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CIMA Management case study exam explained

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(Updated April 2022)

With the next set of exams coming up we thought it would be great to give you an overview of the management case study. This is also the Gateway route for those of you using this approach for CIMA.

The aim of the management case study exam is to apply the knowledge you have learnt across the whole management level.

In the objective test exams you show what you know and how to answer questions quickly, but a case study exam is when you show how to apply what you know and how to give advice to management. It builds on everything you’ve studied in the underlying OT syllabi and combines it all together.

The case study examines everything that can’t be assessed in an objective test exam. It’s meant to simulate what a management accountant would do in the workplace - answering tasks - and what your boss could expect from your role as a finance manager.

Core activities

Your case study will be structured around core activities. There are 5 at management level:

  • Evaluate opportunities to add value
  • Implement senior management decisions
  • Manage performance and costs to aid value creation
  • Measure performance
  • Manage internal and external stakeholders.

Each task will be made up of sub-tasks that cover one or more core activities. Every core activity will be tested in each exam. Make sure you read the questions carefully and work out what you’re actually being asked to do. You need to thoroughly answer the question and not miss anything out.

Top tips for passing the case study exam

  1. Know the role of the Finance Manager inside and out.

    Familiarising yourself with the pre-seen material is key. Approximately seven weeks before the exam you’ll be provided with around 20-25 pages of information on a fictitious company. You will, for this exam, assume the role of a Financial Manager.

    You’ll need to read everything carefully, making sure you know the ins and outs of the company within the pre-seen information you’re issued with before the exam. During it you could be asked about almost anything from the underlying OT subjects. In the past, companies have been in the toy manufacturing industry (think Lego) and the hotel industry (think the Hilton).

    On the exam day you’ll be given more information to consider and then you’ll be asked questions about the company you’ve been looking at. You could be asked questions on: NPV, Project Management, or around financial standards and how to treat items in the financial statements.

    If you feel rusty on these topics, or unsure as to how they will be applied to a case study exam, then book onto one of our courses.

  2. Brush up on E2, P2, and F2 - Managing Performance, Advanced Management Accounting and Advanced Financial Reporting

    You need to have a good grasp of key theories, models, frameworks, and calculations and other knowledge from the Management Level Objective Test papers, then apply these to the fictitious company within the pre-seen information.

    You’ll be required to show how your knowledge can be applied to a real scenario. If you don’t brush up on your knowledge you might miss a critical concept that could be applied for the issue that has been given to you.

  3. Prepare with mocks and practice questions

    Kaplan Publishing is the only official publisher of CIMA approved material, meaning that all of our books and materials have been reviewed and approved by CIMA faculty. For our case study courses we will give you mock exams for you to try.

    We’d suggest you attempt your mocks under exam conditions so you get used to the time frame in which you have to work. The case study timer is always ticking down and if you don’t complete a task in the time available the system will automatically move you on to the next task without you being able to finish.

    These mocks will be marked by us at Kaplan, so make sure you fully explain everything. Writing out notes or bullet points might prove to you that you know what you would put in your real exam, but it won’t show someone else that you know what you’re talking about and will not score you as many marks as a fully developed answer.

    Treat your mocks like the real thing, develop your exam technique and make sure you get your point across.

    Our MCS study text will walk you through what you need to prepare for the case study exam, providing you with proven study techniques. It covers the building blocks of successful learning and exam techniques, with advice on how to read the pre-seen material.

    You’ll be given handy hints and tips, to make it easy for you to apply what you’ve learned to your exam, you’ll also find a chapter on how to approach the more technical questions. This is invaluable advice to help you pass your case study exam.

  4. Plan your answers

    Starting from the February 2020 sitting, CIMA gives you an indication of how much time to spend per task, so you can plan your exam time accordingly. There is generally 45 minutes per task, but as the tasks are broken down into sub-tasks, make sure you look at the mark allocation for the sub-task to work out how much time to spend on it. For instance, while a full task takes 45 minutes, a sub-task that scores 40% of the marks should only take 18 minutes

    Understandably, you might panic and want to start writing your answer immediately because of the short time available, but if you plan your answer a little, at the start, it gives you a great basis to work from. That way, you know where you’re heading. It can also help you structure your writing and answer.

  5. Hone your writing technique

    As part of the Management case study exam, you’ll have 30 to 60 minutes to write a financial report or response to a colleague, manager, or senior executive via email. In the exam you can expect 4 tasks to answer.

    A good, clear, writing style is very important. Use short, digestible, paragraphs to make it easy for the marker to read, and give you those vital marks.

  6. Take a look at the new exam blueprints

    CIMA has published examination blueprints, based on the syllabus. They provide information about the format, structure and weightings of the assessments. You can view the Management Level blueprint on the CIMA website.

    You may find that some of the content has changed, especially at E2 because of the change in the syllabus in 2019. Don’t worry. If you enroll on a course with us we will guide you through this and help you progress through your exam.

  7. What are the pass rates for the CIMA Management Case Study?

    CIMA case studies are in 4 exam sittings over 3 days at the end 4 months in the year.

    Pass rates for the 2021 exam sittings were:

    February sitting - 71%

    May sitting - 69%

    August sitting - 68%

    November sitting - 73%

    Results for CIMA case study take four to five weeks to come through as they are human-marked. It’s a notoriously difficult exam, but we’re proud that Kaplan’s CIMA pass rates consistently exceed the national average. In November 2021 we had the highest achievers at all three levels of case study.

    Ready to do your CIMA Management Case Study exam?

    If you’re ready you can book your exam now, but make sure you have read everything you can about it so you are well prepared and confident going in.

    If you’re just considering CIMA, or are thinking about moving from Operational to Management, check out our CIMA pages for more information. We also have plenty of study methods and funding options to choose from to make your studies go as smoothly as possible.