CIMA FLP Foundational:
Everything you need to know

CIMA FLP Foundational

There’s been a new game-changer in the world of CIMA qualification, and if you’re preparing to start your CIMA qualification journey, you’re going to want to read this!

CIMA FLP has been around for a little while now, and has revolutionised the way that students can become chartered management accountants. But, there was always a problem with it, and this is where CIMA have been at work…

They’ve introduced CIMA FLP Foundational, which is a new way to begin your CIMA qualification. If you’re wondering what’s so different about it, you’ve come to the right place!

Now, being a new addition to the CIMA qualification, you might have a few questions in need of answering, like:


  • What is CIMA FLP?
  • How does the CIMA FLP Foundational level fit into it?
  • How much does CIMA FLP Foundational cost?
  • How will CIMA FLP Foundational be different from studying through the traditional CIMA route?
  • What are the benefits of studying CIMA FLP Foundational?
  • Are there any drawbacks to the CIMA FLP Foundational?
  • Is studying CIMA FLP Foundational for you?

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1. What is CIMA FLP?

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Access our free CIMA FLP report for 2024 and learn more about what students are saying about this new route to CIMA qualification!

1. What is CIMA FLP?

If you’re reading this, you might already have some idea of what CIMA’s Financial Leadership Programme entails. But if you’re not sure, or if you just want a quick reminder, it’s an alternative to the traditional pathway to becoming a qualified management accountant with CIMA.

CIMA introduced FLP to meet the needs of the modern student, designing it around the increased demand for online learning and assessment. So, rather than sitting 16 exams, you would only sit 3 across the entire route to qualification! The rest of your learning will be assessed as you learn through the online platform.

If you’re interested in learning more about what CIMA FLP is all about, you can check out our definitive guide to CIMA FLP!

But, if you want to find out specifically about the first level, continue reading.

CIMA FLP Essentials

2. What is CIMA FLP Foundational?

With the introduction of FLP, you now have two choices for how you can study to become a CGMA (Chartered Global Management Accountant): the traditional route and FLP.

Foundational comes in right at the start of the FLP route. But what exactly does it involve?

Note: You may also see FLP Foundational referred to as CIMA Finance Leadership Programme ‘Essentials’, or Business and Finance Essentials. We’ll use ‘Foundational’ most of the time, but don’t be alarmed if you notice these other terms here, or in any CIMA messaging

Why does this level exist?

The CIMA FLP Foundational level is there to give you the base level of knowledge you’ll need to progress through the rest of the course. The CIMA qualification is designed to be accessible to anyone, and the Foundational level will give you exactly that, a foundation to build upon in the later stages.

Although you must have completed all relevant learning from the CGMA Finance Leadership Program Syllabus 2 weeks before the exam.

If you can plan, set goals, and are motivated and organised enough to work to deadlines, then the flexibility the CIMA FLP route offers is fabulous.

    What will you learn?

    FLP Foundational level consists of three competencies, which we’ve provided an overview of below.

    Introduction to Business and Finance

    This will help you to understand the purpose and functions of a business, as well as the external environment it operates in. As a chartered management accountant, you need to be very familiar with how businesses operate, and the CIMA FLP Foundational aims to lay the groundwork for you to eventually fit into the finance function of a company.

    It includes two key focuses:

    • The role and structure of a business, as well as that of the finance function within it
    • The external environment in which businesses operate

    Introduction to Financial Accounting

    This is all about understanding the role of the financial accounting function, and helps you learn the fundamentals of how financial statements are prepared. This is probably what most people think of when they imagine accountants, and being aware of finances is obviously going to be a big part of passing the CIMA Financial Leadership Programme Essentials!

    Its two focuses are:

    • Applying double-entry bookkeeping to help prepare financial statements
    • Accounting for purchases and sales

    Introduction to Management Accounting

    The ultimate purpose of the CIMA Financial Leadership Programme Essentials and subsequent levels is to prepare you to be a management accountant, so it should be no surprise that you will also be learning about the basics of management accounting.

    The aim of this competency is to help you understand the tools accountants use to optimise organisational performance and guide business decisions.

    The two focuses are:

    • Pricing, costing, budgeting, and performance measurement
    • Factors that affect short and long-term decision-making

    How will you be assessed?

    At the end of each of these three competencies, you will complete a “Business Simulation Assignment”, which tests your understanding. You’ll be asked to roleplay as part of an organisation, and apply your knowledge of the theory.

