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CIMA Strategic Case Study - Exam Tips

Bronnie Clarke

Bronwyn Clarke came 1st in the world for the CIMA Strategic case study. Following this fantastic result, we seized the opportunity to ask her one simple question ‘How?’.

Working for Network Rail, she’s currently a Management Accountant on their finance graduate scheme. She’s completed the full CIMA from foundation level, in little over two years, and has big plans for her career.

I’d like to be a Finance Director one day and this will stand me in good stead

So before the CIMA syllabus changes come into play this year, read her first hand insights for the case study exam.

Start revising the technical parts of F3/P3/E3 early

Failing, and therefore having to re-sit my MCS, was a blessing in disguise. I don’t think I’d have done so well in SCS otherwise. I had to cram my 3 strategic OTs into about 2 months but that meant it was still fresh in my mind coming into SCS.

I don’t think you need to be obsessive with detail, and some topics will be more applicable to certain industries. However, true understanding rather regurgitation is key here. After this, spend time closer to the exam doing practice and pre-seen related revision.

Know the pre-seen

This is key. Going into the exam I knew the company from the pre-seen as well as my own and knew the key facts and figures like the back of my hand. This really helps to apply your knowledge to the company and get the integration marks. Plus, it saves you time in the exam!

Industry analysis is important

This is essential at this level, because you’re thinking strategically so your competitors and industry are far more important. CIMA are bound to pick a well-known industry, so do your research and you’ll find loads of material out there to extend your knowledge.

Don’t just blurt everything out

Don’t jott down everything you know about a particular topic - with no regard for how it reads. If you emailed something like that to a real board of directors they’d think you were mad. Use your CIMA knowledge to explain the implications of certain things for the business.

If they ask you for advice give them an answer with clear pros/cons for each option. If applicable, explain what other people in the industry are doing and how that’s impacted their business. This isn’t operational; only 25% of the marks are awarded for the technical knowledge from previous papers.

Plan your answer

Plan your answer before writing anything. It’ll make sure you’re being coherent and will make you feel relaxed when writing (if you’ve basically completed it in note form).

Submit all of your mocks

Do them beforehand and in the most exam-like conditions you can. After it, read the feedback or the whole exercise will be pointless.

Another thing I found useful for revision was looking back over past exam questions and bullet pointing how I would answer them. It doesn’t take as much time as a mock but tests your knowledge and indicates which areas to improve upon.

Summary

Bronwyn believes that much of the key to her success was based on revising the technical aspects early on, then moving onto the industry and practice questions closer to the exam. Also, with a keen eye on the style and approach to writing the case study - and as much practise as possible.

In-depth knowledge of the pre-seen and industry are key to doing well. Also, remember in the exam that you’re writing from the perspective of a Finance Manager – it’s not a ‘cram it into an hour’ essay!

We hope you implement this advice and use it to boost your studies - leading to your own exam success!

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