A Comprehensive Guide on CIMA Exam | With Bonus Tips

Management accounting is an important aspect of an organization’s finances and related components. Where good financial management means less errors, measure growth, and better compliance, it also helps companies improve their overall productivity and planning. 

Students wanting to become a part of the team that helps with the company’s financial management can look towards CIMA and build a promising career. 

CIMA or Chartered Institute of Management Accountants qualification allows students and aspirants to access better opportunities. 

Taking the CIMA exam does require following a step-by-step process leading to better outcomes. With CIMA, the students can become an all-rounder in accounting, and financial management, and help build businesses. This guide will help you plan your journey to working with one of the top employers after CIMA completion. 

What is CIMA?

CIMA, or Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, is a global body for professional management and accounting headquartered in the UK. CIMA does two things primarily; it offers qualifications and training in management accountancy and its related aspects. Along with this, CIMA also provides ongoing support and training services to members and accountants across the globe. 

In essence, CIMA is an organization and a certification body meant to help accountants and financial management professionals access better opportunities and jobs. To leverage the benefits of CIMA and its associated products, you must pass the CIMA exam. 

After passing the exam, you can add the designation Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) to your profile. 

Giving the CIMA exam is beneficial for aspirants, and there are several reasons behind this. These include;

  1. Global Recognition: With the CGMA designation, you will become eligible to work in leading organizations. Basically, it will open doors for you that were closed before, and that too, globally. 
  1. Knowledge of Finance and Business: Another advantage of CIMA completion is the power package of knowledge you will gain. Preparing for the CIMA means you will be trained in financial plus business management, followed by business strategy and risk management. 
  1. Build Professional Character: While hiring, companies always look for different types of traits in the candidates, and professionalism is one of them. The CIMA exam will help you develop the required professional and ethical commitment that employers desire. You will also learn to uphold the professional standards required in accounting. 
  1. Higher Earning: Compared to an individual who has a degree in accounting with someone who has the degree and CIMA certification, the latter can earn more. The best part is that even when you are preparing for the CIMA exam, you will have higher chances of earning a better salary. 
  1. Combination of Technology and People: Accounting was earlier supposed to be a people-only job, but technology has changed it. Today, even accountancy and businesses are becoming digital. The CIMA syllabus and course include the technologies that are changing finance.

Companies and Careers CIMA can Appropriate

You can take the CIMA course and exam at any stage of your career. So whether you are looking to start your career or want to give it a boost midway, CIMA can help. Here are some of the careers you can look forward to with CIMA completion. 

  • Accounts Assistant: Manage the rudimentary accounting processes, create invoices, credit control, expense claims, create reports, bank reconciliations, etc. Among others, this job role has a variety of responsibilities, which also includes administrative support. However, this is the basic job you can do easily after CIMA. 
  • Business Analyst: When senior leadership requires financial models and risk management plans, they look to business analysts to provide the required strategies. 
  • Financial Manager: A high-level post where individuals focus on strategic analysis. It also includes managing the staff, managing audits, and supervising the company accounts while reporting them to the management. 
  • Management Consultant: Management consultants are tasked with enhancing business performance and maximizing growth. They are also supposed to advise the implementation of strategies and the right decisions. They are also responsible for identifying financial problems and suggesting areas of improvement. 

While these are the executive-level roles, the CIMA exam can also help you take charge of the complete financial well-being of the company with the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) role. For this, the candidates must complete the CIMA professional qualification and gain further knowledge of the same. 

We cannot fit the list of companies hiring people with CIMA certification as almost every company needs professionals with accounting knowledge. However, we can state that if you are applying into any company with CIMA certification, the chances of getting hired are better. 

Understanding CIMA Exams

In the previous sections, we have talked about CIMA certification and CIMA professional qualification. The purpose and the structure of both these components is different. 

The two types of courses have a four-tier structure with three tiers in CIMA Certification in Business Accounting, and one tier is CIMA Professional Qualification.

The CIMA exams have four levels. After completing each of these levels, you will be awarded a certificate. Completing these levels is essential and mandatory to move on to the next level. 

In total, the students have to sit through 12 exams. Out of these 12, 9 are objective tests, and three are case studies representing each pillar. Every objective test has a run time of 90 minutes. Each case study is three hours long.

CIMA Certification in Business Accounting

This course is meant for students and candidates with little to no accounting experience. It will teach and test them in core business and finance skills while helping them understand the details of financial accounting. 

Accounting professionals consider this segment as the starting point for students who wish to build a perfect career in accounting. Also called as Cert BA, qualifying this segment also opens up doors to obtaining the CIMA Professional Qualification. 

