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Operational Case Study

The focus of Operational level is on the short term. In the Operational Case Study exam, your role will be that of a Finance Officer.

The Case Study exam is essentially a virtual business role play. Therefore, students need to understand their role within the case study exam in order to produce a good answer, demonstrating knowledge and applying skills from across the syllabus.

The table below provides an overview of the role students are expected to take on at Operational Study exam, who they will be seeking to influence and examples of the syllabus area they may be tested upon.

Who are you?

At Operational level, your role will be that of a Finance Officer.

Equivalent job titles in a real organisation might be:

  • Junior/Trainee accountant
  • Credit Controller
  • Assistant accountant
  • Cost accountant
What is the main focus of your role?

Overall focus
Short term

You may be involved in

  • Costing
  • Preparing budgets
  • Advising on product mix or performance
  • Variance analysis
  • Working capital or cash management
  • Producing reports of performance against budget
  • Risk assessment in short term decision making.

You will need to understand

  • The role of finance within the wider organisation
  • Who the stakeholders are
  • The regulatory environment
  • How to communicate with non-financial staff. 
Who is your audience/who are you seeking to influence? Your manager (Finance Manager/Finance Director), peers within the finance department and possibly in other departments; you may need to gather information from or present budget information to non-financial colleagues.
Examples of topic areas and tasks you may be asked to look at in the exam (based on Variant 1 of the Nov 2015 Management Case Study exam) Your role

You are a newly appointed Finance Officer in a family run horticulture company. Your predecessor has begun to set up some budgets and costings but the finance and administrative processes in the company are unsophisticated and there is little automation.

The emphasis in the Operational Case Study exam is the Performance pillar and Technical skills but all subjects will be tested. During the exam you will need to demonstrate:

Technical skills
Planning and monitoring cash flows and the use of rolling budgets (F1 C3 and P1 B4)
Interpreting variances (P1 A1)
Treatment of R&D costs in financial statements (F1 B2) 

Business skills
Show understanding of how the finance function benefits the business (E1 B2)

People skills
Explain why collaborative supply chains are useful to the business (E1 D1)

Leadership skills
Leadership skills only account for 6% at this level and no one will fail due to a lack of leadership skills in the OCS. However they are tested eg in the variance analysis task above, discussing how planning and operational variances benefit the business would have attracted leadership marks.

Competency weightings for your exam

Competency Weighting is the basis of distribution of marks from various sections in the exam. You will have to obtain minimum threshold marks (approximately 1/3) for each competency (except for Leadership skills) along with a scaled score of 80 to pass the exam.

Technical skills - 64%
Business skills - 16%
People skills - 14%
Leadership skills - 6%

NOTE: These are just illustrations to help you set the Case Study exam in context and are not exhaustive.

Syllabus document

Find out more about the CIMA Professional Qualification (2015 Syllabus & Assessment)

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CGMA Competency Framework

The framework shows the skills abilities and competencies that finance professionals need to increase the success of organisations.

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Case Study exams

Format: computer based
Availability: four windows each year (Feb, May, Aug, Nov) at any of the 5,000 Pearson VUE centres around the world
Length: 3 hours
Marking: human marked
Results: available 5 weeks after the close of the exam window

Further information
The Case Study exams are used to test a variety of skills including research and analysis, how to present information, persuasion and communication skills. The move to more Case Study exams has been deliberate to test a wider range of skills and integrated learning across the syllabus.

Case Study exams reflect a real life business scenario, comprising a series of time bound tasks set for students to complete based on pre-seen material.

  • Pre-seen material released to tutors: 9 weeks prior to the exam window through MY CIMA (Tutor log in details required)
  • Pre-seen material released to students: 6 weeks prior to the exam window through CIMAconnect (Student contact ID and password required)