The CIMA Case Study: Last Minute Advice

Studying for the CIMA Case Studies require a completely different approach from the objective tests. I also find there is also added weight of pressure and expectation that comes with a case study exam.

It’s a milestone.
It’s three hours long and you will have write somewhere between 3000-4500 words.
No select all that apply (thank god).
No flag for review.

You get the picture.

The Case Study Countdown

With the SCS exam in my sight, I feel like a boxer in a training camp for a big title fight. I have the experience of the previous two case study exams, not to mention the countless objective tests to date.

But this is the big one.

Potentially the final CIMA exam I will take.

The preparation also mirrors that of a boxer entering a training camp, once the opponent (Zoom) has been announced (pre-seen materials released) there is an intense six week training camp.

And much like a boxer, I am trying to peak at the right time with my preparation of pre-seen analysis, question practice and finally leading up to the fully marked 3 hour practice mock exams.

That would my advice to anyone CIMA student sitting a case study, the preparation is all about doing the right things at the right time, gradually build yourself up until you are confident enough to tackle a full mock exam in exam conditions.

As I have just entered the final two weeks before my exam on August 20th and I feel confident at this stage, well in terms of my preparation.

It all seems to be falling into place – at the moment I feel calm.
This can and probably will change as the final few days tick down.

Be Practical and PLAN!!

With this in mind, I thought I would share my TWO top tips on how to handle your case study exam.

Be Practical Rather than Technical

A case study answer that goes in depth on technical detail will score lower than a hands on practical answer.

And you should use this to your advantage, if you are struggling to refer back to the technical side of the syllabus then you should think practically.

DON’T PANIC!

When planning your answer, think;

How I do answer this in terms of the scenario?
Give practical advice on the situation.
Avoid general wishy washy statements.
Backup your thoughts with reasons how and why.

Plan your Answer

I spend around 20% of my time at the beginning of each section planning my answer. Firstly, identify the requirements and calculate how many marks I need to score.

A 60 minute question equates to 30-33 marks, so assuming your score 2 marks for every valid point made, you’ll need to make about 16 valid points in that 60 minute question.

A 60 minute question will usually have 4 sub questions inside the task, meaning I’d need to make approx. 4 valid points for each sub question.

If it has 3 sub questions I would make between 5-6 points on each.

Then I make headings for each point I want to make that directly fulfills the requirement. During that time I also add some brief notes under the heading of where I want to refer back to specifics in pre-seen, industry examples or technical content.

With the remaining 75-80% time left, then only I begin to type out my full answer.

Student Advice

Finally, here is some advice from I gathered from twitter on how to tackle your next CIMA case study exam;

 

CIMA: The Gateway Route

CIMA: The gateway route

Here is another article from CIMA student Nkunde C. Mbong – this time her path to becoming CIMA qualified by taking the Masters gateway route.

An accelerated path to success

Desiring to start CIMA and being given an opportunity to go via an accelerated route (considering all the benefits of the CIMA and CGMA designation) is actually good news for many people, and for me, it was great news! 

The accelerated route also known as the Masters gateway route is the route usually awarded to prospective CIMA students who either have a Masters degree in a related field such as Accounting and Finance or from another finance related certification such as CPA, CA or ACCA.

When granted (after studying your transcripts), you are actually required to take the Gateway exam which is also the Management case study exam (MCS) and if successful, move forward to the final CIMA level.

Being faster, it is often a chance many people jump to take.

However, following CIMA released pass rates of gateway students exam as compared to other management level students pass rates percentage as seen here , the remarkably lower pass rate tells you even if you are awarded the gateway route, you should maybe think quite carefully before accepting it because it comes with a number of challenges.

 Challenges with the CIMA Gateway Route

CIMA: Exam Tips

The most obvious challenge which poses problems to gateway students is the knowledge gap. Despite being qualified for the gateway route, there always exists some knowledge gaps because disregarding the normal expectation, no degree syllabus is exactly the same.

Hence, gateway students find themselves struggling (depending on the degree of the gap) to cover up this gap which is sometimes even wider than they actually realise.

