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7 Ways to Pass Your CIMA Case Study Exams

Follow these 7 simple steps to avoid the panic and clear the path ahead to enjoy CIMA case study exam success.

 You’ve got your CIMA case study pre-seen… but don’t panic! Panic is contagious and can create tunnel vision. Just like your exam focus, a bigger picture vision is key when it comes to your case studies.First of all, let’s look at the question a lot of students are asking –
“I’ve got my pre-seen – What next?”
Upon receiving their pre-seen, CIMA students can enter a state of frenzy. Recurring questions include:
  • Where should I start?
  • Who should I turn to?
  • What products should I buy?
  • Are there hints in the pre-seen?
  • How many mocks should I do?
Follow these 7 simple steps to avoid the panic and clear the path ahead to enjoy case study exam success.

1. Follow a Focused Study Plan

Starting your study is often the hardest step to take.In our experience, following a plan increases productivity, cuts time-wasting, tracks progress and allows for personal planning around the study to maintain a healthy study-life balance.Identifying that initial starting point can seem daunting; that’s why learnsignal has designed a downloadable study plan to reduce your workload.Our study plan is designed to steer you down the best possible track to achieve your goals and get you through the exam.Strive for progress, not perfection, and keep your head in the game.

2. Start Early

Before you even have your pre-seen, you should gain a thorough understanding of the concept of a case study exam and know what CIMA expects to see in a passing script.While the majority of students will only start their studies after receiving the pre-seen, this isn’t the optimal way to approach such an exam. The key is to start early!We’ve created a kickstart package available anywhere, anytime, meaning you don’t need to wait for your pre-seen to start studying. Students looking for excuses not to start until the pre-seen release will certainly find them! Trust us, you will have more than enough to cover from this date.Designed by case study expert Paul Russell, kickstart covers areas such as:
  • Case study exam approach
  • How to use the pre-seen
  • Strategic analysis
  • Syllabus transition guides
  • Key do’s and don’ts
  • Gateway transition guide
Even if you’re not in a position to complete Kickstart in advance of your pre-seen, we recommend using it as your starting point. Knowledge is worth very little without exam technique. Kickstart is all about honing technique…

3. Review the Gateway Transition Guide

We constantly hear about the very low pass rates associated with students entering the CIMA qualification via the Gateway route.As a reminder, Gateway students are those eligible for the accelerated entry route to the CIMA Professional Qualification and the globally recognised CGMA designation.Gateway students are individuals who hold an MBA or Masters in Accounting or any other qualification that entitles them to certain exemptions within the framework. Eligible individuals are required to take the CIMA ‘Gateway’ Exam, otherwise known as the Management Level Case Study exam.Gateway students are at a disadvantage over those who have worked their way up the exams and levels. Often, the Gateway exam will be the very first-time such students will sit a CIMA exam and, moreover, an exam in the CBE environment. As a result, they’re not familiar with the CIMA language and style of exam.We understand how tricky it can be to switch from one exam style to another. We’ve developed tailored resources explicitly aimed at Gateway students within our Management Case Study course to tackle this.

4. Pre-Seen Analysis

The pre-seen release marks the beginning of phase two of our case study course. Phase two resources are released on the same day as the pre-seen release.This phase is designed to give you a real feel for the company and industry detailed in the case study and act as a support to drive you towards success from week one right through to exam week.This phase is split into two parts:
  • Video content – Videos cover a number of areas, including strategic analysis, industry review, and financial interpretations relating to the pre-seen company.
  • Webinars – Webinars provide an in-depth analysis of all areas of the pre-seen with weekly tasks to ensure that you’re prepared come exam time.

5. Case Study Webinar Series

Webinars can be a great way to learn new information quickly and get the opportunity to ask any questions that have come up during your study.Our six-part webinar series covers a wealth of information with the goal of covering everything you need to pass your case study exam. This includes:
  • Strategic analysis and Industry Review
  • Ratio Analysis
  • Industry Examples
  • Pre-learned Paragraphs
  • Mock exam walkthroughs
  • Correction Question Packs
Following each webinar, tasks or ‘homework’ are assigned to complete in advance of the next webinar to reinforce lessons learnt and keep your mind focused.Each webinar will also have a dedicated Q&A session, open to all participants. The beauty of webinars is that there’s no geographical barrier for students, as individuals can tune in anywhere in the world and ask questions to be answered live. This is also an excellent opportunity for students to interact with each other.Sometimes all you may need is a little encouragement in the midst of chaos to keep going. Webinars can be the perfect channel for motivational content and support.

6. Mock Exams & Practice Packs

Knowledge is power, but knowledge without exam technique won’t get you far.It’s irrelevant how much you know going into the exam; if you’ve not mastered the technique of deciphering the information and determining which parts of your knowledge are relevant to the question, chances are you won’t pass.Bear in mind this process is time-constrained, so cultivating your exam technique by doing mock exams and practice questions gives you the best possible chance of passing the first time.Mock exams are a fundamental part of your study because:
  • They provide an opportunity to practice proven revision strategies and figure out what study style works best for you
  • They are an effective way to enhance your knowledge and improve your ability to recall relevant information under time constraints
  • Practicing exam standard questions in a strict, allocated timeframe familiarises you with the feeling of pressure, affording you the time to identify stress-relieving techniques that suit you in the run-up to your exam.

7. Remember the Bigger Picture

You are mid-question, and there it is, momentary panic. What if I fail? What if I can’t remember anything on the day? What if I don’t understand the question? What if my friends pass and I fail? What if I’m not up to this?Pause, and breathe. The only question you should be concerned about is: Why am I doing this?Think back to why you made the decision to study CIMA in the first place.Chances are you made this decision to enhance your career, make more money, improve the quality of your life etc. Practice focusing on this. Practice changing those tough mental questions from a negative to a positive – instead of asking yourself, “what if I fail?” ask yourself, “what if I pass?”Visualise yourself opening your results and seeing that ‘Pass’. How good will you feel? If you want something enough, you can make it happen.Whether you believe you can or you can’t, chances are you’re probably right! Belief + Commitment = Pass.

Final Thoughts

Starting your case study exam at any level can feel intimidating, particularly for Gateway students. It’s an entirely different exam style from the Objective Test exam format.Unfortunately, there’s only one way to move up the levels within CIMA and ultimately achieve that sought-after designation – passing your case study exams.While the case study exams are complex, we’re here to guide you through them. You are well-positioned to tackle the case study exam head-on with everything in one place.
Katie Ni Choileain
5 min read

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