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!

CIMA Case Studies: August 2019

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It’s that time of the CIMA case study cycle when the pre-seen materials will soon be issued and students facing the prospect of an August exam will be brushing up on their E/P/F syllabus knowledge.

 

Personally, I will be taking the SCS exam this August so I will try and share as much as I can on how I’m progressing in the lead up to my exam on Tuesday 20th August.

If this is your first CIMA case study exam, then the following advice, tips and information will stand in you good stead and make those first steps into your exam preparation a bit easier!

How do CIMA case studies work?

First of all, they are completely different from the CIMA Objective Tests you will have already passed to reach here. It’s a world away from what we already know and the multiple choice, abstract nature of the objective test questions.

Personally, I find them more enjoyable and fun to prepare for as it’s easier to relate to a real life situation and gives you a chance to demonstrate your all round skill set.

The CIMA Case Study (OCS, MCS or SCS) are split usually into 4 equal section (with perhaps some sub components in each section).

The case study exam is designed to replicate the workplace, as opposed to asking you to provide quick fire answers on the technical side of the syllabus.

This is a big shift in how you will need to approach your preparation and exam answering technique.

Here is an overview of the attributes you will need to show in your CIMA case study exam.

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The above weightings shows what the examiner is looking for in each level of the CIMA case studies.

Operational students will need to display a lot of technical knowledge with less emphasis on leadership and people skills, while at the other end of the spectrum, the Strategic level students will need to well versed in all areas equally.

To get a better idea of what the examiners are looking you, I’d suggest to read one of the CIMA examiners report. Here is a link to the CIMA examiners report for the 2018 sitting of the MCS exam: Menta.

Case Study Exam: DO’s and DON’T’s

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Make a study plan

This should be the first thing you do. You have around 6 weeks from the pre-seen being released to exam day, so every day should be planned.

And allow some rest days too.

Read Business News

Keep up to date with the latest happenings in the news, especially if you spot something in relation to your case study.

Is there are any big acquisitions and mergers happening and how are they being handled? It will score you extra points if you can refer to industry examples on exam day.

Practice Scenario Questions

Give yourself lots of questions to answer in your preparation. Try going back through old variants on your OCS/MCS/SCS and try answering the questions. You can find past case study exam papers from CIMA here.

Most case study courses will give you plenty of time and resources for question practice.

Self-Reflection

Always give yourself time to self-reflect on your questions/answers and attempted mock exams. Take feedback objectively and learn from it.

Self-reflection is a great skill to have.

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Avoid Syllabus Detail and Depth

Don’t spend your time going through the whole syllabus in detail – keep this kind revision high-level and relevant.

As mentioned the case study exam aims to pull everything you have learnt together and it’s not designed to test how well you understand the full technical side of the syllabus.

You are better off spending the bulk of your time learning how to answer case study style questions and learning how to apply your knowledge.

Memorise the Pre Seen Materials

The Pre-Seen materials are crucial, don’t get me wrong, but they are there to set the scene for your case study. To give you an insight to the company you are working for, with some key facts and figures.

Students do run the risk of putting too much emphasis of the pre-seen materials as it’s a direct connection to the upcoming exam, but don’t neglect the areas like question practice and learning how to integrate your answers.

Leave it until the last minute

You’ll need all of the available study time to give yourself the best chance of passing the CIMA case studies. Leaving your preparation until the last minutes will ultimately leave yourself too much too do.

August 2019 Case Study Courses

I passed the OCS and MCS exams using the Astranti courses and intend to use them also for the upcoming SCS exam.

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

Pre-seen materials released 21st June 2019

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Pre-seen materials released 28th June 2019

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Pre-seen materials released on 3rd July 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

Good Luck with your next case study exam!

CIMA PER: A hands on guide!

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It was over 12 months ago when I wrote a blog post on the CIMA PER – Practical Experience Requirements.

It would be an understatement to say,it’s been a popular topic! As I received quite a few additional questions on how to complete the PER.

With that in mind, I am revisiting the subject again today with a view to provide you with a more hands on, (hopefully) clearer view on what’s required from you as a student on how to complete your CIMA PER.

Introduction to PER

I covered the basics and the principles in my blog post from 2018 and likewise you can find a direct link to the official guidance from CIMA here.

However, the CIMA PER in nutshell is a summary of the practical experience you have gained in your career so far.

This has to be verified by two separate people who were in a senior postion to you at the time of the experience.

Below I show you an overview of my own PER submission, let’s remind ourselves of the CGMA Framework that is used for the PER and the requirements for submission.

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  • The first slide shows the CGMA competency framework (Level 1 & 2 for the PER).
  • The next slide illustrates the detail from Knowledge Area (Level 1) to the Competency itself (Level 4).

The CIMA PER – A hand’s on guide to completing it

PER Requirements

You will need to fulfill the following criteria to submit a completed PER to CIMA.

  • A minimum of 36 months verified relevant experience , across the 4 Knowledge areas.
  • At least 4 competency categories (Level 2) must be selected between Technical and Business Skills (min 1 from each) , covering the minimum 36 months.
  • At least 1 competency category from both People and Leadership skills must also be demonstrated.
  • Of the minimum 36 months required, at least 18 months experience must be gained between the Technical and Business skills from the Intermediate, Advanced or Expert levels.
  • The remaining 18 months can be gained across any of the levels within Technical and Business areas.

My Employers

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Once you have entered your personal details on the PER form (when you login to your CIMA account), you will then be required to enter your employer details that will cover the minimum 36 months time-frame.

Here is my example, I am using my current employer where I’ve had two different roles over the last four years. Then when documenting my experience, I will choose which role it applied too.

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My Practical Experience

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Now we start to pick the competencies we want to document, so remembering the CGMA framework we need to start with the Level 1 (knowledge area) all the way down to Level 4 (competency).

Here is an example of choosing;

  • LEVEL 1: Business Skills
  • LEVEL 2: Process Management
  • LEVEL 3: Intermediate
  • LEVEL 4: Ensure standardisation is applied to all process…

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Once you have selected the competency, you will need to select what role/company you are going to document this competence against.

Documenting the Competency

This is perhaps the most tricky part as I had a lot of questions on this.

You’ll need to add a full, clear, and concise example on how you met that competency – here is what I documented for the competency “Ensure standardisation is applied to all process….”;

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 AtR shared services in line with our process for issuing inter company invoices.

This involved me;

– hosting AtR 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 AtR 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.

*This is just my view on how it should be completed, please note at the time of writing  my PER is still to be approved by CIMA.

Once you have added all of the experience into the PER, you can check the status of your application to see if you have fulfilled all of the necessary criteria by clicking the “Is my experience ready?” button.

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If it’s ready for verficiation, you will be greeted with the above message.

Overview of “Ready” PER Application

Here is an overview of the competencies I have used on my application that successfully met the criteria. I felt this maybe an easier way how to illustrate one way on how to satisfy the requirements.

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TOP TIP: If you want check the status of your application, click on the Is my experience ready? button and it will give you a breakdown of what criteria you still have to met.

Conclusion

I felt it was very much a trial and error exercise when completing the PER, so I’d recommend getting your hands dirty and start completing your application.

