Taking CIMA Exams during “Lock-down”
We cannot escape turning on the TV these days without being bombarded with news and analysis on assessing the global impact of COVID-19.
Trying to continue our daily life and routines has been nearly impossible given the restrictions we all face right now, however, CIMA kept the show rolling by allowing students to take CIMA objective tests and case study exams from home.
I spoke with three different students (one wanted to remain anonymous) to get an insight on how they prepared for their latest CIMA exam from home
Joanna – Certificate Level
I am relatively new to CIMA. I’m currently studying Certificate level via Kaplan and have so far completed BA4 and BA3. I am a mature student and I work as an Academy Trust Business Manager. My study is being sponsored by my workplace as part of my ongoing professional development.
Agnes – Management Level
I’m a third year BSc in Accounting student. I started studying CIMA from the Certificate level 3 years ago when I started my university course. I’m currently one case study away from completing the management level.
I also started the blog https://passfinancialcertifications.finance.blog/
Q – How did you prepare for the exam? Was it significantly different to your usual preparation?
Joanna: “I had to do lots of practice using an online whiteboard for my calculations as no pen or paper was allowed when taking exams online. This felt like an added pressure whilst revising, however, I soon got the hang of it and by the time I sat my exam I was fine.”
Agnes: “My exam preparation was exactly the same as before. I continue to use CIMAStudy and Kaplan resources, focusing mostly on practicing objective test questions and reading through all chapters until I understand the material.
However this time, I spent additional time researching the at home exam procedures.
Normally when you go to PearsonVue centers you don’t have to worry about the exam procedures too much. With online [at home] testing, you are the one starting the exam, checking in, making sure the system runs properly so it’s key to read through all the exam instructions and practice testing the system to avoid surprises on the actual exam day.
Also, it’s important that you double check for any errors in your PearsonVue and CIMA accounts. For example my PearsonVue dashboard didn’t show any exam booked until the last day before the exam.
So double check because you may lose your exam fee if for some reason you get the process wrong or don’t correct errors in time!”
ANON: “If anything I found studying for this exam easier due to having a lot of spare time on my hands as I had been furloughed. I study through distance learning as well so I didn’t really see any changes to my normal routine.”
Q – How did you feel sitting the exam at home?
Joanna: “I was worried that I may encounter technical issues as I had read lots of negative feedback about the online process. I was also concerned that I would run out of time with not being allowed pen and paper.”
Agnes: “I felt good about sitting my test at home and I’m happy to see that CIMA stepped up and introduced at home testing. It really shows understanding that these unprecedented times require higher flexibility in exam delivery to meet students’ needs.
Having said that, I didn’t like some of the new rules of at home testing. The one ‘deal breaker’ rule for me was the fact that, for at home testing, CIMA doesn’t allow any scratch paper which would be similar to the erasable notepad students get at PearsonVue centers.
[Agnes took the F2 Advanced Financial Reporting paper]
“Using the calculator, then opening the whiteboard feature, inputting your results, having to close it to then go back to the question display is too time consuming in my opinion. My classmates shared this opinion as well and I have reached out to CIMA through our student representative.
I was also worried about noise as I live with my family and a loud dog. The CIMA rules state that noise may terminate the exam and result in a non-refundable fee.
So I chose to sit my exam at 7AM for that reason to make sure I was uninterrupted. I think this is another reason why I prefer PearsonVue centers as I can get a guarantee that silence will be adhered to, whereas being at home is more risky if the proctoring system suddenly picks up on some random noise and terminates the exam “
ANON: “Sitting an exam at home has its pros and cons. The pros being you dont have to travel anywhere and take it from the comfort of your home. On the other hand I felt i was less in the zone for this exam, when you go to the Pearson Vue centres it makes it all a bit more real and helps me get really focused for the exam.
The real issue is that you cant make notes with paper which I think 99% of all students do. With E2 this wasn’t really an issue as there are not any calculations but when you come to the P & F exams this will prove a real issue.
They do provide a whiteboard software which you can make notes but I find this will be a real detriment to me so when I come to those exams I’ll have to change my whole exam practice technique and get out the old habits.”
Q – How did you feel after the exam?
Joanna: “I felt relieved that I’d got through the entire process without any issues. Results were available to view within a few minutes of finishing the exam so no anxious waiting around.”
Agnes: “I felt confident after the exam. I think I managed my time well and I didn’t feel like I struggled too much with any particular question.
Shortly after the exam I received an email with a provisional score report and 2 days after I got a confirmation of a pass. Certainly, my preparation strategy paid off as I scored 150/150.”
ANON: “I passed the exam so that was a real plus but it felt like any other exam to be honest, no real changes of feeling after.”
Q – What advice would you give CIMA students sitting exams at home?
Joanna: “Make sure you do all of the relevant system checks on Pearson Vue to minimise any technical issues on the day of exam.
My advice would be just go for it!
It is fantastic that CIMA have made it possible for us to continue our studies during the Covid-19 outbreak.”
Agnes: “Research online exam procedures and test the system prior to booking to make sure your equipment is compatible.
Also don’t hesitate to ask questions and contact PearsonVue or CIMA if you are afraid you don’t know how to run the system on the exam day.
Also, do your best to focus and make a clear study plan to stay on track despite Covid distractions.”
ANON: “I think the main thing for taking your exams at home is to make sure the room you’re in meets the requirements, you don’t want to be running from room to room trying to find a suitable location like I was!
As already mentioned, practicing not making hand written notes is a must.”
Q – How was your experience of studying CIMA while on “Lock-Down” due to coronavirus?
Joanna: “I really missed being able to go into the Kaplan Centre for my face to face classes but I’ve quickly adapted to studying via webex instead. I’m now studying my next module and will be booking another online exam in the next few weeks.”
Agnes: “I struggled more than usual because of the added stress. Sometimes it was hard to focus on studying with so many historical moments unfolding right in front of us. The increased health and economic uncertainty also made my outlook more pessimistic during that time but ultimately I decided to focus on the positives and think about the benefits of progressing on my CIMA journey.”
ANON: “Overall, I didn’t find the experience too bad due to me using the distance learning method, I’m sure the students who are used to classrooms this may have been very strange for them.”
*Note: Thanks to all of the other students who reached to me on twitter to share their experiences, and to be honest it sounded like a mixed bag of opinion with some students facing real difficulties with sitting the exam at home, while other students seemed to fare OK.
Thanks Joanna, Agnes and Anonymous for sharing the above!
Good Luck if you are taking your next CIMA exam from home.