Monday, 14 November 2011

Last minute revision

Anonymous wrote:

Only 2 weeks to the exam, running out of time, doing 4 subjects, what is your advice?

Well, at this late stage all you can really do is concentrate on the exams themselves - lots of question practice and review. Even if you think you have gaps in your knowledge, you shouldn't be spending hours reading the textbooks. Use question practice as a way to identify those gaps, then just use the textbook as a 'reference book', to find out what you need to know for that question.

Good luck!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Back in Africa

This week the Guru is in Johannesburg. Next week, Harare and Lusaka. Contact your local CIMA office for details.

Monday, 8 August 2011 questions

Stephen asked:

I'm using the online CIMAStudy. Is CIMAStudy and past exam papers sufficient material to enable me pass the exam in November 2011? Do I need the revision kit for F2 and E2?

By the way I got the Pass First Time book from Amazon, very helpful, thank you very much. But it contains no subject on
Well, Stephen, I try not to make comments on specific learning products. I can, however, talk about online learning products in general terms.
Some online learning systems (such as are designed to be 'stand-alone' products. That means that they should give you all that you need. Others suggest supplementing the use of the online package with other learning materials, or are designed as a supplement (or 'add-on') to other study methods, such as distance learning or classroom courses. Whether this is true, however, very much depends on the learning style of the user. Some students simply can't function without a 'hard copy' textbook in front of them. Others find that they need to practise more questions than are covered by the online package they are using. It's really a personal matter, so only you can judge. My Learning Burst on studying online may help you to decide whether this method is for you.
A 'revision kit' is simply lots of questions, so you can practise answering them in the later stages of your studies (the 'revision' period). You can actually build your own revision kit, using the past exam questions (and answers) available on the CIMA website. The added value in a typical revision kit is that the questions are sequenced in line with the syllabus, so the kit gives guidance on which questions cover which Learning Outcomes. Some kits also have a 'commentary' about each question (and/or answer), giving you clues and pointers. Again, it very much depends how much time and effort you can put in - do you want someone (the publisher) to do some of the work for you, or do you have the time to sort through the questions yourself? I have a couple of learning bursts about choosing and using past exam questions which you may find useful.
Why was not mentioned in Pass First Time? Because it's a specific example of an online learning system. It's not appropriate for me to comment, as I said, on individual products. In general terms, online learning systems work well for some students, and not so well for others. Online learning systems are slightly better than old-fashioned home study or distance learning, but not as good as having a lecturer in front of you to explain and teach.
I hope that helps. If you have more questions, please post a comment.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

How many papers...


Taim wrote:

How many papers are there in CIMA? I'm a school leaving student and want to join CIMA, can you please tell me how many papers are there for me?

Well, that's a very BIG question, Taim. As a school leaver, I assume you will need to start with the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting, then move on to the Professional Qualification. CIMA has lots of information on its website, but the simple answer is fifteen.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Which material (for CMGA)?

Sindhu Swamy asked:

I'm taking up CMGA exams in November . I'm really confused which book to refer (BPP or KAPLAN) . Please help me

Well, this is a difficult one! I'll do my best...

For any CIMA exam, you really have four options when it comes to study material; CIMA's own, BPP's, Kaplan's, or some produced by a local college. I can't comment on the last one, as quality varies so much, but any of the first three should be fine - they all cover the syllabus, and are aimed at getting you through the exams.

Which is best for you really depends on what you're looking for in your material. Some are more 'lively' on the page - more engaging. Some go into greater detail, but can appear intimidating (and maybe a little boring). It's very much a personal thing.

My advice, however, would be to do two things:
  1. Try to see all of the alternatives, before you decide. Go to a good bookshop, and compare the alternatives. If you don't have a stockist near you, borrow from other students so you can 'try before you buy'.
  2. Go onto CIMASphere (the online forum) and see what other students think. Nothing beats a recommendation. Ask people, who are actually using the material, what they think.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Part b, after a calc you can't do...


Anonymous wrote:

I am doing P3, what if I can not answer say part a -  a numerical part of a question - how do I attempt to answer part b the rest of the question if I don't have the numerical part in a to refer to - can I use theory for recommendations ?

Easy one! If you can't do the calculation at all, or get stuck part way through, just 'assume' an answer. Write at the end of the calculation (or instead of it) "Answer = ......". Then, answer part b (the discussion) as if the answer to part a (the calculation) had been what you assumed. The rule is that you must still be able to earn full marks for the discussion.

Can you use theory? Yes, of course - base your arguments on the theory, as it applies to an answer such as the one you assumed.

You can't be penalised twice for one mistake.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Time management


Anonymous wrote:

"I keep running out of time in my strategic level exams, and I'm writing for the fifth time in May. What can I do?"

