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How the CIMA Case Study Exams Work (An Overview)
- The aim of the CIMA Case Study Exams is to teach you how to APPLY your knowledge from the three objective test papers in the workplace.
- The exam sittings will be held during the fourth week (generally five days) in every exam-month –February/March, May, August and November
- The tests are sat on PC at Pearson VUE centres and are human marked
- You must be able to demonstrate that you can apply the following skills from the learning outcomes tested in the three OT exams to the particular business context set in the case – Technical skills, Business skills, People Skills and Leadership Skills
- The pass mark is 60%
- Your exam will be 3 hours long made up of 3-4 different time – bound sections and in each section there will be one or more tasks to complete. The requirements within these tasks will not always be easy to identify (this is a skill you will have to learn)
- You’ll receive pre seen material about a fictitious company around 7 weeks before your exam week to give you background information
- The exam will then give you updated information on the case and you must base your answers on the new situation brought up by this new unseen information
So how do you best prepare for such exams?
Well let’s look at my recommended steps below…
Step 1: Planning
Step 2: Studying
- Revise key theories from the 3 subject papers on your level and work through the material that is likely to be tested in your case study exam. Your case study study text will help you focus on the right topics and how they are relevant to the exam you are taking. There are also courses and masterclasses available which are really useful in helping you to revise these topics.
- Pre seen analysis – Work through the relevant pre seen material from CIMA Connect, paragraph by paragraph asking yourself which models/frameworks/techniques from the 3 objective test papers on your level seem the most relevant to that paragraph and make notes on your pre seen. More detailed advice on pre seen analysis here
- One Page Summary – summarise all the key information you have obtained from your pre seen analysis into a one page summary and revise regularly
- Top ten questions – List out the top ten likely questions you’ll be asked in your exam based on what your pre seen analysis suggests. Think about how you would deal with each to pass them should they come up.
- Business awareness – Keep up to date with what is going on in the business news as it may just be the case that a key issue you have identified earlier will be played out in the real world and so you’ll be able to use how they dealt with it (successfully or otherwise) to demonstrate your business skills in your exam
- Learn the exam technique required – the things to especially focus on are answer planning, time management, identifying all the requirements, reading the unseen and how to write your full answer to please the examiner.
Step 3: Exam Practice
- Learn the marking criteria – the four skill areas you need to pass
- Attempt full mock exams under timed conditionsand be strict with your time management
- Make sure you spend enough time on your answer plans and sense checking your answers for each section
- Review the solutions – You should review the solutions to your mocks. As you do so take note of the following key elements:
- What are the requirements and did you find them all?
- What models/theories have been used that you did not use?
- What are the key points that you did not make that you could use for similar issue in the future?
- Notice the style and approach of the solution and remind yourself of the writing style required to pass
- 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.
- Draw up action plan on what to focus on – don’t overlook this step! Look at the areas of weakness in your mocks and work on those. Perhaps it’s a particular model or theory you need to revise further. More importantly if you are struggling in your time management or writing approach, consider doing some sections of the exam again with a focus on rectifying the problems you have identified.
Step 4: Pre Exam Days
- Re read the pre seen & the one page summary of your analysis
- Create a list of key points you want to use in your exam
- Review all the key lessons from your mocks
- Re read the key theories just to refresh your mind
- Try to visit your chosen exam centre
- Make sure you have your admission slip and ID ready
- Take it easy the day before your exam – no last minute cramming
- Sleep well and relax the night before the exam
- Practice thinking positively ahead of your exam – visualise success
Step 5: During Your Exam
- Go into exam with confidence – even if you don’t feel like it, try and act like it (trust me this works)
- Work quickly through your exam and aim to make lots of points
- Keep going right to the end and try to maximise your marks
- Keep an eye on the time throughout and stick to your timings
- Stick to what has worked in your exam practice
The CIMA case study exams are more a question of application of knowledge (to the specific situations in the case) rather than detailed technical knowledge itself (this is tested in the objective test exams).
The key to passing is therefore being able to demonstrate your application skills as well as the business, people and leadership areas being tested.
As former golfing great Arnold Palmer said: “The more I practice, the luckier I get” This has never been more applicable than with these types of CIMA exam as exam practice is the real key to success.
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 providercan 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.