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Study Zone

Putting the record straight

Letters in recent issues of PQ have highlighted students’ concern with the way it publishes its pass rates. Here CIMA’s Jackie Durham puts the institute’s side of the story…

December 2017

Let’s be clear, the pass rates are generally good; we are proud of them, and proud of our students who are achieving them.
We are definitely not trying to “get one over” on our students; we know you are all too bright for us to get away with any shenanigans!
So let’s look at the facts. We supply three ‘pass rates’ per subject. This aids transparency in that however you want to evaluate progression, we publish the data you need. So let me explain the three different pass rate analyses we offer.
We have the first-time pass rate, which will be of most interest to candidates new to CIMA or to a particular subject. This is the simple number of candidates who pass the subject at their first attempt. These figures are very healthy, ranging from a high of 86% for E2 to 49% at P1. I believe that these strong pass rates reflect fair exams that reward effective learning.
Next, there is the overall pass rate, which is the percentage of individual students who attempted and eventually passed, whether it took them one, two or more attempts. This is generally the highest of the pass rates because it indicates overall progression. Sadly, not all students pass an exam at the first attempt, but for those who stick with it, reflect on their performance and make appropriate adjustments to their revision or exam technique, most will go on to pass. These overall pass rates, which range from a remarkable 94% at E1 to a very respectable 68% at P1, are very encouraging, especially for anyone who has failed but is committed to doing better next time. They tell us that although candidates may be underprepared for their exam first time around, many of them learn from the experience and pass after a short period of reflection. This is helped, of course, by the fact that our exams are consistent for all candidates, regardless of when they are attempted.
Finally, we have the total pass rate, which is produced by taking the total number of exams passed and dividing by the total number of exams taken, including repeated attempts by some candidates in the reporting period. It does not reflect the number of candidates taking those exams accurately.
All three pass rates are based on data from the past 12 months. None of these measures is an exact match with pass rate/performance data you may be used to from other exams, even our own case study exams, where large numbers of candidates take the exam in a very short period of time. In those measures, you have one result for each candidate, whether it’s a first or subsequent attempt.
From a candidates’ point of view, I’d think the two most relevant measures are the first time pass rate and the overall pass rate. Unlike the PQ reader who raised the issue, I don’t find the ‘total pass rate’ of any real interest, but I would find the overall pass rates encouraging even for the more challenging exams in the P pillar. I also think the results for all subjects at the Strategic level are something to be proud of. But as I always say, don’t take my word for it. In response to a blog I wrote earlier this year about pass rates (which were similar to the current ones), our students variously described them as “encouraging results”; “amazing statistics”; and “ …a big relief for those thinking to start CIMA, if these people can pass the exam, why not me?”.
For the latest pass rate data visit CIMAconnect.
• Jackie Durham, CIMA

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