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.

CIMA 2019 Syllabus

Planning for the CIMA Syllabus Change

Are you ready?

The updated CIMA syllabus for 2019 comes into effect from the 4th November 2019, which means students sitting objective tests from that date onward will be tested on the new 2019 syllabus which is geared towards finance in a digital age.

However, the first set of CIMA case study exams to be examined under the new syllabus won’t be until February 2020. 

But fear not for those students who do FAIL a November 2019 case study under the old 2015 syllabus as you will still get one chance to pass the next case study sitting in February 2020 under the 2015 syllabus.

By now, hopefully all students are aware of the transition arrangements you could be facing and how best to approach them to ensure you do not waste any time with your studies.

Transition Tool

If not, CIMA have this excellent transition tool that will help you plan your path to becoming qualified under the new 2019 syllabus.

The CIMA 2019 Syllabus

The qualification structure itself has not changed, there are still the three pillars (enterprise, performance and financial) and there are still case study exams to be completed at each level (operational, management and strategic).

It’s only a change in terms of content with a focus on Finance in a Digital World, it stems from a shift in the mindset that management accountants are simply not just cost controllers but should be creating value and leading the transformation in business.

This below video from CIMA sums it up nicely.

Operational Level

2019OP

The biggest changes here are with the E1 paper that has practically been overhauled with a shift lots of new content “Managing Finance in a Digital World”.

In the 2015 syllabus, CIMA looked at other departments like HR and marketing but now it’s been replaced with how finance interacts with the organisation (point E below).

Meanwhile, P1 looks the same in terms of the structure however, more subtle content has been added like big data analytics and spreadsheet modelling, which reflects the current trends in industry.

Students studying F1 in the new syllabus will be pleased to hear that Group Accounts have been moved into the F2 paper, while the only addition to the syllabus is IFRS 17 Leases.

Management Level

2019M

E2 has shifted it’s focus from Project Management to Managing Performance, there is a new section on this paper focused on business models and value creation. While the human aspects of the old 2015 paper now look towards managing people and projects.

P2 Advanced Management Accounting remains the same in name as the 2015 syllabus but there is now a bigger focus on activity based management and responsibility centres while areas like the learning curve and budgeting have been reduced.

Finally, F2 sees a new topic “D. Integrated Reporting”. The subject of group disposals have been removed, although this is replaced by the former F1 topic of group accounts. The accounting standards that are examinable have also been updated, i.e. IFRS 15 Revenue from contracts are now included.

Strategic Level

2019S

The main shift from the 2015 to the 2019 syllabus with E3 strategic management paper is role of information systems has been replaced with digital strategy and how technology has impacted the strategic process.

P3 has seen the old subjects like cash flow risk, currency risk, interest rate risk and hedging techniques moved to the new F3 paper. While the 2019 syllabus for P3 contains the new subject of “cyber risks”.

As mentioned, F3 now contains more content on cash flow and currency risk while the old content in 2015 now has a digital focus and the strategic applications of financial accounting.

Key Points

  • The exam formats remain the same.
  • The new objective tests start on 4th November 2019.
  • The new case study exams start from February 2020.
  • If you fail a November 2019 case study exam, you can re-take it in February 2020 under the old 2015 syllabus.
  • The transition tool from the 2015 syllabus to the 2019 syllabus can be found here.
  • CIMA does not expect any significant change in pass rates, the 2019 exams will not be “tougher”.

For can find further information on the CIMA 2019 syllabus direct from CIMA here.

CIMA Case Studies: November 2019

It feels like the CIMA August case studies have just finished and here we are considering the next cycle of exams.

Having just sat the SCS exam a couple of weeks back myself, I felt that my preparation BEFORE the pre-seen analysis was released really helped me hit the ground running for the 6 week’s of work ahead.

The November pre-seen materials release dates are;

  • OCS – 20th September 2019
  • MCS – 27th September 2019
  • SCS – 4th October 2019

*at the time of posting this blog post, OCS students still have over two weeks to look back at the post exam kits and practice some questions.

