Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The 'new' CIMA syllabus


More and more people (students, lecturers, employers) are asking me about the 'new' CIMA syllabus. It's not all that new, to be honest, as CIMA has been working on it for a few years and it was launched almost a year ago.

CIMA has a load of stuff on their
website, including some really useful support guides for those of you who are 'caught up' in the middle of your exam progress. The guides basically explain the differences between each 'pair' of papers (old vs. new).

The main changes are:
- Fewer objective test (multiple choice) questions
- More compulsory questions (basically, no options at the operational and management levels)
- A new 'common case' at the strategic level
- Minor changes to the way TOPCIMA works, and a short second question in the exam
- A shuffle of topics between P1 and P2
- A general update and refreshing of the syllabus, throughout

All these changes are fully explained and covered by the transition guides. I'll look at the details later. Take a look...

Friday, 15 January 2010

Results and pass rates

Well, the results are out for the Strategic Level exams. I guess that means that some of you will be happy (because you've passed), whereas most of you (because the global pass rates for all the papers tend to be less than 50%) will be disappointed. That got me thinking - are these exams too difficult?

I guess that pitching the level of difficulty of the exams is a balancing act, for CIMA. Too 'easy' and the qualification becomes devalued because 'anyone can get it', and too 'difficult' and people are put off studying it.

As you have probably gathered, I've been directly involved with the CIMA examining process, both as a marker and an examiner. I know how well the 'average' student performs in the CIMA exams and, let me tell you, it ain't that well. The majority of people attempting the CIMA exams are ill-prepared, sometimes in terms of technical knowledge (they've learned it, but don't understand it) but mainly in terms of exam technique. While I don't see it as my role (unless I'm lecturing, of course) to fix your technical skills, I am very keen to improve your exam technique.

Take it from someone who knows - the CIMA exams are actually relatively straightforward, if you've done a reasonable amount of technical preparation (which most people sitting the exams have) and you concentrate on understanding and answering the questions set (which most people, sadly, do not). Exam technique isn't 'cheating' - it's just about getting the maximum value (in terms of marks) from the time and effort you've put into technical preparation.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The new T4B Case Study

Well, I'm back from my festive holiday, and thinking about CIMA.

I was looking at the specimen paper for the new T4B Case Study, and comparing it to the 'old' TOPCIMA. It's not really very different, apart from two things:

- You are now given an 'internal' role (Management Accountant or similar), rather than an external role (management consultant), and
- There are now two requirements: A report (90%) and 'something else (10%) such as presentation slides, a memo or email.

No major change, then, to the 'feel' of the Case Study, or the way it's assessed. No major change to the skills being tested, either. Candidates will still strucggle, simply because the exam is so different from the others. There's lots of stuff about 'higher' skills on the CIMA website, and in my book, of course ;-)