Put your foot down for Acellerate!

May 2021

The OCS team at HTFT Partnership have some top advice on how to tackle the Operational Level case study.

Hopefully you have booked your OCS exam slot and are now ramping up for the Acellerate case. We would say after the pressures of sitting the Operational Level OT exams (E1, F1 and P1) you may actually find you enjoy the preparation for this case study.

The first step is to get very familiar with the pre-seen and with your ‘part’ in this experience: “You are a Finance Officer for Acellerate, a car rental company. Your main role is to support Ethan Tennant, the Finance Manager. Your tasks include preparation of the annual budget, producing the monthly management accounts and providing information to management as required. You also assist with the preparation of the financial statements and deal with any queries regarding financial reporting.”

The exam

The case study exam is a computer based exam of three hours (four sections of 45 minutes each) – there is no reading time added. The exam aims to integrate and apply the knowledge tested in the Operational syllabus.

The exam is based on:

• Pre-seen material (on Acellerate), which is already published on CIMA’s wesbite.
• Additional unseen material given to you in the exam room.

The answers you give will be long form and typed into the exam system, this will consist of all forms of modern communication, including emails, reports and briefing notes as examples.

This case study will require you to demonstrate that you have acquired the knowledge, skills and mindset of the CIMA finance professional, along with an appreciation of the impact of the features of the simulation (the context, organisational structures and environment and ecosystem within which the organisation operates).

CIMA Blueprint and assessment

Within each Operational case study examination, six core activities will be assessed. These core activities represent the tasks that are most frequent, critical and important to the entry level finance professional role.

The six core activities are:

A. Prepare costing information for different purposes to meet the needs of management.
B. Prepare budget information and assess its use for planning and control purposes.
C. Analyse performance using financial and nonfinancial information.
D. Apply relevant financial reporting standards and corporate governance, ethical and tax principles.
E. Prepare information to support short-term decision-making.
F. Prepare information to manage working capital.

The core activities are linked to associated assessment outcomes expressed in terms of ‘I Can’ statements that speak directly to the skills and competencies that drive the employability of successful learners. These ‘I Can’ statements can be found in CIMA’s Operational Level Blueprint document.

Writing skills

This is the first time you will get to display to CIMA your ability to ‘write’ long form answers at exam standard. You will need to be able to demonstrate that you have acquired the required knowledge, skills, techniques and mindset for that role, with an ability to structure an answer with a ‘logical flow’. Practising answering long form questions based on

Acellerate, and how to lay out your answers to maximise marks, is going to be key. If your tutor offers to mark homework take them up on the offer, as getting as much feedback as possible is very important.


Each exam variant written by CIMA contains a ‘theme’, that is built on and developed through the sections.

Each of the four sections comprises sub-tasks.

The sections can be focused on one core activity area, but they commonly are a combination of two of the three.

Being very familiar with the Acellerate pre-seen (Acellerate is a leading car rental company based in Everland, in Western Europe) can help you to feel comfortable with the subject matter on the day. But you must answer the question as set on the day not ‘one you did earlier’! You need to be prepared for a ‘curved ball’ variant.

Contemplate and research the car rental market and the challenges/opportunities that exist:

• Decreasing car ownership rates – move to ‘rent’ your own car out.
• Self-driving cars.
• Online bookings and customer service.
• Competition with the car-sharing industry.

…and the impact these could have on Acellerate.

An easy exam may seem like a ‘gift’, but you have to outperform other candidates. It can be hard to believe but a tough paper is often easier to pass for a competent student who thinks on their feet, generates ideas and answers all parts of all tasks.

• Thanks to the OCS team at HTFT Partnership