You cannot submit an incomplete application as there are checks during the PER process that will prompt you to either add additional experience or approvers if you verification doesn’t met the requires standards.

If you run into problems or remain unsure, you can always check the status of your application to see what you need to do next.

Good Luck with your PER application – I hope this answers the questions from last time – and is a more hands on guide.

But please feel free to ask any more questions in the comments box.

Passing the CIMA E3 Exam!

The final objective test is done! I passed the CIMA E3 exam last week at the first attempt, which means the SCS exam and PER stand in the way from becoming a CGMA member! Ah, so close.

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Nevertheless, the CIMA E3 exam was tougher than I expected and that was illustrated by the marginal pass score of 100 I got.

Exactly right on the money. Perhaps I should be a sniper with such deadly accuracy when searching for these pass marks.

I felt pressure going into the E3 exam, knowing it’s one of the “easier” papers based on the fact it doesn’t have a mountain of numbers and calculations to perform.

However, do not fall into the trap you’ll breeze this paper – it’s still a tough nut to crack with a lot of theory and models to apply.

Here are my four top tips to pass the CIMA E3 objective test first time.

Be Prepared

The CIMA Objective Test pass rates paint a happy, smiling picture of the E3 strategic management exam. With 75% students passing it first time, which is considerably higher than the 61% and 62% for the P3 and F3 exams.

But you should prepare in the same meticulous fashion as you did to pass your previous exams. Don’t expect to pass by just turning up!

Less Emphasis on Time Management

I finished the E3 exam with 20 minutes to spare, so do not worry too much about the time pressure of the exam. Follow the strategy by picking out the shorter, easier questions first and answer them. Come back to the longer questions later.

But don’t panic about the long scenario, based questions. You will have time to give them careful, considered thought.

Mock Exams

I can’t stress enough the importance of mock exams. They are the key to passing any CIMA exam and you should make sure you have covered the whole syllabus before attempting them, taking full mock exams too early will damage your confidence.

CIMA Code of Ethics

I had a couple of questions that referred to the CIMA code of Ethics. Revise the principles behind them and how to apply them in ethical situations. Although I’m sure by the time you reach E3, you will be well versed in them anyway.

Resources Used

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I used the full CIMA E3 course from Astranti, which comes with tuition videos that support the study text and chapter questions.

The 5 mock exams are a great way to get ready for exam day.

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Alongside this course, I always purchase the Kaplan exam practice kit as another source of tried and trusted questions. I’ve followed a similar pattern now for the last few exams so I don’t want change my way of working too much!

Good Luck if you’re sitting the E3 exam next!

CIMA SCS May 2019: Denby Healthcare

Denby

The CIMA SCS pre-seen materials were released last week for the May SCS exam, it’s based around a healthcare company called “Denby Healthcare” – you can find the official pre-seen materials from CIMA here.

SCS Astranti May 2019 Course

The full SCS course from Astranti is really packed full of resources.

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 Nov 18 scenario)
  • Detailed marking and feedback
  • Ethics Pack
  • Pass Guarantee

Here is an hours preview video of the Astranti pre-seen analysis to whet your appetite.

Pre-Seen Analysis: Denby Healthcare

Insight

I’ve gone through the pre-seen analysis a couple of times and found a few interesting areas that caught my eye;

Overseas Revenue

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There wasn’t a huge amount of significance in the P&L and Balance Sheet of Denby or their competitors but the analysis of the Overseas revenue did catch my eye.

It dropped from 145m to 103m in 2018 and this is a concern, given that equates to a 30% drop in revenue in that segment.

There is also a link or indicator as to how to combat this decline in revenue.

The Keeland Daily News article mentions a football player who flew to Cornopia to have specialist care that was not available.

“The club’s doctor had recommended the hospital because it could offer specialist care that was not available in Keeland.”

Denby should start looking towards specialist care that is not available in other areas to increase their own overseas revenue. Identifying other regions weaknesses when it comes to private medical care could prove a lucrative avenue of income.

Staffing

It’s mentioned a few times in the pre-seen analysis, staffing is a Critical Success Factor for Denby Healthcare and need to ensure they keep their best staff and attract the best in the medical profession.

“Staffing is most important element of patient care”

And this isn’t just restricted to the head doctors or surgeons but the pre-seen emphasizes the importance of staff at levels. Which makes sense for a private hospital. The competition is fierce so any added extra value that can be given to the patient will have an impact on the reputation of the hospital.

However, there is some reassurance that this recognized and actions are in place to help mitigate those risks.

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There is also an opportunity here for Denby to take advantage of the increase in applications for Nurisng Degree’s mentioned in the news article at the end of the pre-seen.

Denby should be thinking of working alongside the tuition providers to provide a stream of qualified nurses straight into Denby before a competitor private hospital does.

Share Price Plummet

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The share price drop in the last six months will be a major concern to shareholders and will need to be addressed.

The share price in November 2018 was around K$4 but now it’s closer to K$2 – what has caused the share price to drop so dramatically?

The geared and ungeared beta’s are both below 1.0 so the market sees a below average risk with Denby Healthcare, so what has caused the markets to react the way they have?

Furthermore, there will be increased scrutiny from the shareholders as there is a widespread shareholding that will need to be re-assured the company is heading the right direction and plans are afoot to increase the share price in the coming months and years.

How I passed the CIMA F3 exam!

F3

Well, it was a welcome surprise to read the magic PASS word on the piece of paper handed to me by the Pearson Vue member of staff. There is always that awkward sense of nervousness when hitting FINISH button on the CIMA objective test.

A deep breathe and then greeted with a piece of folded paper.

PASS. F3 CIMA Financial Strategy.

Phew.

Well, it’s been almost a week and I’ve had time to reflect and these are my thoughts on the 103 score that greeted me when logging into myCIMA in the following 48 hours.

Objective Test Strategy

I’ve said it time and time again, you need a time management strategy to pass these CIMA objective tests. Here is mine (and many others);

  • Tackle the “easier” shorter questions first, use around 10-15 minutes to answer the shorter obvious questions to build confidence.
  • Now you will have some momentum to answer the longer questions.
  • READ THE REQUIREMENT FIRST – don’t waste time reading the long scenario to only arrive at the question/requirement to then have to re-read through the whole thing again. Once you know what is being asked you can focus your attention when reading the scenario for the first time not the second time.
  • Flag the horrible questions you’re not sure on. Come back to them at the end.
  • Don’t spend longer than 3 minutes on a tough one.
  • Don’t overthink.
  • Relax.

Don’t memorise the formulas

When preparing for the F3 exam, I did find myself getting caught up in memorizing the formulas. THERE IS NO NEED!!! 90% of all of the formulas are given to you in the exam.

Instead, spend your time practicing long form questions and thinking about the theory behind the numbers.

Practice by answering questions that require you to the use the formulas in different situations.

It’ll help you pass the exam and give you a more rounded base of knowledge. F-papers are not purely numbers based at all, you need to know what the ratios mean and the conclusions they generate.

You’ll never feel ready

I’ll admit, I felt completely NOT READY for the F3 exam due to the month break I had in my study. I didn’t even look at my books for a month, even more.

So when I picked them up again my confidence felt really low.

