CIMA Strategic Level: A few thoughts…

Insight

It’s been a quiet few weeks for me on the blog.

This was due to a killer workload during December and year end. Those that follow me on twitter would have seen a few accounting situations that I found myself in!

It seems the busy time at work is over, well, for now, so I have decided to focus again on my CIMA studies and the F3 Financial Strategy paper.

I’ve been studying for at least 90 minutes everyday for last few weeks and will attempt the F3 exam early March, but it feels right to reflect a little bit and share my own observations and experiences with the CIMA strategic level so far.

Motivation

I definitely have more motivation to study CIMA these days, I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel with just 3 exams left to pass.

I just want to get F3, E3 and the SCS done and dusted.

I felt I was drifting a bit with the F2 and P2 papers on management level, so a word of advice for students still on Management level, keep going! You’re almost at that final level and believe me it’s not as hard as you think (for reasons I will explain).

Confidence

I feel more comfortable now on Strategic level, I know the syllabus, the exam format and the base I have given myself with the CIMA Operational and Management level fills me with confidence that I can complete the strategic level sooner rather than later.

I used to doubt myself when faced with tough areas i.e. the F2 exam preparation was horrible when I look back, I felt areas like WACC were going to be beyond me. But I passed the exam (eventually)… so I know I can get through it if I apply myself and put the hours of work in.

I have confidence in the exams too.

We all know the CIMA objective tests now like the back of our hand, I have strategies for the exams and I’m ready to hit the ground running.

Overlap

So far in my F3 studies I haven’t felt too much connection with the F1 and F2 papers, in fact the CIMA P3 paper has felt closer in terms of the syllabus.

Which is a good thing for strategic level students – having passed P3 a couple of months back – it’s helped with approaching the CIMA F3 subjects of equity financing and beta factors, for example.

There has been a definite overlap between the P3 and F3 papers, which can only be a good thing!

Real Life Situations

Another bonus I have found while studying for P3 and F3 exams is the fact I can relate to it more, there are more examples of the syllabus content playing out in front of us.

Whether it’s from Corporate Governance situations (see the Patisserie Valerie accounting scandal) or share issues and understanding why Royal Mail shares have dropped 11%.

It feels more tangible than applying the Learning Curve from P2 or other areas of costing that seem to be obsolete unless you work in a manufacturing environment!

So don’t let the strategic level seem like a insurmountable challenge, you might find it “easier” than tackling the management level.

All in all, I might look back at his blog post in a few months time when I attempting my 5th resit of the F3 paper and laugh. And think what the hell was I on about..

But at the moment, I can feel the momentum is building towards a big strategic level finish for myself.

Here’s hoping I can crack the F3 paper at the first attempt. If not, I will bring my sleeping bag and camp outside the Pearson VUE centre until it’s passed!

Good Luck to all CIMA students out there in 2019!

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CIMA Case Study: Pre-Seen Analysis

Insight

The pre-seen analysis is the starting point of your exam preparation for the February case studies, you’ve had a month or so since they were released by CIMA but I’m sure the Christmas and New Year put your studies on hold somewhat.

Here are my tips on how to approach the pre-seen materials;

Read Through Pre-Seen and Make Notes

The obvious starting point is to read through the official pre-seen document from CIMA page by page and annotate the document. Making brief notes and highlighting the key information, doesn’t matter if it looks messy, it should be a brainstorming session.

Make a SWOT Analysis

Now you have an idea on the company and background of the case study, a SWOT analysis will help you understand the strengths, weaknesses and identify the possible examinable areas.

  • Are there low barriers to entry to the market?
  • Is there sufficient marketing?
  • Are the board of directors operating effectively?
  • Is there a potential audit or compliance risk?

Read Through Your Notes Again!

You should read the pre-seen materials and dozen or so times, each time you will either pickup new information or cement your knowledge of the materials.

Use your time wisely, read your notes on the train to work, in the doctors waiting room… there is no excuse for not finding the time to study!

Use a Mix of Resources and Videos

Watch the pre-seen materials and videos available online, visit CIMA student forums or with your tuition provider. Gauge the opinion of others on the pre-seen materials, use your colleagues as a sounding board.

