10 Burning Questions (That Students Ask) About the CIMA Case Study Exams

This is from the “Accounting Makes Cents” podcast episode #9 released on Monday, 21 March 2022.

In today’s episode, I thought we’d do something slightly different and address a list of frequently asked questions about the CIMA case study exams. Most if not all of this  information is available on the CIMA website. But I suppose if you’re a first-time case study exam taker, it’s difficult to separate that concern or anxiety over what you’ll be facing on exam day. Sometimes you may just need that reassuring and supporting voice to help you with your burning questions.

Jump to show notes.

So here goes. Let’s do our FAQs about the CIMA case study exams:

Question 1: In a case study exam, a student faces off with 3 or 4 questions. Each question is between 30 to 60 minutes long. What happens when the student finishes answering a question but still has a few minutes left before the 60 minutes is up, can the student save these minutes and add them onto the next question?

A: No. Each question is exactly the length that it is stated. As you enter the exam platform, there will be a list in the front of the number of questions you’ll be facing, be it 3 or 4, and the time associated with each one. If a question states that it is 45 minutes long, then that question is 45 minutes long. Let’s say we have question 1 and question 2, both at 45 minutes. If you saved a few minutes because you’ve addressed the requirements faster, maybe you finished question one with 10 minutes to go, this 10 minutes does not get added up to question 2. Question 2 will still be 45 minutes.

Question 2: So a follow up on the time per question, how strictly should a student be following the time limit given by CIMA per question?

A: Very strictly. If the question is worth 45 minutes, the platform is actually set up so that it will close you off from the current question, if you do not finish by the allotted time. There is a timer at the exams, and that timer does alert the student if you only have 5 minutes and 2 minutes to go before the time is up. Once time is up, you are closed off from the current question and transferred to the next question, in which case, the timer resets and starts counting down again.

Question 3: There are sometimes multiple requirements to be addressed. So let’s say we have 2 requirements per question. Should a student be doing well on all the requirements? Meaning, is it still possible to pass if a student encounters one bad requirement?

A: For the first question, with regards to doing well on all requirements, that is the simplest rule to follow. A student should strive to answer all the questions in order to gain the best possible mark for the exams. Having said that, to address the second question, which is for any reason, you encounter one bad section or requirement, where you are unfamiliar with the topic and that kind of thing, do not panic. One bad section will not fail you the whole exam. It is still possible to recover as long as you address the bad section as best you can.

Question 4: What is the pass mark?

A: So the pass mark for a CIMA case study exam is 80/150. There is a bit more involvement in the way that the 80/150 is calculated. You see, this is a scaled mark. So the exam itself is out of 100 points. So if you are thinking of it in normal terms, think of it as 100%. There is no exact point as to a pass mark with the 100%. So that doesn’t mean that if you score 50% it’s a pass, or if you score 53% (which is what 80/150 is), that it’s a pass. The scaling happens because of the different difficulty levels of the exam variants. There are various discussions on this on the CIMA website, in my other podcasts and blog posts. So I’ll direct you to those entries and encourage you to visit those websites if you wish to understand the scaling better. But the pass mark is 80/150. And your results will be presented in that way. If you get 90, that means it is 90/150, and so on.

Question 5: Would it be okay for the student to address the second requirement first before the first requirement in a question?

A: Yes. Sometimes, it does happen that a student is more familiar with the second requirement than the first one. So the advice is for the student to address the topic area that you are most confident in. This will help with coming up with answers, paragraphs, and ideas, they’re gonna be faster because you’re familiar with it. This doesn’t mean that you should abandon the other requirement just because you’ve answered one of them. The strategy is still to address all requirements as best you can.

Question 6: Since it’s a typing kind of exam, how fast of a typist should I be?

A: CIMA suggests that a student should at least be able to type 20 words per minute. I do have a blog post about being Speedy Gonzales, I’ll link it up on the show notes. But the general rule is that if you can type 20 words per minute, then you can take the exams. Of course, it goes without saying, if you can be faster then it is probably better.

Question 7: How big of an issue is it to use the right spelling and grammar for the exams?

A: I always say that the CIMA case study exam is not an English test. It is written in English but a lot of the exam takers are bilingual and speak multiple languages. Present company included. Some students don’t even have English as their first language. So this is really not a big problem. If it occurs at the exams, so be it. You don’t have to correct every single spelling mistakes you make. However, this does not mean that you can get away with typing gibberish. The only rule I’d probably point out with regards to spelling is that while it occurs and it’s normal, your sentence or message still needs to make sense, even if you’ve misspelt a word here and there.

Question 8: Can we bring a calculator at the exams?

A: Yes. CIMA has published a list of calculators that you are able to bring with you at the exams. Just to point out as well, that the case study exam is not a mathematical exam. You may have to do some simple calculations but nothing overly complicated. The case study is first and foremost a report-writing exam highlighting skills in strategy and logical thinking.

Question 9: Should I bring the pre-seen material to the exams? If not, is there a way to access the material on the day?

A: No. The pre-seen material will be available on the platform. It’s gonna be a button which opens up a separate window on your screen. The button is available once you’ve entered the exams online. So if you need to refer back to an information on the pre-seen, the material is available. Having said this, I usually advise students that the pre-seen should be read prior to getting to the exams. If you’ve been doing practice questions and all that, you should be familiar with the pre-seen by the time you hit the day of the exams. The only time you should be referring to the pre-seen during the exams is when you want to include a very particular information on your answer, something like a specific name or terminology. But generally, this is very rare.

Question 10: How do I book for the exams?

A: This can be done online, using your MyCIMA account. There is more information about this on the CIMA website. So I’ll just link it up on the show notes. If you are planning on booking an exam, please do remember the important dates. There are exam windows of when you can start booking for the session and when those windows close for exam booking. Just be sure to remember so that you don’t get closed out if you are planning to do it.

Show notes simplified

In this episode, MJ the tutor tackles frequently asked questions about the CIMA case study exam. While all information is available on the CIMA website, students facing a CIMA case study exam for the first time normally agonises over what they’d be facing up on exam day. MJ the tutor recognises the angst and sets out to alleviate some of the common ones here.

Resources and links from this episode:
MJ the tutor on A Brief Look at How the Case Study Scaling Mark Works
MJ the tutor on To Be or Not to Be a Fast Typist?
CIMA website: Scheduling Your Exams
CIMA website: Exam Timetable
CIMA website: A Guide to Your Examination Results
CIMA website: Calculator Guidance

“Ding Ding Small Bell” (https://freesound.org/s/173932/) by JohnsonBrandEditing (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1RImxnsbfngagfXd_GWCDQ) licensed under CC0 Licence.
“Counting numbers” (https://freesound.org/people/MrSeriousss/sounds/587504/) by MrSeriouss (https://freesound.org/people/MrSeriousss/) licensed under CC3 Licence.

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