Sunday, 1 March 2015

Skills in the Strategic Level Case Study (SCS) exam?

Daniel wrote:

I am currently due to take the SCS (Strategic Level Case Study) case exam in two weeks and am a bit puzzled on how much the required format for the answers has changed from the old syllabus.

When I look at a most of the mock exams and solutions provided by course providers for CIMA, they recite models (identically from their text books) in great depth. In the old syllabus, I was under the impression that this was a big NO NO as it would gain you no marks.

Anyone can copy text from a text book so, looking at the solutions, they provide  no help. I know the models so don’t need anyone to tell me what they are.

What I am looking for is some guidance on what CIMA is looking for under the new syllabus when structuring an answer in the case study.

 Do I just continue to answer questions in the same format I have done previously, in the old strategic case study exam?


Great question, Daniel. I taught a group of students, a couple of weeks ago, who are also sitting the SCS exam in March. Before teaching them, I obviously did a lot of research, and here are my main findings:

  1. The SCS exam is a much more direct test of the Strategic Level syllabus content than the old T4B TOPCIMA Case Study was.
  2. SCS seems very similar, in terms of style and skills, to Section A of the old Strategic Level exams. You need good recall of all the relevant Strategic Level models, theories and frameworks, as the SCS exam is testing the higher skills (analysis, evaluation, advice…) whereas the new Strategic Level OT exams (2015 E3, P3, F3) are testing the lower skills (comprehension, application).
  3. Pretty much all the marks available in the SCS exam are for the use of what you’ve learned, in the context of the pre-seen and reference materials, to analyse and solve problems in the organisation. There are few marks available for your logical argument, structure etc. There are similarly few or none available for the theory itself. As long as the points you make are valid (i.e. relevant to the context and technically correct), they’ll be rewarded.
  4. The lowest skill being examined appears to be application. CIMA has said, several times, that no marks will be given for knowledge or comprehension, unless that knowledge is applied to the case. To quote from CIMA’s own study guide, “The Case Study examinations are intended to demonstrate that you can apply the technical, business, people and leadership skills from the learning outcomes in the three subjects at a particular level in a business context.”. (Note – you’ll have to log into MyCIMA, to view the study guide)

So, the question remains, why do so many publishers still have so much theory in their answers? I can only assume that it’s because they think many students will be using published study materials as their only means of preparation. Publishers therefore include all the theory “as an aid to learning”.

I, too, think such answers are misleading, as they give the impression that it’s that style of answer (one crammed with theory) that CIMA wants. As far as I know (and this is a new exam, so time will tell) it isn’t. Time will tell, of course, as we receive further guidance from CIMA and feedback from students who have attempted the exam. For now, I hope my answer helps.