How Do I Approach an Ethics Question?

Hi Tutor MJ

I am in the middle of preparing myself for the upcoming Management Case Study Exam. When I look at the previous papers, there are lots of ethical questions.

My question is should we always take a side and put arguments to support the “yes” or “no”, or is it ok to elaborate on both sides? How should I approach an Ethics question?

I look forward to your response.


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Dear Desmond

Ethics is one area that you should really pay attention to. It definitely comes up on the exams more often than not.

CIMA loves Ethics. I don’t know how many times you hear me say that in class, but it’s the truth. CIMA is committed to maintaining the highest ethical and professional standards of management accountants.

Since this is a staple in any case study exam, it would be good to know how to approach it. Here’s a process according to CIMA:

  1. Highlight the problem
  2. Identify what the ethical issue is, which ethical standard is affected
  3. Analyse the consequences if the problem is not corrected
  4. Evaluate options to correct the situation
  5. Finally, a recommendation (and don’t skimp on your justification and action points).

Following this process should help you cover most, if not all, the areas of an unethical situation. I hope this helps you in addressing Ethics. All the best for the exam!

Your tutor

For Astranti’s various Ethics offerings, here are links for the OCS Ethics Pack, MCS Ethics Pack, and SCS Ethics Pack.


I Failed…Now What?

Tutor MJ

I am so despondent right now. I just got my results and I failed the case study.

I am so annoyed right now as my overall mark was not far off the pass mark. I got 78. Skill-wise, I am told that I was strong on leadership and business but moderate on technical and people. I tried to brave it on my own the first time and self-studied but it seems like what I did was not enough to get to a pass.

So I’m at a crossroad now. I’d like to try again at the next sitting. Do I continue with the self-study or do I need to sign up with a tuition provider?

Yours faithfully

I Failed...Now What?

Dear Cathy

I am so sorry to hear that you missed passing the exam by a few marks. That really can get anybody down. The good thing is that you are not ready to give up yet. I must commend you on this positive attitude as this is what will get you through.

One big takeaway from failing is the lesson learnt. What mistakes do you need to learn from? What were your weak spots and how do you fix them before the next exam?

As for doing the self-study or tuition route, I might be a little biased in this regard. You know I lecture for tuition providers, right? But to be frank and honest, and I suppose, to a certain extent, fair…I’ll give you my 2 cents.

Some students self-study and have no issue understanding the material, doing the tasks required and passing. Other students don’t do so well doing it on their own.

If you know that you’re the first kind of student, then good for you.

However, if you are the latter kind of student, then I’d suggest going through a tuition provider for assistance. You don’t have to sign up for the premium package. Get the resources that you need for your preparation. If you need tutoring, get that. If you need to understand better, get study materials. If you need more exam practice, get the mocks. If you know you’ll need more than just the “here and there” assistance, then go for the complete package. There are really so much resources and choices out there.

The situation resembles when a person falls ill and goes to the doctor for an assessment and a cure.

Again, this is just my take on the matter. I hope it helps you with your decision.

I wish you all the best and good luck on the next sitting.

Your tutor

Set Behaviour Goals

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For people in strength training, this is not a new concept. For some time now, this concept has been going around the cardio circuit to help trainers (and trainees!) appreciate getting into an exercise regime.

“Outcome versus behaviour goals.”

Outcome goals are goals built around certain results or desired outcome. Traditionally, outcome goals were used to achieve one’s goals of weight loss or muscle gain. Examples of outcome goals would be “losing 20 pounds in 3 months” or “gaining 20lbs more muscle in a year” (or getting 70% on the next CIMA exam, wink, wink).

It is vital to know the timeline you have to get to your outcome. In above case where you wish to lose weight, you have 3 months as your deadline. However, since the focus is deadline driven, you could literally not do anything from now to the last few days until the end of the 3rd month to start something that will help you lose the weight.

I cannot stress how much frustration this mentality will get you.

There has been a big shift and push to rather set behaviour goals. Behaviour goals are goals built around structure, process and routine to get you to your outcome.

Taking the same example above: if you wish to lose 20 pounds in 3 months, the behaviour goals you will likely set would be: “take up running and go for 20-minute runs 3 times a week” or “eat healthier, reducing salt and sugar intake on food”.

Behaviour goals help to incrementally inch you closer to the result…which is really the more realistic view of how to get to your endgame.

I’ve always likened studying through the CIMA levels to being in serious physical training. So while it is a noble idea to try and achieve 70% on your next CIMA exam, it would be more likely for you to get that mark if you pull out your calendars, map out your materials, and start creating some behaviour goals yourself.

Start here?

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

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 2010 syllabus and how it is now on the 2015 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 2010 vs the 2015 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 exam structure (2010-2014), 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 last few exams 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. Important to note is that the student needs 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).

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
Tutor MJ

CIMA Pass Rates – March 2017

Cert and OTQ Feb2017

CIMA has recently released the latest pass rates for March 2017.

Gateway level pass rates continue to be below 50%. All the pass rates seem to have gone down for all the case studies but some more so than others. Take operational level for example, which seems to have dived down in the February 2017 sitting.

The exam pass rates are calculated on total exams passed over total exams taken for the periods stated below. Highlighted in blue are the subjects/courses that have less than 50% pass rate.

Don’t be deterred or disheartened by the low pass rates for some of the courses/ subjects/ levels. If you’d like to get your hands on some study materials, visit our Resources page for some helpful links.

For a graphic view of this, check out our CIMA Exam Pass Rates page.

For Case Studies

May 2016
Aug 2016
Nov 2016
Feb 2017

For Objective Tests

These results are total exams taken from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017. 

vs Taken

For Certificate Level

These results are total exams taken from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. 

Total Exams Passed
/ Total Exams Taken