The CIMA Syllabus
Introducing the syllabus
CIMA assessments take place over three levels, beginning with Operational, then Management, then Strategic. Students who are completely new to finance and accounting may instead start at the Certificate level.
Each level involves four exams. The first three are multiple-choice Objective Theory ‘OT’ tests, which assess understanding of key level theory. A Case Study ‘CS’ exam is taken fourth, applying this theory to a fictional company.
If you’d like to learn more details about CIMA’s exam and qualification structure, just use the following buttons.
CIMA Syllabus Structure
The 2019 update to the syllabus continues to follow the same structure as the 2015 syllabus. There are 3 core pillars (enterprise, performance and financial) spread across 3 assessment levels (operational, management and strategic).
There are a total of 12 professional-level exams for students to pass including 9 objective test style exams and 3 written case study style exams.
You do need need to have prior experience or qualifications to start studying for a CIMA qualification. Students who wish to do so instead begin by studying the CIMA Certificate. The Certificate serves as an introduction to management accounting and provides the foundational knowledge necessary to study the professional-level exams.
Where there has been no change to the syllabus structure or exam format, the 2019 syllabus does introduce new content as well as a fresh vision for the CIMA qualification.
“When combined with the required practical experience, CIMA qualified members will be capable of supporting and leading their organisations through the challenging environment of constant change. The syllabus, assessments and practical experience requirements ensure members are competent in the essential accounting, finance and business-related skills. It also provides them with the skills required to lead the finance function in a digital age.” – CIMA 2019 Syllabus Document
On this page you will find details of the key content that each of the 3 pillars will focus on within the 2019 syllabus, as well as information about the format of the exams.
If you have any questions about the CIMA 2019 syllabus, please head to our Discussion Page where you will find our new syllabus discussion board as well as our list of FAQs.
CIMA Objective Test Exams
The objective test exams consist of 60 computer-based questions per paper (85 questions for BA4) and have a time limit of either 90 minutes or 2 hours (certificate level only).
This equates to between 90 seconds and 120 seconds for each question, though this is only a rough guide and some questions may take longer than others.
All learning areas are covered in the CIMA objective test exams so you need to make sure you revise all of the topics in the syllabus. You can’t just revise some areas and hope to pass.
The CIMA objective test exams include the following question formats:
Choose ONE answer from options available
Select more than one correct answer. If one response is incorrect you will lose the mark for the question.
Highlight the correct part of a chart or diagram.
Match two columns of items in a logical order.
Drag and drop
Drag the answers into their correct place.
Fill in the blank
Fill in the blank section with the most suitable answer from the options provided.
So we have had a look at the format of the CIMA objective test exams. However, how do you actually know if you have passed?
Here is a rundown of what to expect from your result and how you will know if you have passed:
On the day
- You will be given a provisional result at the test centre
- This result will be ratified within 48 hours
- You will then receive a pass or a fail decision
- You will also receive a scaled score
- The pass grade for the CIMA certificate exams is a scaled score of 100 or above.
CIMA Case Study Exams
The CIMA case study exams require students to answer a series of essay-based questions within a 3 hour time period.
There are typically 3 to 4 questions per case study exam which can vary in time from 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on the requirements. After this time limit has been reached, you will be moved to the next question and there is no option to revisit questions once they have been completed!
The exams themselves take place on four occasions throughout the year – February, May, August and November. They will be over the course of one week, Tuesday to Saturday.
CIMA creates a new pre-seen document for each of the four sittings which will provide the basis for the scenarios within the exam questions. The questions in the exam will be based on the pre-seen, but each exam question will include some previously unseen information that you will have to consider when writing your answers.
The pre-seen document is released roughly 7 weeks before the exam week.
is the pre-seen and unseen information?
The pre-seen consists of a document that presents a fictional company.
This document is roughly 20 pages in length. It contains everything from an introduction to the company and industry to an outline of the organisational structure, key financial information and business performance.
