CIMA Exams – Getting Started

Step 1: Becoming a CIMA student

Registering as a student with CIMA

The first step on your CIMA journey is to visit the CIMA website and register as a student. This process takes just a few minutes. Take a few moments to review all entry route options: depending on your existing qualifications, you may have the option of several entry routes.

If you do not qualify for any other entry routes, or are uncertain, choose Standard Entry. Don’t worry if you’re just choosing this because you’re unsure which other routes you qualify for, as you will have the option to apply for exemptions later.


Pay the registration fee

There is a small fee associated with registering as a CIMA student. If you are becoming a CIMA student via the Standard Entry route, this fee is GBP £77. Other entry routes, including the Master’s Gateway and Professional Gateway, have other fees which may be higher.

There is a yearly subscription fee for remaining a member of CIMA. While you are studying towards CIMA qualification this subscription fee is GBP £120. Once you have passed all of your exams, this fee is GBP £275. Your first year’s subscription fee is included in the price of registration.

You can browse all of the fees associated with CIMA membership here.

Apply for exemptions

If you joined via the Standard Entry route, you may be eligible for some exemption from certain CIMA exams based on any prior qualifications you hold. Receiving an exemption means that you do not need to sit an exam, and are considered to have passed it. If you are not eligible for exemptions, you can skip to Step 2.

To apply for an exemption, you must search CIMA’s exemptions database for match qualifications. Once you have found matching qualifications, you will need to provide documents as evidence. These documents should details of the subjects studied, and marks achieved. These documents should be sent to the CIMA exemptions email address at and the email should include your contact ID.

Accept or Reject Exemptions

CIMA will confirm receipt of your documents within 72 hours, but it may take up to 20 working days to confirm which exemptions you are eligible for. Once you receive your exemptions, you may choose to accept or decline them. You cannot accept an exemption once you have declined it. You must then pay any additional fees.

Depending on your institution and qualification, it is possible that your exemption is not in the database. If so, you may still be eligible for exemptions, and can find out more about applying for them on this page of CIMA’s website.

Step 2: Understanding CIMA exams

Levels, pillars, and exam types

CIMA qualification is divided into four levels; Certificate, Operational, Management and Strategic. You will need to complete levels in this order. With the exception of the Certificate level, there are four exams at each level consisting of three ‘pillars’ known as E, P and F, and a case study. The exam for each pillar is known as an Objective Test, commonly abbreviated to ‘OT’.

You can sit OT exams in any order. Once you have passed all OT exams for a level, you must then sit the case study exam. Once the case study exam has been passed, you have passed that level, and may begin studying the OT exams for the next.


The CIMA Certificate

The Certificate exam is the most common starting level for students with no prior financial qualifications. These are designed to introduce you to the fundamental basics of accounting theory, allowing anyone to start their CIMA journey regardless of their academic background.

The Certificate level differs from the other levels as it does not contain E, P and F pillar OTs and does not have a case study. Instead, you will sit four exams known as BA1, BA2, BA3 and BA4. These exams are assessed in a format similar to the OT tests for the E, P and F pillars at higher levels.

Find our more about Certificate exams and the FREE Astranti Certificate level course here.


Objective Test (OT) Exams

During an OT exam you will have 90 minutes to answer 60 questions. These questions are chosen at random from a central bank, so every candidate sits a unique exam.

OT exams include a variety of question types. These may include multiple choice questions, questions where you must select all that apply to a given statement, questions where you must calculate a number, questions where you must connecting matching statements, questions where you must place answers in the correct sequence, match words to blanks, or select missing sections from a list.

In order to pass an OT exam, you will need a scaled score of at least 100 out of 150.

Case Study Exams

After completing all OT exams for a level, you may sit the case study exam. Case study exams are held four times a year; in February, May, August and November. The case study asks candidates to take on the role of a specific staff member at a fictional business. About 6-8 weeks before the November and May exams, CIMA will release a number of documents which include information about the business’ industry, competitors and goals. These are collectively known as pre-seen material.

Once in the exam, candidates are presented with a series of realistic scenarios for the business, as well as some additional information. This is known as the unseen material. Candidates must then combine their theory knowledge from the three pillars and their knowledge of the pre-seen to respond to the challenges posed by the unseen, and produce an essay with a series of recommendations. To pass the exam, you will need to score at least 80 marks.

Step 3: Preparing for your first exam

Registering with Astranti

Astranti provide a full set of study materials for every CIMA exam, including study texts, mock exams, and full video tuition. Registering is completely free and gives access to sample materials for all CIMA courses, including a full mock exam. If you are studying for the CIMA Certificate, all Astranti’s Certificate-level study materials are completely free

Astranti materials can be purchased individually, allowing you to customise materials to suit your budget, or at a discounted price as part of courses. Courses contain all study materials for an exam, as well as course-exclusive content like a personal mentor, direct tutor support, and the pass guarantee to give you the best chance of passing your exam on the first attempt. Courses can be purchased individually, or as part of whole levels at a further discount.

Studying Effectively

Now that you have registered with Astranti, you will need to start studying for the exam. If you are on a course, you will be provided with a full study guide to help you organise all of your study materials. If you are not on a course and have purchased materials individually, you will need to create your own revision schedule.

Although how you will need to revise, and the materials available, vary depending on whether you are sitting an OT or Case Study exam, you should always revise using the two-day method. The Astranti two-day method is based on spending one day learning with study text and video tuition, and the second day revising with notes and practice questions. This helps to ensure that everything you read has been learned, and effectively entered your memory.

Once you have memorised all of the course content, and passed your mock exams, you are ready to sit the real exam.

Booking your exam

Once you have finished revising all of your study materials and passed all of your mock exams, it’s time to sit the real thing. CIMA exams are normally taken in person at a Pearson Vue testing centre, or remotely via Pearson Vue’s online proctoring system.

To book an exam, you will first need to log in to My CIMA, and then settle any outstanding debts on your account such as membership subscription fees. Once you have done this, you will need to use the ‘Schedule My Exam’ button under the ‘Studying’ tab at the top of the page. You will then be transferred to the Pearson Vue website, where you can begin the booking progress.


Exam day

On the day of your exam, you will need to arrive at your test centre in good time and with photo identification. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, certain test centres may have additional rules or requirements: make sure to check our COVID-19 page for the latest updates.

If you are taking an online proctored exam at home, you will need to follow check-in procedures. You must make sure you have a computer with a webcam and a strong internet connection, as well as a clean, uncluttered work area. You will then need to provide a headshot photograph, a photograph of your identification, and a photograph of your work area. Your photos and exam will then be queued up and your exam should start within 15 minutes.

If there are any issues with your photos, identification or workspace, you will be joined by a greeter, who will help you to troubleshoot. You will then be monitored via webcam and microphone for the duration of your exam.


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