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Thinking of studying CIMA but unsure of where to start?

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Routes to earning the CGMA designation come in all different ways: various study methods, pathways, and qualifications, but what is best for you?

Studying CIMA

On completion of the qualification, and becoming a CIMA member, you'll be entitled to the CGMA designation. You’ll be a member of the world’s leading and largest professional body of management accountants, specialising in finance, accounting, and business-related subjects. With a world of opportunities awaiting you once you have the letters CGMA after your name, it’s no surprise that you’re interested in getting started with your studies.

Let’s take a closer look at what you can do.

1. The traditional route

CIMA has two qualifications, if you are doing an apprenticeship the first is Level 4 and the second is a Level 7 qualification.

The first is the Certificate in Business Accounting, the second is CIMA’s CGMA Professional Qualification.

Certificate in Business Accounting

The syllabus consists of four subjects where you will develop your basic knowledge and learn the fundamentals of specific areas. Each subject is assessed with an exam. The exams are OnDemand and can be sat at any time and either at a Pearson Vue centre or remotely at home.

If you have little or no previous accounting experience or qualifications, then starting with Certificate in Business Accounting is right for you. It is a qualification in its own right and can lead to roles such as accounts clerk or administration. It also serves as the entry route to the Professional Qualification.

CIMA’s CGMA Professional Qualification

Upon successful completion of the Certificate in Business Accounting (or with exemptions approved by CIMA), you can continue your studies with the Professional Qualification. The syllabus is split into three levels, and each level consists of three Objective Test exams, and a Case Study exam, where you apply your knowledge from the three Objective Test subjects:

  • Operational level. This is the first level in the Professional Qualification and focuses on the short-term and the implementation of decisions.
  • Management level. The second level of the Professional Qualification focuses on translating long-term decisions into medium-term plans.
  • Strategic level. The final level of the qualification will be more advanced as you will focus on long-term strategic decision-making.

Find out more about CIMA’s qualifications.

Study methods

At Kaplan, we offer four different study methods that support the traditional route. They vary in price, recommended study time, and completion, but whichever you choose will help you on your way to success.


Ideal if you learn best with direct guidance. You can take advantage of having a tutor teaching the content as well as the open discussion with your peers to chat about what you’re learning - just like back in the school days before laptops took over the classrooms.

Live Online

If the classroom course appeals to you but just isn’t viable, Live Online may be the solution. With live lectures available, plus convenient recordings so you can watch them again later, there's no missing out on valuable teaching. Plus, if something requires further explanation or review, your tutor is just one email away from providing help.


If you're a self-directed learner who needs just the right amount of guidance, OnDemand courses could be perfect for you. It provides video tutorials, led by our expert tutors. But don't worry if your attention span isn't so long, these tutorials are designed to be consumed in short bursts, and backed up by printed materials or online texts. Although the lectures aren’t live, you will still have access to the ‘contact a tutor’ option in your MyKaplan learning platform.

Distance Learning

The most affordable study method, distance learning is great for you if you’re independent, accountable and have good self-discipline. There are little to no online videos with this method, and your materials will be your best friend while studying.

2. The CGMA® Finance Leadership Program (FLP)

The newest route to qualification is the CGMA Finance Leadership Program (FLP). FLP is available as a one, two, or three year subscription and includes all the learning and assessment materials across the complete Professional Qualification.

Kaplan is the official partner of CGMA FLP Skills Premium, an enhanced FLP offering. It includes live tutor-led sessions to top up the knowledge learnt independently as well as a comprehensive case study review course, and tailored materials. Those enrolled on FLP Skills Premium also get academic support from expert tutors through emails and live chat, and coaching emails to support through the qualification. For further details see FLP Skills Premium.

Unlike more traditional routes, the FLP seamlessly mixes learning with continuous assessment (topic level assessments). This means you won’t sit any OT exams, just the three Case Studies. In a nutshell, if exam pressure makes you feel uneasy then the CGMA FLP Skills Premium might just be perfect for you.

The Finance Leadership Program now includes Foundational Level, allowing learners with no previous qualifications or exemptions to start FLP.

3. Apprenticeships

There are many benefits to working towards the CGMA designation as part of an apprenticeship. The programme combines the ‘technical knowledge’ of accountancy which is learnt through studying for the qualification, with the development of essential skills and behaviours to create well-rounded professionals. By working towards your accountancy goals via an apprenticeship you can expect:

  • To earn a salary throughout your studies
  • Have dedicated time assigned each week towards your personal development using our online modules and tutor-led development sessions
  • To be assessed frequently on your development with the opportunity for regular feedback
  • To demonstrate how you can apply what you’re learning back at work
  • Continuous support from Kaplan, alongside tutors and Talent Coaches.

If you are considering the apprenticeship route, you will need support from your employer and line manager, who will be essential to your success. If you are looking for an employer take a look at Kaplan’s jobs board for active jobs open.

4. Materials only

Do you want to study CIMA’s qualifications but you’re not quite looking for that tutor relationship yet, and you feel like you have the self-motivation to do it alone? Breaking away from structured courses and using only printed materials can be effective, but also a lonely place.

We wouldn’t recommend using only printed materials, our courses are built on years of data and learning science and will provide you additional resources, tutor support, and some clear guidance for what to study and when. This can really be the difference between a successful or failing relationship with yourself and your CIMA studies.

However, if you are a highly independent learner, or you’re part of a study support group amongst your peers, then passing CIMA’s exams with only printed materials has been done before. Ensure that you purchase all the available materials through the Kaplan Publishing website, At Kaplan, we are the official publisher of CIMA’s materials so purchasing Kaplan material means that you are purchasing content reviewed by the CIMA Faculty team.

When you purchase materials, you will also gain online access to materials such as mock exams through the MyKaplan platform.

Still unsure?

We know that it is often a difficult decision to make when starting your studies, but we’re here to help. Get in touch with our Student Services team by calling 0161 259 7400 or emailing They will be happy to help you find the route that is perfect for you. We’re really excited you are considering CIMA’s qualifications and are really excited about what the future may bring for you on completion!

Our UK phone lines are open:

Monday - Thursday: 8:00 am - 8:00 pm
Friday: 8:00 am - 5:30 pm
Saturday: 09:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sunday and UK Bank Holidays: 09:00 am - 1:00 pm

Let’s start your exciting CIMA studies

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