Well, my two main pieces of advice would be:
  1. Practise LOTS of questions, under timed conditions
  2. Spend more time on the questions, and make sure you know exactly what the examiner wants you to do, then stick to doing just that.
There's more advice here. Good luck in May!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Scenario-based questions


Kugesh wrote:

I attended you exam techniques and scenario based questions seminar in Jhb late last year. I have found a video on the Exam techniques did you record the scenario based session and if so where could I get hold of this recording or the presentation (answer plan slides) ?

Thanks for your message. Yes, the slides are here, on slideshare. There's also another one, dealing with answer planning using mind maps, that might help.
I'll have to do a Learning Burst....

Thursday, 24 March 2011

March results, and entry for May

CIMA published the pass rates for its March exams today, so congratulations to those of you who passed. Don't forget, whether you passed or not, that you only have a week if you want to enter for the May exams.

If you weren't successful in March, check out my Learning Bursts to improve your chances next time.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Interesting times...

Well, yesterday CIMA announced a planned 'joint venture' with the AICPA (the American accounting body). There are more details in CIMA's press release.

Job in the USA, anyone?

I'll be interested to know what you think. I know no more than you, at this stage.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Choosing a college (in South Africa)

Anonymous wrote:

I am planning to sit the May exams in Johannesburg, but I can not find a colege near me that does CIMA. You have been to SA. Can you help?

Well, while it would be wrong of me to recommend specific colleges, I can suggest a couple of things that will help:
  1. Find out which colleges teach CIMA in your area. The CIMA college finder is an online tool for just that. Simply enter your country or city, and the results will be there. You can then contact the colleges. Your first stop should always be the 'Quality Partner' colleges.
  2. Ask around. There's nothing better than a recommendation. My Learning Burst on choosing a college goes into more detail.
I hope that helps.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Studying online - does it work?

Anonymous wrote:

I am not near any college that teach CIMA. I have passed all CBA exams on my own, but I need help and not sure if internet college will be good.

There are lots of online colleges, and the standards vary. The best thing to do is to get recommendations from students who have used them. Go into the CIMA forums on CIMASphere, and search for relevant discussions. Also, take a look at my Learning Burst on studying online, which has more information on how to find and choose an online college, and how to make online study work for you.

AAT and CIMA - exemptions


Anonymous wrote:

If I finish all the 3 levels of AAT will I be able to skip the foundation level of CIMA? If so do I have to use the same medium I used for AAT, or can I write CIMA in another language?

Thanks for your question. If you have any exemptions questions, you can find the answer here, on the CIMA website.

The short answer is 'yes' - if you have passed the full AAT qualification, you get exemption from all of the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting (CBA - what you called 'foundation'). If you've only done the International AAT qualification, you get exemption from two papers at CBA.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Getting practice answers marked

Leevan wrote:

"Do you know any CIMA tutors who are willing to give me feedback on my attempted past year questions?"

Great question, because it shows that you're thinking carefully about how to get best value from your question practice.

I would suggest getting in touch with your nearest CIMA Quality Partner college. You can search CIMA's college finder, by country and city. Tutors at colleges are often quite happy to mark and give feedback. Sometimes they might ask for a fee, but sometimes they do it as a favour, as it's good marketing for their courses. Pick a Quality Partner college, if you can, as they have been accredited by CIMA.

Time management


Leevan asked:

"Thanks a lot Mr Harris. Fortunately I realize my main reason for scoring bad marks during the exam is due to bad time management. Is there any advice you can give on managing my time effectively in the exam hall?"

Running out of time, at the end of the exam, is only part of time management. The trick is to allocate an equal amount of time (on a 'per mark' basis) to each of the requirements and questions. I have two pieces of advice:

Firstly, you have to be disciplined. If you find a question that you like, the temptation is to spend far too long writing about things related to the question. This leads to two probems - you are less likely to stick to just answering the question, and you won't have enough time left to answer the rest of the questions.

Secondly, you must practise answering exam-standard questions under timed exam conditions. It's too easy to say "just another few minutes won't hurt", but it will. Writing answers under a time constraint is a skill that needs to be developed and practised.

If you want more information on time management, there's a Learning Burst here. There's also one on using past exam questions here.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Learning Bursts go live!

