Tag Archives: CIMA Study Tips

CIMA: Getting Motivated

CIMA: Exam Tips

It’s been almost two months now since the February MCS results came out and I’ve yet to start studying for my next exam. I’m really struggling to get back on the horse, so to speak. You can probably tell as the content on the blog has as slipped in recent weeks.

I was so relived to pass the MCS and having invested so much energy and effort in the exam, I needed a few weeks break and this few weeks has seen the last two months slip by without as much as opening my P3 study materials.

Getting Motivated Again

I know the strategic level will be a tough nut to crack and perhaps subconsciously I am delaying my studies, but I’d planned to take the strategic case study in Feb 2019 – with the premise I’d pass P3, E3, F3 by then but that now looks a tall order.

Self Studying CIMA can be a lonely path and it’s easy to get side tracked and down tools completely while you consider your next move and how you’re going to study for the next exam.

I’m also struggling for motivation even though I am on the final level.

Two at a time

Back in March I pondered if taking two exams at a time (P3 and E3) would be manageable as this was as a strategy I used at the very beginning when sitting F1 and E1 together in the same week (managed to pass both first time).

Of course, the operational exams were “easier” but nevertheless studying for two exams at a time worked then and it might actually help to study two different topics at the same time i.e. the variation might compliment each other and keep things fresh when studying.

I also have a couple of weeks of holiday coming up in June but I’d still have 12 weeks of study for P3 and F3 followed by 3 weeks of revision and take the exams at the end of August, then, should I fail one exam I;d give myself the month of September to take any resits needed.

Then I’d have 11/12 weeks to pass F3 before the February 2019 pre-seen materials were released on 17 December 2018. Therefore, reaching my target of taking the SCS exam then.

But is this a risky strategy?

  • Taking P3 and E3 at the same time.
  • Will I have the motivation to study hard during the summer months July/August?
  • Is it dangerous to have such a strict targets – especially when self studying.
  • Is it realistic?

These are the questions I have going round in my head at the moment, anyhow I have the P3 and E3 materials so I plan to make a start on my studies this week and then I’ll make a decision and book my exams for end of August should I decide to sit both.

How do other CIMA self-study students prepare and plan for the exams? Any tips on how I can achieve this target of taking the SCS in February next year or should I just focus on one exam at a time?



13 CIMA Study Tips

Trying to squeeze out the most of your CIMA study and revision time could be the difference between a pass and a fail on exam day.

free CIMA resources and study tips

Here are 13 (lucky for some) study tips that you might not have considered.

1. Take Breaks

Sometimes taking a break from your CIMA study will give you energy and a fresh focus when you return to the books. Never under estimate the power of closing the books for a few hours/days when you’re feeling bogged down.

2. Teach Other People

Have you ever tried to explain deferred tax or learning curves to your friends or family? If you can, you should have no problem on exam day.

3. Find A Routine and Stick to it!

Do you work better in the mornings? If so, keep your study times to the mornings rather than struggling in the evening times.

4. Use Memory Maps and Post-It Notes

As exam time approaches I tend to plaster my walls with key theories, formulas and revision notes so I can study when staring aimlessly at the wall.

5. Eat a healthy diet

I don’t want to start preaching about super foods and quinoa but it’s obvious that eating healthy helps your body and mind, rather than eating takeaways in the lead up to exam trying eating healthy, you’ll be amazed how much more energy you will have.

6. Sleep

Not during the exam or study time, but make sure you get a good night’s sleep before the exam, staying up revising the rational planning model the night before the CIMA E2 exam might seem like a good idea but a solid 8 hours sleep is much better.

7. Study Groups

It can be difficult if you are a distance learner but by forming CIMA study groups you will get the chance to bounce around ideas off each other and it’s a great to learn.

8. Think positive

Ok, this step is no good if you haven’t put the hours in studying but you should approach the exam in a confident, positive mood to give yourself the best chance of coping the stresses of exam day.

9. Go for a run

I’m not trying to turn everyone in salad eating marathon runners but it’s proven that exercise helps strengthen the mind as well as the body. It will put you a positive mood ready to hit the books.

10. Mock Exams are your friend

Putting off mock exams is a great way to fail exams, you shouldn’t be afraid of testing yourself in exam conditions. Having pages of pristine notes might look nice but will mean nothing if you can’t pass the exam.

