CIMA Objective Tests: Pass them first time!

The CIMA objective tests are difficult to pass, there is no doubt about that.

The computer based, 90 minute, 60 question, multiple choice exam may sound easy (in theory) – everyone seems to roll their eyes when you tell them it’s a multiple choice exam but the reality is that can be brutal to pass given the time constraints and the dreaded “select all that apply” questions.

So having passed the F2, P2 and E2 objective tests in the last 18 months or so and having gathered advice from other students, here are my top tips and resources to help you pass your next CIMA objective test first time.

The CIMA Student 4-3-2-1 approach

As CIMA students, we all like an acronym or model to follow and I’ve devised a 4-3-2-1 approach when it comes to studying for a CIMA objective test. This approach came to mind when I was trying to summarise my own methods and by listening to other students who have been successful when it comes to passing CIMA objective tests.

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As you can see from the graphic above, there are four stages or layers of preparation and work that goes into CIMA objective tests.

The Foundations (4)

Before we even begin to think about the exam and what to expect on exam day we need to lay the foundations. The obvious starting point is our CIMA syllabus and study texts for the exam.

Often students may make the mistake and skip straight ahead to try their hand at mock exams, or after a few chapters of their study text will believe understand the content and will attempt the mock exam, fail miserably and become disheartened.

Concentrate on learning the syllabus and cementing your knowledge step by step by taking the practice questions at the end of the chapter. As well as confirming you understand the chapter, it will also prepare you for the mock exams later on.

Mock Exam Practice/Revise Weak Areas (3)

Once you’ve covered the syllabus, your should start preparing for the exam by taking mock exams. At first, I would suggest to take a mock exam at your own pace and not to exam conditions.

The benefits are three fold here.

  1. You will discover your weak areas of the syllabus
  2. You will be prepared for the style of questions you will face.
  3. You will build confidence ahead of the exam.

Once you have identified the weak areas of your knowledge, spend time revising the subjects in more detail.

Seek other resources like technical articles from the CIMA connect website, speak to other students or find tuition videos online that will help explain these problematic areas.

I would highly recommend using the technical articles from CIMA if you’re stuck on a specific topic.

Mock Exams in Exam Conditions (2)

Now we are reaching the peak of our preparation for the CIMA objective test.

Mock exams in exam conditions will really show where you are in terms of a pass or fail – it’s imperative you take at least 2 or 3 mock exams in these conditions and don’t worry if you fail one or two of them.

Better to fail them now rather than on exam day!!

Analyse where you went wrong, what questions you struggle and if you have adequate time management.

Below is a video from CIMA on how to manage your time in CIMA objective test with a useful strategy on making the most of your time.

EXAM READY (1)

Now you should be exam ready and just days away from facing your CIMA objective test – I would suggest just to do some light revision in the days before the exam.

Maybe looking at your revision notes or flash cards but nothing too heavy.

You should be confident given the amount of work and preparation you have put in, be relaxed but ready to push yourself when exam day arrives!

CIMA Objective Test Materials

Personally, I tend to rotate between a few different learning providers depending on the subject and my needs at the time. Here is a summary of the learning providers you can call upon when studying for your next CIMA Objective Test.

Astranti

Their study texts for the objective tests are easier to digest than the likes of BPP and Kaplan, which can be technical by nature. What’s more their tuition videos and exam practice kits are a great compliment to the study texts.

Astranti look to minimize your study time by simplifying each chapter with their tuition videos, there are also other nice features like being able to download the audio so you can listen to the materials on the go.

Below you can find details on the Operational, Management and Strategic objective test materials and courses from Astranti.

Astranti_OP

Astranti_MGMT

Astranti_STRAT

Kaplan

I really like using their exam practice kits for a couple of reasons.

  • I find the wording of the questions are very similar to the real thing.
  • You get a book with 200 questions and can also register the book online to view the questions/answers via the internet.

I also find you can never have enough exam questions to practice and it’s good to get a mixture of different resources and not rely solely on one.

