CIMA MCS May 2018: Menta

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CIMA released the pre-seen materials for the May 2018 MCS case study last week, so with this mind here are a list of tips, resources and links you might find useful when studying for the Menta MCS case study in May 2018.

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

Menta: Pre-Seen Analysis

The foundation of your preparation for the May CIMA MCS will begin and pretty much end with the pre-seen analysis you conduct.

This 24 page document is packed full of insight and information on what to areas could come up on exam day.

Furthermore, by having a firm grip on the content of the materials and being able to link them to the unseen on exam day will help you a lot to add depth to your answer and keep it relevant to the Menta case study.

Below is a video from Astranti to your pre-seen analysis started.

You can find the full set of videos on the May MCS here.

How I Passed the CIMA MCS

As you are aware, I passed the previous sitting of the CIMA MCS exam first time by taking the MCS course from Astranti .

However, it’s not as straightforward as signing up for a course and expecting to turn up on exam day and breeze through the exam!

There is a lot of hard work and dedication required in order to get yourself for the exam, as you can see by the MCS exam pass rates over the last 12 months, students are finding it a tougher and tougher exam to pass.

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You read my full thoughts on how I passed the CIMA MCS exam and the process I went through here.

 

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CIMA MCS: How I passed it first time.

MCS

I’ve never been a bingo fan, but I was delighted to see the “two fat ladies – 88” and the wonderful green background of the word PASSED.

But before I go into how I passed the CIMA MCS exam, I’ll start with my initial thoughts on receiving the results.

Passing CIMA MCS: Initial Thoughts

I was of course delighted to get the PASS on the email this morning as passing any CIMA exam is a relief and sense of satisfaction! The 6 week wait between the case study exam and the results is a killer though, as you go through a range of emotions.

A bit like an alcoholic trying to give up vodka.

First, after leaving the exam hall, there is the thought “Yes! I’ve done the exam.” I can relax and you’re confident you’ll pass. But as the days and weeks tick on you start to doubt yourself as you talk to others.

Shit! I forgot to mention this and cover that on the exam… And then you forgot half of your answers and start to doubt yourself even more. Then you get nervous about results day.

Finally as you’re only days away you just get angry with the whole thing and cannot wait any longer. Frantically refreshing your email in the morning of exam results like and alcoholic checking their bank balance the morning of payday getting ready to run down the off licence.

Anyhow, I’m digressing.

Joy and Disappointment

My sense of joy at passing the CIMA MCS, however, is tinged with disappointment at getting a score of 88.

You might think that’s a bit crazy and I don’t want to sound arrogant or ungrateful but I’ll explain why:

1) I felt leaving the exam I had done very well, a good pass score at least.
2) I have first hand experience of working in shared service environment, so I was already at an advantage.
3) It sounded like the variant I sat was one of the easier ones, so what score would I have got if I had the tougher variant?
4) The exam prep went well, the mock exams were all passed with good scores.

Plus, I felt I had really applied myself to the exam and had the right preparation heading into the exam. A bit like a boxer primed for a heavyweight title fight in the shape of his life, so with everything seemingly in my favour I felt I would score 100+ (bearing in mind this out of 150, so 100+ should be expected with the conditions I felt I had).

It makes me wonder how I would fare further down the line when my confidence is not as high, will I be able to get over the F3/P3/E3 exams first time?

Then what about the SCS? 

Anyhow, there is time to tackle these questions once I have digested the fact I am now the holder of the CIMA Adv Dip MA title. 🙂

How I passed the CIMA MCS Exam first time

CIMA Feb 2018 Case Study

Before I started to think about the pre-seen materials being released, I needed to have a plan and structure for following two months.

That plan looked a bit like this:

  • Revise syllabus content from P2/E2/F2
  • Understand MCS exam structure
  • Read previous MCS examiners report
  • Analyse preseen materials
  • Delve further into P2/E2/F2 syllabus based on issues identified from pre-seen
  • Take mock exams 1/2/3
  • Review mock exam feedback
  • Re-read preseen materials making 2 pages of key points.
  • Relax.
  • Re-read feedback from mock exams and revise weak areas raised in feedback.
  • Relax (try to!).

Of course I didn’t stick to the plan 100% in terms of timing but it gave me structure and ensured I didn’t waste anytime in the build up to exam day.

