Author Archives: cimastudent

CIMA Feb 23 Case Studies: Top 10 Issues

For those students sitting the February 2023 case study exams, you should be well into your pre-seen analysis and have drawn up your initial set of notes on the pre-seen materials.

But what’s next?

Finding a focus to your studies can be overwhelming given the breadth of the syllabus and potential examinable areas.

Identifying the top 10 issues in your CIMA case study exam is a great way to focus your studies and keep things relevant. To help you on your way, these preview videos from Astranti for the OCS, MCS and SCS exams will get you thinking on the flags raised by the pre-seen materials.

CIMA OCS Feb 2023: Fireworks – Top 10 Issues

CIMA MCS Feb 2023: Happy Playz – Top 10 Issues

CIMA SCS Feb 2023: Hottayr – Top 10 Issues

Hopefully they given you some ideas and focus areas for the rest of your February CIMA case study revision.

Good Luck!

CIMA F3: Capital Asset Pricing Model

The Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) is a CIMA F3 subject that CIMA students often struggle to get their hands around.

Astranti’s Ultimate Guide to CIMA F3 has highlighted this as one of the harder topics in F3, it’s easy to fall into the trap of memorising the formula without understanding the underlying principle.

Alternatively, students can immediately be put on the backfoot with faced with a new formula with a funky Greek symbol.

In this blog post I aim to explain the principle and logic behind the CAPM formula and how to apply it on exam day.

Let’s start with the formula itself before we take a step back and actually think about what it’s trying to achieve.

What is the Beta β Factor?

Before we get into the formula and some calculations, let’s focus on the Greek symbol for Beta (β).

The Beta factor is simply a measure of the systematic risk of a security or equity relative to the market portfolio.

Simply put, it’s a measure of volatility or risk.

The starting point would be a Beta of 1.0 – this is the benchmark for listed companies – it indicates the average risk in the market.

Let’s say Company A has a Beta of 1.0 at the start of the fiscal year, six months later the Beta drops to 0.65, this would indicate the risk profile has decreased significantly. It’s a less risky proposition to invest in but the returns would also reflect that and be at the lower end.

Had the Beta increased to 1.65, this would mean the risk profile has increased and investors would want to see a higher return for their investment due to the volatility.

Here are some real life examples of Beta factors as at 4th January 2023

Alphabet INC (GOOG) 1.06

Amazon (AMZN) 1.19

Apple (AAPL) 1.22

Netflix (NFLX) 1.28

Tesla (TSLA) 1.91

I’ve put together some household names, with the relatively safe havens of Google, Apple and Amazon with their Beta factors just over the market average.

While you can see that Tesla, given their current climate with Elon Musk’s antics and the squeeze on the automotive industry, has a high beta factor of 1.91.

Systematic Risk and Unsystematic Risk

Now we understand our little Greek friend β, let’s focus on the types of risk involved when thinking about the Capital Asset Pricing Model.

Whenever a person wants to invest in a stock or a company invests in a project, there is always risk attached. The return on the investment will ultimately be higher or lower than expected, unless you invest in gilts or government bonds, risk is unavoidable.

There are two types of risk when investing.

Systematic risk and unsystematic risk, the Beta factor is a measure of the systematic risk of an investment.

Another way to think about systematic risk is by calling it Market Risk – it’s unavoidable, you cannot take any measures to avoid systematic risk completely. It will always be there.

Unsystematic risk, however, can be reduced or even eliminated entirely by diversification as it relates to the risk of individual company or sector. So by having a broad portfolio of investments, you will be reducing the unsystematic risk of a single investment.

The below chart nicely pulls together both types of risk and how to eliminate the unsystematic risk, while illustrating the fact systematic risk will always be there regardless on how much you diversify.

The Market Risk Premium 

The final piece of the puzzle is the Market Risk Premium of the formula, highlighted in yellow below, this is the difference between the risk free rate and the market rate over the same period.

Effectively giving you the Market Risk premium, which is the excess of market returns over those connected with so called risk free investing in Government bonds.

The Capital Asset Pricing model boils down to the principle that returns made in shares in the market should be higher than the returns made on risk free investments.

For example, if the risk free returns on Government bonds is 5% and the market returns are 8.5%, then the Market Risk Premium is 3.5%. Simple really.

Now we understand the various elements of CAPM, we can piece them together with some exam question examples.

CIMA F3 CAPM Exam Question Examples

  1. The risk free rate of return is 6%, while the average market return is 11% and company X’s beta is 1.45. What is the cost of equity?

Ke = Rf + (Rm – Rf) x β

? = 6% + (11% – 6%) x 1.45

? = 6% + 5% x 1.45

? = 6% + 7.25%

Therefore, cost of equity (or minimum expected return) is 13.25%

Given the risk involved, investors would be looking for a return of 13.25%. To give context, we can use the same example and change the Beta to 0.5 and show the impact on the cost of equity.

Ke = Rf + (Rm – Rf) x β

? = 6% + (11% – 6%) x 0.50

? = 6% + 5% x 0.50

? = 6% + 2.5%

Therefore, cost of equity is 8.5%.

As the risk profile of the investment is lowered, so are the expected returns.

Alternatively, you might be faced with a question that asks you to derive the Beta factor from the equation.

The formula and logic remains the same, you’ll just need to re-arrange the formula so the Beta becomes the calculated number and not the cost of equity.

  1. Company Y plc. is giving a return of 17%, while the stock exchange as a whole is giving a 14% return and the risk free return on government issued bonds is 6%. What is the Beta (β) of Company Y plc?

Ke = Rf + (Rm – Rf) x β

17% = 6% + (14% – 6%) x ?

STEP 1: deduct the 6% from both sides of equation

11% = (14% – 6%) x ?

STEP 2: calculate the market risk premium

11% = 8% x ?

STEP 3: flip the ? to front of equation by diving both sides by 8%

? = 11%/8%

STEP 4: calculate the Beta by dividing 11% by 8%

Beta (β) = 1.375 (or 1.38)

The Capital Asset Pricing Model Summary

The Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) shows the minimum required return (cost of equity) on a security, investment or project and it’s dependent on risk.

Risk can be defined as Unsystematic risk that can be negated by diversification, or Systematic Risk, but this is always inherent in the market or investment and is measured by the Beta (β) factor.

Risk averse companies or investors will seek investments or projects with a lower Beta factor. While those chasing higher gains and rewards will look towards investments with a higher Beta .

Once you’ve grasped the concept of CAPM, you should be practicing multiple choice questions to sharpen your skills for exam day!

Good Luck!

CIMA Black Friday Sales!

Forget the LCD TV’s and Peloton exercise bike, use this season’s Black Friday sales to make whopping savings on your CIMA materials. Astranti are offering a mega 40% off of all of their CIMA and CPD materials.

Just use the code BLACKFRIDAY22 to get the 40% discount off all CIMA and CPD materials.

*offer ends 1st December 2022

Ideal if you are planning to sit the February 2023 case study or if want to take advantage of their full study packages for the whole operational, management or strategic level of the syllabus.

CIMA Case Study: February 2023 Astranti Courses

The below video is a 35 minute taster from Astranti on the pre-seen materials for the upcoming CIMA OCS exam in February 2023 – FireWorks.

CIMA CPD: Continuing Professional Development

Even qualified CIMA CGMA members never stop learning! Now maybe a good time for those qualified members to take stock and start planning how you want to achieve your future career goals.

Planning your CPD can be just as important as planning to sit your final case study exam.

I am currently in the middle of updating my CPD hours I have already taken as well as looking further ahead – here is a blog post for more information on how to think about CPD.

Meanwhile, Astranti have a range of bitesize CPD courses, that will relevant in a range of finance and accounting jobs.

CIMA Mock Exams: Practice makes perfect!

This featured blog post is written by Practice Tests Academy and they explore the CIMA case study exam and the importance of getting tutor feedback and marking on your mock exam.

*this article contains affiliate links, I only promote CIMA tuition providers I used myself when passing my CIMA exams. Affiliate commission helps cover the costs of the site maintenance.

What are CIMA Case Study Exams?

The case study exams are based around a mock business and simulated scenarios within the organisation. Students are expected to play the part of a finance professional working for that business (role-play) in order to complete the given tasks. 

In other words, you are given hypothetical information about an imaginary company which you have to imagine yourself working in.

The preseen is a document that is released to students before the case study exam and it includes information about your company, the industry it operates in, the structure of the company, the balance sheet, loans and other finances. 

You are given a role to play in this company and are expected to take it seriously during your exam. 

One important thing to remember; the preseen contains information that you can use to start preparing yourself for potential tasks, but it’s not the only source of information that you’ll need for exam day. You’ll be presented with additional (unseen) information on the day of your exam, so always keep that in mind. 

To break it down for you: 

  • The preseen is published to students 7 weeks prior to exams 
  • The exams involve role-play and students have to act like a finance professional 
  • Students are presented with unseen information on exam day 
  • Case study tasks are completed by students based on provided scenarios 

What is the preseen?