11. Don’t dwell on the past

When studying for CIMA exam resits, you need to use the failure as a learning experience and not to dwell on it. Look forward, ahead at what’s in front of you and how you will pass the exam.

12. No Distractions

It’s easier than ever these days to check facebook, twitter and instagram. CIMA study time should be focused without distractions to get most from it – study for 45-60 minutes periods at a time WITHOUT DISTRACTIONS. 

13. Have a “Exam” Strategy

Do you know how you will approach the exam? You should have a clear picture of what you’re about to face, how many questions, the time per question, what to do if you are not sure with a question (flag it and come back later, of course). Going into the exam without a strategy (crying is not a strategy by the way) will make it even tougher to pass first time.

If you have any other CIMA study tips that you use that haven’t been mentioned above please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

Good Luck and Happy Studying 🙂

Studying CIMA with OneNote

Studying CIMA, especially the further you progress, is becoming tougher and tougher in these modern times.

Juggling a full time job, family demands and trying to have a life yourself outside on the daily grind means it’s even harder to squeeze in time to study CIMA.

I should know, it feels like I have been studying P2 for a life time now, in fact I had it on hold for a few months due to other commitments at home, but I am trying to get back on the horse, so to speak.

Using OneNote with CIMA Studies

And one resource that is really helping me to study on the move is Microsoft Onenote.

It’s an online virtual notebook that I have installed on my laptop and mobile phone (it’s free by the way) and it’s allowed me to access, edit and read my CIMA P2 notes any where!

So on the commute to work I can open OneNote on my mobile and read through my P2 notes, before I get to sleep I can pick my phone, open the app and continue where I finished on the commute to work.

The program itself is really powerful too, it’s not a basic notepad. You can snip, screen print, insert excel files, draw notes, shapes, comments… Share the notebook, add pages with subpages, add checklists, photos.

When you make changes to the notebook (on any device) it automatically saves it, so it’s available when you next access it from anywhere.

CIMA and OneNote Examples

  • You can see the below example of my P2 notebook with brief notes on Direct Product Profitability DDP, and a couple of screen shots from my study text to show examples and developments in DPP.

2017-07-12 09_30_25-1. Activity-based approaches to costing - OneNote


  • This shows the shows inside the notebook, so I have chapter 1 with sub pages underneath that in the notebook hierarchy.

2017-07-12 09_30_47-1. Activity-based approaches to costing - OneNote


  • Here you can see all of the options within OneNote – you can directly insert spreadsheets, files, pictures and even video into your notebook.

2017-07-12 09_34_17-1. Activity-based approaches to costing - OneNote

Furthermore, it’s integrated with all Microsoft applications like word, excel, outlook which makes it even more versatile. If you are using Excel to illustrate transfer pricing you can immediately drop into your OneNote book (on the transfer pricing sub page you created of course 😉)

Quite simply, it’s brilliant and it’s free.

I can access my full set of notes anywhere and even squeeze in some revision while waiting at the dentist, although having my tooth pulled is just as painful as some of the P2 syllabus but nevertheless I always have a choice to study.

So now, no more excuses! And no more multiple note pads with print outs, folders and post it notes everywhere.

It’s all in OneNote.

Even their social media team has a sense of humour too.

2017-07-12 10_00_31-Microsoft OneNote on Twitter_ _@theCIMAstudent Aw, shucks. 💜_

So excuse me, I need to review my notes on Activity Based Costing while I wait for the bus to come.

The Week Ahead – 14th November 2016

free CIMA resources and study tips

The OCS students can now put their feet up and look forward to the Christmas period but this means it’s time for the MCS students to sit the Portafone case study this week.

Here is a quick look at the industry analysis surrounding Portafone for some last minute revision.


I found a brilliant CIMA related website last week that really helped me with my E2 study. If you haven’t already heard of it, then I would thoroughly recommend using the Kaplan Knowledge Bank website – it’s free to use and doesn’t require any login details.

It gives you detailed descriptions of key topic in the CIMA syllabus.

For example, I wanted to understand Porter’s Diamond in a bit more detail and it gave me a comprehensive breakdown of each element. The Kaplan Knowledge Bank is like a CIMA wikipedia and should go into your favourite sites list.

You can find the Kaplan Knowledge Bank website here.

