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Words of wisdom from world number 1

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Kaplan Apprentice, Marc Dolan, came 1st in the world in the May 2019 CIMA Management Case Study exam, and we wanted to find out a little bit more about the man behind the achievement.

Marc was born and raised in Manchester, but now lives with his daughter in Bingley, near Bradford, and works at Provident Financial.

We asked him a few questions about his journey, his motivations, and what he found hard about studying CIMA.

Why are you studying to be an accountant?

Because it is such a solid career path. Accountancy roles can be very varied and the qualification can lead you down a number of different routes. It also gives me a chance to work in a business and actually make a difference to the overall running of the company, as well as being involved in a varied and interesting day to day work life.

How did you find the exams?

The exams in general are difficult and require a huge amount of work to pass. More specifically the case study exam in question. I got lucky in a way as the company in the case study was a cruise company. I’m really into travel and have been on a few cruises. So I found it helped answering questions on an industry that I have a genuine interest in.

For the case study exam itself, I had no idea I’d done so well. I was surprised to hear the news that I came joint 1st in the world! I felt I’d answered some questions really well in the exam, but there were a couple of areas I actually thought I could have done better on. So straight after the exam I was more frustrated about that.

Another difficult aspect of the exam was the time pressure. Despite it being 3 hours long, the time management was crucial.

To keep myself going, I usually make sure that I’ve got something to look forward to directly after the exam.

What’s your study method and how did you keep yourself going?

My study method for the case study was to make sure I had a good mix of questions to practice and making sure I knew the technical content. This made me able to tackle any question that came up. I went through all my old notes and basically summarised them in a notepad, to include all the key technical areas across all topics covered. I found it helped to have all of the information for the different modules in one place.

In terms of timing, I try and do most of my studying before work, so it meant lots of very early starts.

To keep myself going, I usually make sure that I’ve got something to look forward to directly after the exam. It motivates me, knowing that I’d need to put in a lot of work until that point, but then having something nice to look forward to. It’s a light at the end of the tunnel! For the case study I had a holiday to Bulgaria with my daughter, soon after the exam.

Do you have any hobbies that kept you sane during your studying? What do you do to unwind?

I find that studying and work takes up a lot of time so there isn’t too much time for hobbies. However I like to keep active and find the gym helps me unwind after a day working and studying. I tend to try and get there 4/5 times a week. Also, I go on trips and days out with my daughter.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

The best bit of advice I could give for a new starter would be to book your exams in the early stages of your studies. It gives you a target to work towards, enabling you to push yourself more.

In the earlier days of studying, I would usually cover the content first and then book the exam. This method meant I took a lot more time to get through them.

I also find it helps to get yourself into a routine, so you know when you are studying and can get a rhythm going.

Finally for any CIMA exam, I feel question practice is crucial. The more question practice you get, the better.

How do you find studying with Kaplan?

I’ve found college sessions at Kaplan very helpful. When I started studying CIMA I used self study for the first 8 exams, and found this method much harder as it took me longer to get through the exams.

The sessions in college were very useful as it gave me a full day to focus on the content. I had 2 tutors for the case study and the sessions with both definitely helped. The tutors worked through a lot of possible questions and model answers and basically taught the technique to answer the questions successfully.

The tutors also help keep you motivated by setting you deadlines to complete mock exams and questions.

Do you find mixing work and study challenging?

I find mixing work and study very challenging, mainly because it takes up so much time. It has meant a lot of early mornings and late nights, to try and fit the study in around work.

I do get day release for college sessions though, which is a huge help. In addition to juggling work and study. I also have single parenting duties to balance, so all of this makes me even prouder to have achieved first place!

We’re incredibly proud of Marc’s achievement as an apprentice and for his amazing exam results.

If Marc’s story has inspired you, have a look at our apprenticeships and CIMA pages for more information.

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