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The exam practice kits are only 20 GBP per subject and are well worth the investment for 200 exam style questions.

You can find full details from the Kaplan website here.

Practice Tests Academy

The team at PTA have now released full courses for the CIMA Objective Tests and are not purely a CIMA question bank.

They have some of the top CIMA tutors around that provide some great video analysis for their full objective test courses.

I use them regularly for their CIMA mock exams but have yet to try their full courses.

Nevertheless, their question bank of 500 questions per paper are unrivalled and the interactive nature and the way the results are broken down so you can see exactly the learning outcomes you have failed is a great way to work on weaknesses and pinpoint the exact part of the syllabus you are weak on.

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Student Advice

Here is some great advice from fellow students and our good friends at CSSC Tuition!

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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.

 

CIMA Mock Exams: The Practice Tests Academy

It’s a common theme when reading feedback from examiners and CIMA – mock exam practice is the key to passing CIMA exams, in fact you can apply that to pretty much any exam you plan to sit!

Justyna from The Practice Tests Academy wrote an article for the website last month about the need for enough mock exam practice being the key to pass CIMA exams here.

So with this in mind, and the fact I plan to sit the tough P2 paper later this year, it’s a good opportunity to take a closer look at the mock exam questions and style offered by the practice tests academy.

Practice Tests Academy Style

I still have the bulk, well 90% of the syllabus still to cover for P2 at the moment, but nevertheless I wanted to see how the practice tests academy mock exam questions line up with the likes of Kaplan and Astranti (my usual two learning providers).

Firstly, the one thing that sticks out a mile is the sheer volume of questions available for the CIMA objective tests. They have 500 questions for P2!! With an even split across the four main syllabus. 500 seems a huge number of questions to go through, but I guess you can never have enough variety when revising.

How to pass CIMA examsYou can see from the above print screen that the 500 questions are spread across the four areas of the syllabus and are then even broken down even further.

Section A has 114 questions that are made up on A1 Activity Based Costing contains 38 questions, with A2 The Modern Business Environment has 32 questions and so on.

As well as studying each section, there is also the option to take a mock exam in timed conditions (unique and no unique questins) as well as a mini mock to get a feel for the mock exam questions.

P2 Mock Exam Questions Example

The feel of the mock exam questions is very much similar to what you face on exam day in the Pearson VUE centre.

You will notice they have the “flag for review” option in the bank of questions – a nice little touch! I had a start with section A questions and got my first incorrect answer at question number 2 – hmmm, not the greatest confident booster I could receive!

But the detailed explanation on the correct answer was very welcome.

It clearly explained each answer, why it was either the right on wrong answer!

CIMA Mock Exams

Mini Mock Exam

The mini mock exam is a great way to test yourself with questions covering the whole syllabus – the beginning of the mock exam shows you how many questions you will face the 45 minute timed, 30 question exam.

Cima P2 Mock Exam

Again, my feelings when taking the mini mock exam is that it reminds me very much of the real exam. You have all of the same functionality i.e the present value table, flag for review option, timer counting down etc.

CIMA Exam Tips

I’ve used the time to get myself familiar with how the Practice Tests Academy resources look like and what benefits there are to using them – rather than taking the questions seriously at this stage.

Once you have answered the questions and click on Finish you get a nice little summary of your results and the option to review each questions – see below.

 

CIMA Mock Exam Resources

I think that’s a great touch to see this kind of breakdown and gives you tools to go back and go over your answers, see where you went wrong and what areas you need to improve on.

At the moment, I am look way off taking mock exam questions for the P2 syllabus but I know when I do I have an exhaustive list of questions available when logging into my Practice Tests Academy account.

Pass Your CIMA Exams First Time

The Practice Tests Academy founder Justyna Wachulka-Chan explains, using her own experience on passing CIMA exams, how students can also pass their exams first time. 

pass your CIMA exam first time

I bet you have often wondered what does it take to pass a CIMA exam on your first attempt?  The bad news is that there is no one-fits-all solution, BUT there are some tips you can take in, incorporate in your studying routine in order to increase your chances of passing.

