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Be prepared for your CIMA exams

By Rebecca McCaffry CPFA, FCMA, CGMA, Associate Technical Director — Management Accounting

It’s been quite a while since I sat my CIMA exams. Back in the old days we used pen and paper and sat at rickety folding desks! The support of my fellow students, some of whom are still my friends today, really helped me deal with the stress of study and exams. Today, improved communications mean we can study remotely from anywhere in the world – but it’s still great to get the support of your fellow students. Some have turned to social media, sharing their study experience online. Self-funded student, ‘The CIMA Student’ is one of them and has been blogging about their progress.

With the case study exams looming, I asked the author of The CIMA Student blog to take a break from studying and share some of their best study tips:

  • Study smarter, not longer
    I’ve learned over time that dedicating a whole day or weekend to study limits productivity. If you have the luxury of a free weekend earmarked for your CIMA studies, life will get in the way and you’ll tend to find you will only get 3-4 hours of good study time.

    Now I prefer to study for smaller chunks of time without distraction. I try to find 90 minutes a day I can dedicate to CIMA study or exam revision, in 2 x 45 minute chunks. No distractions, tea making or smart phones. Just a study textbook, mock exam papers, calculator, pen and notepad.

    If I miss a day due to other commitments, no stress. I will just pick up again the next day.

  • Face your fears
    I’m not talking about spiders or sky diving here, but it’s important to tackle the tough subjects you are struggling with. Push yourself and face the challenging parts of the syllabus and exam questions.

    It’s human nature to revert to the areas and subjects we are comfortable with and revise those – however, this gives you a false sense of security that you will pass your next exam. Knowing the basic financial ratios means little if you cannot understand the makeup and implications of the weighted average cost of capital (WACC).

    You will feel a sense of satisfaction afterwards, and don’t worry if you get questions wrong during your revision and study. Learn from the mistakes now so you can be prepared on exam day!

  • Make (and stick to) a routine
    This relates to my first point about studying smarter. Creating a planned routine for when and how you study will improve your habits. For me, timing was important. As I had booked all of my exams to start at 9:30am, I would try and make sure my study sessions were in the morning too, to replicate how my body and brain would feeling at the same time as my exam.

    I also find I work better in the mornings, so this routine was a great way of finding a regular rhythm and pattern with my study, and also simulated the exam day itself.

  • Make a study plan
    It sounds silly, but many students will dive straight into the syllabus without any idea when and how they will complete it all. A clear plan will not only keep you on track but will also act as a motivational tool. Work backwards from your exam date and make sure you leave 10-14 days for mock exam practice and final revision.

    Missing deadlines in your plan is common. I do it all the time, but I just adjust the plan accordingly. So don’t worry if you miss a few days of study from your plan. Either make them up later or squeeze some time off the final revision stage. Again, remember to leave enough time for mock exam practice.

    The objective test exam dates are flexible, so you can postpone the exam by a week if needed or even bring it forward if you feel ready.
  • Seek feedback
    Feedback is particularly important and relevant for the case study exams. You need to get feedback on your long form question practice and exam technique. If your studies are classroom based, then this won’t be a problem, but distance and self-study students should seek out study programmes that offer some degree of tutor support and feedback on your mock exams and question practice.

    You should also take time to digest the feedback and take it on board. Listening and self-reflection is a great skill to have if you want to improve in any way, shape, or form – not just for your studies.

Good luck on exam day!

You can read more at The CIMA Student.