Mark Foley has some top advice on putting the disappointment of failure behind you and making sure you get that pass.
It can be disheartening to miss out on an exam at the first attempt. However, I can tell you that for the vast majority this is only a minor delay on the road to achieving your career goals. Persevering with your studies despite setbacks shows a degree of resilience — a characteristic in high demand by employers. I’ve put together some tips to provide targeted advice for those of you retaking your CIMA exams.
1: Understand why you were unsuccessful
It’s important to figure out where you went wrong, so you don’t make the same mistakes again.
For Objective Tests, your exam results specify the areas in which you are proficient or need to improve. For Case Study exams, you received feedback on your performance for each core activity.
Review your exam to understand your results, and the examiners’ feedback in the CIMA Study Planner addresses common errors people make.
2: Book your exam
Having a scheduled exam date helps you structure your study plan within a realistic timeframe.
Think about how many weeks you would like to prepare, then book your exam two to three weeks beyond that. You’ll want to give yourself ample time to study but our research on successful study behaviour reveals that taking an exceedingly long time to study does not improve pass rates.
Booking your exam will provide an ‘end date’ and therefore much needed focus. It will also allow you to develop a study timetable.
3: Develop a SWOT analysis and study timetable
Analysing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) will give you insights that shape your approach to studying.
An example of a strength could be your resilience and ability to handle exam nerves.
A weakness could be that you struggle with time management.
An opportunity could be the resources and tools available to you. And a threat could be that you’re juggling a fulltime job while you study for the exam.
Booking an exam and developing a personal SWOT will influence how much time you’ll need to study to cover all examinable topics.
To further develop your study timetable answer the following questions as honestly as possible:
• How many weeks do I have before my exam?
• Where, when and for how long will I be able to study each day/week?
• What are personal or professional factors that compete with my study time? How can I address competing priorities?
Be realistic about how much time you can devote to studying, and strive to block out consistent, focused study time each day, even if that time is brief.
Creating a plan with a realistic timeframe will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and will help you stay focused.
4: Review the wealth of exam-prep resources
There are two types of question tutorials that cover the Objective Test and Case Study exam and allow you to become familiar with the online system.
Objective Test tutorials are tailored for each qualification or subject and provide examples of live exam questions.
Case Study exam tutorials allow you to practice with pre-seen materials, model answers, and marking guidance.
Just note that question tutorials are not identical to live exams.
You can also select your CIMA Aptitude version, subject and paper, and be sure to review this list of exam resources.
Last but not least, the exam blueprints detail the Case Study exams and the Objective Tests. It’s also the source document examiners use for producing CIMA exam questions. They are published annually and complement the syllabus, providing details about the different types of assessment.
The blueprints are specific to level – Operational, Management, or Strategic – so you can understand topics and questions that will be asked per level within the CIMA journey.
5: Identify how you will manage time during the exam
All questions on the Objective Tests earn equal marks, but the time you spend on each question will likely vary. Allocating two to three minutes per question will allow you to finish in time.
When you retake the Objective Tests, consider reading over all the questions and answer the ones you know straight away.
Then, go back to the questions that require a bit more time or consideration.
You can use the ‘flag’ function to mark questions that you’re less confident about and would like to review before you submit.
Once you click ‘next’ on the final question, you will have a chance to review the status of all 60 questions, including the ones you flagged, and complete any unanswered questions.
For Case Study exams, you have three hours to complete three or four sections, and when you complete one section, you won’t be able to return to a previous section. Answer planning matters for Case Study exams because you will need to be strategic with how you use your allotted time.
Re-siting an exam is nothing more than a temporary delay. I’ve met many gifted candidates over the years who’ve had a minor setback and then quickly progressed towards earning their professional qualification and becoming CIMA members.
Keep positive, you’ve got this!
Finally, from everyone at CIMA, we want to wish you well with your forthcoming exams.
Explore 10 easy steps for revision and exam preparation for additional ideas, and if you’d like personalised support, consider speaking to a CIMA Registered Tuition Provider or emailing your specific questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.