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Rebecca Audain

Finance Analyst at UnitedHealth Group

"CIMA has had a massive impact on my career. I have even been asked for my professional opinion on strategic decisions and it is extremely empowering to be trusted enough to have my thoughts heard."

Congratulations on your highest achiever award of joint-first position in the world for the August 2018 Management Case Study! How did you celebrate your success?

Thank you! I’ve treated myself to a new handbag (typical woman, I know); I am having a plaque made so that I can always be reminded of this amazing achievement and dinner and drinks with family and friends. Two lots of celebrations quite close together as I’ve already celebrated being officially part-qualified.

Can you tell us a little about yourself, and how you came to study CIMA?

I’m a single mother from East London who is obsessed with cooking, baking and the gym. I work out so I can eat what I want and not feel guilty about it. When my colleagues or friends ask me how life is going it is either a conversation about CIMA, food or my 5 year old son. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I have always loved numbers since I was a small child but I actually wanted to be an athlete when I was younger. I stumbled across my love of finance while at University. I have a First Class degree in Business Economics which is comprised of Statistics, Finance & Economics modules. It was after finishing my first year that I realised not only did I enjoy the financial elements of my degree, but I was actually getting really good marks for them too.

Once I graduated, I did a lot of research on what comes next and how best to get my career off the ground. I chose CIMA because of the management aspect of the qualification. The linking of management accounting, the financial aspects and strategic thinking is what drew me to the qualification. It isn’t just about accounting.

How long did you spend preparing for the Management Case Study?

I spent about 6-7 weeks preparing for the exam. I passed my last objective test of the management level a couple days before the Case Study course started so I didn’t have any time prior to that to get much more prepared, but it was enough time. I spent pretty much every evening and weekend thereafter going over all of the pillar content, familiarising myself with the case study and looking at past papers to gather what and how certain topics could be examined.

Did you experience any setbacks along the way? If so, how did you overcome them?

I didn’t have any major setbacks thankfully; however, I wasn’t doing great in any of the marked mocks. I was scraping through with 60% pass marks so I didn’t have much confidence. To help, I made sure I brushed up on my theory, knew the case study well so I could get those all-important application marks, had other students on my course mark my work and vice versa, reached out to my course tutor and of course looked at lots and lots of past papers and applied them to my case study.

Do you have any study tips?

Practice. Practice. Practice. Do as many past papers or practice exam questions as you can and try to get someone else to mark your answers. I actually covered 15 past papers while studying for the Management Case Study exam. It might seem excessive but I am glad I did. Of all the papers I covered, my actual exam was only similar to one of them. And if I hadn’t done so many I would have struggled to be confident with the answers I typed.

I also found that discussing ideas and thoughts with other students – especially my CIMA bestie Luiza Davtyan – got the ideas flowing and we could both explore different viewpoints. You get a better, well-rounded picture and learn to think more outside the box when it comes to answering the questions if you share ideas.

Are there any tools or resources in particular that you feel helped your studies?

CIMA Aptitude (although more relevant for Objective test exams) are a godsend and they mimic the exams really closely. Any other free online resources you can find on YouTube from tuition providers like Astranti, First Intuition, BPP and Kaplan are always useful.

What impact has studying CIMA had on your career?

CIMA has had a massive impact on my career. I work as a Finance Analyst in a US owned company and I have seen my studies be put into practice in real life. I have progressed so much in my current role and CIMA has enabled me to have a better understanding beyond my career years. I have even been asked for my professional opinion on strategic decisions and it is extremely empowering to be trusted enough to have my thoughts heard.

Now that I am so close to being a fully qualified CIMA accountant I have set my sights on my future career prospects. CIMA has helped me achieve so much already and has given me the confidence to set myself the ultimate goal of being a Chief Finance Officer in the next 10 years. That may seem ambitious but I never thought I could be Joint-first in the world for my exam results and that shows me that I can do anything if I put my mind to it.

What are your study goals for next year?

My main and only study goal for 2019 is to be fully qualified. I’ve already made a start with my F3 exam which is booked for November, P3 will be in January, E3 will be in March and then the Strategic Case Study in May. It doesn’t leave much for breaks in between but I am so determined to get the exams finished. This has been my plan since mid-2017 and so far it has been going well.

What advice would you give to students who may be nervous about scheduling their next exam?

I’d say “Just got for it!”. It is as much about confidence as it is about knowing the information. If you know enough but you panic in the exam, your mind can go blank. Remain calm, revise thoroughly and have confidence in yourself. I believe in everyone studying CIMA - it isn’t a walk in the park but it sure will be worth it in the end. And if you happen to fail an exam, take a break, allow yourself to be upset but don’t dwell on it, pick yourself up and carry on again. You will get there in the end.