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.

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