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

2018-01-13 10_33_00-February_2018_management_pre-seen_V2.pdf

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!

 

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CIMA OCS Feb 2018: King Crystal

2018-01-02 10_02_21-Feb18_OCS_preseenmaterial_0.pdf

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.

CIMA MCS 2018 Exam Planning

I’ve been studying the P2 exam for what seems like an eternity now, but with the exam scheduled in around 4 weeks I have started to think past the P2 exam (probably a big mistake), and look at the 2018 CIMA Exam timetable for the case studies.

And I’ve noticed a massive benefit by sitting the MCS exam in February 2018 compared to the other sittings, you get a massive 60 days gap between the pre-seen materials being released and the first exam day of the February MCS.

I’ve looked at the gap between the pre-seen materials and exam dates for the May and August MCS and you only get 50 days and 46 days respectively.

CIMA 2018 MCS

The one caveat being that that of course the Christmas and new year period has to be taken into consideration – am I really going to study for the MCS during the Christmas break?

Usually not, no.

But knowing I have the possibility of extra time to digest the pre-seen materials (and turkey dinner) it would be foolish not to use this time to my advantage if I am in a position to take the February 2018 MCS exam.

I think at this level any marginal gain or advantage you can make for yourself could be the difference between a pass and a fail. 

So if you are close to a case study exam, I would strongly recommend to get yourself in a position to do so before the pre-seen materials released in mid-December. Rather than waiting for the May or August case study sittings.

And conversely, sitting a case study exam in August could be tougher given MCS students would have only 46 days between pre-seen materials and exam day and the fact it will be over the summer time when I’d rather be on holiday enjoying the sunshine rather than sweating of an exam.

Now, I need to get back to the P2 studies to make sure I get that pass mark before the 15th December!!!

Good Luck to those sitting any exam before the end of 2017 – make it count!

5 Tips for CIMA Case Study Exams

It’s been a while since my last post but, as most of you reading this will know, quarter closing at work has been a manic time and allowed very little time for me to post any new blogs.

In fact, the pre-seen materials for the MCS and SCS exams have been released but I have still yet to post any preview videos. But don’t worry they will be up in the following few days!

But here is a great article full of pearls of wisdow from Justyna at the Practice Tests Academy on how to pass the CIMA Case Study exams.

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CIMA Case Study Pass Rates

Pass rates for CIMA Case Study exams are not impressively high – do you know why? The case study exams are completely different from the objective test exams and there’s a specific approach you can take in order to plan, organise, manage and finally succeed. There are certain things in case study exams that make a huge difference to what it takes to pass or fail.

I’d like to share with you my thoughts on what are the things you should do if you want to significantly increase your success chances in any Case Study exam.

Why should you listen to me?

Well, for the last few sittings Practice Tests Academy has been helping CIMA Students tackle the MCS exam, so I got a lot of insights from the students on what they are struggling with.

And I can really relate to that as not so long ago I actually passed my own SCS. Also, since I’m working with many tutors within Practice Tests Academy, I got their insights on where do students fall short and the tips how to fix that. Plus I like to “crack” this, to figure the problem out and find an appropriate solution. That’s just the type of person I am. I guess my auditor background comes in handy here.

Tip # 1: Understand what you are dealing with

Do you know why the Case Studies were introduced? They are supposed to imitate the real life conditions. At a certain time in our career, we all work for someone. We are studying CIMA, we want to become a certified and recognised Management Accountant. We need to have knowledge, but we also need to have the business skills. We need to address requests coming from our superiors and tackle them in the most professional way possible. That is exactly what is expected from you on the Case Study Exam.

Treat the examiner as if he/she was your boss. You now the context of the company (as you are working for it – on different levels depending on the CS level you’re attempting), they give you additional tasks and simply put – you need to satisfy them just like you need to satisfy your boss. At work, if you do well your job, you’ll be recognised and maybe you’ll get a promotions. If you answer examiner’s requests, you’ll pass your Case Study exam.

Have a look at the past papers – the tasks and the model answers. You will quickly find out what the examiners want. How they ask questions and what kind of answers they actually expect.

Tip # 2: Understand what a passing script is.

There are many sources of information you can get in order to understand what each particular Case Study is about. Each one is a bit different as you are a representative of a different level in an organisation. And I’m a very pragmatic person so I don’t like to waste hours on understanding what’s I’m supposed to deal with. Life is complicated as is so why not to look for some shortcuts?