The preseen is a document released to case study students 7 weeks prior to the exams via CIMAconnect. It contains information about a simulated organisation that you are expected to play a role in. It may include the company’s financial statements, industry analysis, competitor analysis, press releases, strategies and more. 

It’s vital that you learn the preseen inside out. It’s also important to remember that while the information and the organisation both are fictitious, CIMA states that it will still be “true to life”.

So, with this in mind, when studying the preseen, try to identify any potential real issues that the organisation might face or be currently facing in order to help you better prepare your answers for exam day. 

What tasks are you expected to compete in CIMA case study exams?

There’s no definitive answer to that, but first-things-first, when the preseen is released, go through it thoroughly. 

Find out what issues the organisation is (or could be) facing so that you can grasp an idea of what questions to expect in the case study exam.

Another way of exploring this is to go through past exam papers and analyse them. 

The questions you are asked in your case study exams might not match the ones in past exam papers, but you will get an idea of what type of questions to expect and start preparing for them. 

You can also get an analysis from a tuition provider, who will give you a good idea of what to expect in your exam. Tuition providers usually have experienced tutors who analyse the preseen and give you an idea of potential topics/issues that you might be given in the exam.

How to pass case study exams?

1.    Learn the preseen inside out – you will be asked questions based on information in the preseen, so learn every aspect of it. Know your CEO, CFO, directors. Know exactly who you are reporting to, etc.

2.    Practice mocks – buy mocks from a tuition provider and practice as much as you can. While attempting mocks, assess any information you missed so that you can go back and scrutinise areas that you need to. Practising mocks will help you feel more confident on exam day -just make sure you are doing them under timed (exam) conditions. 

3.    Get your mocks marked – practise, alone, might not be enough. You should get your mocks marked from tutors who will help you quickly determine any shortcomings in your answers. They will give you guidance on how you can improve and increase your chances of getting more marks, so take heed of their advice. 

Why getting your mocks marked is the best thing you can do

First things first, attempting mocks under timed conditions is extremely important. You need to know how to manage the time you have. You need to spend enough time on planning your answers and making sure they are comprehensive and easy to understand. 

Following that, assessing where you lack knowledge or evidence and revising those areas is key to helping you pass your case study exam. 

And why wouldn’t you get your mocks marked by a case study professional? It’s a no-brainer if you are looking for first-time success. With expert feedback on your mock exam, it will arm you with a knowledgeable and experienced point of view on your level of performance to tell you how well you are getting on.

Of course, you can simply just review model answers and assess how well you’ve done that way, but we find that rarely works, because, as humans, we are not very good judges of our own performance.

Getting your mocks reviewed will help you draw up an action plan on what to focus on. Perhaps it’s a particular model or theory you need to revise further. It can only help you. A personalised approach can turn a potential FAIL into a PASS!

Did you know that Practice Tests Academy offers packages that include expert mock marking?

Our high quality Case Study preparation packages not only include all the important preseen aspects such as a full analysis, a breakdown of the theory and different level points of views, but they are designed to help you perfect your writing technique so that you can provide high quality answers, backed up by clear and detailed evidence. 

Yes, our weekly writing assignments will get your thought process flowing and along with our tutorials, they’ll help you explore new ideas and methods to help you better prepare for your exam. 

Our professionally written mocks have been created by the same team of tutors that have helped thousands of students pass their case study exams. The answers are expertly detailed to give you an idea of the best approach to each of the mock tasks, but, on top of that, they will mark your exam and let you know, well in advance, how prepared you are for your upcoming case study exam. As well as that, we provide expert one-to-one tuition and a mentoring service. 

Check out what we have on our website here: 

CIMA SCS Feb 23: Hottayr

The February 2023 Strategic Case Study (SCS) pre seen materials have been released and you can find them direct from the CIMA website here.

Usually I’d avoid comparing the materials to a load of hot air, but in this case I will make an exception as we given a scenario based around a company called “Hottayr”.

Hottayr are a quoted company that manufacture domestic heating products and you play the role of Senior Manager in the finance department.

I considered putting together a SWOT analysis but after going through the pre-seen materials I thought it’d make sense to tackle one of the main themes I detected – Environmental Issues – and I’d like to look at this through three different lenses so we can gather the facts and information we are told in the pre-seen materials.

Hottayr – Company Profile

Before looking at the challenges they company faces, let’s understand Hottayr’s history and their position in the industry. Below are the main points I have picked up from the pre-seen materials

  • Established in 1952 and floated on the Norland stock exchange in 1967.
  • One of the first companies to enter the market for gas boilers.
  • Hottayr was the first domestic manufacturer to receive a safety award from Norland Gas.
  • They are heavily involved in product development and can be seen as a market leader.
  • Company vision is to “Lead the move towards a zero-carbon world”

Industry Dynamic

The industry and society in general is moving towards a greener footprint and that is reflected in the forecasted trends for global sales of domestic heating devices.

The clear trend is the evolution of Heat Pumps and Solar Thermal Panels that will be replacing the more traditional methods of gas and oil boilers. In the space of 10 years, gas and oil boilers market share will be reduced by around 40% of the whole market and swallowed up by renewable energy sources.

Norland’s government is committed to reducing carbon emissions to zero. Heat pumps are promoted as offering a contribution towards meeting that target. It has been estimated that 20% of Norland’s carbon emissions are attributable to domestic heating.

taken from page 10 of the pre-seen materials

The quote above gives us some specific information around Norland Government’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions to zero. Hottayr should use this information to their advantage, as the Norland government might be offering grants or subsidies to company’s who are working with them to reach a net zero carbon emission foot print.

The clear conclusion here is that Hottayr should be shifting their focus to the development of heat pumps and being seen, as they state their company vision, “to lead the move towards a zero-carbon world”

Social and Environmental Issues

It might be seen an easy path forward, but there are still several social and environmental issues to tackle with the production and widespread use of heat pumps.

There are four news articles at the back of the pre-seen materials and they almost sequentially tell us a story about consumers, their behaviour and their concerns.

The first article lays out the fact that Norland won’t be able to produce 100% renewable energy through solar panels due to the climate and constraints with some housing.

We should only consider solar panels as a supplement to other heating sources.

The following article emphasizes the fact that heat pumps will be able to heat your house all year round regardless of the temperature outside, adding more weight to the product itself in Norland.

Your new heat pump will reduce your family’s carbon footprint and is capable of keeping you warm right through the winter.

The third news article discusses the negative impact of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) on the environment, which is an important point to consider, as we are told on page 5 of the pre-seen materials that HFC’s are used in heat pumps as a refrigerant. Eeeek!

While the news article continues with the fact there are alternatives that are less harmful to the environment, but there are other drawbacks as propane is highly flammable and ammonia can be poisonous.

Leading us to believe we will need to live with HFC’s in heat pumps.

Hottayr could, however, look to offset their own carbon footprint by developing more green areas in Norland. Planting trees and be a corporate social responsible employer can help negate the effects on HFC’s.

Finally, the fourth news article outlines the intentions of the Norland governments commitment to net-zero by 2040. Which really just sums up what we already know and cements the direction that Hottayr needs to follow.

One of the key facts from the news article is;

This legislation will have a huge impact on many aspects of daily life. For example, the Government will ban the sale of new petrol- and diesel-powered cars by 2035 as one step towards meeting the net-zero target.

Which could point towards the sale of gas boiler’s could also be banned at some point in the next 15-20 years.

CIMA SCS Feb 2023: Astranti Case Study course

Astranti are offering three SCS different courses for the upcoming Hottayr exam in February 2023, so you can pick and choose the level of resources you want. I used Astranti to pass all of my case study exams first time.

CIMA MCS Feb 23: Happy Playz

The February 2023 MCS case study follows a company called Happy Playz – a toy retailer with a chain of retail shops and an online presence. CIMA released the official pre seen materials and you can find them here.

I’ve had time to go through the pre seen materials for Happy Playz, so here is my SWOT analysis.

SWOT Analysis

STRENGTHS – Business Model

As a toy retailer with a physical bricks and mortar presence, my first fear would be the big online players (like Amazon IRL) would be a major obstacle to overcome. As a consumer myself, I would personally browse the physical shops and see if I can find it online cheaper.

That said, I really like the business model of Happy Playz and they seem to setup on a solid foundation. I will summarise a few points that caught my eye;

  • Shop Locations – Happy Playz are located in convenient retail parks, away from the dying high street shops.
  • Inventory System – They have a sophisticated inventory system, ensuring latest toys are available in shops.
  • Staffing – recruitment emphasizes enthusiasm and personality meaning shoppers are more likely to buy in store.
  • Profit Centres – each store is run like a profit centre, with each store manager given a responsibility and authority to offer discounts and use local knowledge for store displays and layout etc.

In order to succeed in this industry and given Happy Plays only have 10% of the market in Westarian, they will need to squeeze out value at every corner and their business model looks very strong on paper.

WEAKNESSES – Retail Parks

image taken from the CIMA MCS November 2022 pre seen materials

A strength can also be a weakness and vice versa.

