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How is the CIMA Syllabus Structured?

We discuss the key requirements of CIMA qualification, the various levels and the order you should take your exams in.

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The CIMA syllabus bridges the skills gap of newly qualified finance professionals to help meet the needs of both businesses and people.

The syllabus is relevant to employers and aligns the learning experience of candidates to the real world by including a digital dimension.

To pursue a career as a CIMA qualified finance professional and to use the CGMA designation, the following key requirements must be met:

  • Meet the entry requirements of the professional level qualification
  • Complete the relevant professional level assessments, with the final level being the Strategic Case Study Exam.
  • Complete 3 years of practical experience before, during and/or after your studies are complete.

While requirements 1 and 3 are straightforward, the main thing to consider is what’s involved in passing your exams.

The CIMA qualification has 16 exams split into 4 levels:

  1. Certificate Level
  2. Operational Level
  3. Management Level
  4. Strategic Level

cima exam structure

At the professional stage, each of the three levels has 3 Objective Test exams and 1 Case Study exam. These 9 subjects are then organised into three pillars.

The CIMA levels

Students progress from the Operational to the Management and finally complete the Strategic level.

Students progress from the Operational to the Management and finally complete the Strategic level.

1. Operational Level

The main focus at this level is on the short-term implementation of decisions. It will allow you to work with others and use data and technology to turn medium-term goals into short-term plans.

2. Management Level

This is the level that shows you how to turn long-term decisions into medium-term decisions. You will be armed with the ability to implement decisions, monitor the outcome and prepare and interpret financial performance to show performance.

3. Strategic Level

This focuses on long-term strategic decision-making to enable support to be provided to organisational leaders to implement a strategy.

Each pillar represents specific areas of knowledge that are interlinked to a body of knowledge that allows studies to attain the required competencies.

The Enterprise Pillar

Focuses on the finance function’s role and how it interacts with the organisation. Business models and people management are all taken into account to achieve business goals.

The Performance Pillar

Uses tools and techniques of management accounting and risk management to ensure that the strategy is realistic. It shows how to construct budgets, make pricing and capital expenditure decisions and manage costs and performance.

It’s also important to be able to identify, classify and evaluate the risk of the organisation and manage them through internal controls.

The Financial Pillar

The main focus is on financial accounting and the organisation’s reporting obligations. This includes understanding the regulatory framework and external reporting requirements.

These pillars are designed to be sequential and encourage the progressive development of knowledge, techniques and skills.

What order do I take my CIMA exams in?

The case study examination can only be attempted after all objective tests for the level have been completed successfully.

Students are free to study and take objective tests in any order they wish within each level. CIMA’s suggested order of study is, to begin with, the Enterprise Pillar subject, then move to the Performance Pillar subject and then to the Financial Pillar subject.

For example, CIMA would recommend students studying the Operational Level start with E1, then move to P1 and then to F1 before sitting the Operational Case Study examination.

Katie Ni Choileain
3 min read
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