Skip to main content

Award winning training provider

Award winning training provider

Excellent pass rates

Tutor support until late

Market leader

How to pass CIMA E1 exam (Managing Finance in a Digital World)

Young female student at a desk.
Iryna Mcdonald
By Iryna Mcdonald, Tutor at Kaplan Link to Iryna Mcdonald's LinkedIn profile

This blog has been developed to set you up for your CIMA E1 exam (Managing Finance in a Digital World), so you can be in the best possible position to pass.

The level of the exam

Whether you are progressing from the Certificate level, or are going straight into the Operational level as you’ve received exemptions from CIMA, E1 is a great exam to get you started.

It will introduce you to the basic aspects of managing an organisation, and help you grasp how the finance function enables the organisation to create and preserve value.

The exam topics

1. The role of finance function: This topic explores how an organisation as a whole operates and will include some element already familiar to those who completed Certificate level, namely ethics and governance.

2. Technology in the digital world: The topic of technology will be further explored all the way through the CIMA qualification, thus it makes sense to become fully familiar with concepts such as blockchain and Big Data analytics straight away.

3. Data and information in the digital world: The finance department is expected to use data better to improve information provision and thus contribute towards more effective decision-making.

4. Shape and structure of the finance function: As the overall make-up of the organisation is changing in the digital age, the finance function will need to adopt a diamond rather than the traditional hierarchical shape.

5. Finance interacting with the organisation: The finance function works closely with marketing, operations, HR and IT departments and therefore needs to understand how these department operate to provide them with useful insights that help the organisation perform better.

The exam structure

The exam is 90 minutes long and all 60 questions are compulsory. It covers all areas of the syllabus and each question is awarded the same quantity of marks. Overall, you need to get around 70% of questions correct to pass, however when CIMA releases results they use a scaled score, which means that you need to get at least 100 out of 150 marks.

The exam questions may be set out in different ways, including:

  • choosing one or more correct responses
  • matching definitions or descriptions to the words or phrases that they represent
  • dragging and dropping the correct response into a graph or a diagram
  • clicking on the right spot in a graph or a diagram
  • selecting the correct words or phrases from a drop-down list.

The pass rate for the E1 exam has been consistently high, at just above 80%. There is a free exam tutorial on the CIMA Pearson site to help you get used to exam screen layout and functionality.

Key challenges of the exam

Students tend to perform well on questions related to HR as it is very practical. You can easily relate the topic to your experience of going through a job interview or an appraisal. Some of the technologies, such as cloud computing or the use of mobile devices, are also very easy to grasp.

Topic areas which pose the greatest difficulty include the activities performed at different levels of finance and data modelling. This is mainly due to the technical terminology used. However, with a bit of practice these will quickly become more accessible.

Overall, E1 is probably the best exam to start the Operational level with as it lays foundations for many topics that will be further explored in the P (performance) pillar. It also helps to build up the big picture of how an organisation operates and to understand how issues covered in the F (financial) pillar impact on an organisation’s future prospects.

A good grasp of E1 will also come handy once you progress to the Operational Case Study. E1 introduces the context in which the case is set and lays out the key challenges you will be expected to address in your role.

What should I do to pass?

It’s a common misconception that objective test exams are easy. While it is fair to say that some questions may appear to be easier to tackle than others, it may not always be the case.

On the positive side, the E1 exam is not time pressured, so there will be sufficient time to read questions carefully. This is to make sure you fully understand the key facts and therefore select the answer options that best fit the given circumstances.


Finally, for some, E1 might be their first exam in a long while. Therefore it is important that you pace your studies in a way that fits around your work and personal commitments.

Kaplan offers a variety of different study methods, including classroom, Live Online or distance learning to fit in with your time commitments. With expert guidance from our skilled tutors, you will find it easier to acquire both the knowledge and the exam techniques needed to succeed in the E1 exam.