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Cracking CIMA: How Ken Aced 12 Exams in 2 Years (While Working Full-Time)

Discover Ken’s secret to cracking CIMA. 12 exams in 2 years while working full-time. Learn his strategies for success and top tips.

Meet Ken Tsukahara. He’s not your average CIMA student. In just two years, Ken smashed through all 12 CIMA papers. Oh, and did we mention he did this while working full-time and adjusting to life in a new country? Yeah, he’s that good.

From Tokyo to the UK: A Career 180

Ken wasn’t always a finance whiz. He spent 15 years as a consultant in Tokyo before making a bold move:

“I got a bit tired with all the consultancy work – quite intensive. I happened to get an offer from an old friend of mine, who called on me to join him in starting up a pharmaceutical company subsidiary of a Japanese business in the UK.”

Talk about a change of scenery. New job, new country, new challenges. But Ken wasn’t done yet. His CEO suggested he tackle CIMA to sharpen his financial skills. Most people would baulk at the idea. Ken? He dove in headfirst.

The 12-Paper Sprint: How He Did It

Ken’s secret? No magic, just good old-fashioned discipline and smart planning. Here’s his formula:

  1. Study 2-3 hours a day, 5 days a week
  2. Aim to complete one exam every 1.5 months
  3. Build in a 20% buffer for life’s curveballs

“I put in a daily plan to get ready for taking the exams in about one to one and a half months,” Ken shared. “I put in some buffer because sometimes you get busy with work or private life, and you won’t be able to stick with that plan.”

Clever, right? This approach gave Ken the needed structure without setting himself up for failure when life got in the way.

When the Going Gets Tough: Tackling the Management Case Study

Even superheroes have their kryptonite. For Ken, it was the Management Case Study. He failed. Twice. 

“That was very tough for me,” Ken admitted. “It was tough to keep my motivation up… But then, after that, I regrouped myself and took the November testing. At that time, I was really determined to pass on my third attempt.”

How did he turn it around? Three key moves:

  1. Mock exams: “I think every time I did the mock exams, I was able to improve on my writing more and more.”
  2. Deep dive into past papers: Ken reviewed six past exams, totalling about 36 variants.
  3. Focused practice: “I try to list more examples in each answer. Like, if there is a question about advantages and disadvantages of so and so, I used to only write 1 or 2 points, but through these mock exams, the feedback I got pushed me to write 3 or 4 examples for each.”

The result? A pass on his third attempt. Persistence pays off, folks.

Objective Tests: Time Management is King

For objective tests, Ken’s strategy was all about smart time allocation:

“What I try to do was, in the 90 minutes, to not leave any questions unanswered or looked at. So for the questions that require calculations, that does take some time. Especially ones that require very detailed calculations, I skipped those questions and left them for the end.”

His advice? Tackle the theory questions first, then circle back to the number-crunching. This approach ensures you’re not leaving easy points on the table.

Work-Study-Life Balance: It’s Possible (Really)

How did Ken manage to study, work full-time, and still have a life? Two words: employer support.

“The CEO of the startup endorsed me to get the CIMA qualifications. So he allowed me to be quite flexible in the work situation. So if I have a couple of hours during the weekday, he didn’t mind me taking that time to study for this exam.”

Lesson learned: If you’re considering a professional qualification, get your employer on board. It can make all the difference.

The CIMA Payoff: More Than Just Letters After Your Name

Now that he’s on the other side, Ken’s seeing the benefits of his hard work:

“It’s definitely helping me because bits of the contents in CIMA, you are actually using in your everyday work, but it’s not structured in your knowledge. And CIMA helps me get all that knowledge into a structure.”

In other words, CIMA doesn’t just teach you new stuff – it helps you organise and apply what you already know. Neat, right?

Ken’s Top Tips for CIMA Success

  1. Plan, but be flexible: “I didn’t try to stick too hard to that schedule. Some days, you’re just not concentrating or focused and motivated. And I just allowed myself to pass for that day.”
  2. Use mock exams strategically: “That allows me to understand, after I get the feedback, where my weak points are, where I can do better.”
  3. Take breaks when needed: “Just take some time away from the study, enjoy your private life for a while, and then return refreshed. That really will help you actually move forward much quicker.”
  4. Understand the differences between levels: “Operational level, it’s using a lot of the theories. Using the structure, the framework is very important. As you go up to the management level and the strategic level, it becomes a much more loose question. You have a lot of flexibility to write.”

The Takeaway

Ken’s story proves that with the right mindset, strategy, and support, you can achieve remarkable things. Even if that means conquering 12 CIMA exams in 2 years while working full-time in a new country.

So, what’s your excuse?

Philip Meagher
3 min read
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