The CIMA Student Website

This week I will be taking a look at Ansoff’s Matrix and what it means in terms of the E2 syllabus using an exam style question. I will also be writing a post on the CIMA materials I use when studying for the Objective Tests.

If you’d like to contribute or you have a burning issue you want to see on the blog then please feel free to get in touch via social media or leave your comments below.

Happy Studying and good luck to the MCS students this week!

The Week Ahead – 17th October 2016



Having been thinking about changing roles at work in the recent times I was keen to understand the role of Finance Business Partner a bit more. As it seems to be a fairly popular role these days and I also can see myself veering towards this kind of role in the future.

It seems to go hand in hand with CIMA studies too, as my initial understanding of the role is a bridge between the finance department and operations. Anyway, I came across this article on Understanding The Finance Business Partner role – very interesting reading.

The CIMA Student Website

This week I will be looking at the industry analysis for the upcoming case study exams – this will be for all three levels; OCS: Marici Power   MCS: Portafone and SCS: ADF.

While I will also be looking at more E2 subjects following the article last week on Porters Five Forces. If you have any specific request on topics you’d like to see then feel free to get in touch.

Happy Studying.

CIMA E2: Porters Five Forces

Porters Five Forces is a topic that came up in my recent CIMA E2 studies and it was a model I was not that familiar with. Maybe it came up in my E1 exam but that seems a long time ago now.

PESTEL analysis (Policital, Environmental, Social, Technology, Economical, Law) is used to understand the global business environment from an external point of view but to really get to grips with the position of a business we need to understand industry factors like;

  • Who are our competitors?
  • Do we have a diverse customer base?
  • Will our suppliers start charging more?
  • Are there lots of suppliers to choose from in our market?

This is where Porter’s Five Forces can be applied to analyse these industry factors and help the business make better business decisions.

Porters Five Forces: CIMA E2

This model has become one of the most important business strategy models ever developed so CIMA students need to know it inside out – especially with the E2 exam.

It’s used to understand how profitable an specific industry is, so companies who are considering entering the market will now whether or not it’s worth doing. Alternatively, it can be used for companies operating in a specific industry to understand if they need to adapt their business model to remain profitable or perhaps even consider leaving the market they are operating in.

If all of the factors are considered to be HIGH – then the market will be considered LESS profitable to enter OR the company will need to find additional ways to remain competitive in the current climate.

Here is a run through all five of the forces and what they mean.

Competitive Rivalry

This factor is considered high when they are lots of competitors out there currently on the market or there is little different between the products on offer – giving the customer more choice and more of a chance to shop around.

There also maybe exit barriers in the market meaning it’s not financially feasible for your competitors to leave the market. Likewise, you could be facing a competitors that has big financial backing and a strong reputation making it an unattractive proposition to enter the marker.

Threat of New Entrants

Is it easy for new businesses to enter the market?

i.e. There are no significant start up costs or highly technical skills required to produce the products or services. If this is the case, it’s likely that you will face a lot of competition in the market place and the prospect of new entrants entering the market on a frequent basis could affect your sales and profitability.

However, if you currently operate in a market that is difficult to enter then it’s wise to start thinking about how you can harness your current position and dominate the market without danger of new competition.

Buyer Power

Does the balance of power lie with the customer?

And can customers switch between the competition easily?

If so, then the market is considered less profitable and steps will need to be taken to address that if you already operate in the market – alternatively it is seen as negative point for businesses who want to enter the industry.

Supplier Power

Consideration has to be given to your supplier (or potential suppliers) also – if you are tied down to just one supplier for the raw materials or goods you require then you will be at the mercy of their pricing/delivery times.

The cost of changing suppliers might also be a complication and of additional cost of the business. If the supplier power is high then industry is seen to be less profitable.


If your product is easily replaces by an alternative then it’s a risky industry to enter or operate it. For example; your supplier may increase prices of materials which means your prices will also raise to remain profitable – but if the customer can easily replace your product with a substitute for a lower price than you are charging it will impact the profitability of the company.

If this factor is HIGH the market is seen to be LESS profitable.

This makes Porters Five Forces an invaluable tool for evaluating the industry you are operating or wish to operate in. If you find most of the forces are LOW then it’s a perfect market that operate in.

However, even when you’ve done the full analysis of the industry in relation to Porters Five Forces, and the majority are HIGH, it still maybe a profitable market to enter if you can negate all of the risks that have been identified.