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Study Zone

CIMA lecturers’ conference: the strategic level

You have made it to senior management, so where are the tricky bits at the strategic level?

February 2016

E3: CIMA felt E3 had a ‘satisfactory pass rate’, with over 60% of students passing it first time. Passing candidates are doing well across all syllabus areas. Candidates who fail the exam seem to struggle, particularly in areas B and C. This is a problem because area B, evaluating strategic positions and strategic option, is the biggest syllabus area (30%). It was also pointed out that there is a shift in focus here from change management to leading change, in area C.
To add to all this is the fact that both passed and failed students seem to find area E – the role of IS in organisational strategy – the most challenging one. While this area is not totally new it has been a standalone syllabus area in 2015. Search out the new article on information systems in E3 by John Murphy, which was published in November 2015.

P3: The stats show an upward trend, which means more students are passing this exam – about a half first time. CIMA says that on-demand exams has helped facilitate progression here. While passing candidates perform well across all five sections failing students are the exact opposite – they seem to know none of the five areas well enough! Area C, internal controls to manage risk, appears to be a common weakness in all PQs, although this is not a new area.

F3: Again, there has been a good improvement in the overall pass rate of this exam. There is, however, room for improvement when it comes to first-time sitters.
CIMA pointed out that the performance differential is extreme between passing and failing students, and it wants to discourage the ‘hit or miss’ approach of many candidates. The weakest area for sitters is corporate finance (area C), which also happens to be the largest area of the syllabus at 40%. Students were told that two articles have been published specifically for F3 on dividend policy (area B) and on company valuations and free cash flow (area C).

Strategic case study
It all looks very positive now, but there were too many weak attempts in March – answers were short and parts missed out. The quality of scripts was vastly better in May and August. Here the answers were longer and models were being used but applied to the scenario.
It was emphasised that there is no time to look up the pre-seen during the exam. Although you should know it well the call has come out for students not to question-spot from it.
Generic answers will also not gain many marks; specific ones that use the context given will score better. You cannot answer by lifting big chunks from the study texts, either.
The examiner’s report has said candidates are very weak on ethics, so more work needs to go into this area. And as with the other case study presentations there was an emphasis on using headings so that your answer looks structured (even if it isn’t!).

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