CIMA SCS May 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 2021: Trayyner

The CIMA MCS May 2021 case study is based around a scenario called Trayyner and in this blog post I will be focusing on the news articles feautred 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 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 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!

Taking CIMA Exams during “Lock-down”

We cannot escape turning on the TV these days without being bombarded with news and analysis on assessing the global impact of COVID-19.

Trying to continue our daily life and routines has been nearly impossible given the restrictions we all face right now, however, CIMA kept the show rolling by allowing students to take CIMA objective tests and case study exams from home.

I spoke with three different students (one wanted to remain anonymous) to get an insight on how they prepared for their latest CIMA exam from home

Joanna – Certificate Level

I am relatively new to CIMA. I’m currently studying Certificate level via Kaplan and have so far completed BA4 and BA3. I am a mature student and I work as an Academy Trust Business Manager. My study is being sponsored by my workplace as part of my ongoing professional development.

Agnes – Management Level

I’m a third year BSc in Accounting student. I started studying CIMA from the Certificate level 3 years ago when I started my university course. I’m currently one case study away from completing the management level.

I also started the blog https://passfinancialcertifications.finance.blog/

Q – How did you prepare for the exam? Was it significantly different to your usual preparation?

Joanna: “I had to do lots of practice using an online whiteboard for my calculations as no pen or paper was allowed when taking exams online. This felt like an added pressure whilst revising, however, I soon got the hang of it and by the time I sat my exam I was fine.”

Agnes: “My exam preparation was exactly the same as before. I continue to use CIMAStudy and Kaplan resources, focusing mostly on practicing objective test questions and reading through all chapters until I understand the material.

However this time, I spent additional time researching the at home exam procedures.

Normally when you go to PearsonVue centers you don’t have to worry about the exam procedures too much. With online [at home] testing, you are the one starting the exam, checking in, making sure the system runs properly so it’s key to read through all the exam instructions and practice testing the system to avoid surprises on the actual exam day.

Also, it’s important that you double check for any errors in your PearsonVue and CIMA accounts. For example my PearsonVue dashboard didn’t show any exam booked until the last day before the exam.

So double check because you may lose your exam fee if for some reason you get the process wrong or don’t correct errors in time!”

ANON: “If anything I found studying for this exam easier due to having a lot of spare time on my hands as I had been furloughed. I study through distance learning as well so I didn’t really see any changes to my normal routine.”

Q – How did you feel sitting the exam at home?

Joanna: “I was worried that I may encounter technical issues as I had read lots of negative feedback about the online process. I was also concerned that I would run out of time with not being allowed pen and paper.”

Agnes: “I felt good about sitting my test at home and I’m happy to see that CIMA stepped up and introduced at home testing. It really shows understanding that these unprecedented times require higher flexibility in exam delivery to meet students’ needs.

Having said that, I didn’t like some of the new rules of at home testing. The one ‘deal breaker’ rule for me was the fact that, for at home testing, CIMA doesn’t allow any scratch paper which would be similar to the erasable notepad students get at PearsonVue centers.

[Agnes took the F2 Advanced Financial Reporting paper]

“Using the calculator, then opening the whiteboard feature, inputting your results, having to close it to then go back to the question display is too time consuming in my opinion. My classmates shared this opinion as well and I have reached out to CIMA through our student representative.

I was also worried about noise as I live with my family and a loud dog. The CIMA rules state that noise may terminate the exam and result in a non-refundable fee.

So I chose to sit my exam at 7AM for that reason to make sure I was uninterrupted. I think this is another reason why I prefer PearsonVue centers as I can get a guarantee that silence will be adhered to, whereas being at home is more risky if the proctoring system suddenly picks up on some random noise and terminates the exam  “

ANON: “Sitting an exam at home has its pros and cons. The pros being you dont have to travel anywhere and take it from the comfort of your home. On the other hand I felt i was less in the zone for this exam, when you go to the Pearson Vue centres it makes it all a bit more real and helps me get really focused for the exam.

