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Jamie Carrahar

Chartered Management Accountant

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April 2016

“Prepare a reasonable and feasible study plan and stick to it”

In searching through CIMAs website today for additional resources to share with you, I found this article produced by Jacek, a Managerial Case Study student who successfully passed his exam last year. It is worth noting his winning formula.

The original article can be found here.

Management Case Study Exam

“Prepare a reasonable and feasible study plan and stick to it”

Student
4th June 2015

I sat and passed the Management case study exam in the 2015 syllabus. CIMA asked me to share my experience. Here’s how I got on. Good luck to other students sitting case study exams!

How does it feel to be one of the first students to pass a case study exam?   
I am excited but also surprised since it is hard to predict the result on open-ended questions which often involve some business judgment.

How did the case study exam compare to what you had expected? 
Firstly, despite high expectations, the exam was far more interesting than I expected. I had a feeling I was working on real business cases. What is interesting, when I told my friend about the questions in details, he was so excited that he decided to enroll for the next CIMA exams. The level of difficulty was more predictable – it was quite similar to the practice exam.

How did you prepare for the exam and which resources did you find most helpful?

I was using CIMA Official Exam Practice Kit published by Kaplan and I was satisfied with this material. It is logically written, concise and contains many relevant examples thereby allowing effective learning. I also tried to read more widely around key subjects with the focus on the industry from the pre-seen material. I used different publicly available industry reports and well-known business publications such as Financial Times and Harvard Business Review. I also took two practice exams delivered by Pearson VUE which really helped me to identify my weaknesses and practice time management. It is also worth to mention that I was relentlessly thinking about practical application of business models as it was far easier to fully understand the theory.

What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was to organise and manage time to prepare for the ‘triple exam’ in one sitting. I have made an ambitious study plan (“stretch target” in CIMA terminology). I divided work into five separate phases with specific deadlines for each. First three stages involved reading E2, P2 and F2 books, respectively. By the way, I found this sequence helpful as it was much easier to start with the most pleasant book (for me) and become optimistic before studying harder parts of the material. In the next step I took two practice exams delivered by Pearson VUE in order to identify my weaknesses and practice time management. Finally, I revised part of the books based on the weaknesses identified in practice exams.

What is your winning formula?
WINNING FORMULA = STUDY PLAN + IMPLEMENTATION OF THIS PLAN. Unfortunately, it seems that there are no shortcuts. I strongly believe that organising appropriate amount of time is the most important success factor.

Can you offer some advice to other students?
Prepare a reasonable and feasible study plan and stick to it. Try to think about practical application of business models as it would be far easier to fully understand and apply the theory.

Good luck!

Jacek Komor

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Examiner’s Report – Mgr ICS February 2016

2016.02-Mgr ICS-Examiner’s Report

In an earlier post I shared the February 2016 past exam tasks (Past Exam Tasks – Mgr ICS – Feb 2016 (update)), I wanted to share my thoughts with you following the publication of the Examiner’s Report.

Generic comments on student performance across the five variants focussed again on the limited application of syllabus knowledge to the practical and real-world scenarios presented.

Students need to appreciate the complexity of tasks and understand the requirement to demonstrate their knowledge of the syllabus (technical knowledge competency) and ensure they also meet the competencies of leadership, people skills and business acumen.

The Report raises concerns over the dip in quality of answer presented, even referring to scripts in “many cases” being significantly lower than the August and November 2015 sessions. “Some candidates also demonstrated an alarmingly poor understanding of several syllabus areas, including material that is clearly ‘core'”, which as The Report highlights, is rather alarming!

Strong scripts demonstrated some students had prepared well, made good use of the pre-seen material and were technically competent. With that in mind, my key tips to develop prior to the exam are:

  1. Practice exam standard tasks, ensuring you tailor and apply your answers to the pre-seen and context of the requirement.
  2. Revise E, F and P syllabus content.
  3. Ensure you are familiar with the pre-seen information and have an appreciation of the industry in order to understand the issues that may arise in the unseen information.
  4. Review past exams to develop the skill of interpreting the requirements, DO NOT consider the pre-seen information from previous exam sittings.
  5. Reflect on your own performance in tasks, if possible ask for a fellow student or colleague to review your answers in practice tasks.

Note – there is no requirement for students to memorise the pre-seen material or to become an expert in the industry, however students should develop an understanding of the pre-seen company. Exam preparation should focus on analysis of the pre-seen in order to incorporate an appreciation of issues that may arise within the unseen tasks to aid revision.

Do have a read of the task by task and requirement by requirement detail produced in the examiners report to help identify lessons to learn from previous students.

GrandVision & Apprenticeships

Following on from my earlier post on the role of staff in the provision of effective eye care, this extract from the GrandVision Annual Report 2015 highlights the importance they place on staff and more specifically their apprenticeship scheme.

It is also worth noting that GrandVision promote the value apprentices can add, over the three year programme that balances academic study and the vocational application to a commercial context. GrandVision report that in some cases sales when an apprentice has managed a store for one month, financial results have improved.

IC Optical may also consider similar ideas to address their staffing needs, ensuring that employees are developed as part of their Human Resource strategy.

GrandVision Apprenticeships.PNG

How to Manage your Time and Priorities

Last Friday night I received an email from one of my students to say he was busy studying in preparation for his E3 exam and wanted some advice on how to tackle a few question within the question bank. I still remember those days of studying into the evening, whilst most of my friends and colleagues had finished work ready to relax over the weekend.