    These are not formal examinations and only take around half an hour to finish. You will also be able to access all your notes throughout, so it’s not a memorisation test!

    And as mentioned above, beyond the Business Simulation Assignment, there is no exam at the end of the CIMA FLP Essentials stage.

    Before setting your heart on doing the CIMA FLP Foundational level, don’t forget to check if you have any exemptions. If you have already completed relevant qualifications, you may be entitled to skip this level entirely, so check with CIMA!

    3. How is CIMA FLP Foundational different from the traditional route?

    There are some big differences between the CIMA FLP Foundational level and the CIMA Certificate. However, the most important factor to keep in mind is something they share: they will both allow you to continue your CIMA studies.

    Assessment process:

    The main difference, and the one that would make the most difference to you, is that there are no Objective Test exams in the CIMA FLP Foundational level! Instead, there are mini-assessments at the end of each topic, and instead of 90-minute, closed-book Objective Test exams, you’ll do business simulation assignments.

    The business simulation assignments are much shorter than the Objective Test exams. You can take them as many times as you need (without any extra costs) and you can refer to your notes, so it’s better suited to some styles of learning, meaning it may be quicker and less stressful for you!

    The assignments will also give you a little taste of the kinds of things you will tackle when you come to take the CIMA Case Study exams at the end of the Operational, Management and Strategic levels.

      FLP Foundational

      Syllabus content:

      The focus of the syllabus is the same for both routes, though it has been streamlined for the CIMA Financial Leadership Programme Essentials. This means that it goes into less depth on certain topics. But don’t worry, these are areas that CIMA has deemed to be less relevant in preparing you to become a qualified accountant or they are covered in other levels and you don’t need to learn them twice!

      In the traditional route, students would begin their studies with the four CIMA Certificate exams:

      BA1 – Fundamentals of Business Economics
      BA2 – Fundamentals of Management Accounting
      BA3 – Fundamentals of Financial Accounting
      BA4 – Fundamentals of Ethics, Corporate Governance and Business Law


        One difference to bear in mind is that you won’t receive a “CIMA FLP Certificate”, whereas after completing the CIMA Certificate in the traditional route, you would receive one. However, the main purpose of the CIMA FLP Foundational level is to prepare you to study the higher levels, so you may not even need the certificate.

        So, if you intend to continue your studies anyway, the lack of a CIMA FLP Certificate hanging on your wall probably won’t matter too much. Especially after a few short years when you will have your CGMA certification!

          4. How much does CIMA FLP Foundational cost?

          You will be thrilled to hear – there is no additional cost for CIMA FLP Foundational!

          When you subscribe to an FLP course with CIMA (or through a course provider like Astranti), you will have access to the whole CIMA FLP platform. This means that if you finish the CIMA Financial Leadership Programme Essentials topics, you can move on to the Operational level whenever you like! 

          As you will be paying for the whole course, you won’t be charged differently for studying a lower-level course like the CIMA FLP Foundational compared to the CIMA Strategic Level, for example. 

          CGMA FLP Foundational

          FLP costs will vary depending on how you join the course. You could join directly via CIMA, or you could join via a training provider that offers additional learning materials as well as access to the CIMA system, such as Astranti.

          The price of a comprehensive annual FLP course subscription will most likely be in the region of £2,000 – £3,600 per year.

          However, when you compare the available courses, make sure to consider what is included. Will it have everything you need?

          Ideally, you will want to find a course that includes everything you need to pass, including things like tutor and mentor support, from the Foundational level assessments all the way up to the case study exams.

          A very limited number of tuition providers will also offer the course through instalment payments, to spread out the cost, so keep an eye out.

          Astranti FLP is £2,995, and is also payable through instalments – Learn more here.

          Doing the CIMA FLP route could save you a lot of money by the end of the qualification compared to the traditional exam-based route. You won’t have to pay for each of the Objective Test exam fees, or travel to in-person classes or test centres.

          It’s worth noting that savings will vary significantly depending on which tuition provider you use, as some may provide slimmed-down packages and others will include everything you need, including additional case study preparation materials.

          5. Benefits of CIMA FLP Foundational

          So, why might you want to study the CIMA FLP Foundational level?

          Benefit #1 - The only study timetable you have to stick to is your own!

          You can log on to the CIMA Finance Leadership Program learning platform as and when you want, only studying when you have the time and feel ready to learn.

          Assessments won’t hold you back or dictate your study schedule either because you no longer have to book them in advance – you’re literally assessed as you learn!

