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.

“This new type of exam is very much focused on real life examples” – by a March 2015 Strategic level Case Study Prizewinner

As part of CIMAs Success Stories, Stylianos has shared his thoughts on how to pass a case study exam!

The original article can be found here.

“This new type of exam is very much focused on real life examples” – by a March 2015 Strategic level Case Study Prizewinner

4th June 2015

I sat and passed the Strategic 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?   
The fact that I completed my CIMA studies and exams with such an achievement is emotional by definition. On top of that, I felt extra excited receiving the results and that I won the prize for the second position in the world in this first CIMA SCS sitting. This is not just a prize for me, it is a confirmation that real life experience is as important as studies and it is an incentive for me to continue learning and apply this knowledge to broaden my experiences.

How did the case study exam compare to what you had expected? 
The case study was very different to what I had seen from the previous paper based version (T4). On the other hand, it was so close to a real life example that my experience helped me a lot to tackle it using the correct approach.

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

I was self-studying using multiple resources from online material, the official syllabus and a lot of practice using past papers. I found the latter the best source of what is required at the strategic level from the perspective of the assessors.

Did you use a tuition provider?

No, I didn’t.

What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge was to understand what is really expected in this new type of assessment as it was not clear and all the online instructions I had found seemed to be guesses as well. I used the guidance published by CIMA and I tried to familiarise myself as much as possible with that.

What is your winning formula?
Make sure you know the basics (theory), familiarise yourself with the company in the case study finding a similar company in real life and put yourself in the shoes of the managers in such a company asking yourself “What would this manager do if he had this challenge in real life?”

Is there any one thing you wished you’d have known before entering the exam room (apart from the answers?)

Can you offer some advice to other students?
This new type of exam is very much focused on real life examples. Theory is as important as experience. Put yourself in the shoes of the managers who would actually work in the company in discussion and make sure you empathise and you have built a holistic understanding of the challenges they may face before answering any of the questions.

What’s your next step?

I am a person who believes in continuous learning and development as well as building professional experience. Most probably I will pursue an additional qualification in another field that would complement my knowledge.
Good luck!

Stylianos Matthaiou

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. 

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