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Study Zone

The art of passing P1

P1 has a pass rate of just 50%, and Kate Williams has some top tips and advice to make sure you aren’t one of the disappointed

December 2017

We have written previous articles on CIMA P1, highlighting the pass rate (50% for first time passes – so for every student who passes first time, there is a disappointed one), setting out study and revision tips to help you in your preparation to sit the exam, and provided a series of questions from each section to test yourself with (still available – email james.taylor@htftpartnership.co.uk).
In this article, I want to elaborate on our tips, going into more detail on how successful students prepare themselves for the P1 exam. In our experience, successful students know where they are going and what to expect on the way – that is they understand the syllabus learning outcomes and understand the definitions of the verbs CIMA use.
The CIMA P1 syllabus has four topics, each with a specific weighting. This should give you a clue as to where the majority of questions in the exam will come from, and will also give you an idea about how to apportion your time.
Another successful student trait is that they know why they are studying and they have a plan of action. Plans typically set out what reading, watching of videos, classes and question practise they are going to engage in. On average, successful students spend one hour a day studying – being careful, however, to work in 45 minute blocks with a 15-minute break between blocks.
We think it is fair to say that if you ask anyone for tips on how to pass an Objective Test paper they will say “question practice, and lots of it; mocks, exam kits, the lot!” It may not shock you to learn that we agree with this, but we would like to offer one subtle difference: outside of mock exams, split your questions into learning outcomes/syllabus topics and don’t just attempt them once – have a go at the questions, check your answers and then re-visit the same questions a week or two later (under exam conditions) to see if you have improved.
At HTFT we have a saying – ‘practice makes permanent’. Remember, spend some time to make sure you understand where you went wrong and make the necessary adjustments before attempting the questions again. This re-visiting of questions will force you to develop a greater understanding of the syllabus (as you check your answers and correct your mistakes) and move you away from just marking right or wrong.
Excellent students, as they go through question practice, also take time (especially with ‘select all that apply’ questions) to understand why the other answers are incorrect.
There are times during revision where it is a good idea to test yourself (using recall) to see what really has stuck. Start with a blank piece of paper and see what you can remember – with P1 it is a good idea to see if you can recall the shorthand pro formas. Why not use this method to help you build a pro forma sheet you can reproduce on those lovely plastic sheets during your exam?
Treat your mocks like real exams – including timings. At HTFT, we talk about a system of rounds. Go through the exam attempting the questions you know the answers to first and flagging the rest, maybe noting down the level of difficulty. Then, next time through, attempt the questions you have flagged as next level of difficulty up, and so on – the idea behind this is that you don’t get stuck on one question and leave questions at the end you could have scored on.
In summary, the six critical success factors of successful students are:
1. Know what you have to achieve.
2. Get into a routine.
3. Don’t just practise questions once.
4. Spend time recalling what you know.
5. Mirror your mocks to the exams.
6. Get settled on an exam technique and stick to it.

• Kate Williams is HTFT’s P1 specialist

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