Full Name: Pham To Kieu Phoung
Occupation: Supply Chain Finance Manager
Organisation: British American Tobacco, Vietnam
CIMA Entry Route: Professional Gateway
CIMA Level/Award achieved so far:
Why did you choose to study CIMA?
As an ACCA Affiliate, I find myself pretty confident on accounting and finance skills. However, for my long term finance career path, I don't see myself being fully equipped with critical skills for a successful finance leader, such as leadership skills, people skills, strategic thinking skills etc. Frankly speaking, I would be able to get these skills elsewhere, but it would be better to learn them integrally in CIMA and get myself tested in a comprehensive business case. Then I will know where I stand at the moment and the level I am at, pertaining to each skill. I will then have a clear direction as to what needs to be improved.
How did you prepare for the exam?
I sat for the Professional Gateway exam in early March 2015. Although being an ACCA Affiliate is a big advantage and I received the knowledge about three years ago, it was hard to recall all the background knowledge at once to get into the exam. So my strategy was:
• Not to read or scan any text book as I did not have enough time back then.
• Recall all the knowledge through the CIMA e-learning course provided by Kaplan.
• Not to bypass any knowledge in the e-learning course (it is already a short brief so if I missed any of it, then it is a very bad studying strategy indeed).
• Try to link the knowledge in the e-learning course to the case study, constantly asking myself what would happen if the case has this issue/problem in this area of knowledge? What would be the question pattern, and then think about solutions as deeply as possible.
• Get comprehensive understanding of the required knowledge and case study by joining group discussions. Everything I could get from others' points of view would help me to link all relevant areas of knowledge together and get a clearer picture. It would also widen and deepen my understanding of the case study.
What is your secret in passing the exam and what advice do you have for other CIMA students?
Of course, you have to take your study seriously. No one can pass an exam without studying hard.
• During the exam, I paid attention not only to the content of the resolution but also on the question layout. I tried to prepare it in a professional format. I think if my solution is presented in a clear and reasonable layout, it may get some ‘liking’ from the markers. I personally think most of the markers enjoy marking a ‘beautiful’ answer.
• If the first question is tough, do not get nervous. Just keep calm and go through the question thoroughly. The time constraint is always there for each question but if you do not understand the question in the first place and quickly jump to start answering it, you may get no marks for it.
• As the exam is computer-based now, there is nothing to worry about not having sufficient space to write down your solution anymore. Outline your answer first in bullet point format and put it all on your answer screen so that in case you run out of time, the key ideas are still there and you may gain some marks for it. After outlining the answer, remove the bullet points and develop them into a paragraph for each of your ideas.
• During the exam, I keep asking myself if all the required skills are integrated into my answers (such as business skills, technical skills, people skills and leadership skills). This is very important because if I do not get at least 33% marks for each of the skills, I will definitely fail even though the total marks are above the minimum pass mark.
What encouragement would you give to CIMA students?
As a corporate finance staff, I find that the CIMA qualification provides comprehensive knowledge and skills for a successful finance player/leader in the modern life. I can now confidently apply all the knowledge to my current job and the work has been highly appreciated by higher senior levels. The CIMA qualification also provides you a chance to climb the career ladder faster as it is well recognised by global employers such as British American Tobacco.