CIMA MCS Materials Used

As you know from my previous blog posts, I used the full Astranti MCS course and found it to be packed with resources, videos, materials and classes.

In fact there was so much I didn’t manage to watch all of the tuition videos, which perhaps in hindsight was a bad idea on my part.

  • MCS study text (part 1 and 2)
  • Pre-seen analysis (video and text)
  • Strategic analysis (video and text)
  • Top 10 issues (video and text)
  • Industry analysis (video and text)
  • Tuition videos
  • 2 x online master classes – each class is a full day revision (recorded and live)
  • 3 x online mock exams – answered with detailed tutor feedback
  • Ethics pack
  • Personal advice and guidance
  • Pass Guarantee

Lessons Learnt

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What I found the most useful from the Astranti MCS course were the mock exams with feedback. The mock exams you take on the course are actually based on the pre-seen materials and case study you are sitting (in my case Nortan) – it’s an invaluable experience as it’s as close to what you will face on exam day.

Planning. You must plan your time accordingly and make sure you cover all bases, the key to passing the CIMA MCS exam first time is having a balanced script.

You must have the technical knowledge, pre-seen details, know how to apply them, industry examples and the ability to draw conclusions and make recommendations in the exam.

Also, there was a little gem in the Astranti MCS course, it is the Study Text Part 2. 

This is a condensed version of the E2/P2/F2 syllabus, it was a great resource for me during the 6 weeks study preparation. It had all of the syllabus content I needed at the right level of detail.

It would almost be impossible to go through your previous study texts and found this bite-sized version (well, there is still 700 pages!!) is perfect. I could find the section I needed and revise in the right level of detail – in some cases you just need a high level view to jog your memory.

The CIMA Student MCS Study Tip

free CIMA resources and study tips

Finally, I would like to point to the importance of planning your answer before you start answering the question in full.

I would spend about 20% of my time in the question (so in a 45 minute question I would spend 9 minutes) planning my answer.

This involves identifying the requirements and creating some headings of areas I want to cover in my answer. Then I add a few sub points underneath the headings, linking the syllabus content, pre-seen information, industry info and ethics (if there is any to consider).

Then I would finally add all of the meat to the bones of the answer.

Planning my answer in this manner made sure I stayed on track and didn’t ramble off point, as you can see I did in my opening paragraph or two here.

Good Luck to students sitting May case study and hope all of the February case students got the result you wanted!

 

CIMA OCS May 2018: Mansako

The May 2018 CIMA Operational Case Study pre-seen materials have been released and this time it’s based on a company called Mansako.

You can find the pre-seen materials for the May 2018 OCS from CIMA website here.

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CIMA OCS: Pre-Seen Analysis

The cornerstone of your work and revision for the OCS will be based around the pre-seen materials, there is a wealth of information, clues and pointers on what to expect on exam day so it’s crucial you re-read and make notes on the pre-seen materials.

To get you started, below is a preview video from Astranti on the Mansako pre-seen materials.

You can find the full set of videos on the May OCS here.

For those interested in the complete Astranti OCS course you can find it here.

CIMA OCS: What do we know?

You are Finance Officer for Mansako and you will be supporting the Finance Manager with the preparation of budgets and monthly management accounts. There is also mention of annual financial reporting and the queries that could come up regarding this.

  • Mansako is a luxury leather good company founded in 1971.
  • They are listed on the Lowerland stock exchange.
  • Mansako suffered when entering high-end luxury market, sales and profits dropped dramatically from 2012-15.
  • A new creative director was appointed in 2015 and a change in product range meant that sales went back up to $218.5m but profits were only $9.8m (4.4% net profit margin).
  • Company has 1400 employees – with 50% of staff based in production.
  • Mansako’s senior management team has seen alot of recent changes the current management team are quite young.
  • 72% of sales revenue comes from Lowerland, with 14% from Europe, 7% from Asia, 6% North America and 1% from ROW.

The above information was taken from the pre-seen materials and you can already see a few potential areas for questions on exam day.

While their sales revenue has been restored to normal levels $218.5m, operating profits are quite low (4.4%) this indicates Mansako’s overheads are higher than they should be.

  • Do they have an effective budgeting system?
  • Are they negotiating the right deal with suppliers?
  • Are they over-staffed?

