Making CIMA more relevant

On 31 January, CIMA announced an update to their professional qualification. Shortly after I ran a webinar with Stephen Flatman, Vice President of Examinations, CIMA, where we invited attendees to ask any questions they had about the update.

To help you understand the changes and how they may impact you, here are my answers to the most common questions we were asked.

1. Why has CIMA updated the qualification? Firstly, this isn’t unusual; historically CIMA have updated their qualification/syllabus roughly every five years. With the last update in 2015 this one wasn’t a surprise. It is necessary for all professional bodies to keep their learning content fresh and reflect the skills their members need in the workplace. CIMA are refreshing their content to reflect how digital transformation is affecting the shape and role of finance. Ultimately, this keeps the skill set of CIMA students relevant and allows them to add real value to an organisations digital strategy.

2. What is changing? Firstly, let’s start with what is not changing as I think you’ll find it reassuring. The qualification structure is unchanged; Certificate level still underpins the Professional level. There is no changes to the Certificate level syllabus. At the Professional level, there are still the three pillars and three levels. Within each level there are three objective test subjects that must be completed ahead of attempting the case study exam.

So, what is changing? First off, the syllabus content, most significantly within E1, E2 and the Strategic level. As a result of these changes E1 and E2 will see a name change, E1 becomes ‘Managing Finance in a Digital Word’ and E2 becomes ‘Managing Performance’. Overall, there is a greater focus on digital issues, recognising the increased use of technology in the workplace and the rise of digital products. This is reflected in the Competency Framework with the addition of digital skills.

3. When does it take effect? The first exams for the objective test subjects (E, P or F subjects) will be on 4 November 2019. There is no crossover between the 2015 and 2019 syllabi, so the final objective test exam on the 2015 syllabus will be on 3 November 2019. My advice is to plan ahead, don’t leave it until 3 November to sit your final objective test exam.

Give yourself a bit of a buffer and aim to sit your last objective test exam, on the 2015 syllabus, in mid October. The first case study exams on the 2019 syllabus will be the February 2020 sitting. Students who sit the November 2019 case study and are unsuccessful will have an opportunity to resit, under the 2015 syllabus, using the November 2019 pre-seen. This option will only be available in February 2020 and only for those that are resitting. First-time attempts much be on the 2019 syllabus.

4. When will learning materials be available? The official CIMA learning materials will be available from 1 August 2019.

5. I’ve just completed a level and not started the next, should I stop studying and wait for the 2019 syllabus? No, in general you should try to complete a level ahead of the new syllabus, including the case study by the time the syllabus changes, so ideally aim to sit a case study in either August or November 2019.

However, if you have just completed a level there is no need to stop and delay your path to qualification. You just need to plan the best route. To help you plan CIMA have created a transition tool, which is available on their website.

In simple terms though, if you find yourself in position where you can’t complete a level before the introduction of the 2019 syllabus, my advice is to attempt those subjects that are changing the least before the syllabus changes and leave those that are changing the most until the 2019 syllabus. That way you are minimising any knowledge gap you may have when you sit the case study and when you progress onto the next level.

So, if you are the Operational level and you can sit just one more subject before the new syllabus I’d recommend F1, if you can complete two, do F1 and P1. At Management level, either (or both) P2 and F2. However, at Strategic level the decision is a little more complicated as every subject will see reasonable changes so it is a personal choice. However, if it were me, I’d sit E3 before the syllabus change as it doesn’t involve calculations so the assumed knowledge needed for case study will be the easiest to pick up (case study doesn’t include calculations, but you still need to understand the theory behind them and what the calculations are telling you).

I hope this reassures you that the syllabus update really isn’t anything to worry about. With carefully planning the impact on you should be minimal, so plan ahead and keep studying!

For further details or advice please refer to the CIMA Global website

• Rebecca Evans is head of product management at Kaplan Financial