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 MCS Feb 2018: Nortan

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

The February 2018 CIMA MCS case study exam is fast approaching and I can feel it as I am sitting the exam myself! If you are taking he exam next month and you haven’t read the pre-seen materials then you can find the official document released by CIMA here.

With this in mind, I thought I would share my thoughts on the pre-seen before sharing the preview videos on the Industry Analysis and Pre-Seen Analysis.

Nortan: What do we know?

Well, first of all there are two aspects consider.

  • Nortan is major global oil company with a strong history.
  • The Nortan FOSSC is a shared services function that was setup in 2002 at the Nortan head office – your role is Finance Manager at the FOSSC.

Why am I mentioning this?

Well, the bulk of the pre-seen materials talk about the FOSSC, the history, the management team, this issues and press articles about the FOSSC.

So it’s clear the case study itself revolves around the FOSSC – what are the strengths and weaknesses at the Nortan FOSSC? What is it’s mission statement?

However, we must also consider Nortan as an oil company and how their operations will impact the FOSSC? Will Nortan be making an acquisition – how will this impact the accounting that will be required at the FOSSC?

So don’t neglect the oil industry and remember to see the bigger the picture with Nortan – our immediate focus should be on the FOSSC and it’s mission but the day to day operations of Nortan and strategic decisions made will have an impact on the demands at the FOSSC.

Nortan: The FOSSC

Shared Services Centre’s are common place in this day and age with large multinational companies. It makes financial sense to centralise the accounting operations in one location as opposed to having local finance offices in every country.

  • The pre-seen tells us that the setup saves Nortan 35% on their accounting costs (see snippet from the interview).

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While it makes sense financially to setup a Shared Services Centre there are potential problems and risks that the Nortan FOSSC could face.

Staffing would appear to be a potential problem given the fact the FOSSC employs over 3000 people and a reliant on a motivated workforce to meet the strict deadlines.

  • How do Nortan keep their staff motivated?
  • Does the HR department have the resources to vet all of the incoming applications in order to filter the right candidates?

There is also mention of redundancies in one of the companies that Nortan have acquired. The below snippet was taken from a press article in the CIMA pre-seen materials. It appears that Nortan are acting responsibility as they state they will make every effort to assist the affected staff to find new posts.

However, the theme of redundancies and staff turnover (which is a particularly hot topic in Shared Service Centres) could well appear in one of the exam variants.

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Nortan: Industry Analysis

I find the Industry Analysis is very helpful in this case study as it gives you a clear insight into the oil industry itself. Which is something missing from the pre-seen materials where the focus is on the FOSSC and no real details on how the industry operates and how to relate it to Nortan.

You can find the full set of Astranti videos on the February 2018 MCS here.

Nortan: Pre-Seen Analysis

You can find the full set of Astranti videos on the February 2018 MCS here.

CIMA Case Study Tips: February 2018

CIMA Feb 2018 Case Study

The CIMA case studies represent a significant milestone in the professional qualification and require the appropriate planning, hard work and dedication.

With this in mind, and the fact I am sitting the MCS exam myself in February 2018, I’ve decide to release CIMA case study tips article earlier and add more depth to it.

CIMA Case Study Approach

Before we go into the various resources from CIMA and Astranti I believe it’s worth starting with the approach required with the case study. As it’s very different to the approach required to pass the CIMA objective tests.

Know Your Role

Remember you are playing the role of accountant/manager/director of an imaginary company created by CIMA. So you should answer your questions from that point of view. But don’t waffle on in your emails to the boss about how your weekend was! Keep it relevant and to the point but use the structure and format as if you were responding to your boss’s request to evaluate pricing decisions.

Business Acumen

CIMA are encouraging us as students to show our business acumen in the case study exam, so when showing your technical knowledge don’t keep it to factual and dry – you’ll need to apply to the pre-seen and new information – make observations and recommendations on how the business can use it to their advantage, like you would be expected to the real world.

