VIVA's 'CIMA Student Series' is a collection of interviews with CIMA students relating to their own experiences with the different CIMA subjects. Covering both case study exams and objective test exams, the idea is to step back and let students speak about their difficulties and triumphs on their route to full ACMA/CGMA status.
Sonia Swami is a CIMA student at the final stage of her studies. She is due to sit just one more CIMA exam - the SCS (Strategic Case Study). Sonia works as a Finance Associate at the UK College of Business and Finance. Sonia has two young (and demanding!) children.
In this interview, Sonia Swami discusses her experience of CIMA's E3 (Strategic Management) objective test.
When did you take the E3 exam and how did you get on? Was it your first attempt?
I took my E3 exam at the end of March 2019 and I passed it first time!
How long did you spend preparing for the E3 paper?
I spent around 2 months preparing for the E3 paper, averaging 15 hours of study a week and ramping up the hours two weeks before the exam.
Did you take a course or did you opt for self-study?
In the past, I had studied with BPP and Kaplan with their classroom and online courses, but I found they added little value. The tutors read directly from the printed class notes, and there was little engagement with the students. Thus, I chose to self-study for E3.
What (if anything), did you find especially difficult with E3 in relation to your preparation? e.g. balancing personal life with study, balancing work with study, the material was dull etc?
The biggest difficulty I faced with preparing for E3 was dedicating study time in between family and work commitments. I developed a detailed spreadsheet to plan out my spare time, comprised of half-hour slots. I would allocate areas of the syllabus, practice questions and mock exams in my plan. My plan helped me commit to the study times and know the study topics in advance.
What (if anything), did you find especially difficult with E3 in relation to the exam day? e.g. time management, nerves etc?
Surprisingly, on exam day I was calm and quite curious about the exam questions that might come up. I went through the questions and answered what I could and flagged the questions that needed more of my time. After I had answered all the questions, I had five minutes to spare and I used the time to revisit the longer questions I had already answered. Also, I think my reading speed improved by completing all of VIVA’s practice and mock exam questions.
Was there an area of the E3 syllabus that you liked more than others?
I liked studying the 'Leading Change' part of the syllabus as I was able to relate to the models from my work experience. One example would be when my company introduced a new and expensive accounting system. An external ‘change agent’ was hired to facilitate the change process to over a hundred users.
Was there an area of the E3 syllabus that you liked less than others?
At first, I least liked 'The Role of Information Systems in Organisational Strategy', but the topic became more interesting after reading the textbook examples.
Do you have any tips for other students about to sit E3?
For E3 and for all the other OTQ (Objective Test Question) exams I ensured that I knew the whole syllabus and completed as many exam questions/mocks as I could.
Do you have any final comments/recommendations/feelings/thoughts about your E3 experience?
I believe that I achieved a first-time pass for E3 as I studied all the topics and used VIVA to practice exam questions. I found VIVA’s exam question structure useful - each question was broken down into its syllabus counterpart. This helped me understand my weak areas. I did thorough research on other tuition providers, and VIVA had the most practice questions. I am glad I made the right decision to study with VIVA!
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