Author Archives: cimastudent

Practice Tests Academy

PTA2

CIMA Mock Exam Questions

I have been a keen advocate of the Practice Tests Academy mock exam questions since I passed my P2 exam using their mock exam question bank of over a million questions, well not quite a million, but over 500-600 questions on the finer arts of advanced management accounting.

I really like the history of the company and I believe it will strike a chord with a lot of students and qualified members.

The founder was struggling herself with finding enough question practice to pass CIMA exams a few years back, so when she eventually qualified she decided to start her own company providing CIMA practice questions.

They have over 500 exam questions for each CIMA objective test but they have since gone to grow their range of resources and now offer full objective test packages with video tuition.

However, there are three main reasons why I found their resources a great help.

  • Depth of question bank.

The sheer volume of questions you have available will help you overcome your weak areas of the syllabus. Practice makes perfect and you can definitely get a lot of practice with these CIMA practice exam questions.

  • Mock exam results per category/syllabus area.

This is a really highlight for me and a valuable tool. The final results you get from the simulated mock exam provides you with a detailed summary of what syllabus areas you struggled with so you can immediately focus your next steps on those areas.

It’s clear, concise and a great way to reflect on how you fared with the practice exam.

  • Answer feedback

When getting a question wrong, the explanation given was detailed but yet simple enough to understand and learn from. The below video is a walk through of the CIMA P3 question bank package to give you an idea why I rate them so highly.

PTA & Kaplan Co-operation

Kaplan

Their recent co-operation with Kaplan has caught my eye as they offer Kaplan materials with over a 20% discount off their normal selling price.

Now you have the option to study using the official Kaplan study text and revision cards, while complementing with the PTA exam question banks and video lectures.

Practice Tests Academy also offer full courses for the CIMA objective tests which include;

  • CIMA qualified tutor lectures (each chapter in Kaplan book has a video lecture)
  • Printable summary notes
  • End of chapter questions
  • 600 question mock exam bank
  • Contact with CIMA tutor for Q&A’s.

Below is a video from the Practice Tests Academy founder on what this co-operation with Kaplan means for students.

A final point to note is that Practice Tests Academy will upgrade your resources from the CIMA 2015 syllabus to the CIMA 2019 syllabus free of charge when they are released early November 2019.

 

A New Beginning, A New Look.

I started this blog four years ago when I was on the operational level of the CIMA ladder, it’s come a long way since then.

My first blog post was discussing the merits of online study materials against the bulkier ways of studying with traditional text books and my last one was about completing the qualification.

Full circle you might say.

The idea behind starting the blog was to share my experiences and opinions on studying for CIMA. I also felt it would be a great motivational tool for me as I progress through the levels.

I found by writing blog posts and researching the tougher CIMA subjects, it was a great way for me to learn and pass my exams. Being able to provoke discussion and interaction from other students was also invaluable for me and something I enjoyed.

Like most blogs, they need a good clean up and freshen up to avoid becoming stale.

With the new 2019 syllabus on the horizon and having become a ACMA, CGMA myself, it now seems the perfect time to revamp The CIMA Student.

The over-riding aim of the blog remains the same, helping other students on the path to CIMA success.

I’d also like to add that the site does contain affiliate links to Astranti and Practice Tests Academy. They are both providers that have served me well when taking and passing CIMA exams and I would only recommend resources I have first-hand using myself.

The commission I have earned has enabled me to cover the domain and design costs as well as recently removing the WordPress ads that used to plague the site.

The site looks cleaner and will allow me to focus on advertising smaller CIMA tuition providers and tutors, in return for expert content and advice.

I hope you enjoy the next chapter of ”The CIMA Student”

The CIMA Student UPDATE

Following the recent success in passing the final CIMA exam and having my PER approved, I have had time to reflect and think about how to move “The CIMA Student” website and blog forward.

As technically I am no longer a CIMA student but an associate!

Nevertheless, I want to continue to write the blog and help other students along the way on their journey to becoming fully qualified.

In fact, no longer having to study means I (in theory) will have more spare time on my hands to focus on producing longer form content for the blog with a focus on the 2019 syllabus.

More on that later.

I’d also like to thank all of those who have contributed in any way shape or form to the blog and those students who have contacted me in the comments box and social media. Being able to speak with other students has helped me along the way and provided extra motivation when I have needed it.

The CIMA Student website and blog will be undergoing a revamp with new logo, colour scheme and layout in the coming days so keep your eyes peeled, any feedback is welcomed of course.

CIMA Tutors/Academics Needed

I am looking for CIMA Tutors or Academics who can write in-depth articles on their area of expertise in relation to the 2019 syllabus.