          Though, let’s not forget you still have to sit the same case study exam. So, you might want to schedule it so that you have a goal to work towards if you think that will work better for you.

          Although you must have completed all relevant learning from the CGMA Finance Leadership Program Syllabus 2 weeks before the exam.

          If you can plan, set goals, and are motivated and organised enough to work to deadlines, then the flexibility the CIMA FLP route offers is fabulous.

          Benefit #2 - Learn in bite-sized chunks

          You may well know that the traditional professional qualification’s approach is to study a whole course’s worth of content (e.g. F1 Finance Accounting), then sit an Objective Test.

          Therefore, you need to learn and remember A LOT of complex information and formulae before sitting a demanding exam.

          The CIMA FLP route divides each subject into topics (formally known as competencies and skill-sets). Then, each time you log on, you can choose which subject and topic you fancy delving into, read and understand the relevant content, take the assessment questions and move on.

          The CIMA FLP route is perfect for you if you are busy as you can plan to make better use of your time. For example, perhaps you know that on a certain day you will have just enough time to read a bit of theory but enough time to tackle a longer and more complex topic on another.

          Benefit #3 - Learn at your own pace

          You can do everything, including the assessments, from the comfort of your own home and without having to work around exam dates and schedules.

          Benefit #4 - Open-book assessments

          CIMA Financial Leadership Programme Essentials assessments aren’t easy by any measure, but they are open-book, and you can go over the material again and retake them if you don’t pass at no extra cost! This could benefit you if you’re not the type of person who demonstrates their knowledge well in Objective Test-style exams.

          Benefit #5 - The course structure

          CIMA FLP Foundational level breaks up the material into digestible competencies, topics and headings. This style of revision is perfect if you’re busy, and allows you to plan whether you tackle shorter or longer topics on certain days. This can be a lot less stressful than trying to absorb a massive chapter of material all in one go!

          Benefit #6 - Preparation for the next level

          CIMA FLP Foundational level also provides a fantastic grounding for future study. And you also get to sit business simulation assignments, which give you a taster for what the Case Study exams will be like at higher levels. While there’s no “CIMA FLP Certificate”, CIMA FLP Foundational does prepare you just as well for passing future exams.

          Benefit #7 - Can be quicker

          If you’re keen to get through your CIMA FLP Foundational course as quickly as possible, this might be a great entryway for you! It’s perfect if you’re self-driven to become qualified, as you can work at your own pace without having to work around exam dates (until you get to the Case Studies).

          6. Are there any drawbacks to CIMA FLP Foundational?

          While the CIMA FLP Foundational course has some great benefits, it’s inevitable with any system that there will be some drawbacks! You should carefully consider the following before proceeding with this route instead of the CIMA Certificate:

          Drawback #1 - Remote learning

          Not everyone is a fan of remote learning or online assessment! Some people prefer being taught in classrooms and having more structure to their course, and if you feel strongly about this, CIMA FLP Foundational may not be for you!

          Drawback #2 - Budgeting for instalments

          While FLP may offer cost savings overall, paying such a large amount upfront may be difficult to budget for. CIMA insists on paying a lump sum every year, but be sure to look out for tuition providers, like Astranti, that offer payment in instalments, as this can help to make it more affordable.

          Drawback #3 - Limitations to switching back

          Currently, while students on the traditional route can switch to FLP after completing Certificate level (or anytime in their studies), CIMA FLP Foundational students won’t be able to switch to the traditional route without starting again from scratch.

          Drawback #4 - Perceived depth

          Some students might be worried, seeing that the CIMA FLP Foundational course is a bit shorter than the PQ modules. However, CIMA’s syllabus has not got easier, and students who qualify through the FLP will be just as qualified as those who went through the PQ system.

          Drawback #5 - Case Study preparation

          While the course may be less stressful without Objective Test exams, they can be a good way of making sure you have memorised the key points. If you’re the sort of person whose memory is helped by formal testing, you might find it harder when you eventually get to the Case Study.

          Drawback #6 - Deadlines

          You might be thinking, “Great, no deadlines!” (that’s why we listed it as an advantage above), but some people thrive when they have dates to work towards. If that sounds more like you, you might prefer to go down the exam-based Certificate route. You can still switch to FLP later if you change your mind!

          With the introduction of the CIMA Financial Leadership Programme Foundational level, CIMA has provided you with another way to get started on your journey to becoming a qualified management accountant.

          Whether you want to start your own journey this way or start with CIMA Certificate is entirely up to you.


