Louise McAndrew is a Strategic level CIMA student with just P3, F3 and the SCS left to study before becoming fully-qualified. Louise has mainly worked in not for profit organisations and is currently a Finance Officer for a charity in the social care sector (see her Linkedin profile here). She is AAT-qualified but took a break from studying to have a family. Louise has two children, one of secondary school age and one of primary school age.
The Management Case Study had higher pass rates than the OCS and SCS in 2018. That doesn't mean it's an easy exam though. Here Louise McAndrew discusses the challenges she faced in passing her MCS exam, as well as offering some great advice to students yet to take the exam.
When did you take the MCS exam and how did you get on? Was it your first attempt?
I took the MCS in August 2018 and passed with a pass mark of 95. It was a huge relief as it was my third attempt having failed the first two times by just a couple of marks. The results came out on my birthday too so it was a great way to start the day!
I made my first attempt at the exam in November 2017 but due to a heavy workload in my office (new financial year budgeting), I couldn’t resit until May 2018 and then I passed the August 2018 case study.
How long did you spend preparing for the MCS paper (how many weeks/months and how many hours on average per week)?
As soon as the pre-seen material came out I started working through it. Prior to that I had started looking through past papers to get an idea of the kind of answers CIMA were looking for in the MCS. I hadn’t done this before for the previous two attempts and can honestly say that was probably what contributed to me failing.
I work full-time and have a family so I was squeezing revision in wherever possible. I was probably fitting in around 10-12 hours per week. I was actually on a family holiday the week before the exam so I brought my books with me to study on the beach!
Did you take a course or did you opt for self-study?
I self-studied as I find it difficult to commit to a course with work and family commitments. But I did purchase case study materials from Astranti and VIVA to help me with the revision.
Is it your intention to continue with self-study for the remainder of your studies? Would you recommend this approach to others?
I only have 3 exams left so I’ll carry on with self-study. I don’t really have an opinion in terms of recommending self-study. For me it’s the only viable option but for others they may prefer a classroom environment. I’m on a Facebook group called the CIMA UK Student Group which has a whole CIMA community in there so I’d recommend anyone studying to join as there’s lots of help and encouragement on there.
What (if anything), did you find especially difficult with the MCS in relation to your preparation? e.g. balancing personal life with study, balancing work with study, the material was dull etc?
This particular case study was pretty dull. It was about a camera company and there was quite a lot of unnecessary information about camera components. I needed to decipher what information was actually relevant to what might be asked.
What (if anything), did you find especially difficult with the MCS in relation to the exam day? e.g. time management, nerves etc?
I was incredibly nervous on the day as I didn’t want to fail again. Once the exam got going though, my nerves calmed and I was able to focus on answering the questions. I didn’t run out of time on any of the questions as I felt more prepared this time.
Was there an area of the Management syllabus that you liked more than others?
I preferred the E2 unit and found it was my strongest area. At operational level I preferred F1 but I studied operational level on the old written syllabus. Since it’s moved to computer based assessments I have preferred the Enterprise subjects as they’ve been easier to grasp.
Was there an area of the Management syllabus that you liked less than others?
I found the F2 and P2 units quite tough and when studying for the MCS those were the units I particularly needed to concentrate on. Whilst I was able to confidently calculate ratios, I needed to be able to explain how the ratios would be affected by changes in equity and debt etc.
Was there a particular area of either P2 or F2 you found tougher?
I couldn’t get my head around WACC calculations so it was my weakest area. Even when studying the case study I really needed to revise its meaning as I knew it was likely to be tested. It was a question on one of the case studies I failed and I don’t think I answered it very well.
Do you have any tips for other students about to sit the MCS?
I would definitely say look back on past papers. It gives you a really good idea of what CIMA are looking for in their answers. Also, if you’re not able to commit to a course then it’s definitely worth buying case study materials such as pre-seen analysis, strategic analysis, Key Issues and case study mock exams as they are always catered specifically for the case study being tested.
Have you used VIVA’s case study materials? If so, how did you find the materials?
I had been using Astranti but I found their mock exams to be too long-winded to follow. Other people recommended VIVA so I bought their Case Study materials and found them really helpful.
Do you have any final comments/recommendations/feelings/thoughts about your MCS experience?
The case studies are just as tough as the objective tests so I would say if you don’t pass first time then keep going. It will be worth it when you pass.