Here is what I did and why;

CIMA Post Exam Kits

I had two weeks before my pre-seen materials were released and I spent this time looking back at previous exam kits and attempting some of the real exam questions students faced.

You might think, well why I do I want to learn and attempt questions on a scenario that I won’t be facing in November? IT’S ALL ABOUT PRACTICE! Honing your writing skills and being able to put together a balanced answer with enough depth.

The scenario is irrelevant at this stage.

You can find the all of the CIMA case study post exam kits on the CIMA connect site, for example here the kit for the 2015 Operational Case Study.  (do a google search if you are struggling to find them for the MCS or SCS).

Read through the pre-seen materials of the scenario and make a few notes on it. Then throw yourself in at the deep end, attempt one or two of the questions from the actual exam and use the pre-seen as a reference.

In total you have five variants of the exam, so there are plenty of different questions available for you to practice on – all free materials!

Attempt one question each day before your pre-seen is released and you’ll see an immediate improvement in your technique, answer planning and ability to produce a balanced answer.

What’s more you have the examiners feedback document in these exam kits which tell you directly what the examiner is looking for and what mistakes to avoid.

November CIMA Case Study Planning

Each tuition provider will have a schedule or timetable that you are advised to follow, but nevertheless an efficient plan should look something like this.

This is based on the November 2019 operational case study with the yellow dates indicating when the pre-seen is released and the exam week starts, but the structure is the same for MCS and SCS (just one or two weeks ahead of the OCS).

You have six weeks from pre-seen release to prepare for your case study.

Nov19 Case Study

A plan is meant to be flexible, so some of these topics will be mixed together.

For example, your pre-seen and industry analysis is not meant just for Week 1, it’s more than likely you will also cover this during the later weeks when you are revising and reviewing feedback from your mock exam attempts.

November 2019 Case Study Courses

I have used the Astranti case study courses for all three of my case study exams to date.

 

2019-06-17 16_39_30-Astranti_ CIMA Operational Case Study Courses - Internet Explorer

Pre-seen materials released 20th September 2019

Pre-seen materials released 27th September 2019

Pre-seen materials released on 4th October 2019

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 (the keys to passing and revision masterclass)
3 x Full Mock Exams (based on Aug 19 scenario)
Detailed marking and feedback
Ethics Pack
Pass Guarantee

CIMA PER: Evidence Required

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

This is the third and hopefully final blog post on the CIMA PER.

The reason I am writing this entry is down to the feedback I received from CIMA when submitting my application for assessment.

Before I get into that, here are links to my previous blog posts on the CIMA PER.

CIMA PER: Practical Experience Requirements

CIMA PER: A hands on guide!

In my hands on guide linked above, I gave an example on the evidence I provided to support one of the competencies.

However, the description I gave was too vague and not in the right format.

Thankfully, the good guys at CIMA Membership Applications sent by PER back to me before it went for official assessment and requested I fill in each competency with the below in mind;

CIMA Membership Applications Feedback

*This extract was taken direct from an email sent to me on 13th June 2019.

“…. having had a look through your application I recommend that you provide more detail to evidence your competencies, the descriptions provided are often very brief and unlikely to provide the assessors with enough information to make an informed decision.

When writing your evidence think of the context of the competency and about adding depth to your narratives by detailing exactly what you have done that evidences the competency, how you went about it, how often you were doing it, what the outcomes were etc.

Please ensure that you write in the first person, so that it’s clear you’re talking about what you’ve done yourself.

Simple statements that just reflect the actual competency don’t really evidence the necessary experience has been gained.

No single competency is identical to another, so each narrative should be solely focused on evidencing that particular competency.

Please refrain from using bullet points and ensure you provide full explanations on how you have satisfied each competency category chosen.

As a guideline;

For each Foundational competencies listed you should aim to write between 200-250 words for each individual competency.

For competencies at Intermediate level and above you should be aiming to write between 250-500 words per competency.

Depending on the competency level you have chosen will determine the level of detail you should write.

For instance, If you have a competency level which is “Expert” our assessors will expect more detail to be included in comparison to a competency which is at “Foundation” level.

