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Your Essential Guide to CIMA Exam Papers

If you’re considering CIMA as a qualification or about to begin studying, it’s important to know what you need to learn.

If you’re considering CIMA as a professional qualification or about to begin studying for your exams, it’s important to know what’s involved and what you need to learn for career advancement. In this blog, we give an overview of each CIMA exam paper (OTs and case studies) you’ll need to complete to become CIMA qualified. 

Operational Level

E1 – Managing Finance in a Digital World 

Formerly known as Organisational Management, the syllabus of this course was altered significantly in 2019 to reflect the digital changes in the accounting sector. These changes look to include digital technologies and their impact on the financial role in a business. 

By completing the E1 exam paper, you will understand:

  • The central role finance plays in an organisation and how and why any technologies used can impact the finance function.
  • How to use and examine data collected and processed by machines to create and preserve value for organisations. 
  • The structure and shape of the finance role and how it interacts with other parts of the organisation to achieve overall business objectives.

P1 – Management Accounting  

In the P1 exam syllabus, you will cover cost accounting for decision and control, budgeting and budgetary control, short-term commercial decision making and short-term risk and uncertainty. 

At the end of the Management Accounting exam, you should know: 

  • Why costing is done and what it’s used for which includes appropriate costing methods and techniques and where digital costing might be used.
  • How budgets are prepared and implemented across a business, their impact and understanding of the application of techniques to ensure sound short-term decisions are made by using appropriate risk management tools.

F1 – Financial Reporting 

Formerly known as Financial Reporting and Taxation, the F1 exam has seen some changes under the 2019 syllabus review.  The main aim of this exam is to look at the regulatory environment, financial statements, taxation principles and how to manage cash and working capital. You will learn how to distinguish between types of taxes, calculate corporation taxes and discuss issues affecting taxation. In addition, you will learn what tools are used to ensure that a business has enough cash to ensure its continuing operations.

Operational Case Study

The primary focus of the Operational Case Study exam is on short-term decisions making. It will enable you to work with staff across an organisation and use relevant data and technology to translate medium decisions into actionable plans. It simulates the knowledge and role of entry-level finance professionals. Areas such as digital costing, digital strategy and integrated reporting are now included in the syllabus to ensure all CIMA qualified professionals have knowledge of working in a digital world.  

Management Level

E2 – Managing Performance 

Once known as Project and Relationship Management, the Managing Performance exam paper tests your knowledge of business models. It focuses on ecosystems and time management in relation to value creation, people performance and project management. 

By completing this course, you should know:

  • The fundamentals of business models and how new business and operating models can be developed to improve organisational performance.
  • How to use different styles of leadership to improve individual performance to achieve organisational goals along with the use of performance management concepts and techniques.
  • Use of project management concepts and techniques useful in implementing strategies. 

P2 – Advanced Management Accounting

The P2 Advanced Management Accounting course focuses on managing the costs of creating value, decision-making on capital investment along with managing and controlling performance including risk and control. 

By completing the P2 exam paper you will know how to:

  • Use cost management, quality and process management and value management to provide organisations with a cost advantage.
  • The criteria, processes and techniques that are used to decide which projects to undertake, and how to manage the performance of organisational units to ensure that they achieve their objectives.
  • How to analyse risks and uncertainties faced by organisations particularly capital investment decision making, and managing risks. 

F2 – Advanced Financial Reporting

There are new additions to the F2 exam paper in 2019 as part of CIMA’s overhaul of the syllabus. 

Integrated reporting and group accounts (which were previously part of F1) have been added to bring additional focus to digital issues in capital project financing and final statement analysis. 

 The areas that the Advanced Financial Reporting paper covers are:

  • Financing capital projects
  • Group accounts
  • Integrated reporting
  • Analysing financial statements
  • Financing reporting standards

Management Case Study Exam

The Management Case Study exam simulates the role of a Finance Manager. It focuses on translating long-term decisions into medium-term plans.  At the end of the course, you should be able to use data and technology to manage organisational and individual performance, allocate resources, prepare and interpret financial statements to show performance and monitor and report on decisions.  

Strategic Level

Woman jotting down notes

E3 – Strategic Management

A third of the E3 course is new with a focus on digital strategy. 

By completing this course you will understand:

  • The foundation of strategic management and an understanding of the dynamics of the organisational ecosystem and how it affects strategy.
  • Strategic choice and how options are generated, linking them to the purpose, values and vision of the organisation and how the options are evaluated, chosen and integrated coherently to form the strategy of the organisation.
  • The implementation of strategy, how objectives are achieved and change is managed.
    The technologies that underpin digital transformation and elements of digital strategy. 

P3 – Risk Management 

Cyber security and more information on strategic risk have been introduced to the P3 course. In addition financial risk also moves to F3 along with the removal of management control systems. 

In the P3 exam paper you will be asked to prove you know how to:

  • Identify, evaluate and manage enterprise risks.
  • Outline the origins of strategic risks, how to evaluate them and understand how oversight of these risks is critical to governance.
  • Effectively use internal controls in the risk management process and how to identify, analyse, solve and report strategic risks.

F3 – Financial Strategy 

The Financial Strategy paper focuses on the valuation of intangibles under business valuation, financial policy decisions, long-term fund sources and financial risks. 

By completing the F3 exam paper you should know: 

  • The different strategic financial objectives and policy options are open to organisations.
  • The types of funds available to finance the implementation of an organisation’s strategies include where and how they access funds at the right time, in the right amount and at the right cost.
  • Sources of financial risk, how to evaluate and manage financial risk appropriately, and techniques in business valuation.
  • Valuation techniques to calculate the value of organisations and conditions applicable especially intangibles and how to report intangible value and the drivers in integrated reporting.

Strategic Case Study Exam 

The Strategic Case Study exam focuses on long-term strategic decision-making. You will need to demonstrate how to support leaders in a business to devise a strategy, manage and evaluate risks, source financial resources to implement strategy and evaluate and manage risks. This syllabus replicates the role of a Senior Finance Manager. 


This blog should provide you with an overview of each CIMA exam paper within the three key levels – objective, management and strategic. Understanding what’s involved in each paper should provide you with a good overview of the journey you will embark on to become CIMA qualified. 

Katie Ni Choileain
5 min read

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