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!

CIMA OCS Aug 2019: AKL Sparkle

AKL OCS

The CIMA OCS August 2019 exam is based around a case study scenario called AKL Sparkle. The first thing that caught my eye was the absence of a logo or motif on the pre-seen materials! I hope, for those who are taking the exam, there has been more effort put into the content of the pre-seen materials themselves!

Pre-Seen Materials

You can find the official pre-seen materials from CIMA here – via the CIMA Connect site which finally appears to be up and running again.

OCS Exam Resources

OCS Exam Hot Topics – some great advice here from CSSC Tutition on what syllabus areas are highly examinable in the OCS exams.

Helping you pass OCS Exams – this document from CIMA gives a great insight to a real students script and the examiners feedback, as well as other advice.

VIVA Tution OCS Advice – the guys at VIVA have put together a nice guide on the operational case study exam.

AKL Sparkle: Pre-Seen Analysis

This 36 minute video from Astranti will help you on your way to analyse the pre-seen materials. Identifying the key information and potentially what areas of the syllabus will come up on exam day.

The full video packs for the AKL Sparkle case study can be found here.

AKL Sparkle: Top 10 Issues

A specific look at the key issues with AKL sparkle based on what we already know from the pre-seen materials. A good way to give yourself some focus when preparing for the OCS exam.

The full video packs for the AKL Sparkle case study can be found here.

AKL Sparkle: Q&A session

Good Luck sitting the exam!

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