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.

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The Week Ahead – 26th September 2016

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CIMA News

The CIMA Salary insight 2016 was released recently and gives you a good chance to gauge your current earnings against the average for a CIMA student/member in your respective industry. Perhaps it will act as a motivation to study harder or even give you the urge to speak to your boss about a pay rise!

You can find the interactive salary insight tool for 2016 here.

The CIMA Student Website

This week will be the focus on the MCS pre-seen materials for the November 2016 exam following the release of the OCS materials last week.

Hopefully CIMA are a bit quicker off the mark this week, as OCS students had to wait until Wednesday for the Marici Power pre-seen to go-live (although, in fairness to CIMA, they do say the pre-seen materials will be released the week commencing xxx – so not necessarily on the Monday)

Meanwhile, later on in the week I will be delving into a CIMA E2 syllabus area to share my thoughts.

Last week, saw a brilliant article from a CIMA student in Cameroon – if you haven’t already seen it then you can find it here – and if any other students would like to contribute in some way then please get in touch via twitter or email.

Happy Studying!

How I Passed CIMA F2 Exam

It was a case of third time lucky when taking the CIMA F2 exam this week – I finally got the PASS mark I desperately needed – the official scaled score from CIMA was 108 out of 150 and proficient in all areas of the F2 syllabus!

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Ah, what a relief!

How I Passed the F2 Exam

As you are probably aware, I am self studying the CIMA qualification without any classroom tuition and looking back at my first two sittings (especially the first one) I was under prepared despite feeling relatively confident on exam day.

I knew F2 would be a tough exam for me as I barely got a pass mark and scored just 50% on the F1 paper back in November 2014 when sitting it under the old syllabus (it was 50% needed to pass the exam!).

Despite covering all of the CIMA study text for F2 and taking a few mock exams I was missing some of the key theory behind F2 – in particular Financial Instruments, Group Accounts, and interpretation of Financial Ratio’s (so pretty much everything!). While I was confident after scoring quite well in the mock exams I wasn’t able to apply the theory to different scenario’s in the exam.

The second attempt I felt more prepared, spent more time studying the theory and using more exam questions (this time from Kaplan as well as Astranti). But I narrowly missed out with a score of 94.

For the third attempt, I really put the hours in and studied every day for two weeks leading up to the exam. Covering all 200 questions in the Kaplan exam kit and even purchased the Astranti F2 master class.

Fortunately it paid off in the end and there seems to be no shortcuts when trying to pass these CIMA objective tests!

Here are a few of my lessons learnt:

CIMA F2 Exam: Lessons Learnt

  • Study, Study, Study: to get the results and achieve the pass mark you really need to put the hours and study all areas of the syllabus with the right mix of theory and questions practice. You can never take enough practice questions or mock exams.
  • Push Yourself: tackle your weak areas when preparing for the exam, really focus on the parts of the syllabus you struggle with – otherwise you can expect to fail.
  • Speak to other students: speak to other students in the same boat as you, there are plenty of Facebook groups, whats-app groups and the CIMA connect site gives you the chance to contact other students. Do it and exchange ideas, tips and advice.
  • Never Give Up: after failing the F2 exam for the second time I was disheartened and was tempted to move on to a different paper – but someone actually commented on the site and suggested to re-take it as soon as possible as I was so close to the pass mark and the content will still be fresh in my mind. That was probably the best piece of advice I could have been given.

Keep going and if you put the hard hours of study in you will see the benefits when getting your results! 

My F2 Resources

Astranti F2 Master Class – ten hours worth of revision classes on the F2 syllabus including practice questions and exam tips.

Kaplan F2 Exam practice kit – 200 F2 exam style questions from Kaplan (you can access it online too).

I’ve also updated the My Progress page with the current status of my studies – one step closer to the end!

Student Success: Interview with a new CGMA member!

This is the first in a series of interviews with newly qualified CIMA members – hopefully it will act as an inspiration and a motivational tool for current and new CIMA students.

Andrea Murphy recently passed her final CIMA exam (the Strategic Case Study) and was kind enough to answer a few questions for the site. twitter.com/IEZfVmYo79

Q – Why did you choose to study CIMA over other accounting qualifications?

Andrea – I think CIMA is a good all-round qualification in comparison to ACCA. I started out doing ACCA then switched over after completing 3 exams. I think CIMA not only gives you a good financial understanding but also a good business understanding meaning skills can be used in a variety of roles. 

Q – When did you qualify as CGMA and what was your first reaction when passing?

Andrea – I qualified in April 2016 and I was in complete shock! After so long studying it was a sheer sense of relief. My result came through at 6am and I hadn’t slept at all the night before! It was such an emotional time due to the fact of knowing how hard I had worked and I had finally achieved success. 

Q – Did you learn with classroom tuition or home study?

