Andrew Sherwood is a prize-winning CIMA student. In this interview, he shares his advice on F1 - Financial Reporting & Taxation.
When did you take the F1 exam and how did you get on? Was it your first attempt?
I took the F1 exam on 20th July 2018. It was my first attempt at the exam and I passed with a scaled score of 150.
How long did you spend preparing for the F1 paper?
I spent about a month reading the textbook and answering questions when I had the time, usually just on lunch breaks and an occasional hour in the evenings. Then I spent the three weeks before the exam re-reading the textbook and answering as many questions as possible. In these three weeks I spent around three hours per evening studying and around six hours on Saturdays and Sundays. My employer also gives me the day before the exam off for study leave. In the early part, I probably only spent 6-7 hours per week studying but in the weeks running up to the exam I spent around 30 hours per week studying.
Did you take a course or did you opt for self-study?
My employer pays for any resources I want and offered for me to take an evening or weekend class but this wouldn’t have fit around my family life. I also decided to self-study so that I could go at my own pace and study the subjects in the order I chose. I used the Kaplan textbook and exam book for all of my objective test exams.
What (if anything), did you find especially difficult with F1 in relation to your preparation? e.g. balancing personal life with study, balancing work with study, the material was dull etc?
I did sometimes find it difficult to find the time to study. I have three children and my wife works some weekends so I often found my study time interrupted. It was also hard to keep motivated to study after work sometimes, particularly if I had been doing our month-end reporting and was mentally exhausted from that.
What (if anything), did you find especially difficult with F1 in relation to the exam day? e.g. time management, nerves etc?
I have always struggled the most with time management in the objective tests. I am quite a slow reader and some of the F1 questions had a lot of information to read, particularly if it was a consolidation question so a detailed background was needed. When I got through to the end of the exam I only had around 10 minutes left so I didn’t have much time to try and go back over the questions again.
Was there an area of the F1 syllabus that you liked more than others?
I really enjoyed consolidated financial statements. I also enjoyed studying the accounting standards. I had studied these a little during my AAT studies but this was in much greater depth and I really enjoyed understanding the reasoning and processes behind how statements are prepared and why transactions are accounted for in the way they are. I actually found F1 the most engaging Objective Test and the easiest to study for.
Was there an area of the F1 syllabus that you liked less than others?
I did not enjoy studying the regulatory environment and corporate governance but fortunately, this was only a small section for F1. I understand the need to learn this topic but I found it such a dry subject area that I sometimes had to read a page 2 or 3 times before I really took it in.
Do you have any tips for other students about to sit F1?
Answer as many questions as you can, as often as you can. Especially any questions in the textbook that ask for a written answer. It’s tempting to skip them knowing that the exam is multiple choice or a number answer but I found that answering the written questions gave me a much deeper understanding of F1 than just reading the text and answering multiple choice questions. It is really important to learn the syllabus rather than learn to pass the exam.
Also, CIMA say that anything in the syllabus is examinable, and they really mean it! In E1 (Organisational Management), I passed over topics if I didn’t understand them and they seemed really small, but these came up in my exams so although I still passed all my exams, I wish I had taken the time to understand everything.
Have you used VIVA’s study materials? If so, how did you find the materials?
Yes, I purchased a pack for my OCS from VIVA after purchasing from another provider first. I did not get on well with the other materials so I decided to try VIVA as they had a very comprehensive package which was also cheaper than other providers.
I found VIVA’s materials very informative and they really helped me break down the monumental task of analysing the pre-seen materials. The videos are concise but detailed so are very useful for last minute revision. I found the mock exams much tougher than past papers and even my actual exam, but I was pleased about this as it really got me thinking about the pre-seen materials. The wide range of topics covered in the mocks really highlighted any weak areas in my knowledge.
I passed my OCS with a scaled score of 137 and got a letter from CIMA saying that I obtained the joint third position for the February 2019 case study and I believe the VIVA's materials really helped to make this possible.
Do you have any final comments/recommendations/feelings/thoughts about your F1 experience?
I mostly enjoyed the experience of studying for F1 and think it would be a really good introduction to CIMA for people who have studied AAT since many of the topics will be familiar. It is a great balance of number work and theory.