I want to produce a set of exam tips articles for each CIMA paper under the 2019 syllabus from P1 to F3, with around 600-900 words of expert advice on that paper to go alongside my own practical advice and resources to pass the paper in question.

I appreciate it’s a busy season for tutors right now due to the impending release of the new syllabus, but I’d like to build those articles up over a period of time in order to give students a real helping hand in passing their next CIMA exam.

In return I can offer advertising space on my site for tutors and their learning providers.

Please get in touch with me via the comments box or my email on thecimastudent[at]gmail[dot]com for more information on this project. 

Please pass this information on to anyone who you feel maybe interested.

Thanks for reading and good luck with your next exam!

My CIMA Journey

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Having passed the final CIMA exam, I have taken some time to look back over the last four years and reflect on the highs and lows I had along the way.

Operational Level

I actually took the E1 and F1 papers together when it was under the old 2010 syllabus, it was the old school hand written papers that needed a 50% pass mark (I converted the score to 2015 syllabus for the sake of the graphs).

And I was actually eligible for an exemption from the P1 paper as part of the transition to the 2015 syllabus, hence why it was zero.

Which, in hindsight, was probably the best paper in the whole course to get an exemption in, as the recent CIMA exam pass rates show only 47% of the total P1 exams taken are passed!

The lowest rate across the whole syllabus.

E1 was pretty easy going but I just scraped over the line with F1, which looking back was probably due to the fact I was studying for both papers at the same time and tended to focus on the easier subject of E1!

The 2010 syllabus was more akin ACCA style of only being able to take exams at specific times of the year, so students took 2 or 3 exams at a time.

Nevertheless, I passed both E1 and F1 and was lucky enough to tackle the OCS exam in the next sitting following my P1 exemption.

Here are a few old blog posts on the Operational Level;

Management Level

This was without doubt the toughest level for me, which I believe was down to a combination of three things;

New Objective Style Exams

I don’t want to blame the format of the CIMA objective tests that were introduced in 2015 for my failures at F2

But I am going too.

The style of examination sounds easy when try to explain it to a friend or colleague “So you have 90 minutes for 60 multiple choice questions? Sounds easy..”

Not quite.

For one, the pass mark is 70% and the depth of the syllabus can be overwhelming at times, so there is no hiding place in these exams.

I felt like a solider going to war with a water pistol when I took my first objective test under the 2015 syllabus.  It was a steep learning curve that day and one I evidently didn’t learn too much from, as I failed my next attempt at F2!

Still, third time lucky. I eventually got to grips with the F2 syllabus and had a solid strategy on how to tackle the objective tests to ensure you have enough time to answer all questions!

Content

The jump from operational to management level is quite steep, bigger than the switch to management to strategic level. So be prepared for tougher content with more complex subjects and equations to handle when moving onto management level.

As you can see from the latest CIMA pass rates, more students find F2 the toughest exam in the financial pillar with only a 51% of all exams passed.

Motivation

Management level is a bit like no mans land, as there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

After the joy and celebration of passing the OCS, you still have six objective tests ahead and two case studies before becoming qualified.

I found it was tougher to motivate myself for these exams.

The initial novelty of CIMA had worn off and F2 dented my confidence and general well-being. My case study results also paint the same picture, I scored 102, 88 and 108 in the OCS, MCS and SCS exams respectively, with my lowest score of 88 in the MCS.

I would suggest students try to find extra ways to keep yourself motivated and committed at this stage, get through this level quickly and unscathed and you’re on the home straight.

Here are my earlier thoughts and blog posts on the Management Level;

Strategic Level

There was a mixture of eagerness and trepidation when I began my path on the strategic level, you could almost smell the CGMA title but I was wary that surely these papers must the toughest ones yet.

I kicked off with P3 Risk Management and narrowly missed out on a pass with 95 marks, it was a tough exam to study for, especially the currency swaps and FOREX elements. I attempted so many practice questions the whole syllabus seemed to blend into an abstract art form at one stage.

However, I got over P3 on the next attempt and it was smooth sailing when taking F3 with a first time pass. I think the fear of F2 kicked in.

I almost got derailed at the last when I scored exactly 100 to pass the E3 exam by the slimmest of margins. It was a tough exam, I felt.

Students (myself included) tend to fall into the trap of thinking the E papers are easy, as there are no numbers. But don’t get complacent when taking E3, I found it tricky.

And the SCS, well what more can I say about this glorious, wonderful paper.

The last and perhaps my most favourite exam.

Here are my blog posts on tackling the strategic level exams;

The Final Step: Passing the CIMA SCS!