Considering that CIMA examines various competences, the people and leadership competencies from the enterprise pillar such as E2 is usually lacking in most degree programs which usually focus on the technical competences, and also less on the business skill as CIMA focuses.

No doubt, I believe this knowledge gap has greatly contributed to the low pass rate for gateway students as they are often confounded when met with some questions, and also struggle to appropriately integrate all competences in their first exam. 

Also, sometimes, gateway students are students who may have completed their degree programs a while ago, but are now re-entering studying.

No doubt, it is sometimes hard to give the brain a wake-up call study-wise. Even being a regular student, you know what it means to stay without studying for a month or so and having to get back to your books.

Imagine much more so for most gateway students who stopped learning for maybe years. It starts off slow, adjusting yourself to a study program and trying to re-collect past academic principles.

Add that to the knowledge gap they realise and the unique requirements of the exam to pass and it just becomes a bigger challenge than they bargained for.

Mastering the Management Case Study

Furthermore, lets consider what is unique about the CIMA case studies – as they are unlike any normal exam. The real life scenario and having to respond to the questions as if it were actually happening in your office can be challenging for those who have never been in such an exam setting before.

If you start CIMA at a lower level, such as the certificate level or the operational level, you start becoming familiar with CIMA requirements, mode of questioning and you maybe get to write a case-study at least once, as you subconsciously prepare for it while going through your objective studies.

But then, imagine the gateway student who knows little or nothing about CIMA competencies, mode of questioning, modalities of a case study and is at once faced with such a major exam!!

In addition, knowing there is a pre-seen which is released about 6-7 weeks before the exam actually may misguide a gateway student to think the exam might actually be easier and he/she may succeed in gambling so as not to get across all 3 management level papers, but that is just a huge error which has probably led to many gateway route failures.

My advice to prospective CIMA Gateway students

I would therefore advice prospective gateway students to think carefully before plunging into the gateway route. I took more than 6 months to study for the gateway exam and was still astounded by the pressure for time. It can mess up your chronological thinking.

Personally, I would have felt more comfortable if I’d taken a previous CIMA exam before being faced with the case study.

So, being awarded the gateway route is not just about grabbing at the opportunity because failure can be discouraging, keeping aside the expense.

Gateway students should be prepared to go through all 3 management level papers to make sure they are familiar with all three pillars and the 4 competences and then get prepared for the case-study with all its own unique requirements before they get too comfortable.

Matter of fact, never get too comfortable.

You can follow Nkunde on twitter here.

CIMA Case Study: Industry Analysis

Students who want to pass their CIMA case study exam will need to develop their knowledge and understanding of the underlying industry. It’s been highlighted in many of the examiners report that students had a basic (if any) knowledge or current industry conditions and failed to apply them to the case study exam.

Personally, it also helps me understand the scenario better if I can relate it to real life situations rather than  a fictitious company CIMA has developed for the exam.

Here you can find a insight on the industry for each level of the upcoming CIMA case study exams in November 2016.

OCS: Marici Power

  • What is the industry history behind Solar Power?
  • What are the current industry trends?
  • Who are the biggest players in the market?
  • What are the biggest selling products for Solar Power companies?

Here are a few useful links and resources on the solar power industry.

10 Solar trends to watch out for in 2016

Solar markets around the world

The EnergyTrend website

You can find the full industry analysis video on Marici Power here.

MCS: Portafone

  • Who are the biggest players in the telecommunications market?
  • What are their best selling products and why?
  • What are the industry forecasts?
  • Can you give some real-life industry examples?

The industry analysis for the MCS exam: Portafone will, in effect, cover more than ONE industry. You will have to think of the hardware and software for mobile phones.

So mobile handsets as well as the network and telecommunications industry. If you’re still struggling to get to grips with it all, the Astranti video below will give some more focus.

Deloitte top five telecoms trends for 2016

The industry handbook: The telecommunications industry

Euro-monitor: Mobile phones industry

You can find the full industry analysis video on Portafone here.

SCS: ADF – Anderson Dairy Farms

  • What is the history of dairy farming?
  • How has it advanced with technology and mechnisation?
  • What are the latest market trends in dairy farming?
  • How have supermarkets impacted the industry?

