Been there, done that –passed the case study!

April 2024

There is no better way of finding out what it’s really like to sit the case study exam than from those who have lived it.

The pressure of mastering all the necessary skills, learning technical content in the relevant level of the CGMA Professional Qualification, focusing on exam technique, time management, understanding the grading, what the examiner wants and then finding the time to practise questions to bring it all together – all in all is overwhelming!

But it is reassuring to say the least, to know that every candidate feels this way, especially those who have faced these challenges and passed their case study exams.

So, let’s see what these successful candidates can tell us of their experiences and what they found got them through their revision and exam preparation.

Revision tips

Flash cards can be a great way of breaking down the large CGMA syllabus into manageable chunks to learn from. By going through your notes from the component parts of the level you are studying and pulling out the key points, you will have a set of flash cards to use in your question practice. This is a two-way process. As you do your question practice, make sure that if something comes up in a question, that you need to know and isn’t in your flash cards, then add it in. That way you can increase your confidence in knowing you are covering as many of the key topics as you go.

Study from the flash cards – some people like to make posters – rather than in-depth notes. You can still refer to detailed notes if you need to, but becoming familiar with the flash cards is a good way to remember and memorise the overall syllabus. They are also easy to carry around with you to look over at any given opportunity.

Use the CIMA exam blueprints! These are available on our site, and they set out in detail everything a candidate is supposed to be confident in for each level. Look at the “I can…” statements outlining the skills and knowledge you need to demonstrate to pass your case study exam. Remember, all CIMA exam questions come from the competencies outlined in these documents. These statements can really help you assess your progress.

Use multiple past papers for question practice. Compare your answer with the model answers to see what the examiners are asking for and whether your answer would gain marks. The key is to appreciate the things you did well and review the areas which need improvement. Getting it wrong during revision and practice is not only common, but also the best way to learn – as you now know what not to do next time and why.

Using the pre-seen

Think of the pre-seen material as much more than an exam text. If you want to do well, you need to completely immerse yourself in it, really believe that you work in this company. Always write and think in the first person. Jump into the pre-seen and say “we should” not “they should” when you review and practise your answers. Some people find it helpful to read up a little about the industry in question, so you get a real feel as to what it could be like to work in that industry.

The time you spend doing this is going to be well-spent. Examiners ALWAYS feed back on the need to be familiar with the pre- seen and how they can see when an answer reflects these efforts put in before the exam. Remember to link ideas you write in the exam back to the pre-seen. To give one example of how this works consider the company’s cash position presented in the pre-seen – if the unseen proposes investment, question whether the entity is in a position to invest or whether it’s struggling with working capital, before presenting a proposal in your answer. Demonstrate you have considered this to show your awareness of its importance within this decision.

The exam itself

Write bullet points to plan your answer then use them as headings to structure it. Always look back to the task repeatedly when writing your answers. You might have missed something or easily go off track and waste time writing content which is not relevant.

A good night’s sleep

Plan a day of rest before the exam. You don’t want to be covering new ground the night before. By then you should have learnt as much as you are going to learn, so give your brain a chance to breathe – you will be more confident during the exam that way.

All these fantastic tips were from successful candidates after they passed their case study exams. You can find these and many more in our ‘Little book of secrets’ resource. This is just what you need to help focus in the days before the exam.

When you are in the midst of your revision journey it’s hard to see what success looks and feels like. Always remember that there were thousands of candidates before you who have felt how real the challenge is. For the thousands of candidates after you, you will be the success story they follow!

  • Nasheen Wuisman, Senior Manager of Global Academic Progression at AICPA & CIMA, together as the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants