Management Case Study (MCS) Key Topicsby Thomas Newman
These MCS Key Topics anticipate what kinds of questions will come up in the Management Case Study exam.
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The Management Case Study (MCS) tests your ability to apply the concepts you encountered during your objective tests (E2, F2 and P2) to real-life work scenarios. These scenarios are based on a fictional company whose details are outlined in a pre-seen document. There have been 13 windows for this particular exam between February 2015 and February 2018 with an exam sitting taking place every 3 months. For each exam window a new case is presented and any one of 5 exam variants can be presented to students come exam day.
VIVA Financial Tuition has performed an in-depth statistical review of all exam windows and exam variants to date. Our analysis shows that while a huge variety of topics have been tested, students can gain an advantage by understanding that certain topics carry more importance than others in terms of the marks assigned. This means that students can tailor their revision to focus more of their efforts on the theories, accounting standards and techniques that have a far higher probability of appearing.
Are all subjects (E2, F2, P2) equally represented?
No, not all subjects carry an equal weight for the MCS. Since the start of 2015, examiners have exhibited a tendency to assign fewer marks to F2 topics. Over the course of the 13 exam windows and 65 exam variants between February 2015 and February 2018, F2 topics have accounted for just 22% of all marks assigned in case study papers. It's useful to split our analysis into two separate periods (2015 and 2016-18) because CIMA was still finding its way with these exams in early 2015 in particular and the trends are quite different in early 2015 to the ones exhibited later on. So, in 2015, F2 topics accounted for an even lower 16% of all marks awarded. Between 2016 and February 2018 that percentage rose to between 23-26% of total marks assigned so while the importance of F2 in this exam has risen, it is still less important than both E2 and P2.
Overall, between 2015 and 2018, E2 and P2 topics account for 37% and 41% of all marks assigned respectively. If we split those figures between 2015 and 2016-18, we see that E2 topics accounted for 42% of all marks assigned in 2015 papers and 30-36% of all marks assigned for the period 2016-18. P2 topics accounted for 42% of all marks assigned in the 2015 papers while that figure stands at between 38% and 45% for the period 2016 to 2018.
To summarise, we should take the tendencies from the more recent exams as our guide. When we use 2017 exams as our guide we can therefore say that all marks for the case studies were split in the following way:
• E2 - 35% of all marks awarded
• F2 - 23% of all marks awarded
• P2 - 42% of all marks awarded
Are there Certain Topics the Examiners Focus On?
We have established that P2 and E2 carry more importance than F2 for the MCS but what do we see when we drill down further and look at the separate topics that each subject covers? As a reminder, the table below shows the topics assigned to each subject and the weight each topic carries for that subject. There are 11 topics in total:
The question I'm interested in answering in this section is: are there certain topics from the above list that examiners assign more marks to? The answer is, yes there are certainly topics that the examiners exhibit a preference for time and again.
Again, I'm going to focus on the trends exhibited in the year 2017 and we are going to assume the weighting between subjects we examined in the previous section i.e. E2 at 35%, F2 at 23% and P2 at 42%. Our analysis revealed a key finding - there are five big topics to which examiners have assigned 60% of all marks awarded in the 2017 papers. The big five are as follows:
• F2: B. Financial Reporting (16% of all marks awarded in 2017)
• P2: B. Control and Performance Management of Responsibility Centres (14% of all marks awarded in 2017)
• P2: A. Cost Planning and Analysis for Competitive Advantage (10% of all marks awarded in 2017)
• E2: C. Managing Relationships (10% of all marks awarded in 2017)
• E2: B. The Human Aspects of the Organisation (10% of all marks awarded in 2017)
It's entirely unsurprising to see topic B from F2 feature so prominently given it's weighting of 60% for that particular subject. Students should be keenly focused on revising this topic closely before any MCS. What is more surprising is the preference the examiners have exhibited for topics B & C from E2. These two topics accounted for 20% of all marks assigned in 2017. Given that each has a weighting of 20% within the E2 subject we might expect both combined to account for just 13% of all marks awarded in the case study papers. So, most definitely these two E2 topics are over-represented in the case study and it would be prudent for the CIMA student to assign more study time to its review than he/she otherwise might have.
Are there Topics that Rarely Appear?
Students may be tempted to ask themselves whether there are topics they can largely ignore as they prepare for their case study exam. Unfortunately the answer is no. Please do not make the mistake of excluding topics from your revision. The case study examiners have tested absolutely everything over the course of the past 3.5 years and they will go on doing so.
However, there is a slight silver lining....there are certain topics which have accounted for fewer marks in these exams than we might otherwise expect. As a result, in the same way you should assign more time to the big five topics we outlined above, you can assign (a little) less time to the review of the following topics (this does not mean you can skip them!):
• F2: A. Sources of Long-term Finance (3% of all marks awarded in 2017)
• F2: C. Analysis of Financial Performance and Position (5% of all marks awarded in 2017)
• E2: D. Managing Change Through Projects (6% of all marks awarded in 2017)
A caveat: the MCS actually exhibits much less of a tendency than both the OCS (Operational Case Study) and SCS (Strategic Case Study) to skip over certain topics. Both the OCS and SCS almost entirely skip over certain topics. In contrast, the MCS is the widest-ranging paper with absolutely all topics examinable. Note that while the above 3 topics appear less frequently than we might expect, they still account for a not insignificant 14% of all marks assigned in the 2017 case study exams.
It's for this reason that I believe the Management Case Study is perhaps the most challenging of all the case study exams. Having said that, you're now armed with a knowledge of just how important the big five topics are in particular. Get those five topics down early on and you're well on the way to conquering the MCS!