CIMA Case Study Results Explained

In anticipation of CIMA May 2016 results being announced, CIMA have produced an article to explain the results.

The original article can be found here.

Operational Case Study Exam

 Grade descriptors for Case Study exams
Administrator, Editor, Moderator, Staff
20th June 2016

As part of our efforts to improve your learning experience while studying the CIMA Professional Qualification, we are publishing new “grade descriptors” to help you understand your case study exam results feedback across the competencies. Grade descriptors will be implemented from May Case Study exam results onwards.

How should I interpret my case study exam results?

Up to now Case Study exam results have been communicated with:

1. An overall grade (Pass/Fail)

2. A scaled score between 0 – 150 (80 or above representing a pass)

3. Sectional Feedback (An indication of performance against each of the four competencies and integration)

To pass you need to score 80+ and reach a minimum threshold score for each competency (approximately one third of the total marks available for that competency) and Integration.

The only exception to this is Operational level where the marks available for Leadership and Integration are only a small proportion of those available and so it would not be meaningful to set a minimum threshold. No candidate will fail at Operational level on Leadership or Integration for this reason.

Please note the passing criteria above remain unchanged, it is the feedback we provide on your performance across the competencies which has been improved. So, in terms of your overall grade: 

Pass Fail

Sectional feedback

The sectional feedback looks at how you performed against each of the four competencies (Technical, Business, People and Leadership skills) and Integration. This is all aligned to the CGMA Competency Framework. Reflecting the knowledge and skills employers told us they expect to see from finance professionals, at various levels in their organisations.  The framework is what sets the CIMA Professional Qualification and you as a CIMA student apart from other similar qualifications.

Success in the Case Study exams demonstrates your all round competence and employability. Successfully passing your case study exams gives employers the reassurance of your workplace readiness and that you are equipped with the appropriate skills and abilities to perform well in your role. Whether that’s as a Finance Officer (Operational level), Business/Finance Manager (Management level/CIMA Gateway) or CFO/ Senior Business/Finance Manager (Strategic level).

It’s important that you demonstrate your ability across the four competencies as well as scoring enough marks to pass the case study exam. For each competency you will receive a performance rating from one of three categories as shown below:


Grade descriptions are a very useful and objective way of describing the standards of achievement likely to have been demonstrated by candidates awarded a particular level of performance.

The new grade descriptors

Grade descriptions are a very useful and objective way of describing the standards of achievement likely to have been demonstrated by candidates awarded a particular level of performance.

For each level of the case study exam (Operational, Management and Strategic), we have developed a set of grade descriptors to map the performance ratings above (Fail, Moderate and Strong against each competency and Integration.

The grade descriptors are based on the skills and/or abilities expected for different roles. They are part of a holistic system which recognises links between categories and progression between levels. Few of you are likely to be “moderate” or “strong” across or even within all competences. Most exam performance will be a mixture of the categories. Your final result will reflect where you sit overall. Remember, a good in depth answer to all parts of the task requirements will hit the competencies and integration and is the best way to prepare to pass.

How should I use the grade descriptors?

The descriptors at each level are applicable across all variants and case study sessions and they offer a consistent way to feedback on your performance in the exam. Essentially they show you what you are aiming for and will help identify where your performance in an individual competency may have fallen short of the general standard for the level of case study you sat. They are best used in conjunction with the syllabus content and all other study resources available for the case study exams.  When preparing for the exam, you can use them to benchmark your performance and see what you need to achieve to become “exam ready”.

If you have performed strongly across all competencies, the grade descriptors will highlight what you should continue to do and which skills you can build on for future exams.

If you have failed a case study, they will be particularly useful when used in conjunction with other case study resources on CIMAconnect, including the post exam kit for your variant and the “walkthroughs” of real case study answers (available soon) which will illustrate how they can be used to review performance.

Case Study Scaled Scores Explained

Here’s a short video produced by CIMA to explain the process of standardising marks across all five variants of the case study exam to ensure a balanced assessment of student performance is made. 

There’s a link in the video to further information published on CIMA’s website too. 

Rise of Budget Stores

B&M Value Retail sales growth slows in UK

B&M Value offer branded products at prices significantly below the prices charged by supermarkets. Mainly due to purchasing production over-runs and a completely different fixed cost structure. 

