Dear Tutor MJ
I’ve been following your blog in an effort to learn more about the CIMA case study exams. I am currently a Gateway student and a first-time case study exam taker.
In the new exams, the question clearly states the requirements and even provides a percentage as to the amount of time to devote in each. So if a 45-minute question has 2 requirements, with the first one having 60% and the second one having 40%, that would mean that I devote more time to the first question and less to the second.
As I start practising on mock exams, I realise now why you stress the importance of time management. Equally, I know you advocate having an answer planning habit helps one overcome this issue. But at this stage, I am struggling to finish any question!
Wouldn’t it rather be a good survival tactic to just use up my 45 minutes to address the 60% task and don’t address the 40% at all? This way, I know I’m going to get majority of the marks and the likelihood of a pass is higher because I’m addressing the more important task in the question.
I know this seems like a silly question, but I am really nervous about the exam and would like to do well.
There is no such thing as a silly question. There are many things to worry about at the exams so it is only logical that you’d want to avoid getting anxious about something that you can easily prepare for.
You are right. The percentage on the question can be used to gauge weighting importance. The higher the percentage, the more answer is required in the task. And of course, it goes without saying that the more answer required, the more available marks there are.
However, this does not give you leeway to pick and choose the more important requirements, and disregard the lesser ones.
LIMITATION ON MAXIMUM MARKS
What you shouldn’t forget is that while the percentage gives you a good indication on the amount of time and answer required, it also dictates how much maximum marks can be obtained in a particular task.
So in your example of the 60/40 question, the first task commands 60% of total marks available for that question. And let’s say that it’s a 25-mark question. The 60%-task allows a possibility of 15 marks. This wouldn’t be a bad score if you are able to get the full 15 marks but it doesn’t take you totally out of the woods either.
SAME TRICK, DIFFERENT QUESTION
You’d have to do the same trick for each question. This is not always possible. Each question has a different weighting. Some questions have 60/40, 55/45, 70/30 or even 40/30/30 (and many other variations).
You are also hinging everything on the fact that you would have full knowledge (and the associated application skills) to address all major requirements, but this may not always be so. One incorrect or sub-par answer to a task could unravel the whole exam for you.
OVER-GENEROSITY TO A FAULT
Having established that you can only gain a maximum of 15 marks on the more important requirement in your example, devoting your full 45 minutes to one task would now seem overdone and superfluous. Why would you put together an answer worth 25 marks to only gain 15?
This doesn’t seem to be a good use of your exam time. Over-generosity in your answers will not help in this case. Remember that the percentage gives you an indication of how much to write, so this emphasises a limit.
From prior diets of the exams, we know that each question contains a minimum of at least 2 requirements. So learning to address multiple requirements (minimum of 2) is requisite to your technique.
In reality, if your boss asks you to discuss 2 topics/subjects, wouldn’t it speak to your work performance if you focus all your attention on one of them in detail and nothing on the other?
THE BETTER STRATEGY IS…
The better strategy is still, of course, to find that right balance that enables you to address all requirements in a question. The percentage gives you the “how much” so you should use this information wisely. In your planning, you should generate key points to the tasks in correlation with the given percentage (meaning there should be more key points/arguments for the 60% requirement vs the 40%, but don’t go overboard).
The balancing act between requirements is actually another facet of time management and answer planning technique. You need to find that sweet yet uncomfortable spot. You will want to ensure that the balance is reasonable enough that you generate key points you can realistically explain in the given amount of time. You will also want to ensure that you don’t make it too easy on yourself that you fail to get marks when you literally could.
Just give yourself some time. Practice does make it a whole lot easier. Good luck with your preparations.