ICT Views

How to answer a case study style question

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How’s studying going? Now that you’re a few weeks into your new course, we hope you’re feeling settled in. We’re aware that studying can be a challenge, but embracing that challenge and viewing it as a way to help you grow as a professional can make all the difference. ICA qualifications are, after all, designed to be practical and relevant, so if you find yourself confronted by hurdles in your studies remember that when these hurdles occur in a real-life, work-based scenario you will be far better prepared to leap them successfully.


Last week we took a look at how to answer an essay-style question. This week we’re focusing on case study questions.


Case study questions can be based on examples from real life or illustrative cases, or may use extracts from reports, speeches or pieces of legislation. The key to producing an effective response to this style of question is to ensure that the answer you provide clearly links back to the scenario given in the example/extract/case provided. If you read through past Examination Reports you will notice that one of the most frequently raised issues is the tendency for candidates to provide broad, generalised answers to case study questions, rather than taking the time to construct an answer specific to the scenario provided. This is equally true of assignments: you must craft your answer based on the specifics of the question rather than writing something expansive and unfocused.


In dealing with case study questions, you need to break down both the example/extract/case study and any questions relating to it, to make sure that you adequately explore what these are about and what is required of you in your answer. You might find it useful to sketch out a diagram showing the key issues arising from the situation described; these might be events, individuals involved, timelines, particular actions to be taken, etc. This will make the scenario clearer in your own mind and allow you to piece together a framework upon which you can then structure your answer. It’s a way of approaching your answer that guarantees you cover everything you need to discuss in a logical and clear manner.


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Here is an example of a short case study-style question and how this might be broken down.




Your trust company (Sunshine Co) is the trustee of a trust which has one beneficiary, called David. Sunshine Co owns some bearer shares held by David’s accountant in London and the contents of a bank safe deposit box in Switzerland held in David’s name. From time to time, David telephones Sunshine Co to instruct it to make investments on behalf of ‘his’ trust. These investments have generated astonishingly good returns, so senior staff at Sunshine Co have themselves begun to shadow these investments and share in David’s good fortune. Payments are made from the trust on David’s instructions to a yachting marina, a car dealer and travel agent.


a) What risks does Sunshine Co face from this particular relationship?

b) What action would you take with this relationship to manage the risks you have identified?

c) Assuming Sunshine Co staff have been acting in accordance with internal procedures, what recommendations would you make for new procedures that would address your concerns?


Key facts


  • Trust company: Sunshine Co

  • Trust beneficiary: David

  • Trust contents: Bearer shares (held by David’s accountant in London) and contents of a bank safe deposit box in Switzerland (in David’s name)

Key actions


  • David calls Sunshine Co to make investments on behalf of his trust: there are astonishingly good returns.

  • Senior staff are shadowing these investments.

  • Payments from the trust are paid to a yachting marina, car dealer and travel agent.


Action points


  • What risks do Sunshine Co run from this relationship?

  • What actions should be taken to manage these risks?

  • What recommendations should you make about new procedures?

At this point, are you sure you have identified all the areas in the example/extract/case study that need to be covered in your answer?


Remember, part of what you are being assessed upon is your ability to interpret and analyse.

A thorough exploration of the scenario described in the example/extract/case study is crucial to writing an effective answer for this style of question.


You must also ensure you have identified all the relevant requirements in terms of structure and content of the example/extract/case study provided.


Bear in mind that in case study-style questions, just as with essay-style questions, you may find that the question itself is split into two or more sub-questions, either obviously (the question is presented in two or more parts) or less obviously (the question is presented as a single question but its wording might suggest that two or more aspects of it need to be addressed separately). You therefore need to scrutinise the questions provided as carefully as you would scrutinise the example/extract/case study.




There are three key points to remember.


  1. To produce an effective response to this style of question you must ensure that the answer you provide is clearly linked back to the example/extract/case provided.

  2. A thorough exploration of both the example/extract/case study provided and the questions linked to it is crucial to an effective answer in a case study-style question.

  3. Keep in mind you are being assessed on both your content and structure.




How are you finding your studies? Do you have any tried and tested tips that you would like to share with your fellow students? Share them with us using the hashtag #ICTViews. Join the conversation for more tips and hints.




ICA qualifications are a globally recognised benchmark of competence and excellence in the fields of anti money laundering (AML), compliance and financial crime prevention. There are courses to suit all levels of knowledge and experience.


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