While I do like the retail park location when compared to the traditional high street stores, there is a news article at the back of the pre seen materials “Westaria Business Daily” that focuses on the rise and all of the retail parks.

You are effectively at the whim of the retail park and how successful they are at attracting footfall. If they fail to fill vacant stores and don’t cater with restaurants and ample parking etc. Happy Playz could see a decline in customers at those locations where the retail park has fallen into decline.

OPPORTUNITIES – Club Card

The issuance of a Happy Playz club card on page 24 of the pre seen materials is brilliant news, not only in increasing customer loyalty but the gathering of data and shopping habits of their customers will prove invaluable.

Put simply, the company will track individual members’ purchases from Happy Playz and their browsing histories on the Happy Playz website and will recommend related products for future purchases. A customer who buys a fashion doll, for example, might receive an email about the launch of a new range of outfits for that doll.

There are 800,000 downloads of the mobile app! There will lots of data and customer analytics that Happy Playz will have on their hands, so the efficient use of “Big Data” will help them drive more growth and profitability.

THREATS – Compliance and Toy Safety

The news article on page 23 of the pre-seen materials “Westaria Daily News” is a column on Toy Safety and compliance, which all seems like common sense stuff but there is a red flag here when we are told;

Toys cannot be sold in Westaria unless they meet the safety standards. They must also be free of any obvious threats to safety that are not covered by the standards. The manufacturer is responsible for compliance if the toys were manufactured here. The importer is responsible if the toys were manufactured elsewhere

Couple this fact with the statement made on page 11 of the pre-seen materials, where are we are told that;

The Purchasing Department is responsible for placing orders with manufacturers, many of whom are based overseas.

I view this as Happy Playz are classed as the importer for the majority of their products and therefore are responsible for toy safety standards

While the final two paragraphs seem to dampen the risk on Happy Playz by saying;

Retailers are not specifically required to conduct their own safety tests on toys provided they have received all the necessary assurances that they meet Westarian standards, but many retailers voluntarily conduct tests.


These standards do seem to be effective. Statistics show that most toy-related injuries are caused by people tripping or slipping on toys

But I still see this an area of concern and potentially it came be turned into a competitive advantage, if Happy Playz were to setup their own internal quality control to test, evidence and document there safeguards it can be seen as strength to standout against their competitors.

Parents take safety very seriously when buying toys and games for their children.

CIMA MCS Feb 2023: Astranti Case Study course

I used the full Astranti MCS case study course to pass the MCS exam first time many years ago, it’s packed with resources and tutor support, the full package contains;

  • Pre seen materials pack (analysis, top 10 issues, industry examples & 30 questions)
  • 5 x mock exams with feedback
  • 3 x LIVE and recorded master classes
  • Syllabus theory revision series
  • Exam technique series
  • Ethics and questions packs
  • Tutor feedback
  • Pass guarantee & money back guarantee

CIMA OCS Feb 23: FireWorks

The pre-seen materials have been released for the upcoming CIMA February 2023 OCS exam, it’s based on a scenario called FireWorks – a company that designs and manufactures a range of outdoor grills – you can find the official pre-seen materials from CIMA here.

I’ve always found the ideal starting point for your OCS exam preparation is to make a SWOT analysis.

If you can identify the strengths and weaknesses in the scenario you will have focus areas for the next six weeks.

I have gone through the pre-seen materials this morning and made my own SWOT analysis on FireWorks.

SWOT Analysis

STRENGTHS – Human Resources

The first thing that struck me was the brilliant induction program for new joiners, in fact it’s a company I would personally want to work for! Hiring and retaining the right talent in a business is often under-rated and not given as much attention as it should.

But it seems FireWorks have a very well oiled machine here. We are told the Human Resources director works very closely with the Finance and Production directors (both of who have been with the company for a long time) and it seems their enthusiasm for the company filters all the way down.

There is an extract from the Employee Induction Manual from page 12 onwards in the pre-seen materials and the key point for me was;

Although you are employed to work in a specific department, it is important that you know how
FireWorks grills are made (yes, even if you work in an administrative or delivery role!)

It’s a small gesture but it’s important that employees understand and can feel a connection to the product and company itself. It goes a long way in keeping the best employees connected and motivated.

WEAKNESSES – Budgeting and Costing Methods

As usual with the OCS exam, we are told that the budgeting and costing methods employed are of a basic nature.

The company operates a standard absorption costing system using departmental overhead
absorption rates based on either direct labour hours or machine hours.

Budgets are prepared annually on an incremental basis. Operational managers have limited
involvement in budget setting.

It’s important you know the theory behind the different costing methods – absorption, marginal, activity based costing etc. And that you can relate it back to the FireWorks scenario, it’s an easy subject for the examiner to question, so I’d strongly recommend you cover this theory again from CIMA P1 paper.

Same with budgeting too.

We are told FireWorks use an incremental system with limited involvement from the operational managers, which is an old fashioned and pretty easy method to employ but there are plenty of disadvantages and you should be able to articulate the pro’s and cons as well as the alternative options to incremental budgeting.

OPPORTUNITIES – Smart Technology

The news articles at the back of the pre-seen materials tend to be packed with juicy nuggets of gold that could point to a question on exam day, or give you some ammunition to reference back to when writing your answer.

The news article in “Living Life Outside” is based on future trends and the mention of Smart Technology caught my eye. As FireWorks consider themselves to be one of the market leaders and known for quality and durable products, they should also be at the forefront of technology and Smart Grilling.

I was also given a sneak peek at some of the other developments they were working on, including better temperature controls, easier cleaning grills and smart technologies which would allow you to control your grill from your phone.

THREATS – Consumer Spending Patterns

The opening paragraph on page 7 of the pre-seen materials tells us “Each of our grills is fitted with the best components available and designed to provide the ultimate outdoor cooking experience.”

It’s clear that FireWorks are positioning themselves as a top quality brand with 10 year product guarantees etc. and these products won’t be cheap to consumers!

There is a real threat that negative consumer spending patterns could hurt their financials.

Much like we are seeing now the cost of energy crisis in real life, who, realistically would be looking to buy a luxurious grill for the garden when they are struggling to pay the bills?

Also the seasonality of the grilling industry means there is a big emphasis on making big gains during the Spring and Summer when consumers are in the market for a new grill.

CIMA OCS Feb 2023: Astranti Case Study course

I used the full Astranti OCS case study course to pass the OCS exam first time many years ago, they have improved the course even further since then. The course includes;

  • Pre seen materials pack (analysis, top 10 issues, industry examples & 30 questions)
  • 5 x mock exams with feedback
  • 3 x LIVE and recorded master classes
  • Syllabus theory revision series
  • Exam technique series
  • Ethics and questions packs
  • Tutor feedback
  • Pass guarantee & money back guarantee

CGMA Finance Leadership Program

Since I qualified as a CIMA, CGMA member three years ago, my focus has naturally been shifting away from the perspective of a student and instead focusing on my own career and development.

Nevertheless, the recent news that CIMA are offering a new route to becoming a qualified CIMA, CGMA member is big and exciting news for students.

The CGMA Finance Leadership Program (FLP) offers current and new CIMA students an alternative, modern, forward thinking route through the syllabus.

The CGMA Finance Leadership Program is remote based, self paced and fully online.

The FLP will be available for students in England, Ireland and Wales from September 2022 and you can find out more details here from the official CIMA website.

My initial thoughts are it’s a bold move by CIMA, but one that is also in tune with the current landscape.

Remote and hybrid working is a norm these days, flexibility is a key motivator these days and CIMA seem to be following that trend with the introduction on the Finance Leadership Program.

The Ultimate Guide to CIMA FLP

If I was student right now and wondering what my step would be, I would have more questions than answers.

There are no doubts some big advantages with the program, but you should also consider the other side of the equation – would you feel isolated? How much does it cost to enroll with CIMA on this route?

Astranti have put together a quite frankly brilliant in-depth article on FLP, it should answer all of the questions you might be asking yourself as a student at these crossroads.

Check out their Ultimate Guide to CIMA FLP for a comprehensive look at the program.

image taken from Astranti “The Ultimate Guide to CIMA FLP”

If you’re a student based in England, Scotland and Wales who is enrolling on FLP, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the program and why you decided to enroll. You can find me at @thecimastudent on Twitter.

CIMA Case Study: February 2023

For those students whose first taste of a case study will be in February 2023, what can you expect and how should you prepare?

The pre-seen materials release date is an obvious starting point for preparations, but from personal experience I found that using the weeks BEFORE the pre-seen materials are released as the perfect time to develop a exam strategy and look at the bigger picture on what CIMA expects of a student looking to pass the case study exams first time.

Here are three pieces advice I would give students sitting a February case study exam

Understand your Role

Each CIMA case study exam requires a different approach and mindset, it’s important to understand what role you are playing and how to react to the questions.

Bear this in mind when your answering questions on exam day.

