CIMA Case Study Marking Guide

By  •  Updated: 10/22/22 •  10 min read

CIMA case study exam format | Why CIMA case study exams are different? How does it work?

First and foremost, what is a CIMA case study exam? A CIMA case study exam is an examination held by CIMA at the end of each of its levels (operational, management or strategic levels). The completion of each examination determines if the student either qualifies to progress onto the next level (in the operational and management case studies) or has completed the professional qualification (strategic case study).

Case study exams are based on a preseen which depicts a hypothetical company and includes all key information you are required to know in order to attempt the case study successfully for each particular level. Generally, you will have the preseen well in advance of the examination and you are required to thoroughly familarise yourself with the preseen, its hypothetical company and even its industry in order to be able to answer questions on the exam day.

Hence, it is clear that the case study exams are not like any ordinary, revise-the–syllabus-and-attempt type of exam, but is actually based on a highly simulated setting, and success depends on how well the student can relate to the company, can handle matters at hand pertaining to the simulated role and can present a good answer for the practical scenarios presented on the exam day. Furthermore, a good student is able to live within the company and role, without reference to the fact it is an examination. The feel on the exam day should be that of an employee and not of a typical student, when attempting exam sub tasks presented in the form of emails, dialogues, etc. and answers are expected to follow a range of business communications (emails, memos, briefing notes etc.) as specified by the examiner.

CIMA case study mark scheme | How are marks allocated?

Again, even with regards to marking, the CIMA case study exam differs from generic exams. For one, marking is tricky; for students to be awarded marks they need to present a very practical answer pinned to their knowledge of the enterprise, financial and performance pillars whilst understanding the industry and company in which they operate in.

What adds to the difficulty of earning marks is its mode of testing, which is computer based. Students need to attempt several tasks within a short span of time and additionally they need to type in their answers and after the completion of one section, you cannot revisit it, hence, in the CIMA case study, you need to READ FAST, THINK FAST and TYPE FAST to pass the exam.

Additionally, no marks are given for non-explained answer points presented by the student. The examiner requires a valid explanation of each answer point in a brief manner (3-4 lines).

With all this being said, a fair share of students pass at every exam sitting, complete levels and obtain the CIMA professional qualification.  So, the key then is to understand how you can present an answer that will allow you to pass. We are not talking of passing eventually, but rather on passing the CIMA case study on your very first attempt.

What role do mock exams play in your journey in passing the case study?

Now, let me tell you a crucial point if you are to pass the case study! PRACTICE is essential. As said of any exam, practice helps prepare you for the examination. Often, practice may come in the form of practicing past papers, but this is another exception to the CIMA case studies. In the CIMA case studies, as said by CIMA themselves, overly focusing and attempting to practice past examination questions adds very little or no value. Why is this so?

  • The industry will most likely be completely different and technical in nature, making it seem very complicated.
  • The company, its information and setup are different and requires prior familiarisation of its particular preseen (which you literally don’t have time and should not do).
  • The exam is practical, so the exam task required or asked for is often unique to that company and industry and cannot be used for all exam
  • Because of all the above-mentioned points, to start with, it might just be extremely time consuming to understand the past exam sub tasks and even then, you might not understand or you might misunderstand the sub tasks, since it is completely unfamiliar to you.
  • The last reason why it adds little value is the case study is computer based and students need to become familarised with the exam engine, managing time on it without getting too stressed, which cannot be done by just referring to past papers.

Hence, practice for CIMA case studies should come through the practice of mock examinations made in line with the current preseen on a similar exam engine to the CIMA exam engine.

Why is getting your mocks marked as important as attempting mocks?

Let me repeat myself, the CIMA case studies are not like generic exams where you attempt a mock and then refer to the examiners answer – if you write what is them, you get marks and if you didn’t, you don’t get marks. With the case studies, it is a completely different story, you might have a completely different answer to the examiners answer but yet you can pass with a good mark. On the flip side you might have a similar answer in terms of content to the examiner, but fail the exam. This is because the case study is practical, so it understands individuality of opinions and ideas of students as which is the case in an actual business organisation. The examiners answer is just a guide and an answer that follows certain key basics but by all means isn’t a perfect answer that you should strictly follow to pass the exam. The strength of your answer depends on how applicable they can be and how well you have convinced the examiner on this.

