Tag Archives: CIMA Exam Tips

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

More and more companies are placing a big emphasis on CSR: Corporate Social Responsibility and it’s an important topic in the CIMA syllabus.

What is CSR?

CSR is a companies responsibility to the society in which it operates. It involves considering all of the stakeholders (we could use Mendelows Matrix here to value the importance of each stakeholder) in the decision making process and ensuring the local community or society doesn’t suffer from the operations of the company.

When studying for the Operational Case Study exam I came across a brilliant example of how companies are focusing on Corporate Social Responsibility.


The Dutch Flower Group cropped up (excuse the pun) when doing some industry research on the floriculture trade and I was immediately drawn to their CSR on their website.

It’s a very prominent menu on their website and once you read their thoughts on corporate social responsibility you can see why they value it so highly.


Corporate Social Responsibility is one of the pillars of our business, and we constantly take steps to optimise it in everything we do. For example, we invest in our employees (e.g. professional development), the supply chain (sharing knowledge with growers), our clients (category management), the world (initiatives such as Floriculture Sustainability Initiative and Fairtrade) and sustainability (sustainable logistics via for instance sea-container transport).

[taken from the Dutch Flower Group website]

Society Welfare and Sustainability

If a company helps society through their business as a main goal then it will lead to long term success. Especially companies like the Dutch Flower Group whose suppliers come from developing countries.

The benefits of an effective CSR policy will positively impact the society where the business is based as well as boosting the brand and, ultimately, the profitability of the company.

There are, of course, various ways of being a corporate social responsible business. And it’s not just about giving money to charity each month – it’s much more than that.

Ben & Jerry’s pledge of donating 7.5% of pre-tax profits to charity is a admirable scheme and no doubt makes a contribution to charities where it’s needed. But this shouldn’t be confused with Corporate Social Responsibility.

CSR is about HOW companies make a profit and ensure they operate in a sustainable manner that benefits society around them – it shouldn’t be the “repair centre of capitalism” so to speak.

While there are plenty of CSR success stories out there, there also remains a set of critics who say it’s like teenage sex – “everyone says they are doing when in fact no one really is”

Critics also point to the fact that the operations of a business should be about maximising returns to the shareholders and to introduce a successful CSR policy is very costly and will impact the bottom line.

Nevertheless, the benefits of CSR are clear for all to see and it’s important to understand them when faced with a question on scenario in the CIMA case studies.

Budgeting and Beyond!

Budget concept
While studying for the operational case study I was revising the budgeting section of the P1 syllabus and the idea of Beyond Budgeting really struck a chord with me.

Traditional budgeting methods, in my opinion, are becoming outdated and counter-productive. The idea that departments will needlessly spend in the final months of the year to ensure their budget is not cut the following is crazy.

Traditional Budgeting Methods

I’ve seen this first-hand when managers have been scrambling around in November/December to spend their capital expenditure budget so they got the same amount the following year. I was relatively new to the company and quizzed a colleague as to why there was so much spend in December and she told me “Well, they will lose their budget next year if they don’t spend all of this years”. Madness.

Beyond Budgeting: A new approach

So Beyond Budgeting looks to rectify these problems by abandoning traditional methods  – the two main drivers for this are;

1. A more adaptive set of management processes
2. A highly decentralised organisation

Beyond Budgeting empowers management by giving them the freedom to achieve their goals without the need of a rigid set of budgeted numbers. Instead, front line management are given goals that are in line with shareholder value and the bigger picture.

As one of the main criticisms of traditional budgeting methods is the fact it’s too short-term in it’s thinking.

These goals are measured using a set of KPI’s, industry benchmarks, customer satisfaction and revenue or market capitalisation.

Hope and Fraser identified 6 shared common principles that should be used by all companies who want to adopt a Beyond Budgeting technique:

– A governance framework based on clear priorities and boundaries.
– A high performance climate based on visible and relative success at all levels.
– Front line teams with a freedom to take decisions in line with the company’s governance principles and strategic goals.
– Teams given responsibility for value creating systems.
– Teams focuses on customer outcomes.
– Open and ethical information systems.

