Brookes University’s proof of English proficiency:
although this should be remembered that the real evidence of English proficiency will, in reality, be demonstrated in the RAP. Even though a great effort is made to mark fairly despite the first language of the student, but in order to do that we do not need to understand the vital concepts as well as ideas present both in the report and the SLS. If we are unable to do so then we may have to fail the students in the communication assessment criteria, although there are some allowances for grammatical and other mistakes.
How to choose a suitable topic?
Before choosing a topic certain principles must be kept in mind to minimize the wasting of the time or avoiding the unfortunate occurrence of insufficient information which is required for good analysis.
Ask yourself questions such as does your topic needs primary data and will you be able to access the adequate primary information? Or like with certain topics will you be able to conduct primary research if needed? There are certain topics that require access to confidential or inside information, therefore before you begin you should get permission that you may use this information to avoid a breach of the employment contract.
You should be able to use a model and apply it for the completion of the assessment criteria. Therefore, you should give thought to an adequate model as well as its application for your topic.
Most importantly you should be able to assess your information for your topic objectively. There have been times when the RAP on topic 11,13 and 16 jas failed because despite doing excel;lent research and providing an appropriate description of the situation, the students do not apply any of their original analysis. Therefore, remember that it is very important to use your own information not just stating it.
How to avoid the lack of evaluation and analysis?
This is the most common reason behind failure. Evaluation and analysis are the clever bit of the RAP which demonstrates what the student is capable of in terms of adequately using the information and data.
Many students tend to overlook the fact that RAP actually stands for Research and Analysis Project, therefore it is essential to appreciate both the aspects while demonstrating analytical skills. They often times forget that their work will also be read and marked and they end up using a lot of figures in their report without making any meaningful comments, hence, making it difficult to get a pass. If you want to know more about how to address evaluation correctly then see the article by Al Neilson (OBU Senior marker for the BSc degree and Moderator).
What is the primary and secondary data?
Data that you have collected for the purpose of your research is called primary data whereas, secondary data is collected by another person but you can use it for your research.
There is no requirement for conducting primary research for certain topics but when selecting a topic as well as an organization or setting the objectives it is important to analyze whether you will need primary information. Primary data as a questionnaire is required for topics 12, 2 and 9.
For objective analysis in certain topics, primary data from interviews and other observations are required. However, secondary data is enough for topics 5, 8, 15, 27 and 20.
For information on how to go about information gathering for the primary data research look into section 17 of the information pack. If there are no principles of good design approach in the questionnaire then this can lead to failure in application and evaluation both. The reliability of the result will not be considered valid and proper conclusions will not drawn-out from it.
I do not work because of which I do not have access to primary information, what topics will be suitable for me that do not require any primary data at all?
Following are the topics that only require secondary data:
Topic 8 – An analysis and evaluation of the business and financial performance of an organisation over a period of three years.
Topic 15 – An analysis and evaluation of the organisation’s working capital management over a period of three years along with its impact on the funding strategies of the organisation.
Topic 17 – An assessment of the corporate governance quality within an organisation as well as the impact on the key stakeholders of the organisation.
Topic 18 – A review of the marketing strategy of an organisation and its effectiveness
Topic 20 – An assessment of the corporate social responsibility policies of an organisation including their business ethics as well as their effect on business practice and key stakeholders.
Topic 5 – An evaluation of the use of the short term and long term Islamic financial instruments as well as their effect on an organisation’s financial statements. This topic may be suitable if you have some understanding of the underlying principles of Islamic banking.
Is it possible to make slight changes in the title of the topic?
No, your RAP needs to be tailored as per the exact title of the topic because that is how it is going to be assessed. For instance, if you are working on topic 18 that is ‘A review of the marketing strategy of an organisation and its effectiveness’ then this is what your research and analysis should precisely be evaluating and uncovering. Producing an in effect RAP that is comparing the marketing strategy of one company with the other company is not what the topic states.
At times the examiner also makes a comment saying that the student has not answered the actual set question but instead they have answered the question they wish the examiner has asked. This makes it seem like they tried changing the title and because of which they will fall in the failing category.
What is the use of the comparator company for certain topics?
If you have not yet read first section (e) pp34-35 of the P29-30 Information Pack where Al Neilson’s, a senior OBU moderator, has explained the need of comparator company for the validity of your evaluation.
For further information read my post on the Forum of ‘Business Analysis/ OBU Topic 8: Competitor for ratio analysis’ published on April 26, 2014, where I have explained the importance of this in detail.
If the comparator analysis is required for your topic and you do not have sufficient analysis then you will fail in the assessment criteria. In certain situations comparator analysis enhances the evaluation such as in topic 15, therefore advised.
It is also recommended for topics 15 and 20 as a general rule because it complements these topics. For topic 18 it should be used to strengthen the evaluation along with the secondary data.
What is the word count limit comprised of?
Currently, the word count has been extended from 6,500 to 7,500 words but now that includes everything in the report from the Title page to the Conclusions. Although there should be a separate file for the Reference list that is needed for submission. This should make it easy for the students to check their reports total word count for themselves.
The word count for SLS is 2,000 words, despite answer to Q1 being generally longer than others’ answers, but there should still not be an imbalance in the word count otherwise it would indicate that there is a lack of self-reflection.
Remember that there is no penalty if you allocate words as per your need and that the breakdown of word count among sections is just a general guide. However, OBU has the right to fail students if they exceed the word count of 7,500.