As promised, the 'Learning Bursts' (my online learning resource) are now LIVE. Click on the 'Learning Bursts' link under 'Pages' at the right of this page to find out more.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Learning bursts - coming soon

Keep a look-out on here for my next project. I've been developing a series of narrated presentations ('Learning bursts') on various aspects of exam technique. The learning bursts play as videos, with audio commentary, and will be available soon for live streaming. I'll keep you posted - we're just trying to get the technology sorted.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

More on numbers in E3


I just had a thought, relating to the post below, about numbers in E3 and P3. Some time ago, I wrote an article about calculations in E3 for Financial Management magazine. Obviously I'm no longer the E3 examiner, but I think the article is still a valid summary.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Problems with E3 and P3


Leevan wrote:

I am currently in Strategic Level papers. I got through my F3 paper last May 2010 but unfortunately I wasn't successful in E3 and P3. I made a second attempt for both of these papers last Nov 2010 but it wasn't successful as well. I got 40 and 46 for both E3 and P3. CIMA gave me the breakdown of marks for both of these papers. For E3 I got 19 for Q1, 11 for Q2 and 10 for Q3. For P3 I got 17 for Q1, 15 for Q2 and 14 for Q3.

I attempted quite a number of pass year question before facing the exams. I honestly don't know what went wrong. Please advise me what I should be doing to pass these 2 papers next May.

P.S I am taking the exams in Malaysia
Well, Leevan, you are not alone. A lot of students have problems with E3 and P3, as they are both very practical exams. The trick, with both of them, is to take a practical approach that is informed by theory, rather than just writing about the theories themselves. Your marks breakdown suggests poor performance on all questions, but a serious issue with question 1. I would suggest the following:
  1. Take a look at the way you approach the numerical parts of question 1. At the Strategic Level you need to be able to add value to the calculations. It's common to get only 1/2 to 1 mark for each step of the calculation, but up to 2 further marks for analysis and comment. There are frequently more marks for analysis than for the calculation itself. What do the numbers mean? What issues might the numbers indicate? What could or should the organisation consider? Look back at the post-exam guides for the appropriate papers, to see how the marks are awarded.
  2. Make sure that you are familiar with how to use the pre-seen material in question 1.
  3. Concentrate on answering the questions, rather than trying to cram your answers full of theories. The theories are just tools to help us solve problems.
  4. Get some feedback. Find a college or tutor that is willing to mark your questions, and advise where you are going wrong. Practising questions is fine but, without feedback, you don't really learn from them.
  5. Watch my exam techniques video, on the CIMA website - it is very relevant to E3 and P3.
I hope this helps.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

November results, and extra resit exams


Well, the results are out for the November 2010 exams. A bit of a mixed bag, with some up and some down. Congratulations to those of you who passed, and condolences to those of you who will have to try again.

Talking of trying again - I notice that the March resit exams have been expanded to include E2 and F2. At present, this sitting is only available in the UK, but it seems that CIMA may have a plan to offer it elsewhere.

CIMA says

"CIMA will continue to look to extending this pilot in the future to benefit all of our stakeholders."

So, what do you think? Four sittings a year, everywhere? Do you think that's a good idea? Let me know...

Monday, 17 January 2011

CMGA - how much work?

Anonymous asked:

I  am an MBA, and have over four and a half years of experience. I am planning to do CMGA. I would like to know how many hours of preparation time, on average, are required for CMGA.

Well, that's a very good question. The answer has to be, as you probably guessed, "it depends". Let me explain...

CMGA, while it's only one exam, covers three papers from the syllabus - E2, F2 and P2. This means that, assuming you have not covered any of the material from these three before, CMGA requires three times as much study as any 'normal' CIMA paper. This is, of course, a worst-case scenario.

As an MBA, you are likely to be familiar with some or more of the topics. The more you've done before, the less work you will have to do. As I've mentioned before, CMGA is only the best option if your MBA had a strong finance content. If not, you may well be better off taking the conventional entry route. The more finance content you studied in your MBA, the easier you should find CMGA. Also, it depends on how good a student you were when you studied your MBA, and how long ago it was. You also have to consider how relevant (to the three papers) your work experience has been. Oh, and it also depends whether you are a native English speaker, and whether your MBA was taught and examined in English.

CMGA, while it is a 'fast track' for entry into the CIMA qualification, is definitely not an easy option.

Any one of the normal CIMA papers has a rough guideline of 200 hours study time. If you are lucky enough to attend lectures, each hour in the classroom (because of the 'added value') is probably worth three hours of self-study. There aren't many courses available for CMGA, however, as the number of students attempting the exam seldom makes it cost-effective for colleges to run them.

I would guess, therefore, that you are likely to need somewhere between 200 hours (the guideline for one normal paper) and 600 hours (if you covered very little of the P2/E2/F2 syllabus in your MBA). Remember - CMGA is not 'easy', and the more time you can spend on it, the better prepared you will be for the CMGA exam, and the exams that follow it (Strategic Level and T4). You shouldn't be aiming to 'scrape through' CMGA - that would just leave you ill-prepared for what follows.

I'm sorry I can't be of more help. I would need to know far more about your education, your MBA, and what work you've done.