You will need to learn all about the pre-seen before the exam but at the same time think of how you can apply your knowledge from the Enterprise, Performance and Financial pillars to the question you are faced with.
In the exam, you will be presented with new information for each question.
This new information typically comes in the form of an email, a news article, a conversation or a meeting.
A task will then be assigned to you based on this new information and you will have an allotted time to create your response.
You may also be provided with additional reference material, to add context to the original unseen information. Again, this may be in the form of a news article, an email or some financial data.
Knowing the theory
You will need to have a good knowledge of the theory from the Enterprise, Performance and Financial pillars.
Applying the theory
You will need to apply your knowledge of the theory to the pre-seen and unseen in order to pass the exam.
Playing the role
You will have a role within the pre-seen company and you need to answer from this perspective to give the most appropriate recommendations.
Managing your time
You only have 3 hours in total in the exam so you need to learn how to manage your time in the most effective way possible.
Planning your answers
It is essential to plan your answers! Learning to do this will help to give your answers greater structure and emphasise your key points.
Writing great answers
Unlike the objective test exams, you will be creating answers in a written format. You will need to perfect your writing style in order to impress the examiners.
So we have had a look at the format of the CIMA case study exams. However, how do you actually know if you have passed?
Here is a summary of what happens after the exam:
- You will not recieve your result on the day of your exam as your exam will be sent for marking
- Results are typically published 6 weeks after the exam
- On results day you will receive a pass/fail decision
- You will also receive a scaled score
- A mark of 80 out of 150 or above is a pass. You will also need to achieve a ‘moderate or ‘good’ score in each competency.
CIMA Exam Content
Click on the boxes below to find more information about the content of the CIMA 2019 syllabus for each module.
Strategic Case Study Exam
Senior Finance Manager. Equivalent roles in a real organisation may be:
- Senior Management Accountant
- Group Accountant
- Financial Director
Long-term. You may be involved in:
- Measuring, analysing and managing risk
- Advising on strategic decisions
- Investigating potential business developments and investments
- Advising on long-term sources of finance and financial strategy.
You will need to understand:
- Leadership and its role achieving change management
- The full context in which the business operates
- The importance of looking ahead and advanced planning.
Chief Financial Officer/Board, senior management team – other senior non-financial staff.
- Technical skills – 25%
- Business skills – 25%
- People skills – 25%
- Leadership skills – 25%
CIMA E3 Exam
“Formulate strategy and create conditions for successful implementation…”
CIMA E3 builds on the insights gained from E1 and E2 about how organisations effectively implement their strategies by aligning their structures, people, process, projects and relationships. E3 aims to develop the skills and abilities of the strategic leaders of organisations, enabling them to create the vision and direction for the growth and long-term sustainable success of the organisation. This involves successfully managing and leading change within the process of strategy formulation and implementation.
- 15% – The strategy process
- 20% – Analysing the organisational ecosystem
- 15% – Generating strategic options
- 20% – Strategic control
- 15% – Finance interacting with the organisation
- 15% – Digital strategy
CIMA P3 Exam
“Analyse, evaluate and manage strategic, operational and cyber risks…”
CIMA P3 shows how to identify, evaluate and manage various risks that could adversely affect the implementation of the organisation’s strategy. It provides the competencies required to analyse, evaluate and apply the techniques, processes and internal control systems required to manage risk. It also contains a section raising your awareness to cyber risks. This insight is then used to manage risk associates with both cash flows and capital investment decisions – two important areas of organisational life for which the finance function is responsible.
- 25% – Enterprise risk
- 25% – Strategic risk
- 25% – Internal controls
- 25% – Cyber risks
CIMA F3 Exam
“Create financial strategy, evaluate and manage financial risk and assess organisational value…”
CIMA F3 focuses on the formulation and implementation of financial strategy to support the overall strategy of the organisation. Using insights gained from F1 and F2, it provides the competencies to evaluate the financing requirements of organisations and the relative merits of alternative sources of finance to meet these requirements. Finally, it develops the competencies required to value investment opportunities including the valuation of corporate entities for mergers, acquisitions and divestments.