Andrea – I learnt with a combination of home study and classroom. I funded the majority of the qualification myself therefore I mainly studied using the text books. I was lucky to have been funded by my company while I was on my last 3 exams so I studied for 2 OT strategic exams and my SCS exam in the classroom. 

Q – What were your biggest challenges when studying?

Andrea – As I self-studied for a large part of the qualification, my biggest challenge was discipline. I had to be really disciplined in order to get through the material. I had to make sacrifices in terms of my time in that I spent most weekends and evenings studying. 

Q – What materials did you use while studying for CIMA and why?

Andrea – Whilst self-studying I used mainly Kaplan. I found Kaplan really easy to follow and very thorough. Whilst in the classroom I used BPP because my employer had an agreement to use them as a provider. Whilst I did think BPP were helpful, in terms of material I prefer Kaplan. 

Q – What advice would you give for students are self studying CIMA?

Andrea – The main advice I can give is to advise you put the time and effort in! If you do this you are sure to succeed. Without putting the time and effort in, you will struggle. There is a lot of material to get through but it is do-able!

Q – You must have passed exams under the 2010 and 2015 syllabus, how does it compare?

Andrea – Yes I did. In my opinion, the 2010 syllabus was better for the Enterprise pillar as you were able to put your point across and explain it whereas under the 2015 syllabus it’s just a right or wrong answer. Also, the 2015 syllabus contains questions such as ‘select all that apply’ which I didn’t enjoy. It is good however that you get an instant result on your OT exams instead of having to anxiously wait for 6 weeks!

Q – Did you find the 2015 objective tests “harder” to pass than 2010?

Andrea – It is hard to compare with them being so different.

The pass mark is higher under the 2015 syllabus being 70% compared to 50% however the questions are multiple choice. You would expect a multiple choice question to be relatively easy but it isn’t! If I had to pick I would probably say the 2015 is harder due to the fact that you can’t explain your answer or obtain marks for your workings like you could under the 2010. 

Q – What advice would you give current CIMA students on how to get qualified?

Andrea – I would say putting the time in is key. I personally don’t think you can get qualified by not putting adequate time and effort in. You will need to make sacrifices but they will be worth it! 

Q – Did you use your experiences in the office to help your CIMA studies? If so, how?

Andrea – As with any job, you have to be punctual, disciplined and organised. These are all skills  needed to study, particularly self-studying. I had a study plan for each paper which I stuck to and I included in this dates and times for when to study. 

Q – How did you study for exams? Any special revision advice or techniques?

Andrea – I always had a study plan for each paper which I worked backwards from the exam date. I aimed to finish the syllabus with at least 2 weeks for revision and question practice. Question practice is definitely key for OT exams. I also created a brief summary for individual topics on A3 pages which I stuck up in our living room, much to my husbands delight!

Q – What are your plans now you are a CGMA member?

Andrea – My plan is to move up the ladder in terms of my career. I am currently a financial analyst which I thoroughly enjoy however I have done the role for 2 years and I feel it is time for a new challenge. I am keen to get more experience in a different role to broaden my knowledge. I am unsure where my career will take me but I am excited for the future!

Q – Any final words of wisdom for CIMA students?

Andrea – Keep going!! There were many times I felt like giving up but I got there in the end. I have shed many tears of frustration over the last few years but it was all worth it! It’s a small part of your life that is tough, but it’s not forever! There will come a day when you no longer have to give up every weekend and feel guilty for enjoying yourself 🙂

 

Objective Test Advice

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After a couple of weeks of taking a break from CIMA, I’ve decided to throw myself back into my F2 studies and focus of passing the exam I failed recently. Perhaps I should have got onto my revision straight away after failing while the knowledge was still fresh but I really wasn’t in the mindset to look at the books.

Nevertheless, when looking at the F2 area of the CIMA connect website – I hope you all use the CIMA connect site, if not you can find it here – and I came across a couple of really interesting discussions on how to approach the CIMA objective tests.

If you’re not familiar with CIMA Objective Tests under the 2015 CIMA syllabus then here is a brief summary of what to expect:

  • 90 minutes to complete
  • 60 questions (multiple choice, fill in the blank, calculation questions)
  • 70% is the pass rate (42 out of 60 – or scaled scored of 100 out of 150)
  • Must be proficient in each area of the syllabus

Student Advice

Below is an extract from CIMA connect site where a student is offering advice on how he passed these new style exams. It’s certainly given me food for thought.

When you first start the exam, run through all the questions, and I mean all, as fast as you can. If you have a question where you immediately know the answer, do so. If you know part or are unsure, answer and flag, skip long questions and calculations but note down what number they are on your pad.