How can plagiarism be avoided?
The simplest way answer to avoid plagiarism is by doing all the work yourself. Reference your work well and avoid ‘copying and pasting’ too often in your work, paraphrase and summarize text and if you have to make citations, keep them precise as well as use quotation marks as a reference.
There are two major types of plagiarism. The first one is accidental plagiarism where the student either does not recognize the importance of referencing or is unaware of it and forgets referencing their work fully or that the majority of their report is copied word for word from another source that it is compromising the standard of work. The second type is deliberate plagiarism in which a student has copied presented with work that they know is not theirs. Having experience markers can normally tell the difference between the two types of Plagiarism. If the work is categorized as the first type of plagiarism markers fail the work on the basis of referencing as it depicts poor academic practice as well as bad scholarship, whereas the marking team and the Academic Conduct Office (ACO) takes a light view of the second type of plagiarism as its aim is to secure the degree using unfair means. The work that is suspected to have plagiarism is always referred for a second opinion. The ACO then informs ACCA about the cases of cheating as it is also a breach of professional ethics and if there is a mentor that has assisted with the cheating, disciplinary action is taken against that mentor too with complete support of ACCA.
Since there is no right or wrong for the SLS answers then what is the reason behind failing SLS?
The SLS is about the maker of the report where the Information Pack tells about the meaning of self-reflection. “When you are planning your project’s research work you should also plan about collecting evidence that will contribute to your Skills as well as the Learning Statement, such that some part of your self-reflection ‘falls out’ of the activities that are undertaken for your Research Report.” It is therefore always recommended that students begin with their SLS in rough at the start instead of trying to remember all of the facts at the end. You may take from our forums as a part of your evidence but remember to cite it.
In the majority of cases, students list out what they have done but do not talk about why they took a certain approach. For instance, in Q2 the marker does not only want to know what went well, but he/she is also interested to know more about challenges that you met in producing the RAP. When you answer all 4 of the questions remember to tell the marker HOW you think you have learned something from doing your work and how will it help you in the future. There are no preset answers as it depends on the student and their experience. Whereas, if a student has not done adequate self-reflection such as he/she has not fulfilled the assessment criteria then they will be marked failed on Self-reflection.
How important is the presence of bar charts and graphs in the presentation and report?
It is very important for various reasons. Students oftentimes are not aware of the importance of graphs, charts as well as other graphical depictions in the communication of information. A picture can tell so much. They are also useful in saving the word count and in the text break up.
It is easier to understand a relationship in the ratios if graphics are used by the student such as pie charts, bar charts, and graphs as they can present difficult scenarios and relationships way better than an entire text paragraph. Almost every topic consists of some numerical data that can be easily presented graphically for better understanding than in written text.
Two relevant assessment criteria can be applied here such as a PowerPoint presentation and the presentation of the project findings in the form of a report. If there is an absence of graphs or charts in the report, the marker may fail the student due to the lack of effective presentation of the information. Seeing hundreds of written figures is very daunting in an RAP especially when there are other ways that could have been utilized in presenting the data.
What is the importance of a mentor and how to get a mentor?
A mentor is needed for the verification of your work which is why a PowerPoint presentation is also presented to the mentor. These are the reasons why a student should get a mentor who has the capability of certifying the work as plagiarism-free.
A mentor can be found on the OBU mentor list after they have completed their OBU online mentoring course. The information pack can be checked to find an OBU trained as well as a listed mentor.
OBU has launched the new online mentoring course in the month of February. Initially, it was mandatory to have a mentor for P30 but this has now been pushed back to P31. Although it is advised to have an OBU listed mentor for P30 and the previous rules still apply till the month of May, due to which any mentor that meets the requirements can be appointed. Check the OBU homepage for information on mentoring.
What happens if I fail to pass?
A student is given a total of three attempts to pass. Sections that have been passed will be taken to the next submission unless the topic has been changed. For instance, if you have cleared the SLS and the presentation you will only be required to resubmit the RAP report. A mark-sheet is given which sets out the elements in which the student has failed to meet with the assessment criteria. The mark-sheet also consists of areas where the student has made any errors. This information can be used for preparing for a successful resubmission.
Can I appeal if my RAP has failed?
An appeal against the academic judgment of an examiner cannot be made. Although a request for review of the decision can be asked for. However, dissatisfaction with the academic judgment of an examiner is no basis for such a review, which would generally only consider when the assessment has been carried out in accordance with the regulations of RAP. Further information about the regulations can be checked on the Oxford Brookes University website
OBU has adopted a very speedy and advance system of marking. The marking team for the BSc in Applied Accounting RAP is composed of experienced markers with the experience of marking various projects. Every RAP that is graded failed is reviewed by another moderator who is a senior marker, who verifies all of the assessment criteria. In cases where the first marker considers that the work has been assessed incorrectly, it will be modified and then passed to a senior moderator for a final decision. Where usually a new moderator becomes part of the team, their assessment work is thoroughly scrutinized by moderators to make sure that the assessment criteria is applied fairly and consistently. While a student may have grounds to request for the appeal they are advised to completely familiarize themselves with the process for appeal as. Bear in mind that very fewer appeals are normally successful.
We have answered as many questions as we could here but there are other FAQs related to the administrative procedures that are included on the website of OBU. Remember to check out the latest information pack for any information that is not present here. If you want o find answers to more specific queries then check out the open tuitions forum.