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Seven rules (7) for passing CIMA exams

Good test technique is commonly the key to passing your papers, therefore here square measure seven steps to success 

By Nick Best, Managing Director, Astranti Financial Training

> Rule one – structure your answer 

I was recently working with a class around the requirement ‘explain the role and significance of …’ Very few of the class had broken this requirement down into its two constituent parts – the ‘role’ and the ‘significance’. 

As a result there was a tendency just to discuss the ‘role’ and omit the important discussion of why it was significant, meaning most of those students failed the question. This highlights a key weakness in many people's approach – not creating a structure for their answer.

Question planning enables you to create a clear structure for your answer which enables you to clearly break the question down into individual parts, ensuring you attempt each part of the question.

Crucially, you must allocate marks to each sub-part of each question using your best judgement, and tailor the length of your answer and the time you take to that mark allocation.

>> Rule two – detail and depth on each purpose

Lack of detail and depth is a feature in almost every failing script. For example, in a question such as ‘What are the benefits of outsourcing IT for BBB Ltd?’ I'll see an answer such as ‘BBB Ltd would benefit from outsourcing as this will enable them to access the outsourcer's expertise in areas of IT.’ 

Everyone learns 'expertise' as a benefit of outsourcing and all this student is doing is telling us they've learnt that. That's not enough depth to get a mark. 

A better answer might be something like: ‘the outsourcer is a large company with a huge experience of IT in many industries and a wide range of experts and BBB Ltd would benefit from outsourcing its IT as this will enable them to access that knowledge. 

'BBB Ltd currently only has a small team of 4 individuals managing their IT and as a result their internal expertise would be comparatively limited. This additional expertise could produce better systems, increasing productivity and improving information provision across the company.
’Notice then how this answers why they have greater expertise than BBB, and what the true underlying benefit of accessing this expertise is to the business. Aim to write in four or five line paragraphs every time you write something in your answer, adding detail and depth to every point you make.

>>> Rule three – answer the question asked

I'll always remember a discussion with a CIMA marker a few years ago; he told me his most frustrating observation as a marker was students who answer the question they want to see rather than the one that is actually there. 

On a question on the ‘significance of quality’, students will often completely fail to address the word 'significance'. They'll define quality, discuss how to deliver good quality and perhaps outline a couple of quality management techniques, and yet fail to focus on its 'significance'. 
The problem here is that answering the question in this way scores 0. Do that on a couple of sub-sections of your script and you'll most likely fail.

It isn't just an odd few students who make this mistake, it's virtually every script I see. You must ensure every paragraph you write considers the specific question asked.

>>>> Rule four – apply your answer to the state of affairs

I once marked an F3 script that failed despite virtually every calculation on the mock paper being done correctly. The student knew her theory perfectly, but simply didn't apply those numbers to the company question and didn't analyse what they meant from a business perspective. 

Knowing theory is just the start. Practical application to the scenario is vital to pass these exam and you must do it regularly in your answers, particularly at the higher levels. 

>>>>> Rule five – get the simple marks

It may surprise you to know that people rarely get long calculations questions right. Let's say someone is working out a long NPV at F3 or T4. Only a minority of students will get that final NPV correct. 

However, it's possible to get the final answer wrong but still get very high marks because marks are awarded for doing each part of the question right. 

If you can't do one part of a calculation, keep going through to the end doing everything you can and get all the easy marks. You may get the final question numbers wrong, but you'll be scoring method marks all the way through and most likely pass.

>>>>>> Rule six – manage some time

The biggest issue people have with T4 part B is not the scenario, industry, unseen issues, analysis, recommendations, ethics issues, or writing the report. Their problem is that they don't effectively manage their time, and often fail as a result of not completing the script. 
Time management is the key skill I teach people at T4 to help them pass. It sounds easy – but it's not. It requires planning, fast working and huge self-discipline. 

Whatever paper you're sitting in November, managing your time throughout your script will be key to your success. Remember there are 1.8 minutes available per mark. Plan exactly how long you will spend on both the question as a whole and each sub-section, and religiously stick to those timings in the exam.

>>>>>>> Rule seven – work flat out

The final key difference I see between people who pass and fail is the amount of work they put in. Those who pass are often more organised with their study time, put in much longer hours, do more practice questions and ask more questions of their tutors. Hard work really does pay off.

Courtesy  -

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