The real issue is that you cant make notes with paper which I think 99% of all students do. With E2 this wasn’t really an issue as there are not any calculations but when you come to the P & F exams this will prove a real issue.

They do provide a whiteboard software which you can make notes but I find this will be a real detriment to me so when I come to those exams I’ll have to change my whole exam practice technique and get out the old habits.”

Q – How did you feel after the exam?

Joanna: “I felt relieved that I’d got through the entire process without any issues. Results were available to view within a few minutes of finishing the exam so no anxious waiting around.”

Agnes: “I felt confident after the exam. I think I managed my time well and I didn’t feel like I struggled too much with any particular question.

Shortly after the exam I received an email with a provisional score report and 2 days after I got a confirmation of a pass. Certainly, my preparation strategy paid off as I scored 150/150.”

ANON:I passed the exam so that was a real plus but it felt like any other exam to be honest, no real changes of feeling after.”

Q – What advice would you give CIMA students sitting exams at home?

Joanna: “Make sure you do all of the relevant system checks on Pearson Vue to minimise any technical issues on the day of exam.

My advice would be just go for it!

It is fantastic that CIMA have made it possible for us to continue our studies during the Covid-19 outbreak.”

Agnes: “Research online exam procedures and test the system prior to booking to make sure your equipment is compatible.

Also don’t hesitate to ask questions and contact PearsonVue or CIMA if you are afraid you don’t know how to run the system on the exam day.

Also, do your best to focus and make a clear study plan to stay on track despite Covid distractions.”

ANON:I think the main thing for taking your exams at home is to make sure the room you’re in meets the requirements, you don’t want to be running from room to room trying to find a suitable location like I was!

As already mentioned, practicing not making hand written notes is a must.”

Q – How was your experience of studying CIMA while on “Lock-Down” due to coronavirus?

Joanna: “I really missed being able to go into the Kaplan Centre for my face to face classes but I’ve quickly adapted to studying via webex instead. I’m now studying my next module and will be booking another online exam in the next few weeks.”

Agnes: “I struggled more than usual because of the added stress. Sometimes it was hard to focus on studying with so many historical moments unfolding right in front of us. The increased health and economic uncertainty also made my outlook more pessimistic during that time but ultimately I decided to focus on the positives and think about the benefits of progressing on my CIMA journey.”

ANON:Overall, I didn’t find the experience too bad due to me using the distance learning method, I’m sure the students who are used to classrooms this may have been very strange for them.”

*Note: Thanks to all of the other students who reached to me on twitter to share their experiences, and to be honest it sounded like a mixed bag of opinion with some students facing real difficulties with sitting the exam at home, while other students seemed to fare OK.

Thanks Joanna, Agnes and Anonymous for sharing the above!

Good Luck if you are taking your next CIMA exam from home.

CIMA OCS May/Aug 2020: ChargeIT

The May and August 2020 pre-seen materials were released and it’s proved to be a groundbreaking day for CIMA.

Firstly, it’s the first set of pre-seen materials released for two exam sittings.

What’s more, CIMA announced, that due to the COVID19 outbreak, the May case study exams will be available for students to take at home!

CIMA will be releasing further details in the coming days.

Anyhow, on to my SWOT analysis of the pre seen materials for the chargeIT OCS exam.

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Strengths

Innovation through Research and Development

It’s clear from the outside that the ChargeIT main strength and source of competitive advantage lies with it’s research and development department. This focus has led the company to exploit new technologies in the development of new batteries for it’s products.

ChargeIT are acutely aware of this strength as the pre seen also mentions;

The R&D department is also responsible for the design and
functionality of the electronics used in all of ChargeIT’s products.

This also includes supporting other areas of the business with electronics knowledge and understanding.

The company is keen to pass on this strength across the whole business and ensure all areas have an understanding of electronics.

Weaknesses

The Finance Department

I don’t want to be too critical of the finance department being an accountant myself but it’s clear from the pre seen materials that the finance department SHOULD be contributing more than just day to day operational tasks.