But I continued with my study and practice questions.

Anyhow, pre-exam nerves will always kick in. It’s rare for anyone to walk into a CIMA exam brimming with confidence. It’s just not natural.

But if you’ve put the hours in beforehand and covered the materials and mock exams. You’ll be in the best possible shape.

Test Yourself (at every step/chapter)

It’s easy to fall into the trap of reading study materials, making notes and nodding to yourself that you understand what the syllabus.

But you really need to test yourself with questions. Short ones, long ones, multiple choice ones and “any you can lay your hands on” ones.

Don’t be dispirited by getting them wrong or poor scores, it’s best to get that in your preparation rather than the real thing.

Identify your weaknesses

In the week before you exam, you should really be working on your weak areas.

Don’t take the easy path and re-read notes you are comfortable with. It’ll pay off to tackle the hard areas.

CIMA MCS May 2019: Jord Homes

MCSMay

CIMA released the pre-seen materials for the May 2019 MCS exam last week, you can find the official document from CIMA here.

CIMA MCS May 2019: Jord Homes Astranti Course

The May 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 from Astranti with the Jord Homes MCS Course;

  • 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

To give you an insight into the pre-seen videos pack, here is over an hour on the pre-seen materials analysis on Jord Homes.

Insight

Pre-Seen Materials Analysis

I’ve had a run through the pre-seen materials for the May 2019 MCS Jord Homes scenario and have identified the following key information and focus areas for your exam next month;

Room for Growth

The below quote from the pre-seen materials is a clear indication there is room to expand operations into Asia and Latin America.

Developing countries within Asia and Latin America have large and growing population bases and rising disposable income, presenting a huge opportunity for the global prefabricated housing industry.

Shareholder Pressure

Jord Homes is 40% owned by instituational shareholders, while this investment is welcome it also comes with extra demands. The pre-seen tells us that they are questioning the current strategy of Jord Homes.

The Larsson family has a policy of maintaining the current production levels to continue to position Jord houses as rare and exclusive products. However, in the last year, this policy has been questioned by some institutional shareholders, who have suggested it is time to grow the business.

Local Trends

This also ties in with the above point, the shareholders are questioning Jord Homes strategy of being a high end, bespoke luxury company. It has served them well in the their current market but trends in Corvola are changing and it’s not only the customers demands that pose a threat but also the introduction of rival competitors.

However, in the last 5 years, due to demographic changes, Corvola has experienced a shortage in affordable housing, particularly in its main cities. During this time, several new prefabricated house building businesses have been set up in Corvola to address this need.

Financials – no big indicators?

I’ve run through the P&L  and SOFP and there isn’t much there to get your teeth into. No big outliers, the margins have remained constant over the last 12 months as you can see from this P&L analysis below.

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The Statement of Financial Position is much the same, nothing screams at you. Although there are a couple of subtle indicators here;

  • Cash in the bank has gone up 10,000 (17,010 to 26,480)
  • There is no long term debt on the balance sheet

This suggests, to me, that there is plenty of money or sources of finance available to invest in the business.

I hope this has given you a few pointers with your MCS exam preparation.

Also, there is a 35 minute Q&A session with a CIMA qualified tutor on the upcoming MCS exam.

Good Luck!

CIMA OCS May 2019: VitaMine

VitaMine

The pre-seen materials for the May 2019 OCS were released some days ago, you can find the official document from CIMA here.

*please note this blog post has been updated 3rd April to include a 33 minute video of a Q&A session on this case study! Can be found at the bottom of this post.

May 2019 OCS: VitaMine Astranti Course

I’ve used Astranti to great effect when passing the OCS and MCS CIMA exams, below is a an idea of the pre-seen videos for the VitaMine case study.

The full Astranti OCS course comes with a pass guarantee too!

  • Complete pre-seen pack (pre-seen, strategic, industry analysis and top 10 issues)
  • 3 x Full tuition videos
  • 2 x Study text
  • 2 x Live Masterclasses (the keys to passing and revision masterclass)
  • 3 x Full Mock Exams (based on Nov 18 scenario)
  • Detailed marking and feedback
  • Ethics Pack
  • Pass Guarantee

SWOT Analysis – VitaMine

I’m aware the blog posts for the case studies need a fresh idea, so I’ve decided to run through the pre-seen materials in more detail and draw up my own SWOT analysis.

As the OCS will be your first taste of a CIMA case study, you may be wondering where and how to start your work?

Well, a SWOT analysis of VitaMine should be your first task.

Insight

STRENGTHS

Strong Reputation of Excellent Quality

Right from the outset, the pre-seen materials tell us that VitaMine have a strong reputation in the industry, which is a key reason why they have grown rapidly over the last three years – revenue has doubled from 16,662 to 31,884 in that period.

VitaMine’s reputation will not only serve them well when generating sales, but it will also benefit them in the hunt for the best talent when looking to increase the workforce.

Board of Directors

All four of the board of directors hold an equal share in VitaMine and all have an excellent profile for a growing company in a thriving industry. They will all be pulling in the same direction and have a good mixture of experience and skills.

WEAKNESSES

HR and Staffing

It is mentioned various times in the pre-seen materials that VitaMine are facing challenges with their staff and putting in place their infrastructure. Although this is a not a criticism of how the company is managed and led but more a consequence of the rapid growth

“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”

I’d imagine there would be a question on HR management in the exam given what we know in the pre-seen materials – of course this is just my opinion!

Finance

The Finance department appears to be well run but I’d imagine there is a need for a freshen up with staff and modernizing how the department is run. The pre-seen materials tell us the finance department has barely changed since 2002.

I’d also question whether annual incremental budgeting is the right approach for the business – at least VitaMine should be using forecast data on a monthly/quarterly basis – and I’d suggest given functional managers some responsibility in the finances of their department rather than leaving the onus on the directors for the annual budgets.

OPPORTUNITIES

Digital Marketing

You might be exhausted by the time you reach page 22 of the 23 pre-seen materials, but there is a nugget of pure gold on the press article from “Your Health Monthly”

“A recent study revealed that growth in health related product sales is often driven by internet orders. We should add though that our favourite search engines might not point us to the best products, just those companies most willing to spend on digital marketing.”

Meanwhile, the pre-seen materials (future outlook) also point to the fact internet sales have experienced significant growth over the last decade.

If I was sitting this exam in May I would definitely be reading up on how digital marketing can apply to VitaMine and the benefits it will bring.

Tighter Regulations

I was tempted to put this under threats, but after careful consideration I believe it can be better used as an opportunity. Eastland government is expected to tighten regulations around manufacturing and product safety.

But if VitaMine can react quickly to this and work with the local government and ensure they are the market leaders when it comes to using the right vitamins and ensuring the packaging is clear and compliant with any new legislation then it can only enhance VitaMine’s reputation and bottom line.

THREATS

The Real Benefits of Vitamins?

The press article at the end of the pre-seen from “Health Food Weekly” is a kick in the teeth to VitaMine. Hock Tan from the National Health Institute is quoted as saying;

“Most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified, and they should be avoided”

Such negative press on the industry will have an impact on consumer confidence. How does VitaMine combat this?