CIMA OCS: Mock Exams

You should know my thoughts on how much I value taking mock exams in mock conditions and this also applies to case study exams. It helps build your confidence and really tests where you are in terms of strengths and weaknesses.

To get a feel of what you can expect on exam day, you can take the free OCS mini mock from Astranti before taking the 3 full mock exams that are based on the xxx case study.

Astranti Mock Exam Deadlines

To get the full benefit of having the mock exams marked with personalised feedback, the below deadlines are recommended for the three mock exams for the May OCS exam.

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You can find out more information about the Astranti Mansako mock exams here.

CIMA OCS: Case Study Exam Tips

Finally, below is a video on the things you must do before the OCS exam (it was taken from the February but the points remain the same for any of the OCS exam sittings!).

Good Luck and Happy Studying!

CIMA Case Study Tips: May 2018

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Having sat the CIMA MCS exam last month I thought I would base this blog post around the lessons I learnt from my experience in studying for the Feb case study exam.

I am still waiting for my result to come (March 29th) but I hope this advice will be helpful for students sitting a CIMA case study exam.

 

May 2018 Case Study Planning

I took my plan from the February case study exam and have mapped it out for all three levels for the May 2018 exam to give you an overview of how I planned my time according to the Astranti MCS course I took.

CS3CS5

The general idea is that you spend;

  • 2 weeks before pre-seen release date on syllabus refresh and ethics.
  • 2 weeks focusing on pre-seen materials.
  • 3 weeks on mock exams, reviewing feedback and final revision.

I also included the dates on the Astranti Master Classes for each paper, I found the timings of these classes were great.

The first one is scheduled after a couple of weeks after the pre-seen materials are released and the second master class is scheduled just a few days before the exam to make sure you have covered all bases and ask any final questions from the mock exams or your revision.

But you can apply this same principle and schedule regardless of what materials or learning provider you are using.

For example, instead of sitting the Astranti masterclass on the above dates, you can use the same time reviewing other resources and the CIMA pre and post exam kits on the CIMA connect site.

Astranti Case Study Course

I used the full MCS course for the February 2018 exam last month and was happy with the materials and support I received. In fact there were some materials I didn’t even manage to look at in great detail.

For those interested, you can find the full details on the course contents below.

OCS Course – May 2018

MCS Course – May 2018

SCS Course – May 2018

Practice Tests Academy

Practice Tests Academy – I have used these guys a lot for mock exam questions on the objective tests but they are also releasing more and more materials on the CIMA case studies.

VIVA Financial Tuition

VIVA Financial Tuition – they have sent me a few articles on previous case study exams that were published on the site and they are new CIMA learning provider that are also providing more and more case study materials.

You can read an example of their financial analysis on SCS exam AutoAuto here.

The 4 Stages of CIMA Case Study Exam Prep

Having gone back over the study plan I have identified there are four different stages I went through when preparing for the MCS exam.

Syllabus Knowledge Revision

Don’t wait until the pre-seen materials are released before starting work on the case study exams. As you still have a few weeks to brush up on the CIMA syllabus you studied leading up to the case study exam.

Now don’t get too hung up on covering every page of your text books when refreshing your knowledge, it’s not needed.

Plus there is no chance you will cover everything in the detail you want.

I found this time leading up to the case study a great way to get my mind back into study mode so I could hit the ground running when the pre-seen materials were finally released. 

Pre-Seen Materials

As soon as the pre-seen materials are released you should focus your entire efforts on this document, making your own notes and using the resources and pre-seen videos you have on the case study.

Having made a thorough analysis of the document you should have a clearer picture of what areas to study in more detail.

A great way to do this is map out your own strategic analysis of the company using SWOT analysis. Below is a brief example of what I mean, but you should be able to pick out all of this information from the pre-seen materials.

Strengths: Does the company have a unique product? How can they exploit that?

Weaknesses: Are costs spiralling out of control?

Opportunities: Can the use of new technology create a new innovative product?

Threats: Are their low barriers to entry in the market place?

The answers to the above points will give you the framework to continue your revision in the lead up to taking your first mock exam.

Industry Analysis

I’d also like to mention a sub point here when tackling the pre-seen analysis, looking at industry analysis is a great way to give the pre-seen materials more context and you’ll find yourself being able to relate to the scenario much more.