For me, the most meaningful shortcut is to sign up with a quality tuition provider and participate in the masterclasses. Of course, we all have our financial constraints, but I do believe this is money well spent. Let me explain.

Look at the past examiners reports. What are they constantly complaining about? That the students do not answer the questions asked. Within PTA, we have just started a cooperation with a brilliant tutor with over 25 years of experience. Paul Russell is now leading Case Studies’ part. Paul has a very successful track of pass rates, so I wanted to organise something online to allow other students around the world to pick his brains, use his experience and knowledge. So we are organising 2 online Masterclasses. The purpose of the Masterclass 1 will be to kickstart students in your journey towards MCS / SCS success. Masterclass 1 should give you a very good feel, very quickly about:

  • what is the case study about,
  • how to use the pre-seen material,
  • how to approach mock exams,
  • how a passing script looks like.

 

Tip # 3: Analyse the Pre-Seen

The Pre-Seen, obviously, needs to be looked at, but it needs to be looked at in the right way. The better you understand the pre-seen, the better you are able to analyse the specific issues that will come up in the exam. So, an in-depth analysis is absolutely crucial to you. And in my opinion, it is just simpler and much faster (we’ve all heard that expression – time is money) to get that analysis done for you. First of all, it is overwhelming to do it yourself. Personally, I tend to postpone things I do not feel comfortable with and that was the same with the Case Studies – I think I started to analyse the Pre-Seen 3 weeks after it was released. For 3 weeks I was just thinking that I should start analysing, but there were always some other high priorities to fulfil… At the end, I paid for the analysis… So, learn from my mistake, don’t postpone it. You can get the Pre-Seen Analysis together with other crucial materials from our site here.

Tip # 4: Industry analysis and real-life examples

You also need to broadly know the industry that you’re operating within because again good business acumen is about providing advice, guidance or analysis that links in with that particular industry. It’s important that you understand some of the things that are currently happening in the industry. Remember, examiners also read the same financial newspapers and there is a big likelihood that they will be inspired by the situation or trend happening on the market. The pre-seen itself gives you a good background on the industry. However a little bit broader research will give you that extra knowledge and that broader awareness that could make a difference between FAIL and PASS.

Industry examples should be used in the real exam as often as possible. A good rule of thumb is to try to include a relevant industry example within each section of your script. And relevant means (let’s take the current MCS as an example) – if the task is about expansion, why not to use Ikea as an example?

Tip # 5: Mocks, mocks, mocks

That whole area is at the core of your success. But in my experience and what I hear from students, we tend to shy away from completing them as simply put, it is hard. Mocks should be performed under exam conditions, which means you need to find 3 hours in a busy day to complete them. You will not perform on the exam day if you haven’t practised under pressurised conditions. If you want to use an exam simulator, you can head to our website and sign up for a free MCS or SCS demo (we give you a possibility to practice a past paper under exam conditions for free).

Here is the link:

https://www.practicetestsacademy.com/cs-free-resources

Hope you found my 5 tips that will make you pass your CS exam valuable.

Practice Tests Academy is offering a lot of free resources >>here<< and also free advice on our blog, website, FB page, Twitter, or YouTube channel.

We’ve just started creating a series of short videos (interviews) aiming at helping students pass their CIMA CS exams.

CIMA OCS May 2017: Exam Results

The students who sat the CIMA OCS Exam in May 2017 will be frantically refreshing their email accounts this morning in anticipation of their exam results!

I don’t usually focus the blog on exam results day but I’ve realised the OCS exam is an important milestone for a lot of students and as recent results suggest, it’s actually one of the toughest in terms of students passing first time.

In my recent article on CIMA Case Study Tips: August 2017, I highlighted the fact that OCS students really struggled with the Feb 2017 sitting of the exam – you can see that only 45% of students passed the Feb exam which is quite a drop from the 64-67% in previous exams.

CIMA Exam Results

So with his in mind it seemed a good idea to focus on the OCS exam results that were released today and what students should be following their results.

CIMA Case Study Exam Results Explained

Once you’ve got your results email, whether you’ve passed or failed you will want to know a bit more on what the results mean! How have they arrived at your mark?

The following video from CIMA will explain:

I’VE PASSED: What’s next for me?

CIMA Case Study Exam Results

If you’ve passed the CIMA OCS exam then CONGRATULATIONS! Take time to celebrate and enjoy the result but not too long as you should already be thinking about your next steps on the Management level.