For example, in the SCS exam don’t get drawn into answering a question from the point of view of a Finance Clerk or Manager, you role is Finance Director so you will be required to answer in that mindset – developing strategy and thinking long-term!

Exam Day: Have a Plan

Time management on exam day is crucial and having a plan when answering a question will give you a enough time to produce a full and well balanced answer.

You should have a plan on exam day on how you will answer your question.

Assuming you have 45 minutes for each question in the OCS and MCS (4 questions at 45 mins = 3 hours), I used the below as guideline for answer planning and time management.

  • 10-15 mins: read the question, identify requirements and plan your answer with 3 to 5 bullet points.
  • 25 minutes: add the detail and develop your answer (think about pre-seen materials, industry analysis and ethics)
  • 5-10 minutes: review your answer and adjust where needed.

It’s a natural tendency to rush straight in and start writing out your answering as you see the question, but this can lead to rambling, not answering the requirement and forgetting to add relevant points from the industry analysis or pre-seen materials.

Answer the Requirement

The most common trap students fall into is not understanding the requirement of the question asked, but instead trotting out a pre-rehearsed answer based on the subject.

While it’s important to understand the theory you have studied in the CIMA objective tests, practicing rehearsed statements is not a good idea.

Don’t fall into this trap!

If you identify the requirements of the question and plan your answer around the requirements, you will avoid this trap and maximise your chances of passing the CIMA case study first time.

February 2023 CIMA Case Study Resources

Astranti was the training provider I used to pass my CIMA case studies first time and they’ve recently put together an informative guide on how to crack the case studies!

It’s well worth a read before the pre-seen materials are released later this month.

In terms of the resources, the Astranti course for the November CIMA Case Studies is packed full of resources and tutor support and they have an early sale on their full courses.

  • Pre seen materials pack (analysis, top 10 issues, industry examples & 30 questions)
  • 5 x mock exams with feedback
  • Syllabus theory revision series
  • Exam technique series
  • Ethics and questions packs
  • Tutor feedback
  • Pass guarantee & money back guarantee

CIMA Black Friday SALES!

It’s that time of year when we are awash with Black Friday Sales and the market for CIMA materials is no different!

I am a keen advocate of Astranti and Practice Tests Academy having used both tutition providers in my own quest in becoming a fully qualifed CIMA accountant in 2019.

Practice Tests Academy have 25% off ALL of their CIMA materials, including their newly created case study packages. I used ther P2 exam question bank to great success when passing P2.

Meanwhile, Astranti have a whopping 40% off all CIMA materials until 29th November – their case study courses were the staple of my resources.

With the November case studies winding up this week, it’s a good time for students who are looking to take a February 2022 case study to think about their study materials.

Remember the pre-seen materials for the February 2022 exams are already published!

OCS Feb 2022 Exam: TreadCushy

In this recent blog post I look at the famous topics of costing, budgeting and outsourcing in context of the Feb 2022 OCS pre seen materials.

MCS Feb 2022 Exam: Frinta

The Frinta case study scenario looks like a really well run company, but I picked out a couple of focus areas from the pre-seen materials. Read my MCS blog post on Frinta here.

SCS Feb 2022 Exam: Pixlwizz

The final blog post on the upcoming case studies is around a software company called Pixlwizz, I took the time to develop my own SWOT analysis of the company based on the pre-seen materials. Read it here.

*Just a reminder, I am an affiliate of both CIMA tutition providers but I wouldn’t recommend any provider I don’t have first hand experience with myself, the support helps keep my website and maintenance costs down.

CIMA Feb 2022 SCS: Pixlwizz

The CIMA strategic case study was my favourite exam of the lot. By the time I sat the SCS exam I was in full CIMA swing with my studies and motivation couldn’t have been any higher.

It’s your final exam.

I recommend that students should embrace it and not fear it. If you have reached this far, then the hardest part is done, you just need to jump the final hurdle.

With that in mind, the SCS students have a scenario called Pixlwizz.

A very succesful LISTED software company (founded in 1986) who make and develop their own games.

You can find the official pre seen materials from CIMA here.

SWOT Analysis: Pixlwizz

STRENGHS: Corporate Governance

When putting together a SWOT analysis it was clear that Pixlwizz is a brilliantly run company that has a clear vision, infrastructure and corporate governance in place. Every key indicator ticked the box for me.

  • Board of Directors and Non Exec Diretors roles and expertise
  • Risk Management
  • Customer Awareness
  • Share Price increase year on year
  • Revenues and Profits increasing quicker than competitors (15% v. 6-7%)

Every page you turn in the pre-seen paints a picture of a succesful and well run company, there is a clear strategy and they are executing it very well. And it all starts from the top, the board of directors and corporate governance they have in place is the bedrock of any successful public listed company.

WEAKNESSES: Reliance on Third Parties

The pre-seen materials make a couple of nods to the third parties they rely on for their cloud/network services – specifically speaking “Cloudbor”.

The Westland Daily News article at the back of the pre seen materials tells us about a major incident that caused a server outage for Cloudbor that meant users of Pixlwizz’s games couldn’t access their platform for a sustained period.

To the credit of Pixlwell, they are already well aware of this risk and have it highlighted in their annual report risk register but there might be further need to migate risk rather than accepting it on the basis that, well, Cloudbor are also a huge public listed company so we can trust them.

It could be feasible for Pixlwizz to develop their own in-house cloud services, not only to mitigate this risk but cloud based gaming is expected to have huge growth in the coming years so it could become a critical success factor of the company.

OPPORTUNITIES: Viral Marketing and Social Media

The software and gaming industry is highly competitive and fast moving. The pre seen materials make reference to the fact there is a unknown factor around how gamers will respond to a new product, while there is also reference to viral marketing to attract gamers attention and new customers.

The below is taken from the Westland Telegraph news article at the back.

While viral marketing is hardly new, the prevalence of social media and the fact that most video games are played online, means that it is easy for happy gamers to encourage their friends to buy copies of a favourite game.

There could be an opportunity here to include prompts during the game for gamers to share status updates, recommendations and/or reviews via a click here link. Also, direct links to facebook/twitter/instagram promoting pixlwizz is a great opportunity to attract new customers.

THREATS: Competitors

This threat comes in two-fold. Firstly, given the fact that the Jakob Plunge franchose provides pixlwizz with 19% of their total revenues, there is a big threat that an exisiting competitor will launch a rival product in a bid to take market-share from pixlwizz.

Secondly, there is also the threat that third party hardware manufacturers also develop and publish their own games and in turn become a direct competitior.

That said, given all of the positive signals we receive from the pre-seen materials (see above strengths), pixlwizz are in the strong place to combat these threats.

CIMA SCS Feb 2022: Pixlwizz Astranti Course

The full SCS Pixlwizz course is rammed full of resources and tutor support – I used the Astranti SCS course when passing my final CIMA exam at the first attempt – you can read about how I passed the SCS exam here.

  • Pre seen materials pack (analysis, top 10 issues, industry examples & 30 questions)
  • 5 x mock exams with feedback
  • Syllabus theory revision series
  • Exam technique series
  • Ethics and questions packs
  • Tutor feedback
  • Pass guarantee & money back guarantee

Good Luck with your studies.

CIMA Feb 2022 MCS: Frinta

The CIMA MCS pre seen materials were released by CIMA – you can find them here.

I normally analyse the pre seen materials in the form of a SWOT analysis, but I thought I would pick a theme from the materials and look to piece together a story as to how you can plan your answer on exam day.

Maximising Profit Margins

It’s clear that the trend of the industry is moving towards smart devices.

This is inferred by the news articles at the back of the pre-seen and the shift in revenue from 2019 to 2020 – the demand for Smart Speakers is defintely on the rise.

The issue that Frinta will now be facing is the fact their Smart Devices “Frinta Friends” are not as profitable as the more traditional heating and ventilation controllers.

If we look at the costings of their products, we can calculate the profit margins and it’s evident that the increase in sales and demand for the Smart Devices will lower the groups overall profit margins.

To combat this, Frinta can either;

  • Increase selling prices of smart speakers
  • Decrease cost of production

We are told in the pre seen materials that Frinta’s products are marketed on “quality and functionality” and “feedback from consumers indicate that Frinta’s products inspire confidence because of their high build quality.”

So looking to cut costs of production could be a risk to their quality which would hurt their brand.

What’s more, we are told that;

Frinta’s only major competitor in the smart speaker market is Ypburn. The retail prices for both company’s products are comparable. Neither company actively aims to compete with the other on the basis of price.

This leads me to think that Frinta has room to increase prices if they can market it to the customer that their product is head and shoulders above Ypburn. Which many of their customers already believe based on the quotes in the preseen.

New Product Opportunity

Another point that seemed glaringly obvious in the pre seen materials were the customer reviews of the Ypburn Home Alarm systems – a product that Frinta doesn’t yet produce.

The home alarm system itself seems to be a great hit with the customers and feels like a natrual area of the market Frinta can move towards.

Although there was a modest 3 thumb review that caught my eye.