Well, that’s it!

SCSResult

I passed the CIMA SCS exam with a score of 108 and I’m absolutely relived, delighted and exhausted at the same time. The mental stress over the last few weeks waiting for the result was almost as draining as the exam itself.

I got the result last week but wanted a few days to digest it and look back over my journey CIMA now I have reached the end.

Here are my thoughts on passing the SCS exam;

Think Practical, Not Theoretical

The case study exams are a chance for you to show off your business acumen and real world thinking, it’s a not time for you to spout off the finer points of the CIMA syllabus. Which is a great way to pick up marks if you are struggling to recall the theory and models behind a question.

Be practical in your answers, have you recognised the issue? Have you addressed and have you explained your reasoning with links to pre-seen and/or industry news.

Immerse Yourself in the scenario

It might sound borderline obsessive, but I was preparing for my exam every day for pretty much the whole six weeks. However, that doesn’t mean I was stuck to my desk with notes and reams of paper.

I would read the latest industry news on my mobile when on my commute to work, I would think about real industry issues while pushing the pram around the block. I would try to recall my SWOT analysis and Zoom company issues when on my lunch break at work.

It was on my mind a lot as I knew it was the final CIMA, the last push.

The motivation for this exam is the highest you will experience, so I found I wanted to study and prepare of the exam pretty much with any spare time I had!

I also felt quite lucky that the scenario was effectively about Uber! So it felt very relevant and it is industry I was interested in anyhow.

Planning and Structure

When it comes to exam day, the importance of planning your answer and being structured and pragmatic cannot be understated.

The SCS (under the 2015 syllabus) is always split into three sections, one hour each with the last section usually split into four separate sub questions of different nature, almost like a quick fire round.

So be aware of how many points you need to make for each requirement, balance out your advantages and disadvantages. It’s all common sense stuff but when the 3 hours starts ticking down on the exam clock, pressure can do funny things to a person.

Just remember to answer the requirements and ensure you capture the maximum amount of marks for each requirement. Practice this in your preparation and it will become second nature.

CIMA SCS Resources

Alongside the SCS Course from Astranti, I found myself using the Kaplan Knowledge Bank to refresh my memory and also the post exam kits from previous SCS exams to dig into past exam questions as well as the essential examiners guidance.

SCSCourse                                2019-10-07 13_29_08-Start

 

CIMA MCS Nov 2019: GSC

The November 2019 MCS case study is based around a sportswear company called GSC, it specially designs, markets and sells high performance sportswear in a country with a highly developed economy.

Remember, MCS students, your role is similar to finance manager and you will be reporting directly to the Finance Controller of GSC.

I have looked through the pre-seen and applied the porters five forces model to GSC.

Pre-Seen Materials

CIMA released the pre-seen materials for November 2019 MCS case study, you can find the official pre seen document from CIMA here. 

*note you will need to be logged into CIMA connect to access the pre-seen materials.

Porter’s Five Forces

Analysing and understanding the industry conditions GSC operations will aid the strategic decision making process, so I’d thought I would look at these five forces in the context and GSC and how it can potentially be applied on exam day.

I wrote about this E2 model some time ago on the blog, you can read more about it here.

Competitive Rivalry – HIGH

It’s clear the competitive rivalry in the sportswear industry is high, there are hundreds of brands to compete with and an ever changing consumer preference on the sportswear they want to wear.

This makes the increased revenue growth year-on-year that GSC has shown since 2015 very impressive and paints a picture of a well run and ambitious company.

An important point to note from the pre-seen is that;

……. GSC positions itself as a differentiated, high-quality and high-performance sportswear provider and, therefore, considers primarily the activities of other organisations that position themselves similarly, when performing competitor analysis, rather than focusing on the activities of the low-price, fashion-orientated retailers…..

Threat of New Entrants – HIGH

It’s relatively easy for a new competitor to enter the market, there are no high barriers to entry and the competition can range far and high. Whether it’s a specialist sports footwear company that is starting or a new clothing range. The threat will always be high and this can be illustrated by the sheer volume on competitors on GSC’s plate.

Nevertheless, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as the constant threat of competition can encourage innovation and will act as catalyst to keep pushing GSC and the other market leaders forward.

Buyer Power – MEDIUM

I was tempted to put high here, as in reality is there nothing fundamentally to stop consumers switching from GSC to other brands. However, in terms of my own buyer habits I tend to find I am quite loyal to these kind of brands and it appears that GSC already have a strong repuatation with the 18-35 year olds and are developing their presence on social media to also establish there connection with the 13-17 year old range as well.