They will need to turn on the PR taps and prove their products are well the customers hard earned money.

Rival Companies

The vitamin, mineral and supplements industry has a wide range of manufactures according to page 12 of the pre-seen materials.

“The leading manufacturer maintains only 7 per cent market share of total sales value to end-consumers. The top five branded manufacturers together hold less than 25 per cent market share”

And with that consumers seem to have a lack of loyalty to any one brand. This means that VitaMine will need to work extra hard to keep their current customers happy and reach new ones.

Hopefully my SWOT analysis above has given you a kick start in the right direction for your preparation for the May OCS exam. Meanwhile, the Astranti video below on the pre-seen analysis should really add some more depth to your notes.

Good Luck with your OCS Studies!

May OCS 2019 Astranti Tutor Q&A

Below is a bonus video I found from Astranti, 33 minutes of Q&A session between students taking the VitaMine case study and a Astranti tutor.

Well worth a watch!

CIMA Strategic Level: A few thoughts…

Insight

It’s been a quiet few weeks for me on the blog.

This was due to a killer workload during December and year end. Those that follow me on twitter would have seen a few accounting situations that I found myself in!

It seems the busy time at work is over, well, for now, so I have decided to focus again on my CIMA studies and the F3 Financial Strategy paper.

I’ve been studying for at least 90 minutes everyday for last few weeks and will attempt the F3 exam early March, but it feels right to reflect a little bit and share my own observations and experiences with the CIMA strategic level so far.

Motivation

I definitely have more motivation to study CIMA these days, I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel with just 3 exams left to pass.

I just want to get F3, E3 and the SCS done and dusted.

I felt I was drifting a bit with the F2 and P2 papers on management level, so a word of advice for students still on Management level, keep going! You’re almost at that final level and believe me it’s not as hard as you think (for reasons I will explain).

Confidence

I feel more comfortable now on Strategic level, I know the syllabus, the exam format and the base I have given myself with the CIMA Operational and Management level fills me with confidence that I can complete the strategic level sooner rather than later.

I used to doubt myself when faced with tough areas i.e. the F2 exam preparation was horrible when I look back, I felt areas like WACC were going to be beyond me. But I passed the exam (eventually)… so I know I can get through it if I apply myself and put the hours of work in.

I have confidence in the exams too.

We all know the CIMA objective tests now like the back of our hand, I have strategies for the exams and I’m ready to hit the ground running.

Overlap

So far in my F3 studies I haven’t felt too much connection with the F1 and F2 papers, in fact the CIMA P3 paper has felt closer in terms of the syllabus.

Which is a good thing for strategic level students – having passed P3 a couple of months back – it’s helped with approaching the CIMA F3 subjects of equity financing and beta factors, for example.

There has been a definite overlap between the P3 and F3 papers, which can only be a good thing!

Real Life Situations

Another bonus I have found while studying for P3 and F3 exams is the fact I can relate to it more, there are more examples of the syllabus content playing out in front of us.

Whether it’s from Corporate Governance situations (see the Patisserie Valerie accounting scandal) or share issues and understanding why Royal Mail shares have dropped 11%.

It feels more tangible than applying the Learning Curve from P2 or other areas of costing that seem to be obsolete unless you work in a manufacturing environment!

So don’t let the strategic level seem like a insurmountable challenge, you might find it “easier” than tackling the management level.

All in all, I might look back at his blog post in a few months time when I attempting my 5th resit of the F3 paper and laugh. And think what the hell was I on about..

But at the moment, I can feel the momentum is building towards a big strategic level finish for myself.

Here’s hoping I can crack the F3 paper at the first attempt. If not, I will bring my sleeping bag and camp outside the Pearson VUE centre until it’s passed!

Good Luck to all CIMA students out there in 2019!

CIMA Case Study: Pre-Seen Analysis

Insight

The pre-seen analysis is the starting point of your exam preparation for the February case studies, you’ve had a month or so since they were released by CIMA but I’m sure the Christmas and New Year put your studies on hold somewhat.

Here are my tips on how to approach the pre-seen materials;

Read Through Pre-Seen and Make Notes

The obvious starting point is to read through the official pre-seen document from CIMA page by page and annotate the document. Making brief notes and highlighting the key information, doesn’t matter if it looks messy, it should be a brainstorming session.

Make a SWOT Analysis

Now you have an idea on the company and background of the case study, a SWOT analysis will help you understand the strengths, weaknesses and identify the possible examinable areas.

  • Are there low barriers to entry to the market?
  • Is there sufficient marketing?
  • Are the board of directors operating effectively?
  • Is there a potential audit or compliance risk?

Read Through Your Notes Again!

You should read the pre-seen materials and dozen or so times, each time you will either pickup new information or cement your knowledge of the materials.

Use your time wisely, read your notes on the train to work, in the doctors waiting room… there is no excuse for not finding the time to study!

Use a Mix of Resources and Videos

Watch the pre-seen materials and videos available online, visit CIMA student forums or with your tuition provider. Gauge the opinion of others on the pre-seen materials, use your colleagues as a sounding board.

Don’t just confine yourself to the 16 page document from CIMA – there is a wealth of information and informed opinion out there that could help you – find it!

Make Final Summary Notes

Use just one sheet of A4 paper and use both sides.

Summarise the key points from the pre-seen materials on both sides, make notes on the key financial numbers you will refer to in the exam. 

The idea of this A4 paper is your final revision notes on the pre-seen before you tackle the mock exams.

CIMA Feb 2019 OCS: Trigg Adventure

If you are struggling for motivation of feel your pre-seen analysis has been aimless so far, then watch the Astranti video below on Trigg Adventure, over an hours discussion on the pre-seen – invaluable!

You can find the full videos on the February OCS exam here.

CIMA Feb MCS 2019: Crowncare

The upcoming CIMA MCS exam is based around a company called Crowncare, likewise if MCS students are finding the pre-seen materials a minefield to work through and want some reassurance they are on the right path, then this video below from Astranti will go someway into making sure you’re exam ready.

You can find the full videos on the February MCS exam here.

CIMA Feb SCS 2019: Vita

Astranti have also covered their pre-seen analysis of the February SCS exam – Vita. 53 minutes packed full of useful information which should complement your notes already made on the Vita case study pre-seen.

You can find the full videos on the February SCS exam here.

CIMA Official Pre-Seen Materials: Feb 2019

You can find the official pre-seen materials for the upcoming case study exams below;

Good Luck and Happy Studying!

CIMA SCS Feb 2019: Vita

SCS Feb19

Picking up the Easy Marks

Sitting a strategic case study exam must be a daunting prospect as it’s the final exam inn your CIMA journey. And I’d imagine there is a tendency to focus on the technical knowledge and pre-seen materials with all your efforts.

Nevertheless, you mustn’t neglect the basics in the SCS exam and pick up the easy marks and tick the boxes the examiner is looking for.

Below is a reminder of the fundamentals of scoring a good mark in a CIMA case study exam:

  • Write in 4-5 line paragraphs.
  • Use headings in your answers.
  • Use the correct formats in your answers i.e. Email replies, report writing.
  • Don’t forget to give a balanced answer – link the pre-seen, unseen, ethics and draw conclusions.