Cover All Bases

Make sure you submit a balanced exam paper, cover all bases that CIMA are looking for. Remember, there are 4 areas that CIMA are looking for us to cover in the case study exam – as I mentioned you need to showcase your business, people and leadership skills alongside the technical skills we have already picked up from the objective tests.

  1. Technical Skills
  2. Business Skills
  3. People Skills
  4. Leadership Skills

Know the Pre-Seen

There is no excuse for not understanding the pre-seen materials inside out, there are 6 weeks or so between the pre-seen materials being released and the exam itself. Don’t remember it word by word (as of course the pre-seen is available on exam day itself), but we need to link all of the information to give a us a clear picture of the company, industry and the strengths and weaknesses we face,

Industry Knowledge

Knowing the industry your case study is operating will give you some valuable information on real life trends and news. Showing this on exam day is a great to score marks and give some context to your answers.

Technical Knowledge v Hands On Case Study Revision

Having watched the Astranti keys to passing the Case Study video earlier this week, I noted not to go overboard in studying the E2/P2/F2 syllabus I’ve already covered. I had initially planned to spend most of time in next week or two studying the technical content but I plan to scale that down a bit – and go back to syllabus content in conjunction with the pre-seen materials and mock exams.

Exam Technique

There are a few elements to this.

Firstly, you’ll need to plan your answer efficiently, identifying the question requirements and planning the content of your answer before fully committing to writing out the full answer.

Then you’ll need to make sure you don’t overrun with time, if there are 4 sections to the exam then you should spend 45 minutes on each section, no more.

Then break it down even further. Split the 45 minutes into sub sections, or allocation 10 mins for reading and planning, 25 minutes for completing full answer and 10 minutes for reviewing to ensure you have covered the points you planned.

CIMA Connect Resources

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If you don’t visit the official CIMA connect site when preparing for your exams then you are missing out on a host of resources.

All of the below mentioned resources are linked to the CIMA connect site where you will require your login. And they are specially for the MCS exam and it’s an exam I will be sitting in February (you can find similar resources for OCS and SCS on CIMA connect).

How to analyse the pre-seen material – article by David Harris

MCS Exam question walk-through – article by CIMA

Student webinar: facts and techniques on how to pass the CIMA MCS

CIMA MCS Feb 2018 What’s App group – a thread created on by a student on the CIMA connect site.

Astranti Case Study Course

In my opinion, the Astranti case study courses are unrivalled when it comes to the CIMA case studies as my first hand experience with the OCS exam a couple of years ago.

The full OCS, MCS and SCS courses cover everything you need to pass the February CIMA case study.

I have enrolled on the MCS course for February and will be posting blog updates during the course to share my feedback with other students.

CIMA SCS Course

  • Study Text 1: how to approach the case study
  • Study Text 2: syllabus content from the previous objective tests
  • Pre-Seen Analysis: video analysis of the pre-seen from astranti tutor
  • Strategic Analysis: strategy based on the case study scenario
  • Top 10 Issues: the most likely issues to be tested on exam day
  • Industry Analysis: the case
  • Masterclass 1: live session with CIMA tutor on how to pass the case study.
  • Masterclass 2: another live session focusing on CIMA syllabus revision.
  • 3 Mock Exams: based on the actual case study (with marking and feedback).
  • Personal Advice and Guidance – via private forums and progress reviews.
  • Ethics Pack – a favourite CIMA topic that should never be overlooked.

OCS Course – February 2018

MCS Course – February 2018

SCS Course – February 2018

Other CIMA Tuition Providers

I like to promote and mention other CIMA learning providers outside of the big guns of BPP and Kaplan and there are two or three that I have been spoken to and used their materials to some extent and would also recommend to check out;

VIVA Financial Tuition – they have sent me a few articles on previous case study exams that were published on the site. You can read an example of their financial analysis on SCS exam AutoAuto here.

Practice Tests Academy – I use them for their mock exams for the objective tests but they have also started to release resources for the CIMA case studies and definitely worth checking out.

Important Dates – February 2018 Case Studies

Below is the schedule of important dates to remember – don’t forget you still have plenty of time to get prepared before the pre-seen materials are released!

CIMA Case Studies