Thursday, 4 February 2010

Is three a crowd?


I've been thinking - many students hate the idea that CIMA makes them sit all three Strategic Level papers together, at the first attempt. They (the students) say "I've always had reasonable success sitting papers 2 at a time, so why make me sit 3 this time?"

Well, here are some of the arguments that CIMA gives as to why you have to sit all 3 Strategic Level subjects together:

- There's a lot of overlap between the 3 syllabuses, so studying for all 3 together is the most productive way to spend your time.

- The strategic Level is about 'pulling together' all the stuff that you've learned in the earlier stages. Different topics from the Operational and Management Levels re-appear in different Strategic Level papers.

- The 'next step' is the Test of Professional Competence (TOPCIMA), where there are only 2 assessments, and one of those is the T4 Case Study, so you need to learn how to integrate your knowledge.

Are these arguments true? Well, as an ex-examiner (at the Strategic Level), I can tell you that they're true 'to some extent'.

I used to have lots of 'discussions' with CIMA about exactly what I could (and couldn't) examine in my exam. I can remember one such discussion that concerned the way I wanted to examine a major capital investment. I wanted to ask stuff about the way the discount rate could be adjusted to take account of the perceived risk level of the project. Perfectly reasonable, I thought, but I was advised that risk was in Paper P3, and the adjustment of the discount rate was in Paper P9. So much for integration!

What about the fact that each Strategic Level syllabus 'draws on' stuff from different earlier papers? Well, surely it doesn't matter! You've passed them all, so I don't think it matters where you use that knowledge, does it? Certainly the people I speak to can't really see much logic in which 'pillars' the three Strategic Level syllabuses are in. What is it, exactly, that makes P3 about 'performance', rather than 'enterprise' or 'financial'?

Speaking to TOPCIMA markers, it appears that candidates' inability to 'integrate' their knowledge in the exam is a problem, but not one that leads to lots of marks being lost.

So, is it time for CIMA to allow students to choose how many papers they sit at each attempt? Maybe...


  1. Hi.
    This is a great blog. I have set up a website of free resources and links for CIMA students I was wondering if I could set up a page previewing your BLOG on the site and linking revelant Posts to specific content area.
    Please feel free to look at the site and let me know your ideas.
    Mny Thanks Rachel.

  2. Hi Rachel. Of course - feel free to refer or link to this site.