For example; I knew pretty much nothing about the oil industry when the pre-seen materials came out for the Feb MCS and it wasn’t until I could connect the dots between the pre-seen materials and real life situations in the oil industry that I felt more comfortable with my revision. 

Mock Exams

I’m always banging on about the value of mock exams and I’ll always stand by that but to really benefit from there you need to consider three things.

  1. Don’t take them too soon
  2. Sit them in exam conditions
  3. Get them marked or feedback from a tutor

If you rush straight into taking a mock exam too soon you will fail, and fail quite miserably.

There is no need to damage your confidence as this stage, you should have make sure you have a firm grip on the pre-seen materials, know what’s expected of you in your role in the exam and know how what technique or writing style is required.

Secondly, if you don’t sit at least one mock exam in exam conditions then you will really struggle on exam day with the time pressure and conditions. It’s key not to cheat yourself when taking mock exams by either looking at text books or not sitting them in exam conditions.

Finally, getting them marked by a tutor is a great way to see where you and what you need to focus on.

Otherwise, you will find it difficult to move forward and progress. I found it invaluable to get the feedback from Astranti as the tutor comments really helped me evaluate where I was and what I needed to do in the next one.

Revision of Pre-Seen and Mock Exams

Once you have taken a mock exam you will then have focus areas you need to brush up on, whether it’s F2 consolidated accounts or E2 management theories. You should use the time in between taking mock exams to cover the areas have identified as being yoru weak areas.

I’d also suggest to use this time to read the pre-seen materials every now and again, it will help you cement the information so it becomes second nature on exam day.

Important Dates – CIMA May 2018 Case Studies

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Good Luck!!

CIMA MCS Feb 2018: Nortan

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The February 2018 CIMA MCS case study exam is fast approaching and I can feel it as I am sitting the exam myself! If you are taking he exam next month and you haven’t read the pre-seen materials then you can find the official document released by CIMA here.

With this in mind, I thought I would share my thoughts on the pre-seen before sharing the preview videos on the Industry Analysis and Pre-Seen Analysis.

Nortan: What do we know?

Well, first of all there are two aspects consider.

  • Nortan is major global oil company with a strong history.
  • The Nortan FOSSC is a shared services function that was setup in 2002 at the Nortan head office – your role is Finance Manager at the FOSSC.

Why am I mentioning this?

Well, the bulk of the pre-seen materials talk about the FOSSC, the history, the management team, this issues and press articles about the FOSSC.

So it’s clear the case study itself revolves around the FOSSC – what are the strengths and weaknesses at the Nortan FOSSC? What is it’s mission statement?

However, we must also consider Nortan as an oil company and how their operations will impact the FOSSC? Will Nortan be making an acquisition – how will this impact the accounting that will be required at the FOSSC?

So don’t neglect the oil industry and remember to see the bigger the picture with Nortan – our immediate focus should be on the FOSSC and it’s mission but the day to day operations of Nortan and strategic decisions made will have an impact on the demands at the FOSSC.

Nortan: The FOSSC

Shared Services Centre’s are common place in this day and age with large multinational companies. It makes financial sense to centralise the accounting operations in one location as opposed to having local finance offices in every country.

  • The pre-seen tells us that the setup saves Nortan 35% on their accounting costs (see snippet from the interview).

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While it makes sense financially to setup a Shared Services Centre there are potential problems and risks that the Nortan FOSSC could face.

Staffing would appear to be a potential problem given the fact the FOSSC employs over 3000 people and a reliant on a motivated workforce to meet the strict deadlines.

  • How do Nortan keep their staff motivated?
  • Does the HR department have the resources to vet all of the incoming applications in order to filter the right candidates?

There is also mention of redundancies in one of the companies that Nortan have acquired. The below snippet was taken from a press article in the CIMA pre-seen materials. It appears that Nortan are acting responsibility as they state they will make every effort to assist the affected staff to find new posts.

However, the theme of redundancies and staff turnover (which is a particularly hot topic in Shared Service Centres) could well appear in one of the exam variants.

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Nortan: Industry Analysis

I find the Industry Analysis is very helpful in this case study as it gives you a clear insight into the oil industry itself. Which is something missing from the pre-seen materials where the focus is on the FOSSC and no real details on how the industry operates and how to relate it to Nortan.

