A Concise Look at the Difference Between the Old and the New CIMA Exams

*This post was updated on 28 August 2020 to account for the 2019 CIMA syllabus and exam changes.

Dear MJ

I’ve been out of the CIMA scene for a while. I started it a few years back but put it on the back burner. I’m ready to come back but have found myself faced with the new syllabus and assessments.

I’ve read a bit about the changes on the CIMA website and I’ve also been following your writing. Your blog seems like a good place for students wanting just a little bit more information and support on the whole process.

I think it might be a good addition if you could highlight some differences between how we were examined based on the old syllabus and how it is now on the new syllabus. What do you think?


A Concise Look on the Difference between the Old and the New CIMA Exams

Dear Fergus

Thank you for your support. I am happy and glad that I am helping students even in the smallest ways. So thank you for that affirmation.

I definitely agree with you and would not mind sharing a few differences between the old vs new CIMA exam structures. The more comprehensive explanation would still be the one on the CIMA website, but here goes my concise version.

In the old 2010 exam structure, it consisted of taking the exam for each individual course/subject like F1, P1, etc. Once you get to the strategic level, you have to take all strategic courses (F3, P3, and E3) in one sitting. After passing the 3 exams, you can then take the T4 (or TOPCIMA, as it was once called), which was the case study at the time. Almost all the exams started off as written. Computers were introduced in the latter years. (Yes, imagine the case study exam in written format. 3 hours of non-stop illegible writing. 🙂 We’ve come a long way.)

Nowadays, the structure consists of  2 types of exams – the OT (objective tests) and the case study exams.

The OT exams are for the individual course/subject (F1, P1, E1, F2, P2, E2, F3, P3, E3). All exams are now computer based. The OT exams can be booked and taken anytime, online. The OT questions consist of mostly multiple choice, number entry, drag and drop format, etc. Pass mark is 100/150.

The case study exams can be booked and taken 4 times a year at registered exam centres – in Feb, May, Aug, Nov.

For the 2015 syllabus, it is important to note is that students needed to achieve a pass mark for the case studies of 80/150, plus getting a moderate or strong set of skills for the various competencies (Technical, Business, People, Leadership).

For the 2019 syllabus, it is now only important to achieve a pass mark of 80/150. There is no longer a minimum level needed to achieve for competencies or activities.

The process is that you have to pass all courses on a level to be able to take the case study exam for that level. So let’s say you are on the operational level, you’ll need to pass F1, P1 and E1 OT exams before you can book to take the Operational case study (OCS) exam. Once you pass the OCS, then you do the same thing on the management level. And so on and so forth.

There many other changes to the new exam structure (including the scaling marks – which is the topic of another post). I hope though that what I’ve written down here has been brief and concise that it gives enough of an overview of the new exam process.

All the best with your future studies! If you need any help, you know where to write me.

Yours faithfully

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