If applied correctly, the beyond budgeting process rewards the high performers within the company and not just the skilled budget negotiators.

Other key benefits include accountability and ownership by empowering the front line teams to make decisions. And, of course, there is less waste as managers are encouraged to work towards medium and long term strategic goals rather than traditional annual budgets that produce unnecessary spend.

CIMA produced a topic gateway document on Beyond Budgeting that can be found here and makes for interesting reading.

Beyond budgeting is:
‘An idea that companies need to move beyond budgeting because of the inherent flaws in budgeting especially when used to set contracts. It is argued that a range of techniques, such as rolling forecasts and market related targets, can take the place of traditional budgeting.’
CIMA Official Terminology, 2005


The Week Ahead – 4th January 2016


CIMA 2016 Study Plan

A new year brings new hope – but it also brings new challenges and none more so when planning your CIMA studies for the year ahead.
You may be in the middle of a new year detox but take this opportunity to plan your studies. I have gathered a few useful links below that will set you on your way.

You might also want to check out my F2 Advanced Financial Reporting 10 week study plan.

Strategic Level CIMAconnect Study Resources

Management Level CIMAconnect Study Resources 

Operational Level CIMAconnect Study Resources

Feb 2016 Case Studies

The pre-seen material for the SCS is released by CIMA this week, so strategic level students who are preparing for the February case study can get started on their exam preparation.

Meanwhile, the OCS and MCS students should have a made a start in their work for the February exams as their pre-seen was released a week or two ago.

You can find my advice on the OCS First Class Bakery here and the resources for the MCS will be posted later this week.

The CIMA Student website

This week there will be two articles going live on the site this week;

“What’s the difference between CIMA and ACCA?”, while I also look at the P1 subject of budgets and specifically “Beyond Budgeting”

Also, a new feature for 2016 will be the monthly interviews with CIMA students, staff and qualified accountants. So please get in touch if you want to share your experiences and advice.

And finally, don’t forget to pay your annual CIMA subscriptions if you haven’t already, otherwise you won’t be able to register for any exams!

Pearson VUE Test Centre


Sitting CIMA Examinations

Studying the CIMA qualification outside of the UK can be an expensive affair, especially when it comes to sitting the exams.

Not only do you have to consider the CIMA exam fee but also the additional fees for exam invigilators and renting the space at The British Council or somewhere similar .

Sitting the E1 and F1 exam last year cost me an additional £100 per exam for admin services (including courier) – which is payable before sitting the exams.

2015 CIMA Syllabus Changes

But the changes in the 2015 syllabus now means the objective exams are computer based and sat at Pearson VUE centres. Which, thankfully, are dotted all over the world so no-one should have trouble finding an examination centre.

The new 90 minute objective tests maybe time pressured but the fact they are computer based saves is a god send. Having to write out a script over 180 minutes was a pain in the backside and I much prefer the more modern computer based approach.

It also saves me personally £100 on every exam sitting as NO fees are payable to the Pearson VUE centre for the sitting the exam. Kerching!

Pearson VUE Centre

I sat my first exam at the Pearson VUE centre in November and I must admit I was very impressed the structure and professional approach by the centre I attended.

The security was very good and perhaps even too good as they didn’t allow me to continue chewing gum when I went into the exam.

Even booking the examination was pain free with Pearson VUE and CIMA. I had the choice of several different centres to choose from and managed to find one close to my office.

Initially, I was a bit sceptical about the whole process and assumed they would levy a massive charge for facilitating the exam but I stand corrected. I found the Pearson VUE centres are not only professional and practical – but you save money by not having to the pay a fee directly to them for hosting the exam.

CIMA E1 Exam and Study Tips

CIMA E1 Exam Tips

CIMA E1 Exam Tips

CIMA E1 Study Text

Find the right study text for your CIMA studies is crucial and personally I like to vary the tuition providers depending on what exam I am sitting.

For example, I like using the Kaplan texts for the numerical papers as the clear step-by-step approach in their study texts works well for me.