Here is a guide on writing a business email in the CIMA case study exam that was featured in the CIMA Velocity magazine.

SCS Masterclasses

Now we’ve thought about the basics in the SCS exam, let’s consider the real content you’ll be facing on exam day in February 2019.

The Astranti SCS Masterclasses are split into two, the first class is 6-7 hours and will cover the keys to passing the exam, answer planning, key pre-seen analysis and theory to be applied.

While the second class is held the weekend before the February 2019 exam and is a full revision on the Feb 2019 case study scenario.

The perfect way to consolidate your knowledge and gain tutor support before the exam.

PER: CIMA Practical Experience Requirements

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

A reminder that students facing the SCS exam should already be on their way to fulfilling and completing the PER requirements.

If you’re not familiar with the process then I suggest to read this from the official CIMA site.

I also wrote a blog article on here on the CIMA PER.

SCS Astranti Feb 2019 Course

SCSFeb19 NOW

The full SCS course from Astranti is really packed full of resources.

  • 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 Nov 18 scenario)
  • Detailed marking and feedback
  • Ethics Pack
  • Pass Guarantee

SCS Feb 2019 Pre-Seen Materials

VITA1.png

The pre-seen materials for the February 2019 SCS have landed, like Santa dropping his presents down your chimney early, CIMA have released the pre-seen for the Vita case study in December – you can find the official pre-seen materials from CIMA here.

SCS Important Dates

SCS Feb 2019

CIMA MCS Feb 2019: Crowncare

MCS Feb19

The February 2019 case study marks one year since I took and passed the MCS exam, so I can vouch it’s a great time of year to take the MCS – what’s more you get 60 days of study and revision in between the pre-seen materials and the exam date itself.

Industry Analysis

From previous experience of passing the OCS and MCS exams, the one area I find difficult is giving real life examples and applying industry analysis in my case study exam answers.

In the rush and stress of an exam situation, my mind struggles to recall the relevant real life examples to supplement my answer.

Remembering the pre-seen materials and making conclusions feels more natural, so I have sort advice from students on this subject so hopefully you can “beef up” your answer with some real life industry examples when you take the MCS exam in February.

Link Likely Issues with Industry Analysis

2018-01-13 10_33_00-February_2018_management_pre-seen_V2.pdfFor example, in the Feb 2018 MCS exam Nortan was based around a multi national Oil company and their shared service centre.

One of the key issues was around the environmental issues around their operations, if there was an oil spill it would have big consequences on their reputation and the financial impact of the cleanup.

And this could be illustrated by the real life example of the BP Oil Spill in 2010.

So by tagging the Industry Analysis with the Likely Issues in your revision you are killing two birds with one stone. You are thinking about the potential examinable area and already have an industry example on hand to help supplement your answer.

Furthermore, you may want to add the technical side of the syllabus you want to refer to the answer. So your revision notes when analyzing the pre-seen materials could look something like this.

ISSUE: Environmental Risks and Dangers

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS: BP Oil Spill in 2010, due to BP and their contractors cost-cutting and lack of controls in place in the industry as a whole.

TECHNICAL: P2 Risk Management TARA, how do we assess the risk and what action should the company take?

By taking this approach to your MCS revision and pre-seen analysis you should be able to produce a more coherent and balanced answer.

MCS Pass Rates

Looking back at the CIMA pass rates for the MCS exam makes for interesting reading. One thing I would stress is that students taking the MCS course should be CONFIDENT given the recent pass rates – which was 75% in August sitting!

PassRates

The MCS exam has the highest pass rate among the case study exams and, in my opinion, it’s down to one thing;

EXPERIENCE!

  • Experience of passing the OCS exam, gives students the know-how on the CIMA case study format and what’s expected.
  • Experience of passing the six objective tests beforehand, gives the technical skills and confidence to MCS level students.

But that’s not to say the MCS exam is easy.

Far from it, the pass rate of the CIMA gateway students way is just 35% – so this indicates that students attempted the MCS without having the previous experience of CIMA behind them will really struggle to the pass the exam.

Despite the encouraging pass rates for the MCS exam, we mustn’t get complacent that it’s an “easy” exam to pass.

CIMA Gateway Students

As mentioned above, the CIMA gateway students are those who will beginning their CIMA journey with the MCS exam as they have exemptions from previous qualifications.

If you are reading this blog post as a CIMA Gateway student then I would suggest to read this interview we done with a gateway student who passed her MCS exam first time.

CIMA MCS: Astranti Feb 2019 Course

MCSFeb19 NOW.png

The full MCS course from Astranti is really packed full of resources and comes with a pass guarantee.

  • 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 Nov 18 scenario)
  • Detailed marking and feedback
  • Ethics Pack
  • Pass Guarantee

MCS Pre-Seen Materials: Crowncare

Crowncare

The official pre-seen materials from CIMA were released this week, an early Christmas present for all of you MCS students!

You can find the official document from CIMA here for the Feb 2019 MCS exam.

MCS Feb 2019 Important Dates

MCS Feb 2019

CIMA OCS Feb 2019: Trigg Adventure

OCS Feb19

The February 2019 CIMA OCS exam is a great time to take a case study exam. As you’ll have 60 days in between the pre-seen materials being released and the exam day itself – usually you’ll have around 45 days if taking a case study in May/Aug/Nov – so take advantage of this extra time!!

Focus on Technical Skills

Tech1

The OCS exam is heavily weighted towards the Technical Skills competency area, so in order to pass the OCS exam you’ll need to have strong technical knowledge of the syllabus content and how to apply it.

  • Technical Skills 64%
  • Business Skills 16%
  • People Skills 14%
  • Leadership Skills 6%

If we think about the role you play in the OCS exam – Finance Officer/Accounts Assistant – it makes sense that he OCS will focus less on the leadership, business and people skills. So this gives you a platform to start planning your preparation.

What Technical Skills will I be tested on?

This leads to the next question, what technical knowledge should I focus when preparing for the Feb 2019 OCS case study? Well, we posted a great article from CSSC Tuition on the hot topics that could be tested in the OCS exam here.

And to further cement those area we can see that the bedrock of the OCS exam will be the P1 syllabus.

OCS_Te

The above chart was taken from a CIMA webinar on approaching case study exams, however, we are just concerned with the E1/P1/F1 part.

And we can see that the bulk of the technical skills around the OCS exam are based around the P1 syllabus – so brush up on cost accounting, management reporting and accounting information systems before the Feb 2019 OCS exam.

The above chart also highlights the fact that risk management and internal control are a key feature in the OCS, MCS and SCS exams.

CIMA OCS Answer Planning

Insight

I published a recent “The CIMA Student: Insight” blog post on the important of planning your answer when faced with a CIMA case study.

If you don’t think about HOW you will answer the question and brainstorm your ideas on how you will satisfy the requirement then you will produce a poor unbalanced answer.

Linking the pre-seen materials, making recommendations and drawing conclusions in your answer is a must if you want to pass the OCS exam.

You can read the full article on planning your OCS answers here – it includes a real example taken from the August 2018 OCS exam and I walk through the thought process and different stages of planning your answer.