You might also consider this on the flip side and see it as an opportunity to grow the skill set and scope of the finance team. Here is an example of what I mean;

  • Budgets are annual “top-down” approach.
  • Monthly reporting actual v budget is performed by senior management with no finance team input.
  • The finance departments role hasn’t changed since 2001

There is also mention that chargeIT uses a standard absorption costing method – is this ideal for chargeIT?

Remember the OCS exam tends to look at costing system methods, so focus on this area in your studies. Make sure you can explain the different methods and apply it to the chargeIT scenario.

Opportunities

The demand for Robotic technologies

Robotic technologies are everywhere at the moment and given the case study exams now revolve around the 2019 syllabus, it’s always good to be aware of the features and application of new technologies.

To be more specific of the opportunities for chargeIT, this is an extract from the pre-seen;

Robotic vacuum cleaners, whilst still one of the smallest categories, showed strong growth with sale volumes rising by 17.5% in 2019.

Sales of gardening power tools in Eastland increased in 2019 by 3.9% to E$324.4 million whilst sales of lawnmowers contracted by 1.1% to E$356.9 million. Robotic lawnmowers however showed strong growth from E$51.5 million to E$58.9 million.

Simply put, the sales of lawnmowers in Eastland have decreased by 1.1% where as robotic lawnmowers have increased by 16%! Add this to the fact chargeIT have a strong focus on new technologies and R&D there is a strong opportunity here.

Threats

HR Processes and Infrastructure

There are a couple of mentions in the pre-seen materials that chargeIT has experienced rapid growth in the last few years.

While it has done wonders for the revenue and profit numbers, such rapid growth also creates a risk that the company infrastructure is not adequate to keep pace of the business.

Below is the specific threat mentioned in the pre-seen;

Human resources are the responsibility of the HR Manager. The company has expanded rapidly which has created a number of issues in managing human resources.

It has been recognised that there is a need to build new processes for human resource management to ensure the well-being of both existing and new staff.

The positive note here is the fact the company has recognised this risk and there is a need to build and improve HR processes to attract and retain their staff – particularly important if they want to keep their best members of the R&D team – which will in turn main their competitive advantage.

CIMA August 2020 – Astranti OCS Course

I used the full course from Astranti to pass my OCS exam first time in 2015 and have used them ever since.

They have revamped their content for case studies to include even more helpful materials and resources for students taking the OCS exam.

CIMA Case Studies: May 2020

The May 2020 CIMA case studies represent somewhat of a milestone as the pre-seen materials released will cover TWO exam periods – both May and August 2020 case studies will use the same pre seen materials.

This is my understanding after speaking with a few tuition providers as well as indicated on the CIMA Exam Timetables pictured below.

You can see that the August 2020 has NO pre-seen materials release date, this is due to the August case study exams using the same pre-seen materials from the May exam.

What does this mean?

These are only my assumptions and thoughts, but this gives students who are planning to take a case study in August 2020 some flexibility as to when they want to start their exam preparations as the pre-seen material for their exam will be available in March.

I would suggest, though, not to start preparing for an August case study too early.

You do not want to peak in June or July when your facing an exam in August.

Even if you have access to pre-seen materials in March, I wouldn’t go overboard on revising the pre-seen just yet.

I’d also recommend speaking to your learning provider to understand if there are any implications on their materials and resources for the case study exams.

Effective Studying for CIMA Case Study Exams

With this new information in mind and the fact the case studies are now based around the 2019 Syllabus content, it’s a good time to remind ourselves how to effectively study for a case study exam.

The below video from Astranti is a great summary on how to approach a case study;

  • Have a study plan
  • Practice exams are key
  • Hard work is required – don’t leave it until the last minute
  • Study without distractions

It’s all common sense stuff but with the pre-seen materials only a couple of weeks away it’s the perfect time to start planning how you will pass the May CIMA case study exam.

Pre Seen Materials

Planner

This is a reminder that the pre-seen materials can be found in your CIMA planner, under the resources menu.

*You will need your usual CIMA ID and login details to access it.

I will be providing my own SWOT analysis on each exam once I have had time to digest the pre seen materials.

May 2020 Case Study: Astranti Courses

I believe the quality of the content and support provided by Astranti with their CIMA case study courses is second to none. I used their courses to pass my case study exams first time.

Well worth a look if you haven’t already seen what they offer.

Exam Dates 13-15 May

Exam Dates 20-22 May

Exam Dates 27-29 May

Here is what you can expect from their course.

Complete pre-seen pack (pre-seen, strategic, industry analysis and top 10 issues)
3 x Full tuition videos
2 x Study texts
2 x Live Masterclasses
4 x Full Mock Exams (based on May 20 scenario)
Detailed marking and feedback
Ethics Pack
Pass Guarantee

Good Luck!

CIMA P1: Management Accounting

It may seem odd but the CIMA P1 Management Accounting paper is the toughest exam students will face if we look at the historic pass rates.

The overall pass rate for P1 is just 45% with only 50% passing it first time, to give you some context, this is much lower than the strategic level P3 exam which is 54% overall pass rate and 62% of students pass first time!

With this in mind, this blog post is designed to help students pass the CIMA P1 exam under the new 2019 syllabus first time.

What’s new in 2019 P1 syllabus?

A newly added P1 syllabus area is ‘rationales for costing’.

This is a new addition but it should be familiar knowledge from your previous studies such as AAT or the CIMA cert paper BA2.

It contains basic costing knowledge – being able to identify cost classifications such as material, labour and overheads while also being able to identify costs by behaviour such as fixed, variable and so on.

While this is not too difficult it’s important not too gloss over the basics as its fundamental knowledge and new exam questions have been written specifically to test this aspect.

Cost Accountant Vs Management Accountant

One interesting addition is that CIMA want you to know the difference between being a ‘cost-accountant’ and a ‘management accountant’.

These terms may be used interchangeably in job roles, however, the new syllabus content is keen to portray a management accountant as a much higher-level strategic decision maker and is surely indicative of CIMA trying to raise the profile of the profession. And rightly so.

Similarly, we have inclusion of the CGMA cost transformation model, which CIMA have published themselves, to explain how effective costing can actually become part of a company’s competitive advantage.

As anticipated, with a nod to the new future of finance 2019 syllabus, CIMA have included the shiny new subject of digital product costing. A new topic which will hopefully be as interesting as it is relevant for students.

Here you will need to know the difficulties of ascertaining a product cost for, let’s say, E-books and software downloads. Also you should understand the benefits of using a digital costing system in this new part of the P1 syllabus.

The P1 Basic’s Remain

Nevertheless, the majority of the P1 syllabus remains the same as CIMA expects students to have a firm grasp of the core costing knowledge.

Students are still required to perform the reconciliation of marginal and absorption costing profits and know the usefulness of each method.

In terms of other costing techniques – there is still throughput accounting, ABC and standard costing too.

We are still expected to tackle topics such as linear programming, time series analysis, break even calculations and risk techniques.

Budgeting for Success

Budgeting, of course, is still big in this management accountancy P1 syllabus.

We are still expected to perform budget calculations in regards to fixed, flex and cash budgets and to know the differences between a functional, master, and principal budget.

Types of budget like zero-based budgeting, activity based budgets and rolling budgets are considered core knowledge in P1, meanwhile, the subject of Beyond Budgeting has dropped down from P2 into the P1 paper.

We also have a extra learning outcome relating to ‘stress testing budgets’ which is basically the ability to assess how vulnerable a budget is to a stressful event(s) such as loss of a major customer or supplier.

Could the numbers cope if supplier prices were to rise 20% for example or rental prices were increased on company premises?

POINT TO NOTE

Joint product costing has been raised in prominence but interestingly enough CIMA have removed environmental costing and quality costing from the syllabus.

Both are frequently examined areas for operational case-study so a decision to remove them at P1 will have impact on the OCS exam going forward.

In addition to this, CIMA P1 students are no longer required to learn about the modern-manufacturing environment (TQM or Just-in-time production and McDonaldisation have been removed) – these topics may appear elsewhere on other papers – but not P1 any longer!

Variances are still an important part of the syllabus – we need all of these – including the ‘much disliked’ fixed overhead variances splitting into capacity and efficiency.

In terms of advanced variances, planning & operational are staying with us, so are sales mix and quantity variances. However, you may be pleased to see that material mix and yield variances are being removed for new exams.

The CIMA Student:  P1 Exam Tip

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As a final note here – remember CIMA can ask you for backward variances – where you are told the solution and you need to work backwards to find what ‘actual hours’ or the standard rate must be.

These involve a good knowledge of variance formula’s – so work hard on this area!

On the whole, the new P1 exam seems more straightforward, modern and aligned with later papers such as OCS and the P2 paper. Pass rates are yet to be announced under the 2019 syllabus but I have a feeling they will be better than the 2015 syllabus P1 results.

So good luck with your CIMA P1 exam/resit – try to get through this transition from 2015 to 2019 as soon as you can!

CIMA Feb 2020 Case Studies

The February case studies give students an extra few weeks between the pre-seen materials being released and the exam itself – when compared to other sittings.

Nevertheless it can be difficult to get the ball rolling with your studies at this time of year, so here are some excellent videos on all three of the upcoming case study exams to get you prepared to pass first time!

CIMA OCS: Lottie Graphite Top 10 Issues

You can find the full video set on the Lottie Graphite OCS case study here.

CIMA MCS: Trevel Records Strategic Analysis

You can find the full video set on the Trevel Records MCS case study here.

CIMA SCS: Shinepodd Top 10 Issues

You can find the full video set on the Shinepodd SCS case study here.

Good Luck with your studies!

CIMA MCS Feb 2020: Trevel Records

Pre Seen Materials

The February 2020 pre-seen materials have arrived for the CIMA MCS Management Case Study and it’s based around a company “Trevel Records”.

The pre-seen materials are available in your CIMA Study Planner, through the official CIMA website here. I’ve noticed this new process from CIMA is more efficient as I found the pre seen document was available first thing in the morning, unlike previous sittings when it seemed to a lucky dip when you can find the pre seen document!

Astranti Case Study Course

The Astranti MCS course for the Trevel Records case study is packed full of videos and analysis on the pre-seen materials and what might come up on exam day.

FEBMCS2

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

Trevel Records: News Reports

The pre seen document is 31 pages long and students have a tendency to focus on the financial statements and company background and gloss over the final few pages.

However, these News Reports can provide you with a link to the unseen material on exam day as well was an indication on what type of questions may come up.

The news reports shouldn’t be underestimated – here are my thoughts on three of the different articles/reports at the end of the Trevel Records pre seen document.

Fortuna Daily News “Summer Sandals”

The first news article emphasizes the importance of producing music that is seen to be timeless or lets say seasonal records.

Dwyre Colt who wrote and recorded (no involvement from Trevel Records) the song Summer Sandals is receiving around 500k a year from royalties from a song that first came out over 20 years ago, as radios play his song every summer and it’s seen as a summer anthem.

A couple of key points to consider here;

  • Do Trevel have a robust enough contract with their artists if they produce a timeless anthem. i.e. will the label benefit financially for ongoing royalties?
  • Should Trevel encourage their artists to produce and record Christmas songs or Holiday songs that could potentially be a lucrative long time earner?

Fortuna Business Daily – Live Music

It’s interesting to read that the global market for live music is worth $27bn while recorded music is only $21bn, especially considering the stance that Trevel has on generating income from their artists tour performances.

It appears that Trevel (and perhaps their competitors too), see their artists touring is in fact the best way to market and advertise the brand.

Here are a couple of quotes from page 14 of the pre-seen

Trevel actively encourages its acts to tour and perform live concerts, but does not require any royalties or share of the ticket sales if they do so.

And..

Trevel usually gives new artists a small financial contribution towards the costs of touring in order to encourage them to do so.