However consider how supermarkets such as Merchants are fighting back. Increasing their own-branded product range, by requiring their suppliers to reduce prices and entering price wars. 

Do they pose a threat to Merchants? Consider preparing your own Porters Five Forces analysis of Zeeland’s supermarket industry. 

Living Wage – UK Aim

Supermarket workers have to claim £11bn benefits, charity says

The UK government recently announced plans to scrap minimum wage and instead offer the “living wage”, whereby employees would be paid a wage relative to the cost of living. 

Whilst the supermarkets have to pay minimum wage, this article highlights that a number of employees still have to rely on benefits in order to live. 

Consider the implication of such an implementation in Zeeland and the impact this could have on Merchants. 

Supermarket Price Wars

Supermarket price war ‘hitting food supply firms’

Consider the ethical implications of supermarkets increasing pressure on their suppliers to reduce prices, the potential impact of suppliers entering administration or liquidation as a result. 

This could link Porters Five Forces from E1 with Pricing Strategies and short term decision making from P1 and potentially the financial reporting treatment for potential legal claims as a result. 

Small Business Commissioner to tackle late payments

Small business commissioner to tackle late payments
Small business commissioner to target late payments

An interesting point to consider for any exam, in that regulation imposed by the UK Government within the Enterprise Bill to create the Small Business Commissioner to tackle the estimated £26bn of late payments. 

Supermarkets are renowned for using their strong purchasing power to drive down prices, milk being one of those regularly on the headlines and also force suppliers into extending payment terms. 

Working capital cycles calculated by comparing receivables days, inventory days and payables days. Supermarkets based on their high inventory turnover, lack of receivables days and extended payables days, have negative working capital cycles. Such large cash surpluses are then used to fund expansion, acquisitions and further investment into technology and infrastructure. 

Consider how this could impact on Merchants, consider the impact on their working capital cycle, cash flow and possible reputational damage for failing to settle payments with suppliers in a fair and just manner. 

Charging for carrier bags

Should shoppers in England pay for plastic bags?

Environmental and ethical issues arising from the sheer volume of carrier bags given away are a likely to appear within your exam. 

Scotland and Wales have already started charging customers for carrier bags, most supermarkets offer “bags for life” and offer reward points for reusing carrier bags. 

“I hesitate to say this, but I actually quite enjoyed the format of this exam!” – by a February 2015 Operational Case Study Prizewinner

“I hesitate to say this, but I actually quite enjoyed the format of this exam!” – by a February 2015 Operational Case Study Prizewinner—by-a-february-2015-operational-case-study-prizewinner/Richard

Feedback from another Global Prizewinner, Richard, on his success in February 2015.

His comments on application certainly ring true following the examiner’s report stating that students who failed, generally produced textbook answers and lacked any application to the pre-seen.

How did the case study exam compare to what you had expected? 
In general, it was in line with my expectations. The exam wasn’t just asking me to repeat definitions and facts that I had memorised, which is a structure used by many exams. It was more about testing that I really understood the context behind different parts of the syllabus, and that I was able to communicate these concepts clearly and concisely. I hesitate to say this, but I actually quite enjoyed the format of this exam!

The main thing that surprised me in the exam was how I was expecting the questions to relate more closely to the pre-seen material. Most of the questions were quite general and could be applied to any company. The challenge was then working out how this should be applied in the context of the bottled water company that we were looking at.

I recommend reading Richard’s complete blog post and reflect on his tips for success.

Have a clear study plan and study frequently in order to build up knowledge and skills

Evelina, Global Prize Winner for Operational Integrated Case Study in February 2015, has shared her thoughts on the exam.

You can view the whole article here: –—by-a-february-2015-operational-level-case-study-prizewinner/Evelina

Her biggest challenge and how she overcome it certainly provides food for thought for others who have either passed a E1, F1 or P1 under the 2010 syllabus or have received an exemption from a previous qualification.

What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge in the Operational Case Study preparation was F1 course content since I received an exemption from that exam. However I still decided to study for F1 exam in order to make sure that I have the required knowledge for the case study. This meant I had to study for F1 and the Operational Case Study simultaneously.

I tried to cover the main topics of F1 and understand the accounting treatment, therefore I followed the BPP online lectures and also the Operational Case Study Workbook was very useful including many practice examples.

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