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Tricky Topic - CIMA P1 study tips

Close up of a student’s pensive face

CIMA P1 is consistently regarded as one of the toughest areas of the Operational level, and the qualification as a whole. We spoke to a couple of our learners who gave an insight into their experience of passing it.

How did you do in the exam?

Niamh: Luckily, I passed it first time.

Kat: I studied P1 about 2 years ago (not with Kaplan) and unfortunately failed the exam a few times. But the last time I studied with Kaplan I passed on the first try thanks to all the resources available and the great tutor support. I still found the exam tough though.

How did you overcome the challenge of P1?

Niamh: The thing I found most challenging was remembering all of the formulas for the various calculations. The sheer quantity of information that you needed to know, while working a full time job - in a world that’s opening up again - took some getting used to!

It took me a good few weeks to get into the swing of things with this module. I was really struggling to switch my brain back into maths mode, having just completed E1 which was all theory.

At the start of the module, I spent a couple of hours in the evenings copying up notes and trying to get my head round what I learnt in the lessons, and then practised questions at the weekend.

This meant that when it came to revision time, I had a basic understanding of all of the chapters and could concentrate on answering the questions. During the last few weeks before my exam, I tried to do a couple of hours revising before work, and a couple of hours after and got myself into a daily routine of this.

I concentrated on learning the calculations and being able to answer those types of questions, and then turned my concentration to learning the theory of the module as there is also a lot of this in the exam.

Kat: Question practice, more practice and some more question practice. Especially timed question practice.

It’s very challenging to stay focused and motivated if you’re getting low scores on the Mock and Test your understanding (TYU) questions, but just break it all down into bite size chunks and study the areas you feel stuck on.

I would do the mock, write down the areas I would struggle with, and go over the chapters again to refresh my memory.

I found it was useful to look at the chapters for the 4 syllabus areas together and build TYU modules for the areas.

What advice would you give to someone studying P1?

Niamh: My biggest advice to anyone doing P1 is to practice as many questions as possible. Kaplan provide a lot of practice questions.

Make sure you also learn the theory of the module as I felt as if there was a lot more of this in the exam than I expected.

Sticking post-it notes around the house was my trick – going to get a cup of tea in the morning and the break-even calculation being on my milk bottle, or the causes of sales variances being on my mirror. There were many little reminders in random places which helped me to picture them in my exam.

Make sure you also reach out for help and support. Kaplan has a lot of resources to help you where you are struggling, it is what you are paying for - so use it!

My final bit of advice is make sure you don’t overwork. Get some rest. I always found that when I was tired from a day of work or had spent hours reading the textbook, I was basically just looking into oblivion and nothing was going in.

Manage your time so that you still have a social life, and if you get enough sleep you’ll find that your studying is actually more productive.

Kat: I broke revision down into 2-3 hour sections at most, and over a weekend would do one first thing in the morning, then one in the afternoon.

On the week we didn’t have tuition I made sure to recap notes on the same nights of the week to keep the momentum of studying and staying in a routine.

Plan breaks and one day or night off – and take them. They are vital for your well-being and really beneficial, even if it’s a dog walk, food shopping or having a bit of a pamper session. I found it refreshed my mind and I could concentrate again afterwards.


If you feel you need more support during your study times don’t forget to reach out to our Academic support team, or view our other study tips blogs.