Below are a series of articles I’ve previously written that you may find useful.

CIMA Study Prime: P2 Course

Passing the CIMA E2 Exam!

How I Passed CIMA F2 Exam

CIMA Objective Test Courses

I’VE FAILED: What’s my next steps?

MCS and SCS Exam Results

Well, first of all, don’t be too downbeat.

As we have seen with the previous OCS sitting in February 2017 a lot of students found it tough going.

Secondly, you should get yourself ready to re-take the OCS exam for the August sitting, it’s no coincidence that CIMA release the pre-seen materials for the next exam sitting one day after the exam results are released!

So you have one day to shout and swear about your exam results but the OCS pre-seen material for August is released tomorrow! (Friday 23rd June 2017)

So you need to get your mind back in gear for another attempt at the OCS exam.

If you are struggling for motivation, you can read how I passed the OCS exam in 2015 here. Meanwhile, below are a series of links that will help kick start your preparation for your re-sit.

CIMA OCS August 2017 Astranti Course – with pass guarantee

CIMA Case Study Tips: August 2017

CIMA connect site

CIMA Exam Practice Kits

Exam practice kits vary from learning provider to learning provider. Personally, I am a big fan of the Kaplan exam practice kits (the actual text book itself) – there is something to be said for a holding a physical book in your hand while studying!

Nevertheless, there a range of other materials out there that will help you on your way to passing your next CIMA exam.

With this in mind, I noticed that Astranti have overhauled their Chapter Revision Questions with a new style CIMA Exam Practice Kit – it’s been a long time coming as I found their chapter questions very limited and quite clunky to use – so this update to their materials is very welcome!

Astranti CIMA Exam Practice Kits

Here is what you can expect per chapter of the Astranti study text.

  • Learning Questions – 20 short questions that will test your knowledge on the chapter.
  • Exam Questions – 10 longer format questions that are complex scenario based to cement the knowledge you have learnt.

So, in total, each exam practice kit contains around 400-600 questions and they are designed as close as possible as replicating what you will face on exam day. Furthermore, the feedback on each question is much more comprehensive than the old style chapter revision quesitons.

CIMA E2 Exam Kit Example

Below is a screenshot of the one of the Learning Style questions:

CIMA Exam Questions

You can see the question is a short, straight forward multiple choice question you would expect on exam day. The feedback is also much more detailed than previously as it goes through the incorrect answers and explains why – a much more useful way of improving your knowledge and exam technique.

And here is an example of a Exam Question you get in the Astranti exam practice kit:

CIMA Exam Tips

The possible answers in these type of questions require more thought and time in the exam itself and tend to be the dreaded “Select ALL that apply” questions. You well usually need to read the question and answers a few times to ensure you have understood what’s required and the scenario around the question is based, rather than the quick wins in the Learning Style questions.

So far Astranti have released their Exam Practice kits for the E1, F1, E2 and E3 CIMA exams with the rest of the exam kits on their way.

You can find out more about the respective levels here.

CIMA Operational Level – exam practice kits.

CIMA Management Level – exam practice kits.

CIMA Strategic Level – exam practice kits. 

Practice Tests Academy

The Practice Tests Academy were the first learning provider I came across that provided an absolutely massive bank of CIMA exam questions for each and every level of the CIMA qualification.

I purchased the P2 exam question bank (that reminds me I need to get back on track with my studies!!) and you can see below the structure of the practice tests academy.

They are split neatly between syllabus section A/B/C/D with a total of around 500 questions in total. Meanwhile, you can take a mini mock exam from the question bank as well as a Mock exam with unique questions or a full Mock 60 questions to exam conditions.

You can find more information about their CIMA mock exams here.

How to pass CIMA exams

Kaplan Exam Practice Kits

A throwback to my first papers I sat with CIMA (E1 and F1 back in late 2014) are the hard copies of the Kaplan Exam Practice Kits I used (and still use to an extent).

I found the Kaplan exam kits a rock solid source of information. The questions, I felt, came very close to the types of questions in terms of the wording, difficulty and layout I faced on exam day.

CIMA Kaplan Exam Kits

The Kaplan exam practice kits include;

  • Kaplans recommended revision approach
  • Exam technique
  • Paper specific information
  • Practice questions with answers (around 200), covering the whole syllabus

However, what I also find is a nice feature is the fact you can register the hard copy of the text book online and access the whole book online. Which can be a great way to sneak in a few hours of revision in the office or on the go.