Sandil Mallikarachchi set a world record for time to complete the CIMA professional qualification. Find out how he managed it and what he’s looking to do next.
What led you to study accountancy?
Following my A-level results, I was offered a state sponsored scholarship into a Sri Lankan University, to study mathematics. However, because of the financial background of my family, I had to start working.
I ended up working in the finance department of an engineering firm. This is the place that turned things around for me, because it was here that I discovered that I have an aptitude for accounting and finance. My supervisors were always very appreciative of my skills and analysis.
As a result of that, in October 2020 I started looking at CIMA.
Did you know from the beginning you wanted to complete it quickly?
Yes. The main reason why I decided to drop the maths degree was because when you get a state sponsored scholarship in Sri Lanka, you only start your university education at the age of 21.
If I started studying at 21 I'd be studying until 25 to get the bachelor's degree. So I believe my career prospects would not be as far reaching.
I decided that I wanted to get through this as quickly as possible to save time. After that I’d do a master's and move up on the career ladder.
How did you manage to complete it so quickly?
For the objective specific exams I usually studied for one week. My strategy was to read the study text twice in the span of four days. Then for two days, I would complete the Kaplan exam kits. By the seventh day, I would book the exam and do it.
I think it helped that I have an ability to take large quantities of information and make sense out of them. I usually break things into smaller parts and I deliberately don’t try to memorise anything, instead I just try to understand the content. And that works for me.
For the case studies, I wasn't able to afford any extra books. So I looked at the core areas that were published by CIMA, and then analysed everything under those core areas in the Kaplan study text. I stuck precisely to that. I read the pre-scenes two, or three, times and then I tried to associate the content that I learned with the company.
How did you balance working and studying?
I don't think I ever thought about studying in terms of quantity, it was more the quality that was important to me. So if I was to say that I studied four to five hours a day that would be untrue.
Instead, after coming home from work I would do one or two hours, but I would try to give it my full attention for maximum efficiency.
So why did you only study with the textbooks?
One reason for my choice of self learning is quite obvious, I was not able to afford the tuition. Apart from that, I also wanted to go at my own pace. I tried watching some free lectures that were available on the internet, but they weren't really up to the pace that I was looking for.
I wanted to have something hands-on that I could refer to, and Kaplan’s materials were ideal. The study texts had everything. There wasn’t one exam where I sat and thought the Kaplan study resources were insufficient. This is the main reason why I'm so grateful to Kaplan.
I believe the study texts were definitely the best form of education that I have encountered in my life, because everything was up to the point and very straightforward. Those books made what I achieved possible.
So what does the future hold for you?
I want to continue to learn more about finance. I have already received a number of unconditional offers from top UK universities to study MSc in finance and accounting. Unfortunately, they're not in my reach right now due to the cost, so I am looking into scholarships and sponsorships.
If I can study a masters, I would also like to look to pursue a PhD if the funding is available. Otherwise, I would like to re enter the finance sector in the capacity of an analyst. Because the economic situation in Sri Lanka is not very favourable right now. After my studies, I would be willing to work in the UK for at least a couple of years.
What advice would you give to someone looking to study CIMA?
Don’t be intimidated by the amount of pages in each book. The more realistic way to look at it is by taking one subject, breaking down the content, and understanding what they're actually trying to say.
I also want to emphasise that having done CIMA, it’s definitely worth it. Although I do not have a bachelor’s degree, after speaking with Chancellors and Deans from top business schools, they are willing to recognise the potential as a result of my achievements.
As a 21 year old Sri Lankan, the opportunities that I've been presented with are just priceless, and I'm grateful to everyone for that.
Following his success, 21 year old, Sri Lankan based, Sandil has secured a position at EY as a senior associate. To find out more about the CIMA qualification, please visit our course page.
For anyone interested in talking to Sandil about potential sponsorship or funding opportunities, to aid him on his journey, then please reach out to him via Linkedin.