Everything you need to know about the CIMA Case Studies
Today, as a continuation from the last week's article on gateway exams, I'm going to describe the case studies. I will concentrate mostly on Strategic Case Studies (SCC), but the whole concept of case studies applies to all levels. The only thing that changes is your positioning in the organisation and number of questions to answer.
What is a Strategic Case Study
The aim of the CIMA Strategic Case Study exam is to teach you how to APPLY your knowledge from the three objective test papers in the workplace.
CIMA tries to make all the exam as relevant to the working conditions as possible. All the OT exams tests your knowledge and understanding of the key concepts. You cannot really test how the students can apply the knowledge via OT questions. In OT exams you are tested on your quick thinking, quick analysis, linking facts, but only in the case studies you can truly show how you can apply all that you have learned on the specific level of your CIMA studies. It is a new method and from my working experience, very relevant to the business world.
I have recently watched a CIMA webinar on how to pass a SCS, so most of the information here is taken from there. Here is the link, but you need to be logged into the CIMA connect: https://connect.cimaglobal.com/resources/strategic-case-study-exam/student-webinar%3A-exam-success---strategic-case-study
Structure of the case study:
- 7 weeks before the exam you get the pre-seen material. It is mostly a description of a fictitious situation and gives you a perspective on what has to be done.
- Just like OT, case studies are also computer based. They take 3hours with a 15 minutes tutorial.
- Those exams are conducted 4 times a year (end of February, May, August and November) over a period of 5 days.
- There are 5 different variants of this exam (so in case there is another person taking the same exam, the chances of you both having the same questions is low).
- Exams are marked manually by CIMA, so it takes 4-5 weeks to know if you passed or not.
- You will get a mark out of 150, according to a scaled score. 80 is the passing mark (around 53%). But you need to demonstrate a minimum threshold score for each competency and integration (approximately 1/3 f the total marks available for each competency. For example you can get 20 marks for the technical skills and you need to get a minimum of 1/3 of that (so around 6-7).
- Number of questions - that really depends on the case study's level you are taking. You can have from 5 (OCS) to 3 (SCS). he time is allocated accordingly and the biggest difference between OT adn case studeisn is that each quetion has a dedicated time yu an spend on it. e.g. for the SCS, you have 60 minutes for each question, but tat doesn't mean that if you finish the first one in 50 minutes, you will get extra 10 minutes later on, no no. use the time till the maximum.
Just as a reminder, this is the competency framework:
Below I will input some screenshots from the presentation done by CIMA on case studies. It will show you which competencies you need to present at each exam and also what is your role in the organisation during the different levels of case studies:
Strategic Case Study
Management Case Study
Operational Case Study
The results will be provided 4-5 weeks after you have take your exam. Below you can see a screenshot showing how the SCS results are given to you in My CIMA.
CIMA hierarchy of verbs
Now I hope it gets a bit clearer with the concept of CIMA verbs hierarchy. You might have heard about it, but to be honest, I didn't really understand how that could be applied, especially to the strategic level OT exams. But here, it makes sense. Click the button to see how that looks.
- The biggest challenge is that of a knowledge gap. Especially if you have been granted with exemptions.
- Additionally marks are allocated based on the competency framework.
- Exam format may be also something new to you. You need to have a fairly reasonable writing and typing skills.
- Time management.
Pre-seen and the exam
Pre-seen material is provided to you via CIMA Connect 7 weeks prior to your exam.
The purpose of the pre-seen is to introduce the scenario and the context of the business you are "working in".
You must understand:
- the business,
- their position /role in the business,
- the industry context fo the business,
- some of the issues facing the business.
During the exam, new information will be given to you and you will have to respond to that. It will something like an email from your boss giving you some extra information and asking to respond to it / suggest a course of action etc.
Some tips for the pre-seen:
- Understand key affairs of the organisation and its industry.
- Understand its products and services.
- Identify key personnel, main suppliers, customers.
- Analyse financial information provided - for the company and for the competitors (usually given). Compare those 2.
- Use your knowledge to identify appliacable models to help you with this analysis.
How to prepare?
- Read the pre-seen at least few times, so you are aware what is included there and that you don't waste your time during the exam by reviewing it again.
- Make sure your technical knowledge is up-to-date (but don't spend too much time revising it. e.g. in SCS technical knowledge will give you max 25%).
- Have a look at past case studies (available to download on the CIMA Connect). As I like to say - Practice, Practice, Practice ;) Have a look at Pearson Vue guidelines. I have already reviewed that and made some screenshots. Just download the document here:
Exam day advice
- Use short paragraphs and lots of headings - it makes it easier for you (clear, structured answer) and for the examiner.
- Write in full and clear sentences.
- Good news is that grammar and spelling mistakes are not judged. However you need to be understandable, if the marker (examiner) cannot understand what you are trying to say, you don't gain any points...