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CIMA Operational Case Study Exam Tips

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Katie Collins
By Katie Collins, National CIMA Product Manager Link to Katie Collins's LinkedIn profile

As you may already know, Operational Case Study (OCS) is the first case study under the CIMA professional qualification and is designed to test your ability to apply the technical knowledge you’ve learnt from E1, P1 and F1.

What’s included in the Case Study Exam tasks?

When it comes to the tasks in the exam, they can involve: giving advice or making recommendations on different budgeting techniques, variance analysis and costing techniques, and other relevant areas. They can also include accounting standards in practice, and thinking about the digital features in an organisation. Of course this list is not exhaustive of what could come up in your exam.

The case study exam is designed to reflect tasks that you could be asked to do in a normal day at work as a finance officer, the level that this case study is designed to test. Unlike the Objective test papers, the case study exam mostly involves a written answer, usually 4 tasks lasting 45 minutes each.

Did you know?

Kaplan Publishing is the only supplier of CIMA-approved material, meaning that all of our books have been CIMA-reviewed and are the only ones to benefit from examiner insight and past questions.

Once those 45 minutes are up the timer will stop and you’ll be pushed onto the next question. You can’t go back to the task after the 45 minutes if you don’t finish it. Time management is crucial, so when it comes to it practice really does make perfect.

In the past, case studies have been written on fictitious companies, including a chocolate manufacturer, (such as Hotel Chocolate, yum!) and a 24-hour gym (think Buzz Gym, Pure Gym). The exam will use this company and ask you to provide advice to the finance manager/director and the board on specific areas.

A student’s perspective

Jemma Mead is a Kaplan student who completed, and passed, the Operational Case Study exam in November 2019. She offers some thoughts and tips:

The Operational case study was pretty hard, but on a par with what I expected. I was particularly nervous as before starting CIMA I hadn’t studied for 15 years!

In the exam you don’t have to do many calculations, because you’re being tested on whether you’ve actually understood the concepts and can apply the technical knowledge you learnt at P1 / E1 and F1.

We had a chocolate company, which was nice, as you have to learn a lot about the company and industry. It really allows you to get into the role of finance officer at your pre-seen company and understand how it works.

Here are my tips on passing the CIMA Operational case study exam:

  • Be ready to think on your feet, and be reactive to what the tasks ask you to do.
  • Familiarise yourself with the pre-seen material - really understand the new material you are given in the tasks in the exam. I don’t think the examiners are looking for generic answers. It’s about tailoring it to the specific company in question.
  • Take advice from your Kaplan tutors. They gave me fantastic insight into what may come up, so do listen to them and use the material.
  • Brush up on any gaps in your technical knowledge. With the Kaplan courses they try to cover everything, but you’ll never know the tasks you will get on the day. So if there are weaknesses in your technical knowledge, you will need to brush up before exam day.
  • Really read and understand the question and pick out the key elements.
  • Allocate time effectively to answer the question.
  • Don’t waffle, use your time effectively and use it as best as you can.
  • Use the Kaplan student community. I used Live Online, and having other people in the class was really helpful. Being able to interact with them on a live chat can help you learn in a different way. Take advantage of that.
  • Stay calm!

Passing OCS with top marks

For more student tips, watch our video from a student who came first in the world for the Operational case study exam. Jade gives us the inside info on what she did to get there. Tips, tricks and approach to study for E1, P1 and F1 objective tests.

How you can study and prepare for your next exam

Kaplan is here to support you and inspire you to pass your case study. We have a wide range of study methods to choose from, based on your preferences.

We are the only approved publisher of CIMA materials, which is essential for your success, and our mock exams are designed to give you the look and feel of the real case study exam. We will also give you tailored feedback on the answers to your mocks if you submit them to us by the marking deadlines.

Keep going, you can do it - we’re with you every step of the way!

If you've not done it already, you can book your exam online.