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CIMA has taken a totally different approach towards Case Studies (CS) as opposed to the Objective Tests (OT) papers. I assume you know the differences since you are reading this article, but just to cover everything, let me just quickly give you an overview of how the exam is structured and what does it consist of.
The aim of the CIMA Management Case Study (MCS) is to apply the knowledge you have gathered across the whole management level. In OT tests you show what you know, here in CS you show how to apply what you know. CSs assess everything, that cannot be assessed via an OT exam. That’s why CIMA introduced the competencies, so they could check the application of your knowledge to the real life business case scenario.
It simulates what management accountants do in the workplace.
Passing the CS will demonstrate that you can apply the technical, business, people and leadership skills. That was designed specifically to replicate the real life scenarios and, at the end, make you more employable. Because let me tell you, those skills are really useful at work! You will get emails from your boss, or from a Finance Director asking for your opinion, asking to analyse something, asking for a recommendation in a form of an email or a report.
So think about it as a necessary evil that aims only at improving your career.
Do you have a realistic (for you) study plan? Have you figured out how much time you need for the preparation?
Have a look what Steven Scullion, 8th in the world for Nov 2015 SCS, said about preparing your stay plan:
“My goal was to ensure I split my time between the key elements needed to pass the exam, i.e. technical knowledge, knowing the case study and exam practise. With this in mind I drafted a study timetable immediately after booking onto my course, ensuring that I set aside adequate time in each of these areas.”
Personally, I think it all depends on different factors such as when was the last time you took an exam, were you exempted from any of the management level OTs or perhaps this is the first CIMA exam you attempt (Gateway route).
Now that you know what ends to be covered, let’s figure out how to do that.
The way I see that you have 3 options:
My suggestion is - don’t do it alone!
A Case Study is a totally different type of exam and if you have sit OCS before, you know what I’m talking about.
Let’s compare it with starting a new job - you feel a bit lost, simple tasks take you ages to fulfill and still there is a big room for improvement. In these moments, haven’t you thought - “if only I could ask my boss how to do that” or “if only there was someone who could show me how to do it better and faster”? I know I had those questions. With years of experience, I've learnt that there is no point to reinvent the wheel, there are so many other things I could be doing. It is just more efficient to use someone else’s knowledge and experience to get your results faster.
I believe that signing up with a proper tuition provider can cut your studying time at least in half. Just think about it, that’s all I’m suggesting. I just don’t want you being frustrated and underprepared for your exam.
Now I think it is the right time to show you the video that I made about Management Case Studies showing you what a MCS / Gateway exam is all about, highlighting key points to focus on, explaining the structure and walking you through an example of a MCS. Also, I touch upon the competencies, explain the exam marking and finally give you some tips on what to do in order to pass you MCS exam.
The 1st step was all about planning, realising what the Case Study is about, what is the magnitude of the work you need to put in and deciding on your study option.
To sum it up - by now you should have chosen how you want to study (or with whom) and you made some kind of a realistic plan.
Let’s get back to our list of what should be included in the study plan. My suggestion is to make sure you are done with the 1st revision of the 3 pillars by the time Pre-Seen is released. We have used our expertise to prepare a set of revision videos for you.
In case this is something that might interest you, here is the link: Get your MCS Revisions package only for £45 now! Personally, I think that sometimes you need that extra push, that structure that the revision course is providing. Anyway, it's up to you, I'm just saying you have an option not to do it on your own or attending highly expensive classes. You can do it online for a fraction of the price. Again, the link is >>here<<.
If you have taken OT exams from the management level, then I hope you kept your notes since they are going to be useful now. Remember, no calculations will be necessary at this point, you just need to interpret the numbers you are given. So if you e.g. had issues with calculating WACC, but you understand why companies should be using that, you are more less fine.
If you took the Gateway route, well, I would roll my sleeves up and go through the study books.
Either way, technical knowledge accounts for 39%. You need to know it and then you need to know how to apply it.
When the Pre-Seen is released, read it. Don’t postpone that. I know it is a bit scary because reading will mean that you have to start preparing. I know how trivial that sounds. I made that mistake - I always found more important things to do and postponed reading the Pre-Seen till “tomorrow”… and that tomorrow lasted for 2 weeks… And then I was rushing through it in panic. Let me tell you - it is not worth it. Better to read a bit each day.
What actually put me off was the size - usually Pre-Seen material is 20-30 pages long. There are plenty of pictures and charts, tables, so in fact, it is not that long.