This way you’ll have:-

a) answered all the easy questions, and banked the time

b) know how many longer questions there are

c) at least flagged up ones you are unsure about

d) know how many you have no idea how to answer (hopefully not many)

Once you’ve done this, you can take stock, you only need 42 to pass, if you’ve already answered that many, great, if not, you know how much work you have ahead of you for the next hour or so (F papers definitely take longer for the first cycle, I think I did both E2 and E3 in about 20-25 minutes, F papers took about 30 for that first run).

What you do next is up to you, you can start on the non calculations, try to answer the ones you weren’t quite sure about, or crack on with the calcs. Personally, unless I was sure of them, I’d leave them for later.

However, you should be able to do a few cycles of questions, adding more into pile A and removing Bs,Cs and Ds. Never leave early and keep at it.

Given the fact I failed my F2 exam recently, the above approach sounds a very interesting and pragmatic way to approach the exam. As I know I felt flustered in the opening 15 minutes of the exam when I was faced with tough questions and lost some confidence.

Although, I am wondering if the above approach could be counter-productive if you struggle to find the “easy” questions and you’re left with 50 questions still to answer?

Objective Test Experience – Help!

If you have any other advice on how to the pass the CIMA objective tests then please feel free to leave your comments below.

You can view the whole discussion from where I took the above advice from here.

CIMA Students Success Stories

Tackling a professional accounting qualification is not a walk in the park. Whether you’re studying for ACCA or CIMA you will need to devote enough time and effort to be a successful student.

And with the February case study exams beginning next week here are some words of wisdom and tips on how to pass CIMA exams from fellow students.

All of the comments, quotes and stories were posted on the official CIMA connect website and can be found here.

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Operational Level

OCS Student – Evelina

How did the case study exam compare to what you had expected? 
I did several trial exams before the real exam and practiced a lot, therefore the format of questions in the real exam was as expected. Before the exam I learnt how to deal with the time pressure, so I managed to accomplish all tasks on time. I was also well familiar with the pre-seen material about the company which was very helpful. However, I need to admit that answering questions in the online environment and in the meantime taking notes on the notepad was quite unusual.

What is your winning formula?
Have a clear study plan and study frequently in order to build up knowledge and skills. This has to be done focusing on CIMA exam format and suggested ways of answering exam questions.

Can you offer some advice to other students?
My main advice for the students would be to spend time on CIMA frequently while ahead of exams not trying to put all learning in the last week before the exam. It is essential to do revision of the materials covered and practice questions a lot

P1 Student – Kristiyan

How did the OT exam compare to what you had expected? 
It was exactly what I expected. I was well prepared, so the only thing that surprised me was the Pearson VUE scratch “paper”. I lost a lot of time trying to scratch it… New people should be aware of that and plan their time and font accordingly.

What is your winning formula?
Learn -> Practice -> Learn from the mistakes -> Practice -> Practice -> Practice -> Pass the exam

Can you offer some advice to other students?
If you practice a lot of mock exams at home, you will feel the same relaxed way on the examination. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.

Management Level

MCS Student – Jacek

How did you prepare for the exam and which resources did you find most helpful?

I was using CIMA Official Exam Practice Kit published by Kaplan and I was satisfied with this material. It is logically written, concise and contains many relevant examples thereby allowing effective learning. I also tried to read more widely around key subjects with the focus on the industry from the pre-seen material. I used different publicly available industry reports and well-known business publications such as Financial Times and Harvard Business Review. I also took two practice exams delivered by Pearson VUE which really helped me to identify my weaknesses and practice time management. It is also worth to mention that I was relentlessly thinking about practical application of business models as it was far easier to fully understand the theory.

What is your winning formula?
WINNING FORMULA = STUDY PLAN + IMPLEMENTATION OF THIS PLAN. Unfortunately, it seems that there are no shortcuts. I strongly believe that organising appropriate amount of time is the most important success factor.

Can you offer some advice to other students?
Prepare a reasonable and feasible study plan and stick to it. Try to think about practical application of business models as it would be far easier to fully understand and apply the theory.

Strategic Level

SCS Student – Rebecca

Did you use a tuition provider?

Yes, I studied with Kaplan Financial throughout all exams.

What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Getting the balance between working full time and studying, not so much of a juggle for the final case study exam as the majority of my studying was done in the classroom, but travelling to Leeds from Hull every Saturday after 5 days of working was quite draining.

I made a study planner right at the start of tuition which I hung in my kitchen so I could see if I was achieving what I’d set myself to do. My employer is also very understanding when it comes to studying and offer paid study leave nearer the exam. Lots of sleep was helpful too!

What is your winning formula?
I always try to start (and stick to) a study plan as early on as possible, I think it’s much easier to make the links between the 3 subjects (F, P and E) later on in the studying, when completing past exam questions, if the basic understanding is there. I recommend visual aids for revision, mind maps, images and silly acronyms really help to implant the knowledge in my head. The sillier the better as I’m more likely to remember them!