So, the big question is how do you know if your answer is in line with what is an acceptable answer and how do you know how good or bad of an answer it is? This is where getting your mocks marked by a trained CIMA tutor will come in handy and indispensable.

If you have the provision to start attempting mocks early on in your case study preparation, get them marked and obtain individual feedback, this will be key in order to help you understand where you stand, what you already do good at (your strong points in the case study), what you need to improve on and, in short, give you the momentum, perspective and attitude needed to pass the exam.

Let me sum it up as follows:

“In preparing for the exam, one attempted and marked mock with individual feedback on your performance adds much more value than referring to a heap of past papers”

PTAs process to setting and marking mocks

At PTA, you can be rest assured that we will address all these needs and help you pass. To give you an idea, let me shed some light on to how we set and mark mocks.

How we set our mocks?

Step 1 – First, we spend a lot of time understanding the preseen – which is the company, its industry and how key points relate to the 3 knowledge pillars.

Step 2 – Next, we research, and we research thoroughly on the industry, we understand key trends, risks, development, news and other facts.

Step 3 – We link the in-depth industry findings with the preseen given and try to develop a list of almost all possible practical scenarios that you can have on the exam day based on this specific company and industry.

Step 4 – We develop these scenarios and events into mock examinations by developing the needed content for the unseen and reference materials. 

Step 5 – Next, we review these mocks and slightly change and amend as needed to ensure the mocks are highly specific and valuable to students.

Step 6 – Feed the completed mock into the exam engine so students can attempt the mock as if they were sitting for the actual exam.

Step 7 – Develop the examiners answers in line with past examinations, preseen and unseen information.

Note: We refer to past examinations when developing the exam format and in understanding the examiners style of questioning

How we mark our mocks?

Again, we could sum the specific case study answer marking procedure to the following systematic steps;

Step 1 – Our highly competent and skilled markers go through the set of mock exams, spending time understanding the set mock and the different angles of attempting the mock.

Step 2 – The markers develop a rough sketch of their own answer points and notes for each sub task.

Step 3 – The marker goes through the examiners answer and understands how the examiner has attempted the sub task.

Step 4 – A combination of their own answer points and subsequent referral to the examiners answer helps the marker develop a holistic outlook to the mock.

Step 5 – The marker refers to the marking scheme and understands how marks should be allocated and how they will assess an answer written for this mock.

Step 6 – The marker receives and marks mocks. The marker spends adequate time on reading the entire answer, making personalised and individual comments on the students attempt of each sub task and even on each answer point, where applicable and possible.

If the student sends all 3 mocks to mark, the marker tracks performance and provides areas of improvements to help reach a good standard that will give students excellent chances of passing the exam.

By now, I am sure I don’t need to convince you anymore just how important it is to practice mocks – and not just practice, but to get them professionally marked. I have also helped you understand how PTA approaches the setting and marking of mocks. Now, it is your turn to make sure you choose the right approach that will help train yourself to READ FAST, THINK FAST and TYPE FAST on the exam day. Our affordable mocks are both realistic and challenging, and will really help you to learn and PASS fast!

PTA mock packages

  • You can get one CIMA mock for just £25, whilst you can get one mock with marking for £45
  • However, if you buy all 3 mocks you can make a saving by getting 3 for just £60, and if you get all 3 mocks with a marking service, you can get it for just £105

You can study the preseen over and over, but on exam day, if your answers are not specific to the task and are not explained thouroughly, it’s likely that you could fail. You may decide to take mock exams prior to your case study exam, but if you are making the same error or are misunderstanding the same context over and over again without realising it, then it’s likely that you could fail your exam. Nip this in the bud early and have your exams marked by our top tutors. This service is highly valuable for case study students and can effectively change your whole perception in order to increase the quality of your answers. We don’t want students to have to re-sit case study exams and our packages are specifically designed to avoid such an occurance. If our packages are used properly, as well as accessing a mock marking service, than you will be equipped with all the tools to help you pass, first time!