I came across this article on the CGMA website, which contained advice on how students can balance their time and priorities in preparation for an exam. I thought it would be worth sharing with you.

You can access the original link here.

How to Manage your Time and Priorities

Do you feel like there’s just never enough time to study?

Do you feel overwhelmed by all your commitments and wonder how you’ll ever fit them all in?

Sometimes we don’t even know where to begin.

I know from personal experience that it can be very stressful when you’re trying to manage your time between a busy job, family commitments and the need to study.

But it’s okay.  This is not a permanent situation if we learn to take control.

The first step is to recognise that we are in charge of our time and daily activities. So when we say we don’t have time to study, what we are really saying is “I choose not to study for my exams right now because other things are more important to me.”

We all have time to do what is most important to us. It’s just a question of what those priorities are.

To help you with this, here are my top tips for managing both your time and priorities:

1.  Determine what’s most important in your life. What gives you energy and drive each day? What are those activities that you WANT to be doing rather than those you feel you HAVE to be doing? You can also be strategic here, what is the best use of your time in terms of making money in the long run?

2. Keep a file of your motivating factors from above. Refer back to them whenever you’re feeling frustrated, overwhelmed or want to quit. Remind yourself why you are doing things in the first place.

3. Control the inputs into your life. By this I mean removing distractions when you want to get down to work – just because someone requests your time, it doesn’t mean you have to give an immediate response. Email in particular can be addictive, try to use this less and less. Check your inbox and social media last thing in the day when you’re ready to switch off. Teach others to value your time by saying to your family and friends that you are un-contactable during your study time.

4. Schedule your day and routine. Use a calendar to get things out of your head and onto a schedule. Map out each task you have to do, set a time limit and give yourself deadlines to achieve them by. Choose your 2 most important tasks for the day and do them first. As you go along, you’ll get a better insight into how long things take and you’ll actually find you free up more time.

5. Have a strategy meeting with yourself each week. Look back at the tasks you’ve been working on in the previous week – write down what went well and what’s stressing you out right now. Can you do more of what’s working well? What action can you take to alleviate the stress so that it doesn’t carry on into the following week? Set some goals for the next week – what are the priorities? What are you going to do and when? You want to start each new week knowing exactly what needs to be done.

Final Thoughts

It’s important not to beat yourself up. Time management is hard and it is not something you are expected to master overnight. You’ll find that you get much better at prioritising and managing your time with experience.

But if you want to speed the process up and make your life a whole lot easier right now, try seeking help from a mentor who has been on the path you are following and can guide you step by step along the way.

Matt Evans is a CIMA qualified management accountant who now offers expert guidance on becoming a fully qualified CIMA member, check out his website http://www.managementaccountingmastery.com/

 

Vision Express Free Eye Tests

IC Optical currently offer eye tests for the residents of Ceeland, which are funded by the Government. There must be some positive correlation between the number of eye tests that IC Optical conduct (all eye tests break even) and the revenues from the sale of corrective treatment.

Commercial business’ focus on increasing revenue and profits, using Marketing Mix may help formulate a strategy. IC Optical will look to increase revenue, profit and market share, however a successful promotion may focus on a particular segment of the market.

Vision Express have segmented the market to focus on motorists in the advert below, whilst this will contribute to an increase in profit for those who require corrective treatment, it is done in such a way to demonstrate their responsible approach to improving the safety of road users.

Free Eye Test with Vision Express.jpg

Vision Express Staff

As part of the assessment criteria of your case study exam, you will be expected to address issues relating to staff across all three pillars of the CIMA syllabus. In addition to this, you will have to meet all four competencies too.

I limit the scope of this post to leadership and people skills, where by the extract below from Vision Express’ Annual Report highlights the role and importance of a motivated and trained workforce, which arguably is critical for the delivery of eyecare services.

Tasks within the Managerial Integrated Case Study exam will by their very nature have elements from more than one pillar. As part of your exam preparation and when planning your answers always try to consider the impact of options and decisions on staff (customers and suppliers, where necessary) within each requirement.

In terms of analysing the extract below, how do you think Vision Express could enhance and develop the statement?

Vision Express - Staff.PNG

SpecSavers Key Performance Indicators

SpecSavers Key Interpretations.PNG

SpecSavers have very kindly published KPIs within their Annual Report, whilst this is restricted to the Strategic Report and will disclose the statutory minimum level of disclosure, the interpretation of Financial Statements remain a key element of the F2 syllabus that may appear within the unseen information you are presented in the exam. When evaluating information disclosed within financial statements, remember that accounting standards and statutory disclosures meet the minimum level of disclosure for general purpose financial statements. You should always consider additional information that may help yourself and other users of the financial statements better interpret and understand financial performance and position.

SpecSavers Over 60s

Over 60s.jpg

The case study exam requires students to consistently apply their syllabus knowledge to specific real world scenarios. Be prepared to recall specific ideas and themes from the syllabus to tailor your answers to IC Optical. For example, as SpecSavers offer eye tests and sell corrective lenses, the 4Ps and 7Ps of the marketing mix apply respectively and you may wish to link this with a market segmentation strategy to appeal to the over 60s.

Let’s save the discussion on specific approaches to how IC Optical appeal to different segments of the market in the sessions.

Vision Express - Risk Analysis.PNG

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