Don’t just confine yourself to the 16 page document from CIMA – there is a wealth of information and informed opinion out there that could help you – find it!

Make Final Summary Notes

Use just one sheet of A4 paper and use both sides.

Summarise the key points from the pre-seen materials on both sides, make notes on the key financial numbers you will refer to in the exam. 

The idea of this A4 paper is your final revision notes on the pre-seen before you tackle the mock exams.

CIMA Feb 2019 OCS: Trigg Adventure

If you are struggling for motivation of feel your pre-seen analysis has been aimless so far, then watch the Astranti video below on Trigg Adventure, over an hours discussion on the pre-seen – invaluable!

You can find the full videos on the February OCS exam here.

CIMA Feb MCS 2019: Crowncare

The upcoming CIMA MCS exam is based around a company called Crowncare, likewise if MCS students are finding the pre-seen materials a minefield to work through and want some reassurance they are on the right path, then this video below from Astranti will go someway into making sure you’re exam ready.

You can find the full videos on the February MCS exam here.

CIMA Feb SCS 2019: Vita

Astranti have also covered their pre-seen analysis of the February SCS exam – Vita. 53 minutes packed full of useful information which should complement your notes already made on the Vita case study pre-seen.

You can find the full videos on the February SCS exam here.

CIMA Official Pre-Seen Materials: Feb 2019

You can find the official pre-seen materials for the upcoming case study exams below;

Good Luck and Happy Studying!

CIMA SCS Feb 2019: Vita

SCS Feb19

Picking up the Easy Marks

Sitting a strategic case study exam must be a daunting prospect as it’s the final exam inn your CIMA journey. And I’d imagine there is a tendency to focus on the technical knowledge and pre-seen materials with all your efforts.

Nevertheless, you mustn’t neglect the basics in the SCS exam and pick up the easy marks and tick the boxes the examiner is looking for.

Below is a reminder of the fundamentals of scoring a good mark in a CIMA case study exam:

  • Write in 4-5 line paragraphs.
  • Use headings in your answers.
  • Use the correct formats in your answers i.e. Email replies, report writing.
  • Don’t forget to give a balanced answer – link the pre-seen, unseen, ethics and draw conclusions.

Here is a guide on writing a business email in the CIMA case study exam that was featured in the CIMA Velocity magazine.

SCS Masterclasses

Now we’ve thought about the basics in the SCS exam, let’s consider the real content you’ll be facing on exam day in February 2019.

The Astranti SCS Masterclasses are split into two, the first class is 6-7 hours and will cover the keys to passing the exam, answer planning, key pre-seen analysis and theory to be applied.

While the second class is held the weekend before the February 2019 exam and is a full revision on the Feb 2019 case study scenario.

The perfect way to consolidate your knowledge and gain tutor support before the exam.

PER: CIMA Practical Experience Requirements

2018-04-24 10_54_55-Updated-PER-guidance16pp.pdf

A reminder that students facing the SCS exam should already be on their way to fulfilling and completing the PER requirements.

If you’re not familiar with the process then I suggest to read this from the official CIMA site.

I also wrote a blog article on here on the CIMA PER.

SCS Astranti Feb 2019 Course

SCSFeb19 NOW

The full SCS course from Astranti is really packed full of resources.

  • Complete pre-seen pack (pre-seen, strategic, industry analysis and top 10 issues)
  • 3 x Full tuition videos
  • 2 x Study texts
  • 2 x Live Masterclasses (the keys to passing and revision masterclass)
  • 3 x Full Mock Exams (based on Nov 18 scenario)
  • Detailed marking and feedback
  • Ethics Pack
  • Pass Guarantee

SCS Feb 2019 Pre-Seen Materials

VITA1.png

The pre-seen materials for the February 2019 SCS have landed, like Santa dropping his presents down your chimney early, CIMA have released the pre-seen for the Vita case study in December – you can find the official pre-seen materials from CIMA here.

SCS Important Dates

SCS Feb 2019

CIMA MCS Feb 2019: Crowncare

MCS Feb19

The February 2019 case study marks one year since I took and passed the MCS exam, so I can vouch it’s a great time of year to take the MCS – what’s more you get 60 days of study and revision in between the pre-seen materials and the exam date itself.