I am awarding this product three thumbs. It would have been five, but I am annoyed that I had to pay for two door/window sensors when I only need one and for a siren that I wouldn’t have purchased if I’d had a choice.

The Ypburn home alarm kit comes in a standard size kit with two door/window sensors and three indoor sensors but nothing smaller.

There is an opportunity here for Frinta to enter this area of the market and cater for customers who have smaller needs, perhaps looking at a “build your own” alarm package so customers can buy single pieces of the alarm kit.

The CIMA Student Conclusion

Hopefully this has given you some ideas on how you can analyse the pre-seen materials, find a theme and build a story around it.

If you can build up this kind of knowledge on the Frinta case study scenario, then you can natrually begin to tie this information together in your answers on exam day.

Good Luck!

CIMA MCS Frinta Astranti Case Study Course

The full Astranti MCS case study course has recently been revamped and contains more resources than ever to help your pass the MCS exam first time.

  • Pre seen materials pack (analysis, top 10 issues, industry examples & 30 questions)
  • 5 x mock exams with feedback
  • Syllabus theory revision series
  • Exam technique series
  • Ethics and questions packs
  • Tutor feedback
  • Pass guarantee & money back guarantee

Good Luck with your studies.

CIMA Feb 2022 OCS:TreadCushy

The February 2022 CIMA OCS pre seen materials were released by CIMA, so I’ve had time to go through them and make a few observations and pointers that will help you prepare for exam day.

You can find the official pre seen materials from CIMA here.

Costing Methods

It’s a staple of the CIMA operational case study, as it’s a highly examinable topic as well as a fundamental topic with the operational level. The TreadCushy pre-seen materials tell us that;

The company operates a standard absorption costing system using departmental overhead absorption rates based on either direct labour hours or machine hours for both variable and fixed production overheads. Standard cost cards are produced for each shoe design and are updated annually.

As a reminder, the traditional methods of costing are variable costing, absorption costing and activity based costing (ABC). CIMA have also introduced digital costing into the mix, so it’s important you are comfortable with the principles behind these and the advantages and disadvantages.

The issues TreadCushy are likely to face in the OCS exam is the fact their method of costing is fairly inaccruate. Not too mention the standard cost cards are only updated on an annual basis

A switch to ABC activity based costing could see a more reliable and accruate picture of how much their products cost and will lead to better management decision making. They might discover that one of their products is significantly more expensive to produce than imagined, so they can focus their attention elsewhere on more profitable products.

EXAM TIP

There are no set right or wrong answers for the case study exam, it’s important that you use the pre-seen and “unseen” information you are provided with in the exam to justify your recommendations.

There is a useful article from CIMA here on the subject of activity based costing.

Budgeting Methods

In a similar vein, budgeting is an easy area for their examiner to bring up on exam day and it feels like the scene could already be set when we look at the pre seen materials.

Budgets are prepared annually on an incremental basis. Managers have limited involvement in budget setting and limited budget responsibility for their respective areas. 

TreadCushy use a fairly outdated method of budgeting. While incremental budgets that are “top down” are quick to produce, they can lead to demotivation among managers and employees due to the lack of involvement they have in the process and the unrealistic targets they could have imposed on them.

Incremental budgeting also fails to look at the bigger picture of the business and factor in real life events and strategic decisions. Adding 5% or 10% on last years spend for the current year can lead to departments wasting money so not to have their budget cut the following year.

You should be comfortable with the different types of budgeting methods, the pro’s and con’s and being able to relate them to the TreadCushy scenario.

Outsourcing and Offshoring

The subject of offshoring and outsourcing appear in the CIMA E1 syllabus and there were a couple of references in the pre seen materials that caught my attention.

The vast majority of athletic shoes are manufactured in Asia.

All four of the major brands outsource production as a means of keeping cost down.

However, over the past 10 years there have been a number of small companies proving that manufacturing in-house can be profitable. One such example is TreadCushy.

A few snippets from the pre seen tell us that the industry generally sees alot of outsourcing of production to Asia. That said, it’s clear that TreadCushy is successful without having the need to outsource production to Asia.

What’s more, part of it’s competitive advantage are the materials and eco-friendly production they use to produce thier trainers so would outsourcing really be an option for them? It wouldn’t seem to fit with their profile.

Nevertheless, their could be a scenario that comes up in the exam where TreadCushy are looking at offshoring or outsourcing. So I would suggest to cover this area of the E1 syallabus and think how you can relate to TreadCushy.

CIMA OCS: Astranti Case Study Course

The full Astranti OCS case study course contains more resources than ever to help your pass the OCS exam first time.

  • Pre seen materials pack (analysis, top 10 issues, industry examples & 30 questions)
  • 5 x mock exams with feedback
  • Syllabus theory revision series
  • Exam technique series
  • Ethics and questions packs
  • Tutor feedback
  • Pass guarantee & money back guarantee

CIMA CPD: Getting Started

Let’s say there are two types of newly qualified CIMA members.

TYPE 1: The enthusiastic ACMA CGMA member who is keen to continue on their quest for knowledge.

TYPE 2: The proud yet somewhat relived ACMA CGMA member who wants to focus attention elsewhere.

I fall under the second type, having spent alot of time and effort over the previous four to five years in becoming qualified, I wanted to enjoy the feeling of being qualified without thinking… what’s next?

I wanted to give time back to family, friends, and other interests.

For me, the final (and laborious) hurdle of submitting the CIMA PER to achieve the ACMA, CGMA status confirmed I didn’t want to immediately think about CIMA and CPD (Continuing Professional Development).

Despite it being almost two full years since I qualified, I have yet to record any CPD officially but it’s a process I am looking at doing now, so I thought it would be a good time to dust off the blog and hopefully answer a few questions others might have on the subject.

WHAT IS CPD?

Continuing professional development (CPD) is the process of maintaining and developing your skills, knowledge and experience so that you can meet the requirements of your current role, achieve your career aspirations and meet your professional obligations

taken from CIMA website (https://www.cimaglobal.com/Members/CPD/FAQs/)

Before I go into detail on how I am approaching it, it’s a good time to dispel a few myths around CIMA CPD.

  • All CIMA members are required to undertake CPD and keep a record of their development activities.
  • CPD can take many forms (work-based learning, conferences, online learning, research, courses etc.)
  • There are no mandatory amout of hours or units of CPD you need to cover. CIMA recommend you do as much as you need to remain professionally competent.
  • Whilst all CIMA members need to keep their CPD record up to date, you don’t need to submit your CPD record for monitoring until formally requested to do so by CIMA’s CPD monitoring team.

I’d also suggest to visit the CIMA CPD frequently asked questions here, as it should cover any uncertainty you have around what’s needed.

The Pro-Active Approach

In my opinion, you can approach CPD in two ways.

The first being a pro-active approach where you plan ahead and use the CPD cycle to give you structure and plan your development alongside your career aspirations.

Do you want to become a finance leader – if so, think what skills you need to achieve that and plan accordingly.

In most cases, you would have already done something similar with your employer in terms of your career path – you can already leverage on that planning and development and look to record it in your CPD.

I’d also suggest to research specific courses you feel would be beneficial and ask your employer to cover the costs, it’s a win/win situation really. Most companies tend to have a training budget and if it’s relevant to your role there is a high chance the company will pay for the training.

If not, you can always fund it yourself or find other avenues to develop your skills via online learning, free videos, seminars etc.

CPD doesn’t mean spending lots of $$$$$.

The Re-Active Approach

Secondly, you can look back at the last 12 months to see how you’ve developed yourself professionally.

Have you attended relevant webinars, completed projects where you have demonstrated leadership or problem-solving skills, have you attended mentor sessions?

What training courses have you taken part in?

Both approaches have their own merits and I personally I have started to look back over the last 12-18 months to map out what CPD relevant activities I can add to my CIMA CPD record.

What’s more, by looking back I can already see gaps in my own development, there are training courses and specific areas I’d like to develop my own knowledge. I can then incorporate this into my future development and CPD planning as part of the pro-active approach.

Hopefully, this has given CIMA members in a similar situation to myself some food for thought and motivation to start thinking about recording your own CPD.

The next step for me is to now start documenting the CPD I have already undertaken. And planning ahead..

I will continue to blog my progress.

Happy CPD-ing!

CIMA SCS May/Aug 2021: Arrfield

The CIMA SCS May/August 2021 pre seen materials were released earlier this month – it’s based around a scenario called “Arrfield” – you can find the full official pre seen materials from CIMA here.

I passed the CIMA SCS exam first time in 2019 and you can read all about my experience here.

If you are looking for that final piece of motivation, then please check out my CIMA journey where I talked through how I found each level and the ups and downs in becoming CIMA qualified.

CIMA SCS Arrfield: Top 10 Issues

Astranti do a great job in analyzing the pre seen materials and identifying the issues raised that can act a trigger point for a question on exam day.

If you have already spent hours and hours pouring over the pre seen for Arrfield and are now looking to focus your sights on specific areas, then the top 10 issues preview video will give you an idea on how to approach it.