- 15% – Financial policy decisions
- 25% – Sources of long term funds
- 20% – Financial risks
- 40% – Business valuation
Management Case Study / Gateway Exam
Finance Manager. Equivalent roles in a real organisation may be:
- Management Accountant
- Financial Controller
- Financial Analyst
- Head of Finance
Medium-term. You may be involved in:
- Analysing cost information and advising on product investment decisions
- Assessing/advising on risk
- Pricing decisions
You will need to understand:
- The regulatory environment in depth
- The business environment
- Performance measures and improvement
- Change management
- Options for long-term finance.
Your manager (Senior Finance Manager), Financial Director, colleagues within
- Technical skills – 39%
- Business skills – 16%
- People skills – 21%
- Leadership skills – 24%
CIMA E2 Exam
“Mechanisms to implement decisions and manage people performance…”
CIMA E2 emphasises a holistic, integrated approach to managing organisations, from external and internal perspectives. It builds on the understanding of organisational structuring gained from E1 and is centred on the concept of strategy and how organisational strategy can be implemented through people, projects, processes and relationships. It provides the basis for developing further insights into how to formulate and implement organisational strategy, which is covered in E3.
- 30% – Business models and value creation
- 40% – Managing people performance
- 30% – Managing projects
CIMA P2 Exam
Advanced management accounting:
“Making medium-term decisions and managing costs and performance…”
Focusing primarily on the long term, CIMA P2 builds on the insights about costs and their drivers (from P1) to provide the competencies needed to analyse, plan and manage costs to support the implementation of the organisation’s strategy. It shows how to manage and control the performance of various units of the organisation in line with both short-term and long-term strategy. P2 covers investment decision making and the risks associated with such decisions. It provides the basis for developing deeper understanding of various types of risk affecting the strategy and operations of organisations (covered in P3).
- 20% – Managing the costs of creating value
- 35% – Capital investment decision making
- 30% – Managing performance of organisational units
- 15% – Risk and control
CIMA F2 Exam
Advanced financial reporting:
“Analysing and communicating insights about the performance of the organisation…”
CIMA F2 builds on the competencies gained from F1. It covers how to effectively source the long-term finance required to fund the operations of organisations, particularly their capital investments. It also deepens the coverage of financial reporting to more complex aspects of group accounting and analyses the rules governing the recognition and measurement of various elements of the financial statements. Finally it shows how to analyse financial statements to provide insights about the financial performance and position of the organisation over time and in comparison with others.
- 15% – Financing capital projects
- 25% – Financial reporting standards
- 25% – Group accounts
- 10% – Integrated reporting
- 25% – Analysing financial statements
Operational Case Study Exam
Finance Officer. Equivalent roles in a real organisation may be:
- Junior/Trainee Accountant
- Credit Controller
- Assistant Accountant
- Cost Accountant
Short-term. You may be involved in:
- Preparing budgets
- Advising on product mix or performance
- Variance analysis
- Working capital or cash management
- Producing reports of performance against budget
- Risk assessment in short-term decision making
You will need to understand:
- The role of finance within the wider organisation
- Who the stakeholders are
- The regulatory environment
- How to communicate with non-financial staff.
Your manager (Finance Manager/Finance Director) or your peers (from financial or non-financial departments).
- Technical skills – 64%
- Business skills – 16%
- People skills – 14%
- Leadership skills – 6%
CIMA E1 Exam
Managing Finance in a digital world:
“How the finance function is organised…”
CIMA E1 focuses on the structuring of organisations in a digital world. It covers the structure and principles underpinning the operational functions of the organisation, their efficient management and effective interactions in enabling the organisation to achieve its strategic objectives. It lays the foundation for gaining further insight into both the immediate operating environment and long-term strategic future of organisations, which are covered in E2 and E3.