As general guidance, before you resubmit your online application please consider the following:

– Have I written in first person? Have you explained your personal contribution on how you have satisfied each competency. A lot times applicants can make the mistake of advising what their team does as opposed to what they personally do.

– Have I provided enough detail? It is imperative that you not only explain what you have done but how it has been done. Our assessors a lot of times can defer an application because the applicant has not explained how they satisfied the competency category chosen .

– Have I ensured each competency listed is unique? Our assessors cannot assess an application if the applicant has duplicated information across competencies.

I’ve put your application back to you to add more detail. Please note: any verified competencies that you edit will become unverified and need verifying again.

2018-04-23 15_57_22-Updated-PER-guidance16pp.pdf

My First Submission (returned to me);

As part of the robotic process automation, my team suggested an improvement to automate the intercompany invoice process.

However, to achieve maximum efficiency with this RPA idea, I lead workshops to bring other teams within finance in line with our process for issuing inter company invoices.

This involved me;

– hosting meetings with all countries to present RPA idea and current process for issuing invoices.

– Work with RPA team to ensure they have all required information regarding process automation for intercompany invoice process.

– Help support other finance teams with implementation of standard process so they could also adopt the RPA solution.

– Write SOP and documentation on standard to ensure there is sufficient support and backup for the process.

My Second Submission (sent on for assessment);

Outside of the monthly reporting periods, I have a strong focus on process improvement initiatives (also encouraging my team members to contribute with how we can improve our daily work activities).

One of the main areas of my focus has been the standardization and improvement of the intercompany recharge process.

Previously, all teams within our department followed a different process and flow on issuing internal invoices. I identified that we had a best in class process, as we have a clear reconciliation of all costs to be recharged, smooth process on issuing the invoice and the final invoice is delivered to the counterpart with a clear set of supporting documentation.

With this in mind, I presented our process to other teams with the aim of standarding the processing across all of the other teams/regions.

In order to overcome the resistance presented by some of my colleagues, I told them how much time this saved us and how easy it was for the accountants to reconcile their costs to be recharged.

I also attended meetings with our in-house RPA (Robot Process Automation) team and explained to them the part of the process, which is very repetitive (data entry to raise invoice and sending final invoice, documentation to counterpart) so this could be performed by the robot and give the accountant more time to spend on value added activities like analysis.

I was also required to spend additional time one on one with other Team Leaders to go through the specifics of the process we have, so they can adopt within their team.

Final Thoughts

You can see a clear difference between the two statements.

In hindsight I had rushed my first application just to get submitted and out of the way, but you need to take time and ensure you support the competency you are documenting.

Get it right first time and add the sufficient depth to your PER to avoid it being returned!

*I’ll confirm on this blog post once I have it all approved and final.

The CIMA Case Study: Last Minute Advice

Studying for the CIMA Case Studies require a completely different approach from the objective tests. I also find there is also added weight of pressure and expectation that comes with a case study exam.

It’s a milestone.
It’s three hours long and you will have write somewhere between 3000-4500 words.
No select all that apply (thank god).
No flag for review.

You get the picture.

The Case Study Countdown

With the SCS exam in my sight, I feel like a boxer in a training camp for a big title fight. I have the experience of the previous two case study exams, not to mention the countless objective tests to date.

But this is the big one.

Potentially the final CIMA exam I will take.

The preparation also mirrors that of a boxer entering a training camp, once the opponent (Zoom) has been announced (pre-seen materials released) there is an intense six week training camp.

And much like a boxer, I am trying to peak at the right time with my preparation of pre-seen analysis, question practice and finally leading up to the fully marked 3 hour practice mock exams.

That would my advice to anyone CIMA student sitting a case study, the preparation is all about doing the right things at the right time, gradually build yourself up until you are confident enough to tackle a full mock exam in exam conditions.

As I have just entered the final two weeks before my exam on August 20th and I feel confident at this stage, well in terms of my preparation.

It all seems to be falling into place – at the moment I feel calm.
This can and probably will change as the final few days tick down.

Be Practical and PLAN!!

With this in mind, I thought I would share my TWO top tips on how to handle your case study exam.

Be Practical Rather than Technical

A case study answer that goes in depth on technical detail will score lower than a hands on practical answer.

And you should use this to your advantage, if you are struggling to refer back to the technical side of the syllabus then you should think practically.

DON’T PANIC!

When planning your answer, think;

How I do answer this in terms of the scenario?
Give practical advice on the situation.
Avoid general wishy washy statements.
Backup your thoughts with reasons how and why.

Plan your Answer

I spend around 20% of my time at the beginning of each section planning my answer. Firstly, identify the requirements and calculate how many marks I need to score.

A 60 minute question equates to 30-33 marks, so assuming your score 2 marks for every valid point made, you’ll need to make about 16 valid points in that 60 minute question.

A 60 minute question will usually have 4 sub questions inside the task, meaning I’d need to make approx. 4 valid points for each sub question.

If it has 3 sub questions I would make between 5-6 points on each.

Then I make headings for each point I want to make that directly fulfills the requirement. During that time I also add some brief notes under the heading of where I want to refer back to specifics in pre-seen, industry examples or technical content.

With the remaining 75-80% time left, then only I begin to type out my full answer.

Student Advice

Finally, here is some advice from I gathered from twitter on how to tackle your next CIMA case study exam;

 

CIMA SCS Aug 2019: Zoom

Zoom

The CIMA August 2019 strategic case study is based around a company called Uber, sorry I mean Zoom! Having read the pre-seen materials as I am sitting the exam myself, it’s clear the company is based around the real life company Uber.

Which makes it very interesting and relevant as I am sure we have all used the Uber platform when taking a taxi.

So from a personal point of view, I am pleased with the subject of the CIMA August 2019 SCS case study!

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

SCS Astranti August 2019 Course

I am a keen advocate of the Astranti case study materials and have used them to good effect in passing the OCS, MCS and hopefully soon to be the SCS!

Here is what you can expect from the full SCS course from Astranti.

  • 3 x Full tuition videos
  • 2 x Study texts
  • 2 x Live Masterclasses (the keys to passing and revision masterclass)
  • 3 x Full Mock Exams (based on Aug19 scenario)
  • Detailed marking and feedback
  • Ethics Pack
  • Pass Guarantee

The mock exams marked with feedback are really a great way to get confident and ready for exam day. *Please note I am an Astranti affiliate member, but I only recommend materials I have first hand use of myself.

 

Industry News

Having gone through the pre-seen materials, what really caught my eye was the fact why aren’t this tech companies making any money? Where is the profit!!??

The financials for the Zoom case study paint a grim picture in terms of profit.

  • 2018: Loss for the year was 331m (up 93% from 2017)
  • 2017: Loss for the year was 171m

And this was amid a backdrop of huge revenue growth in the same period.

To give it more context I looked into the financials and industry news of Uber to see what the real life situation is. Here is what I found.

Here is a great article from Crunchbase explaining why Uber loses money in terms of the facts and figures.

Uber Q2 2018 Income Statement

PL

Much like the situation with the CIMA SCS case study Zoom, the income statements of Uber paints a picture of a cash burning business. Uber had a staggering $2.2bn worth of operating expenses in Q2 last year – just a three month period!!

The below chart taken from the crunchbase news article linked above gives an overview on what Uber’s operating expenses are.

uber

Sales and Marketing – 33% of OPEX

33% of their operating expenses are funneled into sales and marketing activities, which is not surprising in the tech industry. Remember that Uber (and Zoom) are tech companies and not transport companies.

It’s a highly competitive industry with low barriers to entry, to maintain (and increase) their market share a lot of cash will be spent on marketing activities and trying to generate sales.

Research and Development – 16% of OPEX

This is a crucial area for tech companies to invest and spend in. Especially the likes of Uber and Zoom who are connected to the transport industry, where there is a big push on self driving drives.

The pre-seen materials mention a lot about Zoom investing in self driving cars and that’s it’s future strategy, so spending wisely in this areas will be key to long term sustainable growth.

Turning Loss into Profit

For Tech companies, this hinges on the future developments and success of their R&D department. For example, if Uber were to make a significant breakthrough in the world of self driving cars it wouldn’t need to have drivers on contract and would give them 100% of revenue generated by each trip.

It would have the potential to turn this loss making income statement into a very healthy  financial statement firmly in the black. Very much like the case study in question.

A Driving Problem

One of the strengths of Uber is also it’s weakness. The fact it doesn’t employ the drivers directly and own the cars on the balance sheet, means it’s a very lean business model and very light on assets.

However, the so-called gig economy brings it’s own problems.

There is a brilliant article here from Salon.com about the issues the drivers from Uber face, and while despite this being in Uber’s favour they still fail to turn a profit.

A 2017 report found that only 4% of Uber’s drivers continue to work for the company after 12 months. Meaning that Uber constantly have to recruit and offer incentives and competitive rates to attract drivers.

This in itself will have a drain on the income statement and partly explains why the company fails to turn a profit.

Good Luck to SCS students.

I will be posting more content on this exam in the coming weeks!

CIMA MCS Aug 2019: CruiseCalm

CruiseCalm.png

The August CIMA MCS Exam will hopefully be smooth sailing as it’s based on a scenario called CruiseCalm (ok, no more puns).

CIMA MCS August 2019: Cruise Calm Astranti Course

MCS (2)

The August 2019 MCS Course from Astranti comes with a PASS GUARANTEE.

I used Astranti to pass my MCS exam first time last year, you can read about how I passed the MCS Norton exam here.

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 (based on Jord Homes case study)
  • Detailed marking and feedback
  • Ethics Pack
  • Pass Guarantee

SWOT Analysis – CruiseCalm

I’ve had a look through the pre seen materials and put together a short SWOT analysis to help you on your way.

Insight

Strengths
Ship Fleet and Innovation

After the reading the pre seen materials I was concerned with the fact CruiseCalm have so few ships, however, after reading on I found out that their strategy is based on quality, not quantity;

“Cruisecalm’s ships are all less than ten years old. The company has a reputation for innovation in terms of the facilities that it offers to passengers. For example, its newest ship has been designed so that its superstructure creates an atrium around the swimming pools and sun decks.”

The mention of innovation also is a big plus for the company as a whole in terms on TQM and retaining customers. With this in mind I believe it’s a big strength of the company.

Weaknesses
IT Management

On first inspection the overview of the company management and directors looks great. There is a nice split of the NED and ED on the board and there is a well-balanced setup.

However, the point of concern for me would be the fact the Finance Director is responsible for IT.

The Finance Director is responsible for all aspects of Cruisecalm’s financial management, as well as administrative functions such as purchasing and information technology.

In the modern business environment, IT can be seen to be a critical success factor of the business. Therefore, should have the right expertise leading the information strategy systems.

What’s more, there is mention on the pricing of the cruises offered are complex and require algorithms to ensure the right pricing is set. IT would seem to play a key role in CruiseCalm.

Opportunities
Growth in Family Cruises

The current social environment in Norland is geared around older travelers who enjoy expensive and luxurious holidays, which suits CruiseCalms current business model.

“Norland is a developed country that has a high standard of living. The average age of the population is relatively high, with large numbers of citizens who can afford to indulge themselves in expensive holidays”

However, there is an emerging trend that for cruises for younger passengers and families. This is an opportunity that CruiseCalm should look to exploit.

And it would be feasible given their emphasis on innovation and highly modern fleet of ships, should they need to adapt it to accommodate a younger, family based clientele.

Threats
Overcrowding

There are a few news articles and press releases at the end of the pre-seen but they one that caught my eye was the article on “Cruise Ships lose their welcome”.

The daily news article states that due to high volume of tourists (from cruise liners) that can descend on any one destination has drawn complaints and criticisms from other holidaymakers in the area.

“The town authorities in many popular cruise destinations are considering reducing the number of ships that can be permitted to dock at any one time”

This should be cause for concern for the directors of CruiseCalm.

It throws up the questions;

  • will alternative routes have to be found in line with other cruise operators to ensure popular destinations are not overcrowded?
  • Is there sufficient on board entertainment and ;
  • can the current operations manage if the passengers are on the ship for longer periods of time?

Good Luck with the exam!

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