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Passing all exams first time - find out how Nicole did it

Nicole Bland

We caught up with CIMA superstar Nicole Bland who passed all her exams first time, to find out just how she did it.

Hi Nicole - congratulations! How are you feeling about your amazing results?

Thank you - I’ve always been very pleased with my results. I was an average student at school - a neighbour even said that I wouldn’t go far in life! But I started an apprenticeship at a local accountancy practice and everything changed!

So what qualifications did you do?

I studied AAT via classroom lessons, and then did CIMA via Live Online.

Which study method worked best for you?

Classroom lessons were great, but I decided to study CIMA via Live Online to save on commuting and parking. I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything as Live Online classes are carried out via Zoom and are just like being in the classroom, however you can be comfortable at home and there aren’t as many disruptions and students can only talk on that chat panel.

I like the fact that you can watch the Live Online videos back if you miss something or need to refer back for further understanding - you don’t get this on a classroom course.

How did you find MyKaplan?

MyKaplan is really well structured. It tells you what you need to do on each day to keep up with the course - it has a checklist of each topic to ensure that you’ve covered everything that you need to before the next class.

Were any of the tutors particularly helpful during your course?

The Kaplan tutors seem to be the best that I have ever studied with. They are all knowledgeable and seem to know the materials inside and out. I do not think my scores would have been as good without these tutors. My best tutors were Gill BattersbyBee and Stuart Pedley Smith.

Stuart was fantastic. He made learning fun and always applied the lessons to the real world. He also gave me confidence for the exam as I was so anxious with this being my last exam ever! His approach was to think of the case study as a story and to think of a beginning, middle, and end. He also told the class to try and imagine that you are sitting at work, rather than in an exam, and use your business judgement and common sense, which I tried to relate to all the way through my exam.

You can contact a tutor via email most times of the day, and will receive a response within four hours. It’s great if you are stuck on a question and can’t wait until your next class.

What materials did you use?

I received all the materials that I needed - study book, revision cards, and integrated workbook. The integrated workbook is used in the class and I believe is what makes you pass.

The mock exams are often harder than the real exams so they get you well prepared. You can also compare your scores with the rest of the class - which is good as you can see if all other students are struggling too.

You did an apprenticeship - can you tell us more about this?

I studied through a L7 apprenticeship and it was fantastic. I was supported throughout by a Kaplan talent coach. I also did off the job training, which allows more quality time studying rather than having to attend your classes after work.

Also to become CIMA qualified you have to submit PER, however as an apprentice you have to submit a project report instead which seems to be more straightforward. You get help from your talent coach, and they won’t let you submit it to CIMA until they know it's of a good quality.

My talent coach, Karen Evans, was absolutely out of this world. She was with me almost from the start of my apprenticeship, and not only supported me through my studies and apprenticeship, she helped me through things that happened in my personal life.

I am a strong believer in apprenticeships. I did an AAT apprenticeship at 18 (Level 4) then went on to study CIMA (Level 7). Also, I have always recruited apprentices and put them through the AAT scheme with Kaplan, as I think they have more drive and determination and are able to apply their studies in a work environment.

And where are you now?

From studying with Kaplan I have been able to progress from an Assistant Management Accountant position, to a Management Accountant, and I’m now a Head of Finance. I have grown as a person and I’m able to apply my studies at work.

What advice can you give people following in your footsteps?

Book your exam around Kaplans Live Online timetable before you even start the module and stick to it!

Create a plan for each module (I use excel) to plan out all the days before the exam when you want to start studying. Plan some rest days and try to study little and often rather than seven hour chunks after a busy day at work.

For each objective test module I attempted at least 700 different questions and for the case studies I attempted around 60 written questions and 4 mocks. I believe I learnt a lot from getting questions wrong.

Try to attend each and every class live, over my three years I did not miss a live class. Some students seem to miss the Live Online classes and never catch back up.

You have to think that CIMA is a Level 7 qualification, so it’s not going to be easy but drive and determination will get you through. Three years seems like forever when you are studying, but this qualification will set your career up for life!

Impressed? Fancy AAT or CIMA?

If you’re inspired by Nicole’s story, check out our AAT and CIMA pages - as well as our accountancy and tax apprenticeships. This could be your next step to a very successful career.