But for the more “wordy” CIMA papers like E1 Organisation Management I tend to use the Astranti study texts as they are written in an easy to grasp manner and they more condensed format, so I can cover the whole syllabus quicker!

Likewise, if I am struggling to under a specific CIMA topic using Kaplan then I will look at the same subject in the Astranti study text to see if another viewpoint on the topic makes it easier to understand and help me pass the CIMA exam first time.

FREE Astranti CIMA E1 study text

Kaplan CIMA E1 study text

Study Planner

CIMA have revamped their self study planners for all their objective tests and they are a brilliant tool in planning your bid to pass E1 first time!

CIMA E1 Study Planner

The study planner covers all of the learning objectives and allows to plan your own schedule with their interactive day by day planner. Not only that, but there are tons of help links to CIMA articles of most of the learning components.

You can find the official CIMA E1 study planner here.

CIMA E1 Revision Classes

A great way for CIMA students who self study to reinforce their knowledge is by attending or viewing recorded CIMA revision classes. It’s a much cheaper way to get the exposure of a CIMA qualified tutor without the astronomical costs of class room tuition.

Here is a 20 minute preview video of the revision classes that are spread over 2 days and contain around 10 hours of materials.

You can find the CIMA E1 revision classes here.

CIMA Mock Exams

There are plenty of mock exam questions from the old style CIMA exams available on the CIMA connect site for E1 organisation management – you can find them here.

They can be a useful way to revise the syllabus content but you’ll need to prepare yourself for the new 2015 exam format for the objective tests and this includes E1 Organisational Management.

The above video gives you an idea on how to approach the E1 CIMA exam and hopefully pass it first time! But you’ll also need some considerable mock exam practice.

Again, I use a combination of the online Astranti mock exams which is a great way to replicating what you’ll face on exam day. But to add more depth to my exam preparation I use the Kaplan exam kits with over 200 questions to make sure I have plenty of experience in answering different types of questions.

You can find the Kaplan exam kit here and the online E1 mock exams from Astranti here..

Industry Articles

To get a firm grip on the CIMA E1 syllabus content, you should also be reading the latest industry articles and real life scenarios and news related to E1.

The CIMA connect has plenty of technical and industry related articles for most of the learning components in the exam.

REMEMBER: you can find direct links to those in your E1 study planner (see resources section i.e. FM article on Public and private sector organisations).

CIMA E1 Exam Advice

CIMA Connect Group

Students starting out on their CIMA journey must not forget to use the brilliant resources on the CIMA connect site. There are plenty of free resources on the E1 organisational management paper; ranging from past exam questions to student discussion on exam tehcnique and study tips.

It’s also a great way to interact with other CIMA students who are studying the same paper as you. Particulary useful if you are self studying or are struggling with a specific topic.

You can find the official CIMA connect group for E1 here.

OCS: How I passed

The operational case study is a relatively new exam – so I was delighted to pass it first time!

The OCS seemed a bit of a grey area to me when working out how to study for it. Trying to catch up on the all of the P1 theory I missed (I was exempt due to 2015 transition) as well as hearing that only 34% of the students passed the OCS in the previous sitting (May 2015) set a few alarm bells ringing.

I was comfortable enough studying for the P1 and F1 papers using study texts and practice exam kits but, in my opinion, you really need some additional support when tackling the case study.

I purchased the OCS study text from Kaplan earlier in the year but thought it was too generic for me. I needed to put some more meat on the bones.

OCS: First Steps

It’s important to make a note of when the pre-seen material for the case study is released, as soon as that’s out you will need to focus 100% on that.

So the 3-4 weeks before it was released I spent my time going through all three papers E1, F1 and P1 (mainly) and revising the key models, theories and how to apply them.

Don’t get bogged down in working out costing models and drafting financial statements etc in your preparation for case study. YOU WON’T BE ASKED TO CARRY OUT ANY CALCULATIONS – you will need to know the theory behind and how to apply it to the scenario.

I found the OCS study text from Astranti was a brilliant starting point.

