Addressing the OTQs – What’s the Strategy?

This is from the “Accounting Makes Cents” podcast episode #6 released on Monday, 7 February 2022.

In today’s episode we are going to talk about the objective test exams, or OTs. In your CIMA professional qualification journey, you will encounter 9 OT exams, 3 in each of the 3 levels. If you guys remember, the CIMA professional qualification comprises 3 levels, and 3 OTs and 1 case study in each level. The 3 OTs cover the enterprise, financial and performance pillars. Or E, F or P pillars. Having said this, the OTs for each pillar and level works the same way. They are a set of questions where the answers can be multiple choice, multiple responses, fill in the blanks, etc. The exam is 90 minutes long and consists of 60 questions with varying level of difficulty.

Jump to show notes.

So if we calculate that in the simplest terms, you as a student or exam taker, should be producing an answer every 1.5 minutes. Sounds easy, but 1.5 minutes can sometimes be long and can also be really short at other times. Long in a sense that if you already know the answers, it will take you seconds to pick the right answer out. But if you don’t know or need to think about the answer for a bit, then 1.5 minutes could be very short. Remember, the questions are not always going to be the ones that you know….With varying degrees of difficulty, you would need to expect to get some curveballs in between.

So what should our strategy be?

So how do we actually go about doing this? Well, there is a strategy that I could share. I refer to this as the 3-box strategy basing the questions according to immediacy. When addressing the OTQs, you do have 3 boxes in which to put your questions in. This strategy should help you on your approach to the whole OT exam. Do stay tuned till the end to find out how to divide your time to get through all these 60 OT questions. 

As mentioned, there are 3 categories or boxes to divide these questions in. Let’s label them in our mind like this: 

  • the first box, which we will call the NOW box
  • the second box, which we will refer to as the SKIP box
  • and the third box, which we will call the LATER box

This will help with remembering because it’s very easy – NOW, SKIP, LATER.

The NOW Box

The first box, the NOW box, will include the quick short questions with quick confident answers. In this box, you would generally know the topic area really well. The questions deal with brief knowledge or descriptions, and the answers are easily identifiable. You would spend very little time in thinking about the answer because you already know it so well.

The SKIP Box

Then you have the second box, the SKIP box. This includes short or longer questions but still with confident answers just needing a little bit of time for consideration. In this box, you would still have a good understanding of the topic area, and you’re able to execute the answer quite confidently. These types of questions would normally involve some calculation or deeper comprehension of the question. Generally, you will find the questions could be scenario-based, giving a bit of detail and background to enable you to work out the result.


Then you have the last category, the LATER box. This box tends to include the longer questions, similar to the second category, but this time with less confident answers. This could be perhaps the unfamiliarity of the topic area or confusion over the question in general. Sometimes this can also be where you will need to read through the question in-depth to really understand what is being asked of you. You will likely not be as confident in the answer to these questions and will really need some time to dive deeper.


Now, knowing about the 3 categories to put the questions in. The general approach to the exam is to first go through all the questions, at the same time assessing whether the question should be dealt with now, skipped or later. If you determine that the question is a NOW question, then you should be able to answer this immediately as you are going through the questions. That’s the easy part.

That’s the first run-through of the questions. You will need to do a second and third run-through to deal with the SKIP questions and the LATER questions.

For these categories, they do require a bit more work. You’ll need to be able to identify them once you run through the questions again for the second and third time. There are some available, but very limited, buttons that you can use to mark the questions. I’d suggest that a different mark or sign be used for the SKIP questions versus the LATER questions so that you are able to identify them after your first run-through.

The Flag Button

As mentioned, you have some limited button available for use, meaning there is one. The only button available is the flag button. I’d suggest using the flag button for the LATER questions. In doing so, you would be marking the question with a flag sign next to the number. Now, for the SKIP questions, you probably could use the skipping action to differentiate these, meaning that you skip the question without answering them at all at this stage. I’ll explain it a little bit more shortly, but I just wanted to note that by performing these two actions, the flagging and skipping, will really help with telling the questions apart. 

A bit more about the skipping. If you do not provide an answer and do not flag the question, the system marks the question as “incomplete” automatically. At the end of the run-through, you will get to an assessment page, showing you a list of all the question numbers, some will be marked “done” (because you’ve already answered them), some will have flags (if you’ve flagged them as a LATER question), and then others will be marked as “incomplete” (because you’ve skipped them over).

So if you are going to go through the next category of questions, let’s say the SKIP questions, you would just need to click on the question number where it is noted to be “incomplete”. This way, you are going through just the SKIP questions and avoiding the LATER questions for later.


Now, let’s talk about the timeline. The exam takes 90 minutes, and with 60 questions, and trying to differentiate them, how can you ensure that you deal with the right balance of NOW, SKIP and LATER questions? Of course, if you have a lot of LATER questions, this will really eat into your time. So, the question comes as how do we split the time up between the 3 boxes of questions?

First things first. You should be spending around 10 to 15 minutes on the first run-through, reading and answering the NOW questions. The ballpark average number of questions you’d want to have answered by this stage is between 15-25.

Then you should spend the next 40 to 50 minutes on the second run-through, this time answering the SKIP questions. This part of the timeline is a little bit subjective depending on how many questions you’ve skipped over. I’d say the bulk here is you’ll be dealing with about 20-35 questions.

That should leave you with around 30 to 40 minutes to cover the rest of the questions, which are the LATER questions. You probably should limit what you flag as LATER, bearing in mind that these questions take a lot of your time.

The general idea is to ensure you get through all the questions, dealing with the ones that don’t require a lot of your time and then working towards the ones that do.

It’s very important to remember to answer all the questions as well. Aside from limiting the number of questions being flagged as LATER questions, you should also try to limit the time that you spend on the LATER questions. They will tend to eat the most of your time. I know that sometimes one can easily get carried away with the questions and you end up spending all your remaining time on just that one question. So do try to refrain from doing this for obvious reasons.

End note

So that is it for me today. I hope you found this episode helpful. If you did so, please do not forget to hit subscribe or follow the podcast to catch the next episode. As always, thank you for listening to Accounting Makes Cents. I am your host, MJ the tutor. If you want to learn more tips and advice, you can visit the website at Or if you want to connect through social media, I am available on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter under the name mjthetutor. I hope to see you again next time. Ciao for now.

Show notes simplified

The OT (Objective Test) exam is 90 minutes long and there are 60 questions to get through. While answers are simply selected, rather than writing essays and reports, students still need time to think or calculate. But having only 1.5 minutes to think and answer in between questions, is it truly possible? In this episode, MJ the tutor talks about those persistent objective test questions and how students can use different levels of immediacy as a strategy to address these questions.

Resources and links from this episode:

“Ding Ding Small Bell” ( by JohnsonBrandEditing ( licensed under CC0 Licence.

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