Industry Analysis

From previous experience of passing the OCS and MCS exams, the one area I find difficult is giving real life examples and applying industry analysis in my case study exam answers.

In the rush and stress of an exam situation, my mind struggles to recall the relevant real life examples to supplement my answer.

Remembering the pre-seen materials and making conclusions feels more natural, so I have sort advice from students on this subject so hopefully you can “beef up” your answer with some real life industry examples when you take the MCS exam in February.

Link Likely Issues with Industry Analysis

2018-01-13 10_33_00-February_2018_management_pre-seen_V2.pdfFor example, in the Feb 2018 MCS exam Nortan was based around a multi national Oil company and their shared service centre.

One of the key issues was around the environmental issues around their operations, if there was an oil spill it would have big consequences on their reputation and the financial impact of the cleanup.

And this could be illustrated by the real life example of the BP Oil Spill in 2010.

So by tagging the Industry Analysis with the Likely Issues in your revision you are killing two birds with one stone. You are thinking about the potential examinable area and already have an industry example on hand to help supplement your answer.

Furthermore, you may want to add the technical side of the syllabus you want to refer to the answer. So your revision notes when analyzing the pre-seen materials could look something like this.

ISSUE: Environmental Risks and Dangers

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS: BP Oil Spill in 2010, due to BP and their contractors cost-cutting and lack of controls in place in the industry as a whole.

TECHNICAL: P2 Risk Management TARA, how do we assess the risk and what action should the company take?

By taking this approach to your MCS revision and pre-seen analysis you should be able to produce a more coherent and balanced answer.

MCS Pass Rates

Looking back at the CIMA pass rates for the MCS exam makes for interesting reading. One thing I would stress is that students taking the MCS course should be CONFIDENT given the recent pass rates – which was 75% in August sitting!

PassRates

The MCS exam has the highest pass rate among the case study exams and, in my opinion, it’s down to one thing;

EXPERIENCE!

  • Experience of passing the OCS exam, gives students the know-how on the CIMA case study format and what’s expected.
  • Experience of passing the six objective tests beforehand, gives the technical skills and confidence to MCS level students.

But that’s not to say the MCS exam is easy.

Far from it, the pass rate of the CIMA gateway students way is just 35% – so this indicates that students attempted the MCS without having the previous experience of CIMA behind them will really struggle to the pass the exam.

Despite the encouraging pass rates for the MCS exam, we mustn’t get complacent that it’s an “easy” exam to pass.

CIMA Gateway Students

As mentioned above, the CIMA gateway students are those who will beginning their CIMA journey with the MCS exam as they have exemptions from previous qualifications.

If you are reading this blog post as a CIMA Gateway student then I would suggest to read this interview we done with a gateway student who passed her MCS exam first time.

CIMA MCS: Astranti Feb 2019 Course

MCSFeb19 NOW.png

The full MCS course from Astranti is really packed full of resources and comes with a pass guarantee.

  • Complete pre-seen pack (pre-seen, strategic, industry analysis and top 10 issues)
  • 3 x Full tuition videos
  • 2 x Study texts
  • 2 x Live Masterclasses (the keys to passing and revision masterclass)
  • 3 x Full Mock Exams (based on Nov 18 scenario)
  • Detailed marking and feedback
  • Ethics Pack
  • Pass Guarantee

MCS Pre-Seen Materials: Crowncare

Crowncare

The official pre-seen materials from CIMA were released this week, an early Christmas present for all of you MCS students!

You can find the official document from CIMA here for the Feb 2019 MCS exam.

MCS Feb 2019 Important Dates

MCS Feb 2019

CIMA OCS Feb 2019: Trigg Adventure

OCS Feb19

The February 2019 CIMA OCS exam is a great time to take a case study exam. As you’ll have 60 days in between the pre-seen materials being released and the exam day itself – usually you’ll have around 45 days if taking a case study in May/Aug/Nov – so take advantage of this extra time!!