You can find the full set of Astranti videos on the February 2018 MCS here.

Nortan: Pre-Seen Analysis

You can find the full set of Astranti videos on the February 2018 MCS here.

CIMA OCS Feb 2018: King Crystal

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The CIMA February 2018 OCS exam is based around a scenario called King Crystal.

Here are some thoughts from me on what to look out for when analysing the pre-seen materials for King Crystal – hopefully it will set you on your way to a first time pass next month!

CIMA OCS: King Crystal Pre-Seen Analysis

Firstly, you can download the official pre-seen materials for King Crystal from CIMA here.

Once you have analysed the materials I would suggest using the Astranti video series to add more depth to your notes and get you thinking about what could come up on exam day.

The below video is over 1 hour long and is a great starting point.

Having used these materials when I passed the OCS a couple of years ago (and currently using them for the MCS exam next month) – I’ve have found that the pre-seen materials contains lots and lots of hints, tips and suggestions on what will come up on exam day.

Don’t neglect any page!! Not even the introduction!!

Every single page of the pre-seen contains an insight to how the company operates, strengths, weaknesses and you need to ensure you have covered this detail and understand how to tie it back to the Operational Level syllabus.

CIMA OCS: King Crystal

I’ve taken a screenshot of the analysis made just on the first page of the pre-seen and you can see the amount of notes and points made by the tutor.

And this continues throughout the King Crystal pre-seen, the level of detail you can take from the pre-seen is huge so your immediate attention in the first few weeks should be focused on this.

Another nice touch, when watching the Astranti video, is the fact the tutor mentions that King Crystal could well in fact be based on the real life company Dartington.

So get yourself familiar with the UK company Dartington – It’s a great way to understand the scenario and industry that King Crystal operate in.

As well as the pre-seen analysis, Astranti also cover Strategic Analysis, Industry Analysis and the Top 10 Issues for King Crystal.

You can find the full set of videos on the February King Crystal OCS here.

For those interested in the complete Astranti OCS course you can find it here.

Finally, I wrote a general article of the February CIMA case studies for all levels with some advice and tips on the approach to take – you can find it here.

Good Luck and please feel free to share your own advice in the comments section below.

 

CIMA SCS November 2017: Steelcast

CIMA Nov 2017 SCS

The final set of pre seen materials for the November 2017 case studies were released last week – it’s the final step for some students – and the case study is based on a company called Steelcast.

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

Here are facts about Steelcast and further down you can find some preview videos on the pre-seen analysis by Astranti.

Steelcast: Who are they?

  • The company was founded in 1896 and was incorporated as Steelcast 1910.
  • They produce luxury watches and are regarded as one of the worlds leading luxury brands.
  • Steelcast was listed on the Hiland stock exchange in 1982.
  • They do not sell direct to the customer but through retailers.
  • Their mission statement was created in 1930 and reads;

“We make watches for leaders, who wear them with pride.”

Steelcast: Pre-Seen Analysis

Analysing the pre-seen materials should be your first port of call when starting your SCS exam preparation. The below video should get you started on thinking in detail about how to interpret the pre-seen.

You can find the full set of videos on the November 2017 SCS here.

Steelcast: Top 10 Issues

Once you’ve gone through the pre-seen in detail you should have a rough idea of what topics you could face on exam day, if not the below video is recommended viewing! The tutor goes through, based on the pre-seen, what could come up on exam day.

You can find the full set of videos on the November 2017 SCS here.

Astranti SCS Course with Pass Guarantee

Finally, the full SCS course for the Steelcase case study contains all of the mentioned videos alongside masterclasses, mock exams, ethics pack, advice and guidance from the tutor – what’s more it comes with a pass guarantee.

You can find full details on the SCS course with pass guarantee here.

SCS Course Contents:

  • SCS study text (part 1 and 2)
  • Pre-seen analysis (video and text)
  • Strategic analysis (video and text)
  • Top 10 issues (video and text)
  • Industry analysis (video and text)
  • 2 x online master classes – each class is a full day revision (recorded and live)
  • 3 x online mock exams – answered with detailed tutor feedback
  • Ethics pack
  • Personal advice and guidance

*you will require login to CIMA connect to access pre-seen materials and the image above is a screenshot taken from the CIMA pre-seen materials.