The first part focuses on how to plan your answers and what expect in the exam. While the second part is split into three parts (E1, F1, P1) and covers all of the key theory and models in a short, condensed, manageable format.

Make this study text your bible for the weeks leading up to when the pre-seen material is released.

Pre-Seen Materials

As soon as it’s released you should read the whole document without making any notes. Just a get a feel for it. Then I would suggest reading it again and highlight strengths and weaknesses of the company as they could well be tested.

Pay attention to EVERYTHING! 

Personally, I used the Astranti pre-seen video analysis package that provided a tutors insight into all of the pre-seen material as well as pin-pointing the top 10 issues that could come up in the exam.

I found it invaluable and it gave me a real focus for revision and exam preparation.

Try and link the key models in P1 and E1 to the pre-seen material. Then brush up on any accounting standards that you feel could be examined.

Mock Exam Practice

After I spent two weeks watching the pre-seen videos, relating it to the pre-seen material and refreshing my syllabus knowledge I moved onto the mock exam practice.

You can find exam practice questions on the official CIMA connect website and Astranti offer a free mini-mock as well. So you have all of this resources available for free and they should be made the most of.

So, for next three weeks I took the Astranti mock exams (one each weekend) and spent the time in between revising the areas I scored low marks on.

If your budget allows, I would thoroughly recommend to get your mock exams marked. You will get detailed feedback on your strengths and weaknesses and an honest appraisal (something I probably wouldn’t have given myself!)


I spent the final week in the run up to the exam going over my notes and making sure I understood how to relate ETHICS to the case study.

Try and squeeze it in where ever you can! ETHICS, ETHICS, ETHICS.

I also used this time to do some real industry research into the floriculture industry so I could link to my answers on exam day.

Good Luck for those sitting the OCS in February 2016. Here are some useful links below that will help you get a head start.

Useful Links and Resources

OCS Course Preseen Videos
OCS Mock exams
OCS study text
OCS masterclasses

CIMA Connect: OCS Pre-Seen Material

Outsourcing: A False Economy?

The E1 paper (and the Operational Case Study) could throw up a question on outsourcing. It’s a topic I am really quite familiar having worked in a couple of environments where the company were outsourcing services.

In some instances, it felt like the cost savings made by the company by outsourcing their finance function was actually a false economy. As the quality of the work delivered by the outsourcing provider would ultimately cost the company money as they wouldn’t have accurate and reliable good to make strategic decisions.

OUTSOURCING: An explanation

Outsourcing is the contracting out of services and aspects of the organization to specialist providers. There are two types of competencies that should be considered.

THRESHOLD COMPETENCIES – must be good processes but easy to imitate and they hold no source of competitive advantage.

CORE COMPETENCIES – something you are able to do that drives competitive advantage and it’s very difficult for your competitors to imitate.


  • Cost – the main reason for outsourcing comes down to cost. Large companies will benefit from economies of scale. Reduced capital expenditure and deduced headcount and labour charges
  • Quality – the supplier may have skills and expertise that adds additional value to the products.
  • Focus – company can focus on core areas of the business and increase their competitive advantage.
  • Buyer Power – the outsourcing market is so big, you exercise buyer power to negotiate better deals.



  • Loss of core competencies – losing core competencies will soon see sales drop and the brand will be damaged and overtaken by competitors.
  • Cost Issues – cost savings may not be realized in the long run.
  • Damage to morale – staff redundancies could affect morale of the existing employees.
  • Damage to brand and company reputation – if your customers are dealing directly with the outsourcing provider they could damage the brand of your company with poor service.
  • Risk of loss of confidential information.


Outsourcing, of course, can be very beneficial to a company and in fact improve the services and efficiency of the company. For example, outsourcing the AP function can save the company headcount and they can leverage on the expertise of the provider who should have better and more efficient processes to perform the accounts payable activities.

Moreover, the company can now focus their efforts on the activities that actually add value in maximising revenue.

Outsourcing is one of the very first topics in the E1 syllabus. It’s so common place in the modern business world a lot of CIMA students who are working in a finance function of large companies will have first hand experience of the reality of outsourcing.


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