CIMA OCS Astranti Course

OCSFeb19 NOW.png

The full OCS course from Astranti is really packed full of resources!

I used the Astranti OCS materials when passing the OCS exam in 2015, you can read that in more detail here.

Complete pre-seen pack (pre-seen, strategic, industry analysis and top 10 issues)

  • 3 x Full tuition videos
  • 2 x Study text
  • 2 x Live Masterclasses (the keys to passing and revision masterclass)
  • 3 x Full Mock Exams (based on Nov 18 scenario)
  • Detailed marking and feedback
  • Ethics Pack
  • Pass Guarantee

Pre-Seen Materials: Trigg Adventure

Trigg OCS preseen

CIMA released the pre-seen materials for Trigg Adventure and you can take a copy from official CIMA website here.

Having had a first glance at the pre-seen materials it’s clear that the company faces challenging times given the competition with digital, electronic toys with parents preferring the often cheaper more “in demand” toys like video games.

So the company will need to be inventive with the products they offer and consider the price points at which they enter the market.

Below is the Astranti Top Ten Issues video for the Trigg Adventure case study that is part of the full OCS course for the Feb 2019 CIMA case study – it’s a great way to focus your revision for the February exam.

OCS Important Dates

The full set of important dates for the OCS exam are displayed below.

OCS Feb 2019

CIMA Case Study Answer Planning

Insight

The first of a new series of articles; The CIMA Student: INSIGHT takes a hands on approach to subjects and topics that will help you pass your next CIMA exam.

CIMA Case Study Answer Planning

When faced with a CIMA case study exam you might be tempted to dive straight in and start writing your answer as soon as you’ve read the question. However, this approach will lead to a poor answer with no balance, no depth and a tendency to wander off track.

I always make sure I spend the first 10 minutes of any CIMA case study question;

  • Identifying the requirements.
  • Planning my answer on the script with headings and bullet points.

This plan should include (where relevant) reference to the pre-seen materials, industry news, unseen materials and recommendations or conclusions.

With this in mind, I’ve taken a look back at the August 2018 OCS exam Thomas Fine Teas exam (taken from the official CIMA website), and picked a question from Variant 1 to show how I would spend my first 10 minutes of answering this question by IDENTIFYING THE REQUIREMENTS and basing my ANSWER PLAN around this.

OCS Exam Question – Thomas Fine Teas

2018-06-26 10_13_15-August 2018 OCS Pre-seen - students.pdf

Identifying the requirements

Before we can start to plan our answer, we need to identify the requirements.

I’ve noticed that CIMA have made the requirements much clearer in recent exam sittings, when I took my OCS in 2015 the questions seemed more embedded into the script.

However, you can see from the below screenshot from the Aug 2018 OCS exam, it’s quite clear from the outset what we are expected to answer.

TFT1.png

This question has TWO elements, I’ve added two small green arrows which tell us the questions is split into two. While the red boxes are the requirements we need to answer. Again, it’s very clear as the requirements start with “Please prepare…. “

All in all, this should have taken 1-2 to minutes to identify and I would suggest to not even look at the other attachments in the question at this stage.

Answer Planning

Now we have 8-9 minutes to start planning our answer before really adding the meat to the bones.

I start by adding some headings to my answer plan, so I have the initial framework before I start brainstorming my ideas on what to add.

Based on the first requirement above, my answer plan looks like this:

TFTANS.png

Now I have the structure of my answer, I can begin to think in more detail by brainstorming and adding some notes under my headings on how I want to answer the question in full.

After the brainstorming session, my answer is now beginning to take shape;

TFTANS2

Notice I have deleted the “Intro about Digital Marketing” heading, as I felt on reflection there wasn’t any need for this in the answer.

There is no mention of “Please explain what digital marketing is… ” in the email from Jack Ford.

It’s important to remember that you need to satisfy the requirement of the question only and it’s not a platform for you to spout all of the information you know on the subject!!

Keep it relevant and keep it clear.

I can now begin to fill my answer in full with the remaining time left for the question.

Reviewing Your Answer

If possible, give yourself 5-7 minutes at the end to review your answer and ask yourself the following the questions;

  • How I included reference to the pre-seen and unseen materials?
  • Have I given real life examples?
  • Have I answered the requirements?
  • Have I mentioned ethics?

The reality is you will not be able to include industry analysis or ethics into every answer you write in the exam and the key is to keep it relevant – quality over quantity!!

Case Study Answer Planning Resources

You can find the case study resources (including the above example question from the August 2018 OCS) from the official CIMA website here

Good Luck with your next CIMA case study!

CIMA BLACK FRIDAY SALE!

It’s that time of year when Astranti have a whopping 40% OFF all of their CIMA materials, it’s a great time to add to your resources or push yourself to take the next case study sitting in February 2019.

To claim the 40% discount add the discount code 40BLACKFRIDAY at the checkout – offer is applicable from Friday 23rd November to Monday 27th November.

Astranti Case Study Courses

February 2019 Case Studies

A reminder that the best time to sit a CIMA case study, in terms of time you get to study, is always the February case study exams.

As you get 60 days between the pre-seen materials being released and the exam itself. Normally you get around 45-50 days between the pre-seen and the exam but CIMA have factored in the Christmas period and give a longer period of time for students taking the February exams.

But the reality is, if you’re sitting a Feb case study, you’ll probably only take a few days break over Christmas and you’ll have the opportunity to be really prepared for the exam with two months between the pre-seen and exam.

You can see below that SCS students taking the exam in February 2019 will have a massive 67 days from pre-seen release to beginning of exam session!

case

I passed the MCS exam in 2018 by taking it in February and found the extra time was really helpful to get to grips with the pre-seen and developing a style to answer planning.

How I passed the CIMA MCS exam in February 2018.

The benefits of taking a case study exam in February.

Astranti February 2019 OCS Course

Astranti February 2019 MCS Course

Astranti February 2019 SCS Course

Astranti Objective Test Materials

The Astranti Black Friday sale is not just limited to case study materials, but all of their objective test materials too!

Use the code 40BLACKFRIDAY to claim the 40% OFF the Astranti Objective Test materials for Operational, Management and Strategic levels of CIMA.

Practice Tests Academy

There is also the exclusive 20% discount for all CIMA Student readers for The Practice Tests Academy resources, which ranges from mock exams, question banks and full objective courses with video lectures.

For an insight into their materials, then read my blog post from earlier this week here. And if The Practice Tests Academy are new to you then watch this nice video below on their story so far…

Practice Tests Academy

20

PTA

The good people at Practice Tests Academy are offering The CIMA Student readers 20% off ALL OF THEIR CIMA Materials!!

The offer runs from Monday 19th November to Monday 26th November – to take advantage use the discount code 20thecimastudent

CIMA Objective Test Materials

PTA have expanded their materials from being a CIMA question bank to providing a full end to end course for CIMA objective tests. Here is a summary of what’s on offer.

Free Trial

You can try the practice test academy mock exams/question for free, you can tackle 20 to 30 questions on the CIMA objective test of your choice.

Single Mock Exam – 12 GBP

A single mock exam is available from PTA to test yourself in exam mode, 60 questions in 90 minutes to see if you’re ready for the real thing! You get feedback on the questions you got wrong and it ties it back to the CIMA syllabus and learning outcomes so you know which area to focus your revision on. A handy tool!

Exam Practice Kit – 55 GBP

The Practice Tests Academy offer “question banks” of 500 questions that allows you to customise your exam practice, you can use revision mode or real exam mode. You can practice, practice, practice and focus on your weak areas with the feedback service offered.

I used the Exam Practice Kit when I passed the CIMA P2 Exam First Time last year, so I can vouch it served me well – you can read more about how I passed P2 here.

Complete Course – 129 GBP

This rising CIMA tuition provider has also branched out into offering full CIMA Objective Test courses which give students a host of materials. What catches my eye is obviously the video lectures that come with the course.

Distance learning as a CIMA Student is difficult to say the least, so any tutor support is a great way to increase your knowledge and confidence of passing ANY CIMA exam!

I have yet to use the complete course offered up by the Practice Tests Academy, so cannot offer my personal experience, but below is a example of what you can expect.

CIMA Case Study Materials

As well as offering up Objective Test materials, the Practice Tests Academy are also delivering materials and resources for the CIMA Case Studies.

There are three sets of materials available;

  • Preperation: how to prepare for the case study exam
  • Revision: a look at the syllabus content that could come up.
  • Case Study: pre-seen analysis and a look at the key topics you could face.

The Practice Tests Academy have worked in conjunction with VIVA Tuition for their case study materials in order to harness on their strengths and deliver better quality materials for CIMA Students.

Remember, this exclusive 20% off ALL Practice Tests Academy materials for The CIMA Student readers expires at midnight on Monday 26th November – so don’t forget the discount code 20thecimastudent

 

Passing the CIMA P3 Exam

Good things come in three’s. 103 in fact, I’ll take that mark and happily wave bye to P3.

Also, only Three to go.

That’s just THREE more CIMA exams (F3, E3 and SCS) before becoming fully qualified – its nice to write those words after passing the P3 Risk Management exam this week.

Here are my lessons learnt from passing the CIMA P3 Risk Management Exam.

Back to Basics

Despite scoring a 95 in my first attempt, I felt I needed to go back to basics and look at each learning outcome in the syllabus and made sure I understood it. I didn’t want to narrowly miss out again.

The P3 exam is split nicely between 5 different sections – 20% on each – so I spent an even time revising and make notes on each section and then testing myself with exam questions from Kaplan before moving on the next section of the syllabus.

By the end of it, I had a double sided A4 paper of brief revision notes on the five sections. I took these everywhere with me for week or so before the exam to revise.

Balance between Mock Exams and Theory

Perhaps I was guilty of placing TOO much emphasis on mock exams and the dreaded question spotting in my first attempt, or perhaps I am being too harsh on myself.

I mean 95 is pretty close to passing.

Nevertheless, preparing for my re-sit I really focused on the theory of the syllabus with question practice and left the mock exams along for the time being.

I spent time understanding the more complex areas of WACC, APV and when to apply an adjusted WACC and when not too. Rather than learning a topic just to pass an exam (if that makes sense?).

Don’t rush the re-sit

I was tempted to re-sit the P3 exam straight away, but I decided to take my time. I had a long weekend away planned in the middle of October, so felt it was better to prepare in more detail and set myself the deadline of the first week in November – almost 6 weeks after failing.

It gave me time to go back through the five syllabus areas and cover what I felt I needed too to make sure I got the pass mark.

Relax

I remember the feeling of anxiety and pressure when taking the first P3 exam. I felt the pressure of taking my first strategic level exam and that echoed through the rest of my exam.

This time around I was more relaxed having already been in the position before, I felt I was ready for all kinds of calculations, theories and judgements.

I was also more comfortably dressed – which may seem like an odd thing – but I recall being too hot in my previous exam and getting more and more flustered. It’s just a small thing but I believe these small marginal gains can only help on the exam day itself.

*Remember, everyone has their own preferences on how they study best or how they work best or when to take resit exams. The above thoughts just came from my own personal experience.

CIMA P3 Resources Used

I used a mixture of the Astranti mock exams and chapter practice questions as well as the Kaplan P3 exam practice kit to ensure I had enough questions to keep me going!

The Kaplan book was a great way to test my knowledge before the re-sit exam and I actually found the wording of these questions very similar to the real CIMA P3 exam itself.

Bank

I also used this gem of a website the Kaplan Knowledge Bank to help with my revision on specific P3 topics – it’s like a CIMA Wikipedia, it’s ace and it’s free!

P3Mocks

Astranti CIMA P3 Mock Exams

P3Kaplan

Kaplan P3 Exam Practice Kit

Novak Pharma: Industry Analysis

The CIMA November 2018 SCS exam is based a pharmaceutical company “Novak Pharmaceuticals” – as the exam is approaching it’s a good time to take a look at some industry analysis that you can use on exam day.

Novak Pharmaceutical’s: Industry Analysis

VIVA Financial Tuition have produced an insight to the pharmaceutical industry for SCS students to get to grips with – below is a look at some of the financials in the industry as well R&D within the industry.

Revenue’s Vs Profits

The pharmaceutical industry is one of the largest industries in the world in terms of revenues generated and those revenues have grown considerably in the last 15 to 20 years.

In 2001, annual world revenues for the pharmaceutical industry stood at US$ 390 billion.

Today, they have already surpassed US$ 1 trillion per year.

To put it in perspective, that accounts for around 1% of the entire world GDP! The sheer size of the industry in absolute terms often leads to a popular perception that this is also one of the most profitable industries in the world today.

However, although profits can be large in any given year, if we look at the rate of return on investment in the pharmaceutical industry, it is not as profitable as popular opinion suggests.

According to Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the average return on equity for key industries from 2014 – 2016 shows that the pharmaceutical industry’s profits stand at 16.2%, significantly lower than Computer Sciences (31.6%), Beverages (27.4%), Aerospace/Defense (23.0%), and Trucking (19.1%).

So despite health revenue growth figures in recent years, and large profits in absolute terms, relative to investment, it is not the most profitable industry in the world by any means.

SCSIndustry.png

Clinical Trial Phases

The research and development phase in this industry is long, painstaking, and has an extremely high failure rate. In the full analysis we investigate the reasons why this is the case.

Here, we offer a quick overview of the structure of the testing period for new drugs, and look at the fail rates that correspond to each.

There are 4 main stages or phases of testing that new drugs go through.

First, there are pre-clinical trials. These are usually a battery of sophisticated laboratory tests, in which pharmacists and technicians perform provisional tests on the efficacy of a chemical compound by using biological cultures, disease samples, and in some cases (though less and less frequently), animal testing.

Once promising indications of efficacy have been established at this pre-clinical stage, the drug passes on to testing on human subjects. This is usually called “Phase 1” testing. In Phase 1, voluntary human subjects are administered the drug.

These subjects are typically healthy and are not suffering from the relevant disease or ailment. The primary aim of this phase is to determine whether or not there are any strong adverse side-effects, and appropriate dose thresholds.