- 20% – Role of the finance function
- 20% – Technology in a digital world
- 20% – Data and information in a digital world
- 20% – Shape and structure of the finance function
- 20% – Finance interacting with the organisation
CIMA P1 Exam
“What the finance function does…”
CIMA P1 stresses the importance of costs and the drivers of costs in the production, analysis and use of information for decision making in organisations. The time focus of P1 is the short term. It covers budgeting as a means of short-term planning to execute the strategy of organisations. In addition it provides competencies on how to analyse information on costs, volumes and prices to take short-term decisions on products and services and to develop an understanding on the impact of risk to these decisions. P1 provides the foundation for cost management and the long-term decisions covered in P2.
- 30% – Cost accounting for decision and control
- 25% – Budgeting and budgetary control
- 30% – Short-term commercial decision making
- 15% – Risk and uncertainty in the short term
CIMA F1 Exam
“What the finance function does and its implications…”
CIMA F1 covers the regulation and preparation of financial statements and how the information contained in them can be used. It provides the competencies required to produce financial statements for both individual entities and groups using appropriate international financial reporting standards. It also gives insights into how to effectively source and manage cash and working capital, which are essential for both the survival and success of organisations. The competencies gained from F1 form the basis for developing further insights into producing and analysing complex group accounts (covered in F2) and formulating and implementing financial strategy (covered in F3).
- 10% – Regulatory environment of financial reporting
- 45% – Financial statements
- 20% – Principles of taxation
- 25% – Managing cash and working capital
CIMA BA1 Exam
Fundamentals of business economics:
BA1 focuses on the economic and operating context of business and how the factors of competition, the behaviour of financial markets and government economic policy can influence an organisation. It also deals with the information available to assist management in evaluating and forecasting the behaviour of consumers, markets and the economy in general
Students will gain an understanding of the areas of economic activity relevant to an organisation’s decisions and, within this context, the numerical techniques to support such decisions.
- 25% – Macroeconomic and institutional context of business
- 30% – Macroeconomic and organisational context of business
- 20% – Informational context of business
- 25% – Financial context of business
CIMA BA2 Exam
Fundamentals of management accounting:
BA2 teaches students fundamental knowledge and techniques that underpin management accounting. It identifies the position of the management accountant within organisations and the role of CIMA. The subject portrays the role of management accounting in the contexts of commercial and public sector bodies and its wider role in society.
- 10% – The context of management accounting
- 25% – Costing
- 30% – Planning and control
- 35% – Decision making
CIMA BA3 Exam
Fundamentals of financial accounting:
In BA3 students will obtain a practical understanding of financial accounting and the process behind the preparation of financial statements for single entities.
These statements are prepared within a conceptual and regulatory framework requiring an understanding of the role of legislation and of accounting standards. The need to understand and apply necessary controls for accounting systems, and the nature of errors is also covered. There is an introduction to measuring financial performance with the calculation of basic ratios.
- 10% – Accounting principles, concepts and regulations
- 50% – Recording accounting transactions
- 30% – Preparation of accounts for single entities
- 10% – Analysis of financial statements
CIMA BA4 Exam
Fundamentals of ethics, corporate governance and business law:
In BA4 students will gain an understanding of the professional standards to be demonstrated for the benefit of all stakeholders. With this in mind, the place of ethics and ethical conflict is an essential underpinning for commercial activity. It includes the role of corporate governance, corporate social responsibility and audit; and their increasing impact in the management of organisations. Wherever business is conducted the legal and administrative framework underpins commercial activity. With this in mind the areas of contract law, employment law, administration and management of companies is considered.
- 30% – Business ethics and ethical conflict
- 45% – Corporate governance, controls and corporate social responsibility
- 15% – General principles of the legal system, contracts and employment law
- 10% – Company administration
Explore the CIMA 2019 syllabus: