Two key questions that CIMA students always ask is the order in which they do their exams and should they do more than one at a time.
When considering this we find that there’s no right or wrong answer. What’s important is knowing your own capabilities, knowledge and time constraints.
In this blog, we look at the CIMA exams and give some advice as to what you need to consider before deciding on the order and quantity of exams at one time.
Let’s look at the CIMA exam format first and delve into the order you could do the exams in.
The format of CIMA exams
In 2019 the syllabus of CIMA is changing to include subjects that cover digitisation. However, the format of the exams themselves is not changing.
As you know there are Enterprise, Performance and Financial Pillars. In each pillar, the case study examination can only be attempted after all objective tests for the level have been completed successfully.
Within each level, students are free to study and take objective tests in any order they wish.
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.
The syllabus has been designed so that, at each level, the Enterprise Pillar gives the broad context in which the Finance and Performance Pillars operate.
The Performance Pillar provides the context of what management accountants do within an organisation, and the Finance Pillar considers the reporting and the implications of this activity. This is the reason that this order is suggested.
For example, CIMA would recommend students studying the Operational Level to start with E1, then move to P1 and then to F1 before sitting the Operational Case Study examination.
However all students have different qualifications, backgrounds, support systems and demands on their time, so it is difficult to recommend any particular approach or combination of exams for you to sit.
At each level, you can take the three objective test exams in any order (recommended order above) and at a time that’s convenient to you.
You may choose to study each subject individually and take the exam before you move onto the next subject. Or you may want to study two or three subjects at the same time and take the exams over a period of a week.
Should you do more than one CIMA exam at a time?
If you’re considering this, the first thing you need to ask is:
“Is doing more than one exam going to add more pressure to my life?”
Say you decide to sit your case study exam in February and decide to do the 3 OTs too.
It may be easy in theory to think that three months is a lot of time to cram that all in. But you need to bear in mind that you are going to be doing these exams for a while, it’s a process and the case studies are new every time and can be more time consuming and difficult than expected.
It can also depend on experience. For those coming in with exemptions, the exam structure and content can come as a shock or at least a surprise.
So, there’s a lack of insight and practice in those cases and it can prove more difficult than for students who have come in from the start and have experience with OTs and are familiar with the CIMA language and style.
Pros and Cons of One CIMA Subject
According to CIMA, there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to taking one or three subjects at once.
- Your study will be more focused
- You can take the exam as soon as you’re ready
- Your time will be more manageable which may suit you if you have other commitments such as work and family
- You may need to refresh your knowledge before taking the case study exam
- It may take longer to complete all 3 OTs at each level
- You may not see links between the syllabus subjects so clearly
The advantage of CIMA is that you can take one subject at a time. So, if you’re studying a financial subject then you are not going to get mixed up with any other (e.g. strategic) and therefore are more focused and take it as soon as you’re ready.
For this reason, one exam at a time can give you more chance of success as you’re not overstretching yourself.
What about taking 3 CIMA subjects together?
- It will help you keep a holistic and integrated view of the whole level
- It is easier to see links between subjects
- Your knowledge will be fresh when you move onto the case study exam
- There is a substantial amount of knowledge to cover
- You will need to manage your study time carefully along with your other commitments
Keep in mind with the OTs that just because you pass all three does not mean you will automatically be ready for the case study.
You need to give the case study sufficient time and energy as it’s a new approach and content.
Whatever choice you make in terms of the order and how many exams you sit at once, remember that there’s longevity in the knowledge that you need for CIMA, and you need to be able to carry it over to the case study.
So, you have to be very careful that the gap between the first objective test exam and the case study exam isn’t that significant.