The SCS case study exam focuses on the historic industry of dairy farming, so there is plenty of information out there. Here are a few links and resources you might find useful.

Challenges and trends in the dairy industry.

US dairy: industry trends and initiatives.

10 trends to impact dairy farming.

You can find the full industry analysis video on ADF here.

CIMA Case Studies: Know your role!

The CIMA case studies require a different approach to the objective tests. The idea of the case study exams is to place you in a realistic scenario and you will be effectively playing the role of financial accountant/finance manager/finance director – depending on what CIMA level you are on – OCS, MCS or SCS.

OCS Role: Accountant

Using the November 2016 Marici Power scenario, the exact role the OCS students will be facing is the role of assistant management accountant. This information is detailed on the very first page of the pre-seen materials.

Looking at the August OCS pre-seen materials, it appears there was not a dedicated page for the job description for your role in the exam – there was just a brief sentence mentioning you are one of two finance assistants and will be reporting to the finance director.

However, I imagine some students failed to grasp their role and answered the questions from a different point of view. As now (Nov 2016 pre-seen materials) it even gives you the specific tasks you would be expected to perform in this role:

  • Assist with the production of the annual budget.
  • Produce monthly management accounts.
  • Provide information to management as required.

OCS Types of Questions

With this in mind, the types of questions you will face in the OCS exam will be of an operational nature.

  1. Explain the appropriateness of zero-based budgeting.
  2. Explain the benefits of a flexed budget.
  3. Explain the implications of a modified audit report.

MCS Role: Finance Manager

The job description in the MCS Portafone case study exam goes into much more detail and clearly outlines the responsibility and tasks that the Financial Manager for Portafone would be expected to do. You can find the full pre-seen material for Nov MCS here.

There is a clear emphasis on the fact the Financial Manager needs to liaise and consider all functional areas of the business (HR, marketing, sales, operations etc.).

Here is a summary of what’s expected in this MCS finance manager role:

  • Responsible for the management accounting.
  • Liaising with treasury and financial functions.
  • Engage with the wider community.

MCS Types of Questions

The types of questions you are expected to answer will differ from the OCS level, you can see below the types of questions you will face:

  1. Discuss the management of the project and associated risks.
  2. Discuss financial reporting implications of acquiring subsidiary.
  3. Discuss suitability of WACC in calculating NPV and the relevance of NPV to decision making.

SCS Role: Senior Manager

The final level in the CIMA qualification revolves around strategic decision making and the role you will be facing in the SCS is that of the Senior Manager.

In this role you will be typically reporting to the board of directors and will be advising on special projects and strategic decisions. So there will be no need to answer questions on the preparation of budgets and so on.

The pre-seen materials for the last two SCS exams have been quite vague with the roles and responsibilities of the Senior Manager in the case study scenario.

SCS Types of Questions

As role of senior manager you will need to be tuned into the impact of the decisions made to all stakeholders. Below is an example of the types of questions you can expect.

  1. Evaluate strategic investment.
  2. Establish priorities for different business units.
  3. Evaluate implications of awarding building contract.

CIMA Case Study Exam Tips

CIMA publish post-exam kits for all of the case study sittings and it’s well worth reviewing the published documents.

You can find the pre-seen material, exam paper, suggested answers and examiners report – by reviewing all of these documents together you can get a clear view of the whole end-to-end case study exam process.

August 2016: OCS post-exam kit

August 2016: MCS post-exam kit

August 2016: SCS post-exam kit

You can also find the historic exam kits on the CIMA connect site. It’s a great way to learn from other students mistakes made in previous exam sittings as well getting familar with the approach needed on exam day.

CIMA August ’16 Case Study: REVISION CLASSES

I don’t usually have two articles on the same day but I noticed Astranti have their final revision classes coming up for the August case study exams and thought I would share the details for those who are not aware.

Are you worried about the CIMA case study exam coming up?

Is this your first case study exam and you’re looking for that final push to get exam ready? 

If so, these LIVE revision master classes will help calm your nerves and give some crucial tips on how to pass the exam.

