How to Study for CIMA Exams?

By Justyna Wachulka-Chan •  Updated: 11/15/22 •  6 min read

How to study for CIMA exams? How to make your learning process more efficient? You need to pass your exams, but you should study for yourself, study to enhance your knowledge and not to just pass an exam. When you study in a way that you don’t just memorise, but you try to understand the gist of what you are reading, you will win both short and long-term.

Before you signed up for CIMA, what were your expectations? You knew that CIMA could help you massively – if you would like to reconfirm that, just read the below 2 articles I have posted on this blog earlier:

Those articles explain why CIMA as a certification body and then CGMA are helpful for your career. But what did you expect to learn when you started being a CIMA student? I hope you don’t do it only for those few letter after your name, RIGHT???

For me the purpose was to learn more, to understand the concepts, models better, to be able to use them in my daily work, to enhance my competencies not only to progress in my career, but also to become a better person. To sum up, my primary goal was to learn more and my secondary goal was to use it to leverage my career position. I hope we are on the same page J

So how to make your learning process more efficient? Remember, you need to pass your exams, but you should study for yourself, study to learn, study to enhance your knowledge and not to just pass an exam. This is short-term thinking. You pass your exam and then you forget what was inside. But when you study in a way that you don’t just memorise, but you try to understand the gist of what you are reading, you will win both short and long-term

One of the big differences between the successful and the not so successful CIMA students is the emphasis of how they approach their studies.

A lot of students set themselves up for failure by underestimating the challenge of earning this qualification. No amount of reading and memorizing will get you through. You must have the capacity to understand what you’re being taught.

Here are some points to justify that:

  • CIMA exams are mostly competence based (especially the higher you climb) rather than purely knowledge based.
  • You must clearly understand the verbs to be able to answer the exam questions correctly.
  • The 2015 syllabus CIMA exams test learning outcomes as opposed to simply topics on the syllabus.
  • If you want career advancement and salary growth in the real world, it’s all about what you can do and how you can help / improve the company you work for, not what you know. No offence, but nobody will care about what you know. Remember this expression – can you do for me? Or the typical American expression – what is in it for me? This is a very interesting topic in itself as the wiser we become, the more we concentrate on them and not on us, so use this advice and don’t repeat mistake that so many other brilliant qualified management accountants have done! Be smart – learn from it!

How to make sure you really understand what you are learning?

I’m going to walk you through a five stage framework I found on the website of Edge Hill University, which will help you think about where you are right now with your learning and what you need to do in order to progress further. 

Picture taken from this link.

Level 1 – Prestructural – I do not understand.

Let’s take PESTEL as an example. You’ve never heard about it.

Level 2 – Unstructural – I have some understanding of the topic.

Continuing our PESTEL example – you know what is stands for, and that’s it.

Level 3 – Multi Structural – I know a few thigns about the topic or I have gathered some information about it.

At this stage of your learning you know quite a few facts about a topic but you don’t know how they link together. Coming back to our PESTEL – you know what each letter means and stands behind it, but you do not know how they are linked with each other.

Level 4 – Relational – I can see the connections between the information I have gathered.

E.g. you are able to connect PESTEL with a SWOT for a particular company, with a Porter’s Diamond.

Level 5 – Extended Abstract – I’m able to look at the bigger picture and link lots of different ideas together.

At this highest level of learning, not only are you able to link lots of related ideas together but you can also link these to other bigger ideas and concepts. That is your objective – you should aim to see a bigger picture!

Now you know, that after you have completed a PESTEL analysis, you should be able to use this to help you identify the strengths and weaknesses for a SWOT analysis.

Using this framework will make it easier for you to identify where your strengths and weaknesses are with regards to each of the learning outcomes on the syllabus.

You can then use this information to feed forward to the rest of your exam preparation by focusing on those areas, where you need a greater understanding before you move on.

The best way to be on top of your game during your learning stage is through regular self-testing and revision questions. You should not just leave it until your final four weeks of revision. You want the final stage of your preparation to be focused on exam technique more than anything whereby you sit full mock exams under timed conditions and use your underlying understanding to deal with any exam standard question that is thrown at you. I’d love to help you with that – that was the main idea why I created Practice Tests Academy. You can practice your questions by syllabus parts, even by smaller chunks (chapters). Plus you can practice as many mocks as you need.

Check our products page and if you still have questions, drop me an email. I answer all of them personally!

Justyna Wachulka-Chan