          We’ve covered a lot of information in a short amount of time in this guide, so to recap…

          CGMA FLP Essentials
          CIMA FLP Foundational
          What is FLP? A new route to become CIMA qualified, through online learning and assessment
          What is CIMA FLP Foundational? The introductory level to the CIMA FLP, which gives you a basis for the rest of the qualification
          How is it different? There are no Objective Test exams, which have been replaced with shorter online assessments
          How much does it cost? An annual FLP subscription ranges from £2,000 to £3,600 depending on the provider and will include the Foundational level
          Benefits of CIMA FLP Foundational
          • Learn at your own pace
          • Open-book assessments
          • Learn in smaller chunks
          • Preparation for higher levels
          • Can be quicker
          • No Objective Test exams
          Drawbacks of CIMA FLP Foundational
          • Remote learning
          • Budgeting for the fee
          • Limitations on going back to the traditional route
          • Perceived depth
          • Case study prep may be harder for some

          Complete our quiz to see if the CIMA FLP Foundational level is right for you:


          How stressful do you find taking major exams?

          How good are you at home study?

          How much would the option to switch between subjects whilst you’re studying be attractive to you? (e.g. completing different business and financial accounting subjects simultaneously to add more variety to your studies)

          How affordable for you is to pay £2,000 to £3,600 per year to study FLP directly with CIMA or £173 per month (plus an £800 deposit) for the Astranti FLP instalment plan?

          Are you willing to commit to either CIMA or Astranti as a single provider for a whole year, which is needed for FLP?

          CIMA FLP Foundational Quiz
          The traditional route may be best for you
          Based on your results, it seems like the traditional route could be the right path to becoming CIMA qualified for you. The traditional route has some advantages over the Finance Leadership Programme (FLP) route... The most notable advantage is that the traditional route can offer you more flexibility with your studies. You can study at your own pace without the pressure of your FLP platform access end date looming over you. You also have more flexibility to switch between different study materials, from different providers, based on your preferences. Another major factor can be cost. The FLP route can seem expensive in comparison to the traditional route, and generally, there is a hefty upfront cost associated with it. The Certificate route, on the other hand, can fit to your own personal budget a little easier if cost is a large factor. One of the biggest differences between the FLP and PQ routes is that the traditional route requires you to pass 4 Objective Test exams at Certificate level. Some students prefer to have exams to work towards, with them acting as extra motivation for their studies. Other students simply just tend to do well in Objective Test style exams, which the traditional route includes, and the FLP route doesn't. Why not head to our CIMA site (linked below) to find out more?
          CIMA FLP Foundational may be best for you!
          Based on your results, it seems like the CGMA Finance Leadership Programme (FLP) route could be the right route to CIMA qualification for you. The CIMA FLP Foundational route offers many advantages over the traditional route, with the major benefit being the lack of Objective Test (OT) exams. On the FLP route, you will be required to learn the content and pass assessments on the CGMA FLP platform. The learning material and assessments replace the Objective Test exams, meaning the only assessments you’ll have to complete at CIMA FLP Foundational are the online assessments you’ll do after each topic. Given the format, the FLP route is ideal for students who are comfortable with distance learning and self-study and perhaps don't need exams to motivate them to progress with their studies. Although the FLP route can seem like the more expensive route, there are a couple of factors that you may want to consider: + Given the lack of OT exams, the FLP route doesn't have the same OT exam fees as the traditional route + An instalment option is available for Astranti FLP, which helps to spread the cost of your FLP studies over 12 months. Why not head to the Astranti FLP page (linked below) to find out more?

          More useful resources on this topic:

          CGMA Finance Leadership Program –
          FLP, What’s It All About? –
          Watch: The Pros & Cons of the CIMA Finance Leadership Programme – @Craigo on YouTube

          Why not take a look at Astranti FLP?

          Astranti is part of an exclusive group of approved CGMA FLP providers!

          With Astranti FLP you’ll get all the great benefits of the CGMA / CIMA FLP platform, but with some of our own learning materials added on to complement your learning.

          You also get our full range of case study course materials, including our famous pre-seen analysis pack, 7 mock exams, and all our other video guides, tutor support and study resources.

          We also allow you to pay for your FLP studies monthly rather than in one go, making FLP more affordable to more students.

          Holly Dymmock

          Customer Service and Mentoring Supervisor

          I hope you’ve found this guide on CIMA FLP useful – but if you’ve got any further questions, leave a message and I’d be happy to help!


          Illustration by Storyset.