NEW CIMA 2019 Syllabus Changes - What, Why and When

CIMA Syllabus Change 2019 - New Syllabus Introduction

CIMA 2019 Syllabus KEY POINTS

Let me address a few questions that might be on your mind.

  • When: 2019 syllabus was enforced on 04.11.2019. That means that till November, 2015 syllabus is the one that is being examined. The CIMA syllabus for 2021 is the same new 2019 syllabus that was enforced.

  • 1st "new" case study was conducted in Feb 2020.

  • Only professional level exams (meaning e.g. E1, P2 or F3) are affected. 

  • BA papers will stay unchanged (they are from 2017 syllabus).

  • The structure (3 pillars, 3 OT exams + 1 case study per level) and the format of the exams(online based, Pearson Vue etc) is going to be the same.

  • The difficulty should remain the same.

NEW OT exams - from 4th Nov 2019

New syllabus will be enforced from 04.11.2019. Till that time you will be attempting 2015 Syllabus.

NEW Case Study exams - from Feb 2020

New Case Studies will be introduced only in Feb 2020.

As the role of the finance team is changing, we are embracing more and more the digital aspect, the CIMA Framework is adjusting as well. 

I would say that the competency framework is not really changing, it is just adapting to the current work environment by including the digital aspect. Check the comparison of the "old" and "new" framework:

2015 Framework


2019 Framework


Syllabus Changes

What will change in 2019 syllabus?

  • Shortly speaking titles and content of the papers. E.g. current E1 Organisational Management paper will be called E1 Managing Finance in the Digital World. 

  • As you can imagine, the focus is on the digital aspect of finance. 

  • I see that as an improved 2015 syllabus - with some topics thrown away, some topics added and some shifted to other papers. 

  • Using CIMA exact words: "The newly introduced exam blueprints bring more transparency and clarity on what’s examinable to help you better prepare for exams and be more confident when entering the exam room." Well, you'll judge that.
Operational Level

Operational level skill level required: remembering and understanding


Below please find the comparison of all the 2015 and 2019 Operational Level papers and their respective syllabus.

I've attached the syllabus blueprints there as well:

E1: Managing Finance in a Digital World
2015: E1 Organisational Management 2019: E1 Managing Finance in a Digital World


Why is CIMA Changing?

Throughout the last 18 months, CIMA have systematically collected individual, personal and organisational ‘rules-of-thumb’ and built them into a composite picture of what the finance function in a digital world looks like.

Preparation for the future of finance

The purpose of this research was to:

  • To understand the future needs of businesses and employers globally in a digital world
  • To gain insight into the finance function in a digital world
  • To understand how new competencies are emerging in a digital world
  • To signpost the competency implications for finance professionals.

Our core finding is this:

In a digital world, the focus of the finance function is shifting from being based on costs to being based on organisational value.

In other words, the finance function will no longer be evaluated purely on how costly it is to run, and be viewed as just another cost centre. Instead, the finance function will be judged on the added value it brings to the organisation and the wider community. For anyone who practices management accounting, this shift highlights the prospect of a rewarding career in finance – a shift in which they can add real value to organisations and society as a whole.

Transition Arrangements

“How does the new syllabus impact me?” is one of the most common questions we get when a new syllabus is introduced.

Try to complete the level you're studying for under 2015 syllabus. You know it, you studied i. It's human nature - what we already know, doesn't seem so scary. 

But I must say that this 2019 syllabus change is not a major change like it was in the case of 2015, so do not worry. The way of examining is the same, just the content of papers is adjusting to reflect what's currently happening in the world. 

What it would mean is that when the exam is enforced, you will need to use new materials to prepare yourself. And as always, in such situation, there will be few months of chaos with not that many tuition providers offering new resources. That was the reason why PTA was created after the last 2015 syllabus change :) We will be ready for this and I can assure you, we will have all the materials updated and ready in November 2019! We love challenges!

CIMA has prepared a transition tool that you can use to find out what they suggest are the best steps forward for current students.

Summary Advice For Students

CIMA Operational Students

Haven’t passed any exams?

  • Complete F1 and P1 under current syllabus and start your studies towards E1 under the 2019 syllabus.
  • By sitting E1 under the updated syllabus you will be in a better position to sit and pass the updated case study exam, as you will have studied the subject with the most significant changes at this time.

Passed ONE, TWO or THREE exams?

  • It is recommended that you complete all the operational level exams under the current syllabus, sitting the case study exam in November 2019. This means you can start your management level studies under the 2019 syllabus.

New CIMA 2019 Syllabus - Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the CIMA Professional Qualification get updated?

The CIMA Professional Qualification is changing in order to adjust to the rapidly changing profession. CIMA has made a research and found out what are the professional competencies that the employers are looking for nowadays. 

Is the structure of the CIMA qualification changing?

No. The structure of the ICMA qualification stays the same. There are 3 pillars: E - enterprise, P - performance and F - finance. 

There are 9 Objective Tests (OT) and 3 Case Study Exams in the professional level.

Has the format of the exam changed?

No. There are still OT (Objective Papers) and Case Studies for every level of the professional qualification.

When will the new syllabus be enforced?

  • OT exams will be enforced as of 4th of November 2019 (the last date of the 2015 syllabus is going to be 3rd of November 2019)
  • The first Case Study will be examinable in February 2020.

Will exams be easier or harder?

The exams will remain as rigorous as they currently are. CIMA also does not foresee any significant impact on the pass rates.

CIMA has introduced exam blueprints and they bring more transparency and clarity on what's examinable so that you can be better prepared for your exams.

Is there any support with the exams transition?

CIMA has prepared a transition planner for personalised advice. 

Will credit be applied for exams that I have already passed?

Yes, you will receive credits for all the exams that you have already passed.

What will happen if I fail an exam under the 2015 syllabus and need to retake it under the 2019 syllabus?

  • For OT exams, you can familiarise yourself with the changed in the content prior to starting your preparation. We have pointed them out in the above part of this article.
  • If you fail the November 2019 Case Study, you will have your last chance of re-sitting the exam in February 2020 still under 2015 syllabus, using the same pre-seen material.

Author Bio:

This article is written and updated by Justyna Wachulka-Chan who had guided thousands of CIMA aspirants. She aims to help a million cima aspirants to pass their CIMA exams.

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