CIMA Case Study

About the case study

Once you complete the 3 objective test exams for each level, your next step will be the case study exam!

The case study exams are used to test a variety of skills including research and analysis, persuasion and communication and how to present information.

The format is designed to assess your ability to apply the theory that you learnt during your objective test exams in a realistic scenario. There are no calculations required in case study exams, however, you will be expected to analyse and comment on financial data.

On this page, we will look into the format of the CIMA case study exams in more detail, as well as some of the key things that you will need to do to pass.

We have a variety of free materials for the case study, including a mock exam and samples from our pre-seen analysis videos, documents and questions. Use the sign-up box to get instant access!

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The exam format

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.

So, what is the pre-seen and unseen information? 

Pre-seen 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.

Unseen Information

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.

Skills required to pass

To pass the CIMA case study exams, there are many skills that you will need to demonstrate. Here are some of the key skills you will need in order to pass:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Your role in the exam

In the case study exam, you will be expected to create responses to each question as if you were an employee at the pre-seen company. In order to write the best answers, you need to know exactly what your role is and what is expected of you.

Select your case study exam below for more information.

Operational case study exam

Your Role:
Finance Officer. Equivalent roles in a real organisation may be:

  • Junior/Trainee Accountant
  • Credit Controller
  • Assistant Accountant
  • Cost Accountant

Your Focus:
Short-term. You may be involved in:

  • Costing
  • 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 Audience:
Your manager (Finance Manager/Finance Director) or your peers (from financial or non-financial departments).

Competency Weightings:

  • Technical skills – 64%
  • Business skills – 16%
  • People skills – 14%
  • Leadership skills – 6%
Management case study exam (gateway exam)

Your Role:
Finance Manager. Equivalent roles in a real organisation may be:

  • Management Accountant
  • Financial Controller
  • Financial Analyst
  • Head of Finance

Your Focus:
Medium-term. You may be involved in:

  • Analysing cost information and advising on product investment decisions
  • Assessing/advising on risk
  • Pricing decisions
  • Performance measurement.

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 Audience:
Your manager (Senior Finance Manager), Financial Director, colleagues within finance department or other senior business managers (financial or non-financial departments).

Competency Weightings:

  • Technical skills – 39%
  • Business skills – 16%
  • People skills – 21%
  • Leadership skills – 24%
Strategic case study exam

Your Role:
Senior Finance Manager. Equivalent roles in a real organisation may be:

  • Senior Management Accountant
  • Group Accountant
  • Financial Director

Your Focus:
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.

Your Audience:
Chief Financial Officer/Board, senior management team – other senior non-financial staff.

Competency Weightings:

  • Technical skills – 25%
  • Business skills – 25%
  • People skills – 25%
  • Leadership skills – 25%

How is the case study exam marked?

So we have had a look at the format of the CIMA case study exams, and what skills are needed to pass. However, how do you actually know if you have passed? Here is a summary of what happens after the exam: 

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Marking

  • 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
R

Decision

  • On results day you will receive a pass/fail decision
  • You will also receive a scaled score

Pass grade

  • 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.

Find your nearest test centre

CIMA case study exams can be sat during four sittings throughout the year at a Pearson Vue test centre.

FREE CASE STUDY RESOURCES

Sign up now to get instant access to your free case study mini mock exam and samples from our pre-seen analysis videos, documents and questions

We know how important your privacy is. That’s why we do not share any details that you give us.

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