If there are no clear problems at this stage, the drug proceeds to Phase 2 trials. Phase 2 usually involves a larger sample of people, and in this case, the drug is tested on people who actually suffer from the relevant disease. The main objective of Phase 2 testing is to ascertain and confirm the efficacy on real human patients, while again ensuring no adverse side effects in those actually suffering from the disease.

If there appear no obvious problems here, the drug is submitted for the final Phase 3 trial. This is a much larger trial, typically taking in hundreds or even thousands of patients where possible, over longer periods, in order to establish long-term usability and efficacy.

One of the main aims of Phase 3 testing is to compare the long-run efficacy and safety of the new drug with already-available medications that are on the market. Once Phase 3 testing is successfully completed, the drug is submitted for approval with the relevant regulatory authority (e.g. the FDA in the United States, or the PTA in the pre-seen case of Novak).

Success Rates

SCSIndustry2.png

It’s interesting to note the success rates in percentage terms from one phase to the next. As you can see in the chart above, the main hurdle is at Phase 2.

This is perhaps not surprising, as this is typically the first time that the drug is tested on real patients who actually suffer from the disease.

Even if in Phase 1 no adverse side effects are discovered, there is no guarantee that patients with the disease will not react differently due to their ailment.

Moreover, there is no guarantee that the provisional efficacy established in pre-clinical trials on isolated biological samples (or animals) will carry over into real, full human subjects.

Therefore, Phase 2 is critical from the point of view of determining whether or not the drug is really viable in the real world.

Once all the clinical trials have been completed in accordance with criteria established by the regulatory authority, then there is an 85% chance that the drug will be approved.

However, when we sum the probabilities and we look at the overall chances that any given drug will make it from pre-clinical trials to approval, the percentage plummets to just over 9%!

Put another way, there is a 91% chance that any given drug will not be saleable at the end of an approximately 10-year cycle of testing! Not surprisingly, research and development in this industry is very expensive indeed…

The full industry analysis on the November 2018 CIMA strategic case study from VIVA Financial Tuition can be found at www.vivatuition.com

*The above industry analysis article was taken from the VIVA Financial Tuition website with permission 19/10/2018

CIMA Nov 18 Case Studies: Top 10 Issues

 

CIMA November 2018 Case Studies

The November 2018 CIMA case studies will begin in around four weeks with the OCS scenario of GymFit. With the November case study session finishing just over two weeks later with the SCS scenario of Novak Pharmaceuticals.

Students taking the exams next month should be well in their exam preparation and have made extensive motes and analysis on the pre-seen materials.

Now you should be drawing your focus on the most likely issues that will come up on exam day.

The benefits of understanding the so called “Top 10 Issues”

  • Gives you a focus for your final weeks of study.
  • Provides an insight to the syllabus that could appear in your exam variant.
  • Boosts confidence ahead of the exam.
  • A useful tool for brainstorming about the case study scenario.
  • Can generate discussion between yourself and other students – do they have a different opinion on the issues?

If you are struggling to digest all of the pre-seen materials and draw your own conclusions from the materials you have, then use the videos below as a way to get the ball rolling and start thinking about the main issues with your respective case study as use it as a source of focus for the next couple of weeks.

Final Weeks of CIMA Case Study Preparation

Not only should you be digging into the top 10 issues and most likely examinable topics, but you should be practicing your exam technique and have a strategy on how you answer your questions.

Exam Answer Planning

I would recommend that you plan your answers before jumping straight into answering the question in your case study exam.

When passing my OCS and MCS exams first time – I used to spend 8-10 minutes reading the question and planning my answer on the exam script with brief bullet points and my structure of the answer and what I wanted to cover.

Here is a summary on how I approached answering case study questions.

  • Identify the questions requirements.
  • Make headings and sub headings on your answer script.
  • Add relevant points relating to pre-seen and new materials.
  • Finish your answer by drawing conclusions and give reasons why you have come to your conclusion.
  • Don’t forget ethics!! (where relevant – don’t include it for the sake of it)

Here are the Top 10 Issue videos for the November exams.

CIMA OCS Nov 18: Top 10 Issues

You can find the full set of videos on GymFit here.

CIMA MCS Nov 18: Top 10 Issues

You can find the full set of videos on Grapple here.

CIMA SCS Nov 18: Top 10 Issues

You can find the full set of videos on Novak Pharmaceuticals here.

Hot Topics for the CIMA OCS

The pre-seen materials were released for the CIMA OCS November GymFit exam a few weeks ago, so your attention should be turning towards mock exam practice and revision of the syllabus areas that are likely to come up on exam day.

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With this in mind, our good friends at CSSC Tutition have put together some words of wisdom on what it takes to pass the CIMA operational case study exam.

Passing the OCS Exam First Time

Passing the Operational Case Study requires solid technical knowledge combined with the ability to demonstrate good business and people skills. These need to be appropriately applied to the question details and answered within the context of the case-study scenario.

Good candidates need to be able to assimilate new information and communicate their answers in a timely and well-presented manner.

Exam technique is key here and practice makes perfect in this respect.

In conclusion, it is only mastery of the technical competencies and successful demonstration of the above skills that can result in the ‘strong’ answers which OCS markers are looking for.

So… with that in mind – we can agree that passing is not about question spotting… but surely it doesn’t hurt to be aware of the most examinable topics for the CIMA Operational Case Study exam!!

For example, we all know that P1 is the lead paper – but what are the lead topics?

CIMA OCS Most Examinable Topics

As a matter of research and interest here at CSSC Accountancy Tuition in Staffordshire we have tracked the top most examined Operational Case Study areas from each of the 3 operational level papers.

Our analysis is based on the last 12 Operational Case Study sittings.

For example, we can reveal that 12 out of 12 of the sittings included a question on the topic of P1 variances (traditional cost variances – material, labour etc. and/or Advanced Variances – e.g. mix & yield/planning & operational etc).

This is not to say that every variant of every exam sitting included this topic – but that it was covered by at least one of the five variants in each exam period.

Other favourites were F1’s working capital and E1’s marketing mix.

In addition to this, students must not overlook P1’s budget approaches (especially Zero Based Budgeting that has featured in 8 out of the past 12 sittings). Quality costing is another key area having featured in 10 out of 12 past OCS sittings.

More details on the most examinable areas are below – but please use this information wisely and to refine your revision rather than making it your focus!

Its important that you refresh all of your syllabus areas, undertake mock exam practice and also have a careful read of the most recent OCS examiner’s report. Don’t forget to also make use of other resources available on CIMA connect & TheCIMAStudent website.

Other OCS Highly Examined Areas

  • Activity Based Costing
  • Environmental Costing
  • Government Grants
  • Time Series Analysis
  • Inventory EOQ
  • Outsourcing
  • TQM
  • Payoff Table/ Maxi Decision Rules
  • Relevant Costing
  • Breakeven CVP
  • Uncertainty & Risk – Decision Trees
  • Linear Programming

CSSC Classroom Tuition

CSSC

For those living near to Staffordshire & Cheshire – CSSC Tuition offer Operational Case Study Tuition for all four sittings. We also offer evening tuition for all CIMA objective test papers -including Strategic level starting January 2019.

Prices start at just £350 per paper and instalment options are available. Enquiries welcome! Please contact info@cssctuition.co.uk

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