Focus on Technical Skills

Tech1

The OCS exam is heavily weighted towards the Technical Skills competency area, so in order to pass the OCS exam you’ll need to have strong technical knowledge of the syllabus content and how to apply it.

  • Technical Skills 64%
  • Business Skills 16%
  • People Skills 14%
  • Leadership Skills 6%

If we think about the role you play in the OCS exam – Finance Officer/Accounts Assistant – it makes sense that he OCS will focus less on the leadership, business and people skills. So this gives you a platform to start planning your preparation.

What Technical Skills will I be tested on?

This leads to the next question, what technical knowledge should I focus when preparing for the Feb 2019 OCS case study? Well, we posted a great article from CSSC Tuition on the hot topics that could be tested in the OCS exam here.

And to further cement those area we can see that the bedrock of the OCS exam will be the P1 syllabus.

OCS_Te

The above chart was taken from a CIMA webinar on approaching case study exams, however, we are just concerned with the E1/P1/F1 part.

And we can see that the bulk of the technical skills around the OCS exam are based around the P1 syllabus – so brush up on cost accounting, management reporting and accounting information systems before the Feb 2019 OCS exam.

The above chart also highlights the fact that risk management and internal control are a key feature in the OCS, MCS and SCS exams.

CIMA OCS Answer Planning

Insight

I published a recent “The CIMA Student: Insight” blog post on the important of planning your answer when faced with a CIMA case study.

If you don’t think about HOW you will answer the question and brainstorm your ideas on how you will satisfy the requirement then you will produce a poor unbalanced answer.

Linking the pre-seen materials, making recommendations and drawing conclusions in your answer is a must if you want to pass the OCS exam.

You can read the full article on planning your OCS answers here – it includes a real example taken from the August 2018 OCS exam and I walk through the thought process and different stages of planning your answer.

CIMA OCS Astranti Course

OCSFeb19 NOW.png

The full OCS course from Astranti is really packed full of resources!

I used the Astranti OCS materials when passing the OCS exam in 2015, you can read that in more detail here.

Complete pre-seen pack (pre-seen, strategic, industry analysis and top 10 issues)

  • 3 x Full tuition videos
  • 2 x Study text
  • 2 x Live Masterclasses (the keys to passing and revision masterclass)
  • 3 x Full Mock Exams (based on Nov 18 scenario)
  • Detailed marking and feedback
  • Ethics Pack
  • Pass Guarantee

Pre-Seen Materials: Trigg Adventure

Trigg OCS preseen

CIMA released the pre-seen materials for Trigg Adventure and you can take a copy from official CIMA website here.

Having had a first glance at the pre-seen materials it’s clear that the company faces challenging times given the competition with digital, electronic toys with parents preferring the often cheaper more “in demand” toys like video games.

So the company will need to be inventive with the products they offer and consider the price points at which they enter the market.

Below is the Astranti Top Ten Issues video for the Trigg Adventure case study that is part of the full OCS course for the Feb 2019 CIMA case study – it’s a great way to focus your revision for the February exam.

OCS Important Dates

The full set of important dates for the OCS exam are displayed below.

OCS Feb 2019

CIMA Case Study Answer Planning

Insight

The first of a new series of articles; The CIMA Student: INSIGHT takes a hands on approach to subjects and topics that will help you pass your next CIMA exam.

CIMA Case Study Answer Planning

When faced with a CIMA case study exam you might be tempted to dive straight in and start writing your answer as soon as you’ve read the question. However, this approach will lead to a poor answer with no balance, no depth and a tendency to wander off track.

I always make sure I spend the first 10 minutes of any CIMA case study question;

  • Identifying the requirements.
  • Planning my answer on the script with headings and bullet points.

This plan should include (where relevant) reference to the pre-seen materials, industry news, unseen materials and recommendations or conclusions.

With this in mind, I’ve taken a look back at the August 2018 OCS exam Thomas Fine Teas exam (taken from the official CIMA website), and picked a question from Variant 1 to show how I would spend my first 10 minutes of answering this question by IDENTIFYING THE REQUIREMENTS and basing my ANSWER PLAN around this.