So I believe there is an element of customer loyalty here that will keep alot GSC customers coming back to the brand.

Supplier Power – LOW

GSC require specialist fabric materials for their sportswear and this is mainly sourced from Asia and Latin America, but the fact GSC have 6 main suppliers mean that the power they wield is relatively low (in my opinion).

If one supplier decides to up their prices for fabric, then GSC will have alternative providers they look towards to negate this potential increase in cost.

…..In 2019, nearly 75% of the fabric used in GSC’s products was sourced from six specialist fabric suppliers…..

Substitute Products – LOW

As GSC have pursued the strategy of differentiation, then there will be very few products that can be considered a substitute for these high performance sportswear items.

If the consumer needs a durable, high performance sports/footwear then the products that GSC produce will be in demand without the threat of a potential substitute product.

SUMMARY

All in all, the main industry challenges that GSC will face will be competition from other brands and companies and the fact anyone can start a sportswear company without significant barriers. They also need to maintain consumer loyalty and the fact they are looking towards the 13-17 year old market through social media is a great way to attract customers and get them buying into the brand at a young age.

As I mentioned, the high competition can be used as positive as it will keep GSC on their toes and make sure they keep bringing innovative products to market.

Astranti Case Study Course

The Astranti MCS course for the GSC case study is packed full of videos and analysis on the pre-seen materials and what might come up on exam day, but the mock exams with detailed and honest feedback will be a great help in passing the MCS exam.

MCSOffer

Here is what you can expect;

    • Complete pre-seen pack of videos
    • 3 x Full tuition videos
    • 2 x Study texts
    • 2 x Live Masterclasses
    • 3 x Full Mock Exams
    • Detailed marking and feedback
    • Ethics Pack
    • Pass Guarantee

MCScourse

 

CIMA OCS Nov 2019: Chokolate Box

The November 2019 Operational case study pre-seen materials were released and the students tackling the exam will be facing the “Chokolate Box” scenario.

Pre-Seen Materials

It seems to have been a bit of mystery where and how to find the pre-seen materials released by CIMA, but they have actually reverted back to the CIMA Connect site.

With that in mind you can find the official pre-seen materials for Chokolate Box.

Dark Chocolate Opportunities

The news articles at the end of the pre-seen materials are usually a good indicator of what type of questions or areas the case study will take on exam day.

And there are a couple of pointers that suggest while dark chocolate has been booming in recent years, a new trend among consumers is developing on “all natural” products and the additional health benefits they bring;

Below is an extract from Page 14 of the pre-seen;

……Dark chocolate has performed well over the last few years due to its ability to meet consumer demand for a healthier but indulgent treat. However, growth in dark chocolate sales volume is expected to slow in future.

Instead, the rejection of artificial ingredients and the demand for ‘all natural’ products by consumers, has resulted in strong growth for raw chocolate confectionery….. 

The above statement ties in with the Health Food Weekly article at the end of the pre-seen that suggests preserving the cocoa flavanols in the production process make dark chocolate an even healthier treat that help lower blood pressure and possible lower the risk of diabetes.

Below is an extract from Page 25 of the pre-seen;

….there are a small number of specialist products on the market which have been made using a process which preserves the cocoa flavanols, however these products are expensive and generally not available in high street shops…

Chokolate Box Opportunities

This would suggest that Chokolate Box might pursue opportunities to use their own production facilities to preserve the cocoa flavanols and develop a more natural product that isn’t widely available to meet consumer demand.

What does this mean for OCS students?

Well, you might asked to comment on the costing of a new product line and the disadvantages and advantages of different costing methods.

Perhaps TQM total quality management will be a subject that is discussed if Chokolate Box are deemed a premium brand.

The staff at CSSC tuition put together this article for me on Hot Topics for the CIMA OCS exam which is well worth a read for those taking the Chokolate Box exam in November.

Industry News

It was a case of perfect timing when I was reading the news and looking at the OCS pre-seen materials, as this article on how Nestle are launching a luxury range of bespoke KitKat flavours that will cost 14 GBP per bar is an interesting reminder of how brands are looking to diversify their range and take a share of the luxury premium market that Chokolate Box are operating in.

It also suggests that there is significant demand for luxury chocolate.

I would suggest to read the article and think of how you can relate it to the Chokolate Box scenario, what would happen if one of their rivals were to do the same. Or perhaps it’s a option that Chokolate Box could pursue themselves.

Case Study Courses

NovOCS

I’ve used Astranti to great effect when passing the OCS and MCS CIMA exams, below is a 30 minute preview of the Astranti pre-seen analysis for Chokolate Box that you can expect with their full course.

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