Sometimes we need a little help or guidance from others. I know that perfectly as I have failed and then passed CIMA exams last year.

That inspired me to create a guide for CIMA students explaining my point of view and what does it take to pass an exam. Hopefully you will find it beneficial. This guide can be downloaded for free from here.

The CIMA 2015 Syllabus

I always say that passing an exam, especially according to the 2015 syllabus, is not only about the knowledge, but also about the exam technique you have – I need to stress that here! Of course, your knowledge has to be impeccable, but you also have to train how to answer the questions under exam conditions.

In this way you learn how to quickly assess if actually you are able to answer that particular question and how long that is going to take you.

When you approach a question, you need to very quickly realize what is the topic that it covers and you HAVE TO be honest with yourself. If it’s something that you don’t know or you always had issues with, don’t spend a lot of time on this question. Just cross out the obvious wrong answers. If you are then left with two options, just go with your guts.

Pick an answer and flag this question for later review, so in case you have extra time at the end of the exam, you can always come back to it. But decide something quickly. Don’t spend more than half a minute on this question if you know that you are not really familiar with the topic.

Exam Practice is Key for CIMA exams

CIMA Mock Exams

What I’m trying to say here is that unless you practice enough before the final exam, you may waste your precious answering time on trying to depict how everything works.

Sometimes that extra 2-3 minutes is what you need in order to PASS.

I hear quite often that some students reached 97 points… That means that if only they managed to answer 1 more question, they would have passed. Maybe they didn’t have enough time (wrong time management) or simply they were too stressed after throughout the exam and especially after seeing that “5 minutes to the end” reminder. Do you see where I’m getting at? Why to create that situation if you can avoid it just by practicing some online questions beforehand.

Practicing is a key to your CIMA success.

Practicing will accelerate your learning and should help you cement your knowledge in preparation for your exam. So if you have a possibility to practice more and more questions that you have not done before, take this chance and do it. It will only help you. If you don’t know where you can find plenty of questions to try, Practice Tests Academy site offers 500 interactive questions per each CIMA paper.  These questions have been designed to copy the style and format of questions found in the real CIMA Objective Test exams.

The Real World and CIMA Objective Tests

CIMA is constantly claiming that their examination style is adjusted to the needs of the employers. And I really believe so. Just think about it….

In a corporate world you are overloaded with information, with data. But you need to act fast when your boss comes and ask you a question.

You need to know where to quickly check and give the answer. The times of providing an answer a day later by giving a lengthy report are gone. In most cases, you have a dashboard and you need to understand what those numbers mean. In the current format of CIMA exams you can see exactly that.  They check if you understand the concept, not how much you know about it (like it was before). And that is what employers are looking for.

So personally I think those tests are more adjusted to the fast-paced work environment and therefore better for you as they teach you to become more agile in your daily work.

A Rational Approach to CIMA Exams

My recommended approach, based on my own and other students’ experience, focuses on:

  • Setting practical exam deadlines. You need to set an upper-limit to your study-endeavor, which then introduces an element of direction and inspires achievement. Despite being on-demand, you need to be swift in your approach to your CIMA education. Taking too much time may result in a higher opportunity cost in the job market whilst taking too little will backfire.

 

  • Covering all aspects of the syllabus. You need to study the textbook, almost to the point of memorizing it. OTQs will test your knowledge across most (if not all) areas of the syllabus, your understanding of concepts, and your ability to apply to simple contexts.

 

  • Practicing plenty of mock exams. Plenty of it. Practice exams fine-tune your approach, including essential time-management skills. It also develops a sense of confidence which will at best inspire a lasting habit of preparing whilst at least provide you an edge over the nerves usually implied while taking an exam.

There is no room for complacency and you will need to work hard to be successful!

If you’d like to read more on this you can find the free ebook on how to pass CIMA exams from the Practice Tests Academy here. Meanwhile, their extensive set of mock exam style questions can be found on their website here.