The video gives you the first two issues that have identified around “Ethics” and “Funding” but perhaps more importantly it gives you the tools or framework on how identify issues yourself based on the pre seen materials.

CIMA SCS: Astranti Case Study Course

The full Astranti SCS case study course has recently been revamped and contains more resources than ever to help your pass the MCS exam first time.

  • Pre seen materials pack (analysis, top 10 issues, industry examples & 30 questions)
  • 5 x mock exams with feedback
  • Syllabus theory revision series
  • Exam technique series
  • Ethics and questions packs
  • Tutor feedback
  • Pass guarantee & money back guarantee

Good Luck with your studies.

CIMA MCS May/Aug 2021: Trayyner

The CIMA MCS May and August 2021 case study is based around a scenario called Trayyner and in this blog post I will be focusing on the news articles featured in the pre seen materials.

You can find the official MCS May 2021 pre seen materials from CIMA here.

Trayyner is a company that offers executive training courses but before I get stuck into the news articles, it’s worth paying attention to the opening statement on the pre-seen materials in regards to COVID.

COVID-19 Statement
This pre-seen and the case study in general (while aiming to reflect real life), are set in a context
where the COVID-19 pandemic has not had an impact.

taken from the Trayyner pre seen materials opening page

What this tells me is that students have been referring to COVID directly in previous sittings of the case study exams. Perhaps using COVID as a reason why a companies profits have fallen, or extra health and safety measures that need to be considered in light of COVID.

While it’s important to make yourself feel part of the case study scenario, you need to stick to the facts you are presented with in the materials.

It’s tricky, as students are encouraged to refer to real life industry examples to give context, however, it’s clear that students have using the real life situation of COVID to explain and base their recommendations in the case study exams.

Pre Seen Materials: New Articles

The news articles at the end can be loaded with information and some pointers on what you could see on exam day. I’ve examined the first three in detail and shared my thoughts below.

In my opinion, it makes sense to look at the Southland Gazette and Northland Business Daily articles together. The first article in the Northland Business Daily is centered around Parastatals and how their roles are changing.

A parastatal is a company that is owned by the government, but is run by a board of directors – the article points out;

While they may be expected to operate at a profit, they are also expected to operate in the national interest. That could mean that they must cap prices in order to ensure that the needs of domestic and commercial customers are met.

The roles of parastatals are changing in many countries, with a greater emphasis on creating profit and maximising wealth.

taken from the pre seen materials page 22

Before I draw any conclusions, let’s have a look at the Southland Gazette article. Here we can find a direct criticism from the government for The Telecommunications Corporation of Southland (TeCoS) attending a training course in a luxury hotel.

The Minister for Telecommunications has criticised the Board of The Telecommunications Corporation of Southland (TeCoS), the parastatal responsible for the provision of telecommunications across Southland, for attending a training session in a luxury hotel in Hopeland.

She queried the cost of this training and asked for a justification of its value

taken from the pre seen materials page 23

I believe there are positives and negatives hidden in both of these stories.

Let’s start with the positive.

Training Courses Opportunities

We understand that the role of parastatals are changing with a emphasis on creating profit and maximizing wealth. Looking at the courses offered by Trayyner, they only offer two courses for Parastatals; (Board Duties and Internal Audit). So there is an opportunity to either create new courses around creating value, business partnering or stakeholder management for the new skillsets the board of directors at parastatals will need.

Alternatively, there might be existing Trayyner courses that can be marketed to these companies to meet their needs of an evolving skillset.

And now for the glaringly obvious risk.

Luxury Venues Criticised

The second article doesn’t look good.

Despite the fact that TeCoS have defended the training course they have attended, they will be under pressure when thinking about future courses. Think of the MP expenses scandal in the UK, where Government ministers were making excessive claims for their own benefit, while this is not in the same league it’s a similar theme.

The public won’t like the fact these government controlled companies are being wined and dined at luxury hotels for training courses.

This negative press could impact Trayyner and they could see lost business from parastatals.

That said, Trayyner could already be actively thinkin about how to mitigate that risk. Do they offer in-house training to these clients, or perhaps think of a more low key venue for these types of events?

The next news article paints a positive picture for the executive training course industry and Trayyner – a happy story after the muddy waters of the previous one.

The article tells us;

Northland’s Navy has announced that it plans to incorporate budgets and financial planning into the training programmes for all of its senior officers.

“Our officers will still be able to navigate ships and operate their systems, but we have identified a growing need for training in various aspects of management alongside technical specialisms. Ships’ captains frequently have to manage complicated budgets.”

taken from the pre seen materials page 24

This can only be good news and more business for Trayyner, in theory, it should be low hanging fruit for Trayyner to take advantage of this news.

Given the specialist nature of the courses and trainers at the disposal of Trayyner, they should be in a position to react quickly to this news and start their sales pitch with the Northland Navy on courses that would meet their requirements.

It’s also really welcome news considering what we are told in the pre-seen materials ‘Marketing Activities’ on page 6.

Trayyner has an extensive client base that is drawn mainly from regions that had developing, economies until relatively recently, but that have transitioned to maturity. Countries in those regions frequently have large numbers of professional people who occupy senior roles within indigenous and parastatal (government-owned) organisations.

It seems that the market that Trayyner operates in is reaching maturity, so another market segment to aim at like the Navy or Armed Forces, whose personnel also need a more rounded skillset that includes financial courses could prove to be very lucrative for Trayyner and their competitors.

CIMA MCS: Astranti Case Study Course

The full Astranti MCS case study course has recently been revamped and contains more resources than ever to help your pass the MCS exam first time.

  • Pre seen materials pack (analysis, top 10 issues, industry examples & 30 questions)
  • 5 x mock exams with feedback
  • Syllabus theory revision series
  • Exam technique series
  • Ethics and questions packs
  • Tutor feedback
  • Pass guarantee & money back guarantee

Good Luck with your studies.

CIMA OCS MAY/Aug 2021: ACELLERATE

It’s arguably one of my favourite times of the year, the CIMA pre seen materials have been released for the upcoming OCS exam in May and August 2021.

This set of materials will be valid for the May and August exams this year, so I will be covering them a few times over the next couple of months.

You can find the official pre seen materials from CIMA here.

It can be tempting to jump straight into the pre seen analysis and learn it word for word, however, I believe one of the best approaches to tackling the pre seen at any level is to read the materials ONCE.

  • Take a break
  • Have a cup of tea
  • Walk the dog
  • or have a nap.

Then I would start to read the pre seen materials AGAIN with the idea to start drawing up your own SWOT analysis on the information you have been presented with.

I’ve done just that (well, I didn’t walk the dog but you get the picture).

Here are my thoughts and SWOT analysis on the May 2021 OCS pre-seen materials “Acellerate”

The CIMA Student: SWOT Analysis

STRENGTHS: Digital Technologies and The Board of Directors

I’ve picked two strengths here but the over-riding strength, in my opinion, is the digital technologies that Acellerate have employed so successfully. It’s a common theme that runs through the business and starts at the very top.

The managing director, finance director and IT director are all strong advocates of digital technologies as you can tell by reading the directors profiles.

Joseph is keen to continue to expand the business through the exploitation of digital technologies.


She is interested in exploring the use of digital technology to make the finance processes more efficient.


He has been pivotal in the development of the company’s fleet management system which is seen as ground breaking in its use of digital technology.

page 6 of the pre seen materials

The background and profiles of the board members also make for positive reading and make you feel bullish about the company, their profiles are perfectly in line with the company’s strategy

“The main objective is to continue to improve margins by utilising digital technologies”

It’s clear the board are delivering on their main strategic aim that is using digital technologies to gain an competitive advantage, this is backed up by the IT paragraph on page 12 of the pre seen materials.

“The company makes extensive use of digital technology both to manage its fleet of rental cars and to improve the service offered to its customers…….


………… It plans to continue deploying new technology systems to support management decisions and to enable it to tailor products, services and price offerings to meet customers’ needs and react quickly to shifting market conditions. “

page 12 of the pre seen materials

Not only that, but the board of directors have seemingly navigated Acellerate through the toughest part of the recession in Everland and their 2021 numbers are looking positive, unlike some competitors who have folded during the recession (see the end of page 3 of the pre seen materials).

WEAKNESSES: Maintenance and Accident Repairs

It might be a slight “under the radar” point made in the pre-seen about how the accident repairs are handled, but it peaked my interest and I consider it a weakness.

The ending bullet point on page 10 “Maintenance” states;

“Accident repairs are carried out by third-party suppliers. When the suppliers complete the body repairs, each car is inspected by an Acellerate mechanic before payment is made.”

page 10 of the pre seen materials

To me it seems inefficient that the accident repairs are carried out by a third party, then one of Acellerates own mechanics inspects the car before payment is made – it all seems counterproductive.

They lose time, money and control of the repair process which goes against the opening paragraph;

“The quality of the maintenance process is considered to be of vital importance as it is fundamental to customer safety and customer satisfaction. Quick and proper repairs are also critical to ensure fleet utilisation rates are kept as high as possible”

page 10 of the pre seen materials

OPPORTUNITES: Connected Technologies

Continuing with the theme of technologies, it’s clear there is a big opportunity with “Connected Technologies”.

It seems to be the next logical step for Acellerate who are clearly driven by the use of technology. The tail end of the industry analysis on page 15 tells us that over the next few years the industry itself will be focusing on Connected Technologies and Cars-as-a-Service.

What’s more, the news article on page 30 (always a good indicator of subjects that could come up on exam day), paints a positive picture of the use of connected technologies.

“Car connectivity presents the greatest challenges but also opportunities for the car industry.”
“The benefits for car rental and fleet management companies are immense. Car connectivity provides a new competitive advantage to run a smarter fleet and increase efficiency and reduce costs”

page 30 of the pre seen materials

THREATS: Recession

Despite the positive picture painted on the company background section, there is still a real risk and threat that the current global economic recession that is being experience by Everland could hit Accellerate harder than their early 2021 numbers suggest.

Taken from the Industry Analysis on page 14;

The industry, in common with other industries, has suffered a severe setback as a result of the recent global economic recession. Prior to 2020, market experts were predicting an average growth in sales revenue of around 7.5% over the next 5 years, however it is now predicted that the industry will not return to 2019 levels until 2025 and that some car rental companies will not survive.

page 14 of the pre seen materials

SWOT ANALYSIS SUMMARY AND CONSIDERATIONS

Hopefully this has inspired you somewhat to think a bit deeper about the scenario rather than memorising facts and figures from the pre seen materials.

I’d also like to comment that the financial statements don’t tell us too much we don’t already know. I wouldn’t spend huge amounts of time here, performing analysis of ratios etc.

The very opening paragraph tells us “In the financial year to 31 December 2020 the company reported sales revenue of E$206.3 million, a decrease of 25% from the previous year”

And this 25% decrease is consistent and reflected in the P&L and Balance Sheet figures given in the pre seen materials. The revenue and fleet operating costs fell by exactly 25%, while the personnel and “admin costs” fell by 15%.

All of the current assets on the balance sheet also fell by 25% from 2019 to 2020. By all means, calculate it yourself but don’t focus your full attention here.

If anything, give more attention to the Costing Information on page 25 of the pre seen materials as costing can be a highly examinable area of the OCS (see the P1 syllabus around costing).

CIMA OCS: Astranti Case Study Course

OCS May 2021

The full Astranti OCS case study course has recently been revamped and contains more resources than ever to help your pass the OCS exam first time.

  • Pre seen materials pack (analysis, top 10 issues, industry examples & 30 questions)
  • 5 x mock exams with feedback
  • Syllabus theory revision series
  • Exam technique series
  • Ethics and questions packs
  • Tutor feedback
  • Pass guarantee & money back guarantee

Good Luck!

CIMA f1: Financial reporting

The CIMA F1 Financial Reporting exam is not as tough as many students fear. I remember myself when studying for this paper I dreaded the accounting standards and technical elements of the paper. Fearing that I would never be able to remember and apply them on exam day.

Nevertheless, I did manage a first time pass with the F1 Financial Reporting paper, although this was back around 2014 when the exams were not computer based and the questions were in longer format. But the fundamentals and principles remain the same.

If you are one of the those students that are immediately filled with dread when opening your F1 Financial Reporting textbook (or pdf online text as is the case these days). Then fear not.

A quick glance at the CIMA Exam Pass Rates during 2020 paint a happy picture. The CIMA F1 paper had a 79% pass rate, while the E1 paper (which is considered one of the easier papers) had an 81% pass rate. If you should fear anything at this level it should be the P1 paper which had a very modest 54%.

The F1 Syllabus

F1: Financial Reporting
A. Regulatory environment of financial reporting
B. Financial statements
C. Principles of taxation
D. Managing cash and working capital

The area I want to focus on here is section D on the F1 syllabus: Managing Cash and Working Capital as it’s an area that can be tested heavily in both the objective tests and the case study at operational level.

Understanding Working Capital

Working capital is a measure of the company’s liquidity and is calculated by deducting the current liabilities (trade payables, overdraft etc.) from the current assets (inventory, cash and receivables).

Working Capital = Current Assets – Current Liabilities

It’s a simple formula that tells you how liquid the company is. Perhaps the best way to approach this subject to start from the end and break it down step by step.

The Working Capital Cycle

Many companies will measure the working capital cycle to identify any areas of concern with how the company invests it’s cash. It can tell you if there is an issue with how long it takes to collect cash, are they not utilizing payment terms effectively and do they hold too much inventory?

Simply put;

it’s the length of time between paying suppliers for the purchase of raw materials and receiving cash back into the business when the customer pays our invoice.

The shorter this cycle is, the more efficient the company is run and the quick it can start the process again.

Here is an illustration of The Working Capital Cycle.

The focus will be on the green arrow – how can companies positively impact this cycle?

• Payable Days – is the company making full use of payment terms? This blue arrow could be pushed further out to shorten the working capital cycle.

• Receivable Days – is cash being collected on time? If not, what are the issues? Improving cash collection and reducing this blue arrow would help shorten the working capital cycle.

• Inventory Days – how long is the company holding onto inventory for, can sales be generated more efficiently and can the production process be quicker?

It’s more feasible for a company to focus on extending payment terms and improving cash collection rather than looking at the production or inventory process. These are the kind of questions and thought process you should be going through during a case study exam.

While the objective tests and specifically the F1 Financial Reporting paper you will be required to perform quick calculations and select the right answer.

Measuring Working Capital

These ratios are used to determine how much working capital a business holds and if it’s too much, or if there is a risk of the business not being liquid enough.

LIQUIDITY RATIOS

Current Ratio = Current Assets/Current Liabilities

In an ideal world, this should always be over 1.

This indicates the company holds more current assets than liabilities – in most industries the benchmark would be around 1.4 to 1.5. However, that is not always the case if we think about the Supermarket Industry where it’s common to be under 1.0.

This is due to the fact they have very little stock on hand as it’s fast moving and very little receivables due to customers paying cash in the store, this cash is used in a fast turnaround for more goods.

The Quick Ratio = Current Assets-Inventories/Current Liabilities

This removes inventory from the equation as it’s the least liquid. If there was an urgent need for a business to cover their liabilities in a short space, this measure will tell us if it’s possible.

It’s basically saying, do we have enough cash on hand and receivables to collect to pay all of our current liabilities. Ideally, it would be just over the 1.0 mark.

EFFICIENCY RATIOS

Inventory Days = Inventory/Cost of Sales x 365

This measure will tell us how long a company holds onto inventory before it’s sold. If this period is too long or increases over time, then the cost of storing the inventory grows and so does the risk of obsolescence.

Receivables Collection Period = Trade Receivables/Revenue x 365

Here we will understand how efficient the cash collection process is, if the company offers a strict 30 payment terms to their customers but this measure is well over 30 days, the company needs to address it. The shorter this period, the quicker the company can invest the money back into the production of goods and services.

Payables Payment Period = Trade Payables/Cost of Sales x 365

As above, but from other side. If the company has 60 day terms to pay their supplier bit this measure shows only 50 days, then there is a case of paying some suppliers too early. Alternatively, if there is a strain on the working capital cycle a company may look to negotiate longer payment terms with their suppliers.

The Working Capital Cycle = Inventory Days + Receivable Days – Payable Days

Now we can calculate the working capital cycle in days by adding the inventory days to the receivable days and deducting the payable days.

Let’s take a look at example illustrating these ratios in action.

The current ratio of 1.55 is very healthy and shows the company has plenty of current assets to cover their liabilities in the short term. However, if we take inventory out of the equation the quick ratio of 0.81 illustrates the company may struggle to meet their liabilities and need to think about their inventory management.

The Inventory Days of 112 is also high and backups up the quick ratio, that the company is holding too much inventory and for too long. If we look at it in pure values, there is 2000 worth of inventory on the balance sheet despite the cost of sales for the whole year is 6500.

On the other hand, the payable days look to be good. The company is taking 98 days to their creditors which is effective use of the company’s cash, although there needs to balance to ensure vendors are not being LATE and there is a risk of services being cut off.

The receivable days also look to be in good shape, 40 days to collect cash is a good measure but of course this can be benchmarked to their current receivable terms. Is it 30 days, 60 days? In a case study exam you will usually be given some context to judge these numbers on.

In terms of the F1 Financial Reporting objective test, practice calculating the ratios and there are various ways the working capital cycle can be tested. You might be given the ratios themselves and then asked to calculate the total payables value on the balance sheet, all of these type of questions will be most exam practice kits.

CIMA MCS Feb 2021: Prybloxx

The February 2021 MCS exam is based around a case study called Prybloxx – not the most imaginative or memorable of names – anyhow, on to the pre seen materials that were released some weeks ago.

You can find the official pre seen materials for the Prybloxx MCS exam from CIMA here – via their CIMA planner website.