Only after passing both the CIMA exams can a student obtain the CGMA designation. The subjects in this level are;

  1. Fundamentals of Business Economics
  2. Fundamentals of Management Accounting
  3. Fundamentals of Financial Accounting
  4. Fundamentals of Ethics, Corporate Governance, and Business Law

Within these main subjects, you will go through the following concepts;

  • Macroeconomic and institutional context of business
  • Informational context of business
  • Microeconomics
  • Management accounting
  • Costing
  • Decision making
  • Accounting principles
  • Recording accounting
  • Preparation of accounts
  • Business ethics and conflicts
  • Company administration

While preparing for the CIMA exam, it is essential to consider the scope and impact of every subject. Passing this exam is highly dependent on your understanding of the structure and building the right strategy. 

The purpose is to build a comprehensive competence in the aspirants wanting to complete the CIMA course. 

CIMA Professional Qualification

CIMA professional qualification aims to train and nurture competent individuals who are confident in management accounting and build the skills to lead companies towards sustainable success. 

The course and exam herein help individuals fill the skill gap and meet the employability needs of globally recognized organizations. There are three levels in the Professional Qualification exam;

  • Strategic
  • Management
  • Operational

Each of these levels has three pillars that help with assessing the students based on their understanding. These pillars are;

  1. Enterprise (E)
  2. Performance (P)
  3. Financial (F)

Here is the structure of how you must give the exams in sequential order. 

  • Strategic:

This segment teaches the students the long-term planning and strategy setting to improve business performance and outcomes. You will also work on a case study by taking the role of a Senior Finance Manager.

The subjects included in Strategic Level are:

  1. Strategic Management (E3)
  2. Risk Management (P3)
  3. Financial Strategy (F3)
  • Management:

This level focuses on the implementation and management of the strategies. It further helps students with medium-term monitoring of the planning. The students here have to take on the role of a Finance Manager and execute the tasks as given in the case study. 

Subjects included in this level include;

  1. Managing Performance (E2)
  2. Advanced Management Accounting (P2)
  3. Advanced Financial Reporting (F2)
  • Operational:

The operational segment focuses on the short-term implementation of the financial and accounting systems. While taking on the role of a Financial Officer, the students will learn about combining finances with the digital world and more about financial reporting. 

Subjects included here are;

  1. Managing Finance in a Digital World (E1)
  2. Management Accounting (P1)
  3. Financial Reporting (F1) 

Completing the CIMA course and giving all the exams means your career can propel to the next level. Where businesses need efficient accounting professionals, they also need smart and talented people to help build the company with sustainable growth. 

Tips and Tricks to Clear the CIMA Exam

CIMA is a professional exam that has multiple subjects, components, and levels. Understanding the structure itself is a challenge and passing it requires further dedication and extensive studying. 

Even with the challenges, passing the CIMA exam is possible, provided you follow some of the best techniques for preparing and attempting the exams. From objective tests to case studies, you can easily crack every segment and level by following these tips. 

  1. Make a Plan: This might be the oldest exam-cracking tip in the book, but its importance cannot be ignored. A robust plan is mandatory to crack a challenging exam like CIMA. The exam must cover every aspect of the exam and align with your daily life and traits. So while making the plan integrate your learning capabilities and time limits within the preparation schedule. 

Decide on the best medium for your studies. Do you learn well by reading, listening, or by watching videos? Once you have answers to these questions, you can easily curate a plan. 

  1. Attempt Questions: CIMA is one of those exams where you should rely too much on books. Rather learn by attempting questions. The more questions you attempt, the better you will get at understanding the concepts and subjects. 

As you will have to attempt nine objective exams, you can cover more syllabus with the questions. Attempt previous years’ exams, take practice test papers online, etc. 

  1. Start Preparing Early: In the CIMA exam, you will receive pre-seen material, which forms as the basis for the case studies. Most students start preparing after getting the pre-seen material, which isn’t ideal. You must start preparing before receiving this material. 

A lot of resources online will guide you with the expectations of the examiners from the cast study. Hence, start understanding the case study approach, using pre-seen material and CIMA syllabus analysis beforehand. 

  1. Know how to Deal with Stress: Stress is a by-product of preparing for the CIMA exam. Hence, you must know how to deal with it methodically. Feeling overwhelmed and frustrated are common occurrences in these exams. Find methods that will help you relax and calm your nerves. 


CIMA qualification can add a beautiful badge of achievement to your itinerary of accomplishments. However, it must be taken seriously, and the preparation needs your dedicated devotion. From understanding the syllabus religiously to following a strict routine, there are many things you must adhere to for cracking the exam. 

Having said that, the best thing is that you won’t have to struggle with the preparation alone. At IMS Proschool, we can help CIMA aspirants build the right study structure and prepare holistically for the exam. As our aim is to help with CIMA completion, we will dedicate our resources to help you gain a better understanding of the exam and achieve success.