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.
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;
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..”
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!
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.
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;
- CIMA F2: How to pass it? (failure #1)
- F2: Failed Again (failure #2)
- How I passed CIMA F2 (hooray!)
- Passing the CIMA E2 exam
- Passing the CIMA P2 exam first time.
- CIMA MCS: How I passed it first time.
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;