My suggestion, give it 2 attempts:
Since you reviewed the knowledge from the E2, P2 and F2 papers, you should be able to note the following:
A key TIP, coming from Kimanh Duong, 4th in the world in SCS from Aug 2015:
“Don’t leave it too long between your course and exams; get the exams booked early so you aren’t constantly juggling your busy lives.”
Let me explain - I really stress out the word “concise” as I’ve watched industry analysis coming from other online tuition providers and they were just too lengthy without providing additional value. You see I can sit 4 hours watching something, but I need to be confident that is adding value to my study time. I read the examiners report and it is clearly stated there that all the information on the industry is given to you in the Pre-Seen and that you will not be given any additional marks for showing that you know few additional names of the top competitors. Therefore the concise version of the industry analysis is beneficial and will not waste your time.
Also, let me touch upon the most likely / top ten issues likely to be examined. It is a good indication to open your mind to possible problems that company may face, but don’t be limited to them. I remember when I sat my CS, I was still surprised at how the examiners twisted the unseen materials and found a way, how to utilise big data. There was no mention of that in the Pre-Seen! So just don’t think of that a definite list. Those are likely issues but there are 5 variants of the exam (if each variance has 4 sections, we are talking about 20 sections to be written). Examiners are going to be creative, that’s for sure.
By now, you should have:
Now, let’s focus on the exam itself.
My suggested way around it is:
1. Take a sample from any past papers, have a look at the question and at a model answer provided by CIMA. That will help you understand what are they looking at. This is a tip coming from Steven Scullion, 8th in the world in Nov 2015 SCS
“Question practise is key. Get past paper questions or mock exams from whatever source you can. The greater the variety of questions you come across when studying, the higher the probability that you may get a similar question in the exam and be well prepared for it. Additionally, you will be more prepared for the “shock” factor of coming across a question that you did not expect.”
2. Make sure you spend enough time on planning your answers. CIMA suggests that you should spend roughly 1/3 of your time reading the scenario and planning it. If the average section in MCS lasts for 45 minutes, we are talking about opening 15 minutes on reading and planning! Keeps hat figure in mind!
There is whole lot more to be written about planning and structuring your answers for MCS… Maybe I should even write about that…. Is it something you would be interested in? Leave your answer below:
3. Attempt full mock exams under timed conditions and be strict with your time management.
Another quote from Brendan Ryan, 1st in the world from OCS in Nov 2015:
“Do all the practice exam material you can. Try not to master every single element of the course - listen to your tutor and focus your time on the key areas or any areas you find harder. For the case study in particular, it’s about applying the knowledge you’ve learnt. So try not to cram facts, but think about what’s relevant to the scenario and how this knowledge can be applied.”
We can help you out with the practice under exam conditions. We have a gift for you :) We give you an option to train yourself under exam conditions on all 5 variants of MCS from Nov 2016 (about ADF company). You will find the exam simulator, exam questions and model answers provided by CIMA, as well as examiners commentary and marking guidelines.
The only thing to do is to click the button and sign up for the free MCS demo:
Mock are manually marked. You can do all the preparation, you can plan your answers, but then it will be another person assessing how well you did. What you think was the gist may not only be the case. You would be surprised how many students do not read properly the questions asked! Just have a look at any examiners’ reports from the exams! Read the answer, pause for 3 seconds, read it again! And only then start planning your answers.
I think it is good to get a perspective from another person. It is not obligatory, but it is nice to have. Get your mocks marked so you can review the feedback. Ideally you will get expert feedback on your mock exams as this will give you a knowledgeable and experienced point of view on your level of performance to tell you how well you are getting on. You can review your own script if you fully understand the marking scheme of the exam and note any key lessons learnt ready for your next mock exam attempt, but I find this very rarely works as we are not very good judges of our own performance. If you do mocks with us, we give you a possibility to get your mocks checked and receive a feedback.
Be confident – even if you don’t feel like it, try and act like it (remember that phrase: fake it till you make it?).
Work quickly through your exam and aim to make lots of points.
Keep going right to the end, do not end the section before your time is up. You will nOT be rewarded for that!
Keep an eye on the time throughout and stick to your timings.
Stick to what has worked in your exam practice sessions before.
The key to passing is therefore being able to demonstrate your application skills as well as the business, people and leadership areas being tested. You don't need to be a price winner, you don't need to get 150 marks, you just need to pass. Overall, what you learn in that exam, will help you tremendously in your work life later on, so in my opinion, CIMA has done a good job in structuring those exams in such a way.
I believe you can do it! Be positive, keep on practicing and you will get there.
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