Given the fact that live music is worth so much and the fact Trevel’s revenue fell from 3249 to 3124m in 2019, could Trevel think about using their artists tours as an additional stream of revenue for the company?

Fortuna Daily News – Bankruptcy

The news that a successful musician has fallen into bankruptcy will perhaps show record labels in a negative light. Personally, my first thought would be that the record label took the lion shares of the profits and left the musician high and dry.

So the first impressions could paint record labels in a bad light.

So my previous point about Trevel Records trying to take additional revenue from artists touring will be harder than it seems due to the moral aspect around the whole issue of how the money is split in the music industry.

To turn this point on its head;

Trevel could use this article in a positive light and perhaps setup some kind of fund or charity for musicans that have fallen on hard times.

This could of positive publicity and corporate social responsibility initiative will help the image of Trevel and could see them stand above their competitors when it comes to attracting up and coming talent.

Final Thoughts

All in all, I find these articles at the end of the pre-seen a great way to start asking yourself some questions and preparing a few scenarios in your head about how Trevel can respond to specific challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Good Luck with your exam preparation!

CIMA OCS Feb 2020: Lottie Graphite

Pre-Seen Materials

The pre-seen materials for the February 2020 CIMA case study were released last week and I’ve had time to read through the materials and prepare my own SWOT analysis of the company.

You can find the official document from CIMA on your study planner here – it will require you CIMA ID and login.

Astranti Case Study Course: Lottie Graphite

I used Astranti to pass the OCS exam and would fully recommend their case study course with a particular focus on the mock exams and feedback.

FebOCS

SWOT Analysis: Lottie Graphite

A good place to start when faced with the pre-seen materials is to prepare a SWOT analysis, as the outcome will give you some focus areas when preparing for the OCS exam.

Below are some initial thoughts from me on the Lottie Graphite scenario.

Strengths: Strong Identity and Links to Community

Lottie Graphite is based in Gawland which has a high wage economy but despite this fact the majority of the 1000 employees are in Gawland. To quote the pre-seen;

“They believe the culture of the company is key to its success and that this would die if removed from its native and its dedicated workforce”

What’s more, there is also a mention that they run a public factory once a week.

This engagement with the local community will really create strong ties in the area and promote the brand as an open, welcoming and trusted company.

This compliments the fact that the company is a global player that manfactures over 300 hundred million pencils, yet they act like a local employer and remain highly visible in Gawland.

Weaknesses: Budgeting

The pre-seen often points to the company being open to change and very innovative in it’s thinking, as illustrated with the PEXECO pencil.

However, the finance department is still using dated methods like incremental budgeting with a top down approach with gives little motivation or incentive to the functional teams and management that carry out the day to day operations.

This method of budgeting is time saving and straightforward to produce but perhaps a move towards zero based budgeting or even beyond budgeting would a viable option given the profile of the company.

Involving the functional managers in budget setting and looking at the whole cost base from zero may take longer, but it the benefits would improve motivation within the team and potentially improve the Operating Profit Margin of 8.71% in 2019.

Opportunities: Feland Expansion

The clear opportunity I can see in the pre-seen is the expansion into the region of Feland, however countries within this region are becoming more developed and there is a demand for Lottie Pencils there.

It would be a great way for the company to try to really establish itself among the big five pencil manufacturers in the world.

Threats: Competitors

The competition in the industry is fierce as there are thousands of pencil manufacturers all over the world. But Lottie Graphite has established itself as a major player in the market with it’s focus on innovation and developing it’s strong brand.

Nevertheless, there are low barriers to entry in this market and the threat of competition will also be there. There was a concern with lower cost producers in the Far East, but fortunately for Lottie Graphite cheaper pencils produced there tend to have quality issues. But should those lower cost producers find a way to combat the quality issues, it could have be repercussions in the industry.

 

A final point to remember with the OCS exam is the fact you are playing the role of Finance Officer, where your role will be based around preparing the budgets, management accounts and providing analysis. You will not be expected to make or advise on strategic decisions.

Good Luck with your CIMA OCS exam preparation!

 

 

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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