OCS Exam Question – Thomas Fine Teas

2018-06-26 10_13_15-August 2018 OCS Pre-seen - students.pdf

Identifying the requirements

Before we can start to plan our answer, we need to identify the requirements.

I’ve noticed that CIMA have made the requirements much clearer in recent exam sittings, when I took my OCS in 2015 the questions seemed more embedded into the script.

However, you can see from the below screenshot from the Aug 2018 OCS exam, it’s quite clear from the outset what we are expected to answer.

TFT1.png

This question has TWO elements, I’ve added two small green arrows which tell us the questions is split into two. While the red boxes are the requirements we need to answer. Again, it’s very clear as the requirements start with “Please prepare…. “

All in all, this should have taken 1-2 to minutes to identify and I would suggest to not even look at the other attachments in the question at this stage.

Answer Planning

Now we have 8-9 minutes to start planning our answer before really adding the meat to the bones.

I start by adding some headings to my answer plan, so I have the initial framework before I start brainstorming my ideas on what to add.

Based on the first requirement above, my answer plan looks like this:

TFTANS.png

Now I have the structure of my answer, I can begin to think in more detail by brainstorming and adding some notes under my headings on how I want to answer the question in full.

After the brainstorming session, my answer is now beginning to take shape;

TFTANS2

Notice I have deleted the “Intro about Digital Marketing” heading, as I felt on reflection there wasn’t any need for this in the answer.

There is no mention of “Please explain what digital marketing is… ” in the email from Jack Ford.

It’s important to remember that you need to satisfy the requirement of the question only and it’s not a platform for you to spout all of the information you know on the subject!!

Keep it relevant and keep it clear.

I can now begin to fill my answer in full with the remaining time left for the question.

Reviewing Your Answer

If possible, give yourself 5-7 minutes at the end to review your answer and ask yourself the following the questions;

  • How I included reference to the pre-seen and unseen materials?
  • Have I given real life examples?
  • Have I answered the requirements?
  • Have I mentioned ethics?

The reality is you will not be able to include industry analysis or ethics into every answer you write in the exam and the key is to keep it relevant – quality over quantity!!

Case Study Answer Planning Resources

You can find the case study resources (including the above example question from the August 2018 OCS) from the official CIMA website here

Good Luck with your next CIMA case study!

CIMA BLACK FRIDAY SALE!

It’s that time of year when Astranti have a whopping 40% OFF all of their CIMA materials, it’s a great time to add to your resources or push yourself to take the next case study sitting in February 2019.

To claim the 40% discount add the discount code 40BLACKFRIDAY at the checkout – offer is applicable from Friday 23rd November to Monday 27th November.

Astranti Case Study Courses

February 2019 Case Studies

A reminder that the best time to sit a CIMA case study, in terms of time you get to study, is always the February case study exams.

As you get 60 days between the pre-seen materials being released and the exam itself. Normally you get around 45-50 days between the pre-seen and the exam but CIMA have factored in the Christmas period and give a longer period of time for students taking the February exams.

But the reality is, if you’re sitting a Feb case study, you’ll probably only take a few days break over Christmas and you’ll have the opportunity to be really prepared for the exam with two months between the pre-seen and exam.

You can see below that SCS students taking the exam in February 2019 will have a massive 67 days from pre-seen release to beginning of exam session!

case

I passed the MCS exam in 2018 by taking it in February and found the extra time was really helpful to get to grips with the pre-seen and developing a style to answer planning.

How I passed the CIMA MCS exam in February 2018.

The benefits of taking a case study exam in February.

Astranti February 2019 OCS Course

Astranti February 2019 MCS Course

Astranti February 2019 SCS Course

Astranti Objective Test Materials

The Astranti Black Friday sale is not just limited to case study materials, but all of their objective test materials too!

Use the code 40BLACKFRIDAY to claim the 40% OFF the Astranti Objective Test materials for Operational, Management and Strategic levels of CIMA.

Practice Tests Academy

There is also the exclusive 20% discount for all CIMA Student readers for The Practice Tests Academy resources, which ranges from mock exams, question banks and full objective courses with video lectures.

For an insight into their materials, then read my blog post from earlier this week here. And if The Practice Tests Academy are new to you then watch this nice video below on their story so far…