Revision Class Content

As you can see, the whole day case study revision class covers a lot of information:

  • In depth walk through of the post exam guide to clarify exactly what the examiner is looking for.
  • Pre-learned paragraphs and how to use the syllabus theory appropriately.
  • Time-saving tips.
  • Key comments from exam markers – learn where other students have gone wrong.
  • Depth of answer – how to integrate theory, detail and dept to your answers.
  • Industry examples and analysis.
  • Review of the best scripts from other students.
  • The top 10 likely issues based on the pre-seen material.

Revision Class Dates

You can find full details below on the revision class content/prices for the operational, management and strategic levels.

OCS August Case Study: Saturday 6th August 2016

MCS August Case Study: Saturday 13th August 2016

SCS August Case Study: Saturday 20th August 2016

If you cannot make the day the class is you held you can still access the recorded version of the class – although there isn’t much time between the class and the exam itself!!

August Case Study Exam Dates

Just as a final clarification, the screenshot below shows all of the dates for the August case study exams taken from the CIMA website.

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Good Luck to ALL students taking the case study – please get in touch if you’d like to share your experiences and case study exam tips.

Finally, for those that are interested, I got in touch with Pearson VUE and asked if it’s possible to use pen and paper in the exam to make notes and not the whiteboard and pens that are currently provided.

Personally I find it off putting to use the whiteboard and pen and would much rather use pen and paper – I found I needed a lot of space when making notes and calculations when taking the F2 objective test! I’ll update on this site if I get any feedback from Pearson VUE.

The Week Ahead – 4th July 2016

weekahead2

As you may have read last week, I failed my F2 resit on Friday and I’ve now got my scaled score which was 94 out of 150 – so I was just six away from a pass – which is probably a question or two on the wrong side of  pass mark. So agonising.

I am half a mind whether to re-take the F2 next or move on to a different subject as quite honestly, the prospect of sitting another Advanced Financial Reporting paper and the weeks of revision beforehand is at the back mind. However, I saw some interesting comments last week that I should re-take it as soon as I can while it’s still fresh.

Anyway, I have a couple of weeks holiday planned so I will make a decision after that.

CIMA News

The CIMA August case studies are edging closer at the final set of pre-seen materials for the SCS is released today (I believe?). I will get the preview videos posted on the site tomorrow/Wednesday, meanwhile students are taking the OCS and MCS can find some helpful resources below.

OCS August 2016: Wise Choice Hotels

MCS August 2016: SparkSpace

The CIMA Student Website

If you’ve passed a CIMA exam recently and would like to share some advice or tips then please get in touch via mail or twitter – or leave a comment below. The idea of this site to share resources, tips and advice that will help other students.

As mentioned, this week the final set of August case study resources will go live while I will also be looking at CIMA qualified jobs – a reminder why we are all sitting these exams!

The Week Ahead – 27th June 2016

weekahead2

It’s generally a quiet time for students who are more concerned with thinking about where to go on summer holiday but there was MASSIVE news in the UK where the vote to leave to the EU went the way of the LEAVE campaign.

This will, of course, have big implications on the global financial markets as well as the economy. It’s worth keeping a close eye on developments and I’m sure you can relate a few CIMA topics to it! Here is an interesting article from The Economist on Britain and the EU: A tragic split.

CIMA News

Elsewhere, the case study August season will begin to rev it’s engine this week when the CIMA MCS pre-seen material is released. I posted some links last week on the OCS scenarios – Wise Choice Hotels. The usual video previews are available on the site.

For a full schedule of the exam sittings, pre-seen material release date and exam entry deadlines, please see the table below.

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The CIMA Student Website

This week I will be posting up the materials for the MCS August case study exam, meanwhile I am sitting my F2 resit this Friday so I will be posting up my reaction and how I fared on Friday afternoon.

I’m hoping it’s a case of second time lucky and I am feeling well prepared, although slightly nervous about the time pressure in the exam. However, I plan to take this advice here from a successful objective test student. It’s well worth a read if you are also worried about how to approach the new style objective tests under the 2015 syllabus.

Good Luck and Happy Studying!