The management case study (MCS) exam is clearly a tougher proposition than the operational level case study, looking back at how I passed the MCS first time, the main takeaway for me was the important of planning your answer.

As you will need to ensure you give a full and rounded answer that answers the specific requirements in the question. That’s not to say you didn’t need to do that in the OCS, but that exam is probably more forgiving than the MCS.

That said having the experience of the OCS will definitely help you when sitting the Prybloxx exam, for those students taking the gateway route the MCS exam will be your first case study exam so it’s crucial you get a lot of practice with answer planning and mock exam practice.

SWOT Analysis – Prybloxx

I believe one of the most valuable tools in preparing for the MCS exam can be a SWOT analysis based on the pre seen, the results will get you thinking about all areas of the company and potential questions on exam day.

There are of course more than one strength, weakness, opportunity and threat but having digested the pre seen materials these are my initial thoughts on Prybloxx.

Strengths – Corporate Social Responsibility

A topic that always come to mind when preparing for a CIMA case study is “Corporate Social Responsibility” and there are two triggers in the pre seen materials that makes me believe this is a significant strength of the company. In this day and age it’s critical for businesses to have a CSR strategy, not only for promoting the brand in a positive light but it’s key for attracting and retaining the best staff.

Employees don’t just want to to earning a good wage, they want to be proud and work for an ethical company.

Prybloxx operates around the world. Most of its staff are employed at its factory in Varanda, but the Group has distribution centres in several other countries. Varanda has a concept of a “living wage”, which is sufficient for an employee to achieve an acceptable standard of living and is higher than the statutory minimum wage.

Prybloxx has committed itself to pay at least the living wage, even though it is not compulsory to do so. Overseas workers are also paid sufficient to live comfortably

In the news report at the end of the pre seen materials, there is a readers question to Prybloxx about why do they use so many plastic bags in their packaging, the final sentence at the end of the response from Prybloxx is another good sign of CSR.

Prybloxx uses bags made out of corn starch that is friendly to the environment. It is biodegradable and does no harm when it decomposes.

While there is no mention of a CSR policy in place at Prybloxx, it’s clear by their actions that the company has a good ethical and corporate social responsible foundation in place, which they can leverage on to promote their brand as well as attracting the best staff.

Weaknesses – Limited Capacity

When I saw the sub heading “Pricing Issues” I thought there could be some good information here and I believe there is a weakness here that, if addressed, could leave to an increase in shareholder wealth.

Some prices are based on perceived added value rather than cost to Prybloxx.

For example, the Motor Builder Kit contains the same number of moulded parts as Basic Builder, but it also includes an electric motor. The Motor Builder Kit costs an additional V$2.74 to manufacture, but it retails for an additional V$15.00 because the motor offers much greater play value.

Prybloxx also has limited capacity to produce those “added value” parts, especially motors and lights.

The limited capacity of being able to produce added value parts could throw up several different scenaris on exam day, so it’s to explore these options. Pryblox could be making an extra $12.26 contribution per unit if they could produce endless supplies of these parts.

How could they achieve that? They could limit the production of other areas or even perhaps outsource the production of some areas to help with this? Think about how we can turn this weakness around into a opportunity.

Opportunities – Diversify Ranges

Ckonstro is their closet rival and we are presented with information about our nearest competitor that we can take as an opportunity. There are two specific ranges they produce that Prybloxx do not.

Ckonstruction Baby bricks are much larger than traditional bricks, which means that they can be played with by young children under the age of three. The larger bricks are easier to handle for small hands and none of the bricks are small enough for a toddler to swallow.

Ckonstruction Engineering sets include a range of parts that enable the construction of
more complicated mechanical models. They include cogs, gears and drive belts that make
it possible to drive moving parts with an electric motor.

There is also a mention of engineers using these models in the news articles at the back, so that’s two mentions of this type of product in the pre seen which leads me to believe it could be a subject that crops up on exam day.

Threats – Low Barrier To Entry

We are told at the very beginning that this type of toy/building brick has been around since the 1930’s but it cannot be specifically patented. So Prybloxx was founded in 2004 with an idea to imitate the continuing success of the brand.

Prybloxx was founded in 2004 by Brendan Lee, an entrepreneur who wished to imitate the continuing success of the leading brand’s sales of sets and model kits. Mr Lee developed a range of generic bricks that were compatible with those of the leading brand.

You can see how quickly the company has grown revenues in such a short space of time, so what’s to stop a rival company starting from starting from scratch and doing the same as Prybloxx in 2004?

CIMA MCS Case Study Course

The full Astranti MCS case study course has recently been revamped and contains more resources than ever to help your pass the OCS exam first time.

  • Pre seen materials pack (analysis, top 10 issues, industry examples & 30 questions)
  • 5 x mock exams with feedback
  • Syllabus theory revision series
  • Exam technique series
  • Ethics and questions packs
  • Tutor feedback
  • Pass guarantee & money back guarantee

Good Luck!

CIMA OCS Feb 2021: Amazzzing beds

The CIMA February 2021 OCS exam is based around a company called “Amazzzing Beds” and given the fact the pre-seen materials were released some time ago, students who are planning on the taking the exam in February 2021 can already start their preparation.

You can find the official pre-seen from CIMA here.

OCS Focus Areas

26 pages of pre-seen materials can be overwhelming but you need to be smart with your pre exam studies. It’s important to remember your role in the exam is that of a “Finance Officer” – or assissant.

“You are principally involved in the preparation of management accounting information and providing information to managers to assist with decision making.

At times you are also expected to assist with the preparation of the financial statements and answer queries
regarding financial reporting and other financial matters.”

CIMA Pre-Seen Materials guidance on your role in the OCS exam

So don’t think too much outside of these boundaries, you won’t be asked questions on strategy, people management or complex accounting standards at this stage.

The focus of the OCS exam really comes from the P1 Management Accounting paper, for a reminder of the hot topics on the OCS exam I wrote a blog post in conjunction with CSSC Tuition here.

Amazzzing Beds Manufacturing

Having read the pre-seen materials a couple of times and thought it in context of what’s expected in your role as Finance Officer, the below extract caught my eye as a potential trigger for a question on exam day.

Here we find out that the company manufactures beds for inventory and not for customer orders, if this was my company I would be concerned that we are not holding unnecessary while we wait for the orders to come in. It would be costly to hold these units for any longer than needed, think of all of the associated costs with storing them and are we making the best use of our productions facilities?

Back to the Operational Level syllabus;

  • Inventory EOQ
  • Just-In-Time
  • Total Quality Management

The above areas immediately came to my mind after reading the “Manufacturing” paragraph in the pre seen materials, so you could be faced with a scenario in the exam where amazzzing beds are considering changing to a Just-In-Time manufacturing process and the finance manager has asked if you can explain the advantages and disadvantages on this process.

Likewise, they could ask a similar question on Total Quality Management (TQM), all of these subjects will be familiar from your P1 studies so make sure you know the theory behind them and can relate them to the Amazzzing Beds scenario.

The Finance Department

Being accountants, the finance department section of the pre-seen materials will make for interesting reading but more importantly will give you context on the processes, resources and culture of the department. Usually this section is short and concise but it’s packed full of useful information.

You can also begin to paint a picture of the whole company and how it operates.

The green paragraph I have highlighted above tells us that the company uses an integrated ERP system (which is great if the company does want to move to a JIT manufacturing method) but perhaps more importantly from an OCS exam perspective, it tells us the company operates a standard absorption costing system.

Again, we should be well aware of the different types of costing system (variable, absorption, activity based and digital costing) from our P1 studies, so we should be able to explain the differences, advantages and disadvantages of all of these methods and apply it to the Amazzzing Beds scenario.

Given that Amazzzing Beds are focused on sustainable and ethical methods of production and sourcing their materials there might also be questions around Environmental Costing.

Budgeting also crops up in this section. Very much similar the costing information we have been presented we should be able to explain the different methods of budgeting and the associated advantages and disadvantages of them.

News Articles – Sleep Science!

The final pages of pre seen materials can often be seen as the most valuable, so try not to tie yourself up in knots with the financial and production you have been provided.

The article “Lifestyle Today” at the end of the Amazzzing Beds pre-seen materials paints us a picture of technology and the fact one of our competitors “Gordons Beds” have opened a commercial sleep clinic. I would suggest not to neglect this information and to do some research and think how can CIMA question me on this?

For example, you might be presented with some information in the exam that Amazzing Beds are considering opening a commercial sleep clinic, but to do so they are considering the associated risks. i.e questions on sensitivity and what if analysis? or perhaps decision tress?

CIMA OCS Case Study Course

The full Astranti OCS case study course has recently been revamped and contains more resources than ever to help your pass the OCS exam first time.

  • Pre seen materials pack (analysis, top 10 issues, industry examples & 30 questions)
  • 5 x mock exams with feedback
  • Syllabus theory revision series
  • Exam technique series
  • Ethics and questions packs
  • Tutor feedback
  • Pass guarantee & money back guarantee

Good Luck!

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