Zoe Lincoln has nearly 20 years of experience working in finance and accounts, starting off in Investment Banking as a graduate before realising she gains greater job satisfaction working with and supporting small businesses (see Linkedin profile here). Enjoying working with the same company for the past 10 years, she was keen to continue to develop professionally and therefore decided to build upon her accountancy experience through gaining the CIMA Professional Qualification. She completed the Operational Level in 2018 whilst working part time 4 days a week and juggling home commitments with 3 children under 12, and is aiming to take the Management Case Study in November 2019.

In this interview, Zoe offers her insights on the P1 (Management Accounting) paper, the first in CIMA's Performance pillar subjects.


When did you take the P1 exam and how did you get on? Was it your first attempt?

I took the exam in August 2018, and was really pleased to pass on my first attempt with a score of 150! I was really pleased with the score considering I have self studied and have had a 10 year break between completing the certificate level and starting the operational level.


How long did you spend preparing for the P1 paper?

I took just under 3 months, but had a couple of weeks off in the middle as I was unwell. I generally spend about 10 hours a week studying, though do increase this a bit just before the exam.


Did you take a course or did you opt for self-study?

I self studied using the BPP textbook and then the Aptitude 1 questions. At the time I was self funding, and this was the most cost effective option for me. It also enabled me to fit my study in around other commitments.


What (if anything), did you find especially difficult with P1 in relation to your preparation e.g. balancing personal life with study, balancing work with study, the material was dull etc?

I enjoyed the material, particularly as I took this after E1 (Organisational Management) which I found quite dry in places. The part I found most difficult was fitting in study time around work and family commitments. I also struggled to get good marks when doing practice questions, so started to get really cross with myself where, due to time pressures in the tests, I was missing slight wording inferences etc in the question, and then getting the answer wrong.


What (if anything), did you find especially difficult with P1 in relation to the exam day? e.g. time management, nerves etc?

Going into the exam I felt I had prepared as well as I could, but time was very tight on the day, and I did not manage to go back through and review all my flagged questions. I find I get a huge adrenalin rush knowing time is tight so then find it difficult to recall exactly how the exam went. I do remember however that two pens I was given by the test centre for the white board stopped working, but I was so tight on time I didn’t even feel I had time to raise my hand to get a third replacement!


Was there an area of the P1 syllabus that you liked more than others?

I liked variance analysis as once you understand e.g. materials variances, then you can apply the concepts to labour variances etc. I also liked most of the risk and uncertainty elements – albeit I find it hard to remember by rote lengthy formulas! I do not use either of these in work as I am employed in a service based company, so it was good to get an insight into analysis used in more traditional manufacturing based companies.


Was there an area of the P1 syllabus that you liked less than others?

I definitely found it hard to remember lengthy formulae by rote – e.g. economic ordering quantity and some of the expected values calculations.

I also found some of the environmental costing classifications difficult – whilst I understood the basic concepts, sometimes a cost might be classed in a different way dependent on the wording of the question/viewpoint being taken. This is fine in the case study as you can justify how you are perceiving and classifying the cost, but more difficult in the right/wrong format of the objective tests!


Do you have any tips for other students about to sit P1?

Lots and lots of question practice! Due to the time pressures of the test you need to know elements like variance analysis inside out so you can quickly calculate the answers.


Have you used VIVA’s study materials? If so, how did you find the materials?

Yes, I purchased the Case Study Essentials pack. I had already undertaken my own analysis of the pre-seen based on a CIMA guidance paper, however I found the VIVA analysis very useful.  It made me feel more confident as it reinforced some of my own analysis, and also brought in elements I had not previously considered. 

The mock exam questions were great too as they were very similar in style to the actual CIMA exam questions.


Do you have any final comments/recommendations/feelings/thoughts about your P1 experience?

When you start P1 it can feel like there is an awful lot to learn due to the size of the syllabus. However, with most areas, once you understand the concept and reasoning behind the calculation, then the material is fairly straightforward. For this reason I found P1 the most enjoyable course at operational level.