The Week Ahead – 22nd February

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It’s a nail biting week for the strategic students who are taking the case study exams this week – let’s hope its your final CIMA exam and you get a positive result! However, the operational and management level students can relax (for the time being). Although I would suggest you start thinking about what awaits you in the next level.

Here is what is coming up this week on the site.

CIMA Objective Tests

As mentioned above, I would suggest you start thinking about the next level of CIMA and work on the premise that you have passed the OCS or MCS. This way you can at least start planning when and what order you will study the next level.

For those self-studying, here are my thoughts on how to approach the CIMA objective tests and what learning providers offer value for money.

CIMA News

The CIMA velocity February magazine was released earlier this month and can be found here. It features articles on what to expect on objective test exam day, while there is also a guide on the P3 paper.

Meanwhile, the CIMA Financial Management (FM) magazine is well worth a read too – the FM website can be found here and you can also find links to download the FM app as well.

The CIMA Student Website

The P2 useful links and resources will be posted on Wednesday this week and this will complete the Management level of resources on the website.

Currently, I am studying for the F2 exam so I will be sharing my thoughts on Deferred Taxation as it’s a topic most people wince at but really the theory behind it isn’t as complicated as you’d expect.

As always, if you’d like to get in touch please feel free to email me on thecimastudent[at]gmail[dot]com.

 

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The Week Ahead – 1st February 2016

It’s the beginning of February and the case study exams will soon be upon us.

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Feb 2016 Case Study Exams

The OCS students are in their final week of preparation for the exam and should be making sure they have every angle covered (not just the theory). So this means, you should be brushing on Industry research as well covering ETHICS! And perhaps a final mock exam to give yourself more confidence.

Here is an article I produced in December on how I remember the key points on Ethics.

Meanwhile, the MCS and SCS students still have a week or two until they sit their examinations so there is still plenty of time to get stuck into the mock exams to prepare you for exam. Also, use the upcoming time to focus on Industry research so you can apply some real life scenarios in your upcoming exam.

The CIMA Student Website

This week I have an article that covers industry analysis for OCS, MCS and SCS for some last minute revision. I have picked out some helpful links for all three levels as well providing preview videos of the Astranti industry analysis.

Meanwhile, on Friday, I will be sharing some tips and views (taken from the CIMA connect site) from students who have already passed their respective case studies.

As always, I would love to hear from CIMA students out there who would like to share any exam tips and resources. You can leave comments below or email me on thecimastudent[at]gmail[dot]com.

Happy Studying!

 

The Week Ahead – 18th January 2016

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Last week was a much more productive week for me personally in regards to my F2 studies. I managed to catch up on some slack from week one as well the week two topics I planned to cover.

Here is what to expect for the week ahead on The CIMA Student.

CIMA News

There was an interesting press release from CIMA that suggested that performance at work is dictated by peoples biology rather than effort or rewards. If you’re interested you read it in full here.

On a more light hearted note, the “19 things you need to stop saying (because you sound like a corporate robot)” article on mashable.com should raise a few smiles.

The CIMA Student Website

The examiners report for the November 2015 OCS was released last week and I will be providing more details and opinion on how the exam was received. The examiners report is an excellent resource provided by CIMA that many students will overlook or gloss over.

Also be sure to keep your eyes peeled for an article later in the week that covers all of the best CIMA and CIMA related social media accounts to follow.

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

 

Integrating Work Experiences and CIMA

Finding different techniques to revise for exams can be difficult. Trying to recall pages and pages of notes and study text in the exam isn’t ideal.

So speaking as an older CIMA student (over 30) it makes sense to try to think about the practical experience you have gained and apply to your CIMA studies on exam day.

Trying to remember the various IFRS’s and IAS’s is nearly impossible; however, I’ve found it very helpful to think about the day job and the tasks I am performing when faced with a question or topic I am unsure of. Thinking about my practical experiences in the office sets off a trigger that allows me to answer the question or recall information I need.

I’ll give you a great example of this.

I was revising for a case study exam earlier this year and had four or five accounting standards that I thought could come up on exam day. In particular, was the one on exchange rate gain and loss.

IAS21 – The Effects of Changes in Foreign Exchange Rates

IAS21

You can see from extract above the official documentation on IAS21 (in fact ALL of the accounting standards) are very dry and formal. And it’s a time consuming process to go through it over and over again so you understand the purpose of the standard, put it into your words and apply it correctly.

Relate it to Work Experience

Instead, I relate the accounting standard to my actual work experience as a general ledger accountant.

Every month end we ran the foreign currency revaluation on the open AR/AP items and any exchange rate differences were posted to the income statement as a gain or loss.

For example: Receivables Ledger issued in $

Jan 2001 – AR Invoice             $1650         1.61        £1025

Feb 2001 – AR invoice            $1650         1.68       £982

The $ invoice was issued in January when the exchange rate was 1.61, however in February the exchange rate went up to 1.68. The $ is still open but it’s now only worth £982 when translated to the companies reporting currency, so the difference needs to be posted to the income statement in February period as a cost.

Debit – Unrealised gain/loss expense account  £43

Credit – Receivables  $43

This gave me a much better understanding of IAS 21 as I was responsible for posting this transaction in the monthly accounts.

It also enabled me to explain the standard in simple and practical terms. Vice versa, when reading the full accounting standard I had a clearer picture of it’s purpose and was able to understand the more complex or long winded elements of IAS 21.

So when I was ready to sit the case study I knew if a question came up on the effects of exchange rates and how to treat I immediately knew IAS 21, the theory behind and how to practically apply it.

Next time when you’re struggling to remember key models and accounting standards try and relate to your day job and you might find things become much clearer!

F1: Useful Links and Resources

F1

The operational level of the CIMA qualification covers the implementation of strategy as well as reporting on the implementation of the strategy. It’s focus is purely on the short term.

The main area of the F1 syllabus revolves around Financial Accounting and Reporting. However, you shouldn’t neglect business taxation as it represents a quarter of the F1 area.

Useful Links

Astranti Operational Level Membership – Free Study Text 2015 – Astranti offer some great free study texts for the whole of the operational level. The complete study text for F1 is available for free (but only the online version), you will need to pay if you want to print the text.

CIMA Connect  F1 Group  – here you will find the F1 homepage on the official CIMA site. It contains various documents and articles related to the syllabus as well as a discussion forum that can e very useful before exam time.

F1 Study Notes: Ethics – this article on Ethics is a great insight into a real life example and will help you when preparing for the F1 paper.

F1 Study Notes: Financial Reporting and Taxation – a brilliant article from CIMA on the 2015 syllabus and how it’s affected the F1 paper. A must read for all students sitting the F1 exam next.

F1 Study Resources Homepage– here you can find all of the study resources that the official CIMA website provides.

 

*note: you may need to login into your CIMA connect account for some of the above links.

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!)

FINAL WEEK

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