How I passed the CIMA F3 exam!


Well, it was a welcome surprise to read the magic PASS word on the piece of paper handed to me by the Pearson Vue member of staff. There is always that awkward sense of nervousness when hitting FINISH button on the CIMA objective test.

A deep breathe and then greeted with a piece of folded paper.

PASS. F3 CIMA Financial Strategy.


Well, it’s been almost a week and I’ve had time to reflect and these are my thoughts on the 103 score that greeted me when logging into myCIMA in the following 48 hours.

Objective Test Strategy

I’ve said it time and time again, you need a time management strategy to pass these CIMA objective tests. Here is mine (and many others);

  • Tackle the “easier” shorter questions first, use around 10-15 minutes to answer the shorter obvious questions to build confidence.
  • Now you will have some momentum to answer the longer questions.
  • READ THE REQUIREMENT FIRST – don’t waste time reading the long scenario to only arrive at the question/requirement to then have to re-read through the whole thing again. Once you know what is being asked you can focus your attention when reading the scenario for the first time not the second time.
  • Flag the horrible questions you’re not sure on. Come back to them at the end.
  • Don’t spend longer than 3 minutes on a tough one.
  • Don’t overthink.
  • Relax.

Don’t memorise the formulas

When preparing for the F3 exam, I did find myself getting caught up in memorizing the formulas. THERE IS NO NEED!!! 90% of all of the formulas are given to you in the exam.

Instead, spend your time practicing long form questions and thinking about the theory behind the numbers.

Practice by answering questions that require you to the use the formulas in different situations.

It’ll help you pass the exam and give you a more rounded base of knowledge. F-papers are not purely numbers based at all, you need to know what the ratios mean and the conclusions they generate.

You’ll never feel ready

I’ll admit, I felt completely NOT READY for the F3 exam due to the month break I had in my study. I didn’t even look at my books for a month, even more.

So when I picked them up again my confidence felt really low.

But I continued with my study and practice questions.

Anyhow, pre-exam nerves will always kick in. It’s rare for anyone to walk into a CIMA exam brimming with confidence. It’s just not natural.

But if you’ve put the hours in beforehand and covered the materials and mock exams. You’ll be in the best possible shape.

Test Yourself (at every step/chapter)

It’s easy to fall into the trap of reading study materials, making notes and nodding to yourself that you understand what the syllabus.

But you really need to test yourself with questions. Short ones, long ones, multiple choice ones and “any you can lay your hands on” ones.

Don’t be dispirited by getting them wrong or poor scores, it’s best to get that in your preparation rather than the real thing.

Identify your weaknesses

In the week before you exam, you should really be working on your weak areas.

Don’t take the easy path and re-read notes you are comfortable with. It’ll pay off to tackle the hard areas.


  • Pingback: My CIMA Journey | the cima student

  • Failed my CIMA F3 second time, first time got 90. Any advise would be highly recommended


    • Hi Jeff, hope you managed to pass the F3 exam in the end? Apologies for my late response… if not, then focus on time management and try some longer form questions on F3 syllabus to help give you a deeper understanding on the subject. As the multiple choice format questions come in all shapes and forms


  • Going for the exam in a week. I have never felt so unprepared in all the CIMA exams I’ve written, even though I’ve been studying and practising for the past 3 months. Thanks for the article, great motivation.


  • snongculagmailcom

    Thank you for the motivation, going in soon and not feeling confident at all.


  • Hi – what materials did you use to pass this F3 exam?


    • I used a combination of the Astranti study text, mock exams and the Kaplan Exam Practice kit.
      Lot’s of exam question practice and then revisit the syllabus on my weak areas based on the mock exams.
      Tough exam and but you will get there!


      • I have visited your page over the years for motivation. I started this accounting qualification journey several years ago starting with AAT. After a few years break I restarted and trying to finish has been painful. I’ve failed F3 twice now by just a few marks and the only reason I haven’t packed this in along with the day job for good is because it’s just two exams left…just two!


      • I used to visit your blog for motivation a few years back. I made the regrettable decision to start accounting several years ago starting with AAT and throughout the years struggled to continue, took breaks for various reasons, quit, restarted etc. I have failed F3 twice now and the only reason I haven’t packed this in along with the day job in accounting is because it’s only 2 exams left…out of all the exams I have eventually got through…it’s just two left. It’s been the hardest thing I have ever had to get motivated for and quite frankly when its all over I’d be happy to walk away from this career with 0 regrets should I find an alternative. But I appreciate your blog as it did help me struggle through at different stages.


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