What does it take to pass the CIMA exams in 2023?

We’ve been preparing students to pass the CIMA exams for over 20 years!

However, there have been a lot of changes in that time, including:
+ changes to the CIMA exams
+ changes to the CIMA syllabus
+ changes to the CIMA qualification format
+ changes to society and CIMA students themselves

With all this in mind we’ve been asking students about their experiences with the CIMA exams in 2023, to see what we can learn from them.

The results from our survey: ‘What does it take to pass the CIMA exams in 2023?’ can be found here.

Don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comments at the bottom of the page.

What are the trickiest exams?

Let’s start by looking at the exams that people have had the most difficulty with.

What exams have you passed?


What exams have you failed?


What exams have you failed more than once?


The majority of students surveyed have failed at least one of their CIMA exams. However, there are some exams that students struggle with more than others. P1, P2, F2 and F3 seem to be particularly tricky, which has been the case for some years.

The operational case study also has a fairly high number of failures, however, with this being the first case study exam it’s perhaps not all too surprising that students struggle to adapt to this new format.

Objective test preparation

Let’s take a look at some of the stats from the objective test section of the 2023 survey…

How many weeks did you study ahead of your last OT exam?


How many hours per week did you study ahead of your last OT exam?


Do you feel like the amount of study you did was enough?


There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all when it comes to creating a study schedule.

As you can see from the survey results above, exam preparations vary massively between students.

Typically, we’d recommend studying for anywhere between 4 and 7 weeks, for at least 10 hours per week, but this might not be possible for all students.

Ultimately, as long as the study time you have is spent effectively, and all of the content, and practice questions are covered well, your schedule will be unique to you.

How many mock exams did you use?


Practice questions are essential for any exam, so it’s a little odd that more than 13% of students hadn’t used any mock exams.

If you’re preparing for your next OT exam, we always recommend as many mocks and practice questions as you can, as it will test more of your theory knowledge and prepare you for the different types of questions you will face in the exam.

Case study preparation

And how about the case study exams?

How many weeks did you study ahead of your last case study exam?


How many hours per week did you study ahead of your last case study exam?


Do you feel like the amount of study you did was enough?


Unlike the OT exams, there are some more assumptions we can make off the back of the survey results.

For example, the typical study time is higher overall for the case study exams, with fewer people studying for less than four weeks. Fewer people also spent under five hours per week.

Just like the OT exams, we’d recommend at least 10 hours of study per week, but this time, the number of weeks is higher. Between 6 to 8 weeks should be sufficient for you to pass.

How many mock exams did you use?


There was no consistency in people’s answers when it came to mock exam practice. However, a surprising number didn’t complete any!

We’d always recommend mock exams, as they test all of your exam skills. Typically 3-5 is a good number, but more is always better than less!

Other conclusions & correlations

After digging a little deeper into some of the stats from our 2023 CIMA exam survey, there were a few more conclusions that we could make…

Less than two weeks of preparation
is not enough

Of all the people who studied for less than two weeks before their last OT exam, 100% had failed at least one exam.

You can assume that this approach is not the best one to use if you want to boost your chances of passing.

More than eight weeks
is not recommended either

Just as less than two weeks is too little, it also appears that more than eight weeks is too much!

A high proportion of students who studied for 8 weeks or more had also failed at least one exam before.

It’s worth remembering that more study time also means longer between learning the first topics and the last, leaving more potential time for you to forget the content!

More people are struggling to fit in their studies along side other commitments

Over 32% of students said that fitting their studies into their work and home life was one of the biggest challenges they’ve had. 

This is a big increase on previous years when we’ve asked this question, and perhaps it has resulted from greater pressures from work. 

We’re really interested to hear more on this one, so if you have any ideas, please leave your thoughts in the comments. 

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Have any more thoughts on the survey results? Let us know here…

Illustration by Storyset.