In the below interview, Gilbert Marcus discusses the challenges of passing CIMA's E2 (Managing Performance) paper.
When did you take the E2 exam and how did you get on? Was it your first attempt?
I wrote the E2 exam in July 2018. It was my first attempt and I passed it with a mark of 118.
How long did you spend preparing for the E2 paper?
I spent about 3 months preparing, doing online lectures alongside study of F2 (Advanced Financial Reporting). My average hours per week was around 8-12 hours for the first 2 months and then ramped up to around 15 hours per week for the last month.
I spent about 3 hours per week on F2 going to lectures, and the rest of my time was spent on E2, doing revision related to my lectures, summarizing the textbook to compliment my mind maps and doing questions and mock exams from various platforms including ExP, Astranti, Open Tuition, as well as VIVA.
Did you take a course or did you opt for self-study?
I did online lectures with ExP (pre-recorded lessons which I could watch 5 times each). They had lectures for each chapter averaging around 40 minutes per lesson, which came to around 7 hours of lessons, with 5 revision questions after each lecture.
Then there was what they call a practice phase where they do exam style questions on each part of the syllabus, once again, around 40 minutes per pre-recorded video and this is another 7-8 hours of lessons/lectures, and this happens ONLY after you have done the textbook lessons.
Have you always used online lectures for your CIMA studies and would you recommend this approach to others?
No, I did the Operational level by attending classes but started P1 online through ExP as I did not get the benefit of attending class where you battle to understand something the lecturer just brushes over quickly. With online classes you can watch the lesson 5 times and even mail the provider if you have questions.
I would recommend the online approach to other students as you can do the lectures in your time and at your own pace by working through the issues.
What (if anything), did you find especially difficult with E2 in relation to your preparation? e.g. balancing personal life with study, balancing work with study, the material was dull etc?
I find at times balancing study with personal life tough. With CIMA I have found the study planner to help me in this regard, where you can sit and plan your daily study requirements day by day. The study planner helped me to plan around social events and work matters so I knew when to focus on what and how much time to allocate on any specific day so I can focus that day and be ready.
What (if anything), did you find especially difficult with E2 in relation to the exam day? e.g. time management, nerves etc?
I was nervous just before the exam (as usual) but once started I managed my time very well. I did lots of mock exams and practice questions under exam conditions ahead of the exam. I forced myself to do questions by setting the timer. For example, if I only did practice questions, I would set myself 1.5 minutes per question and if doing exams set 90 minutes and see how I did time-wise.
Are there any tricks you used on exam day?
When I do an exam, I read the question, and if not 100% sure, I select an answer and flag. I then move on to make sure I get through the whole exam and later I go back to review the flagged questions. That is the first trick - to answer all questions.
My next trick is to try to eliminate the wrong answers where I am not immediately sure of the correct answer. This works well in "select all that apply" type questions. By eliminating first the obviously incorrect answers, you can work your way to the correct answers.
Was there an area of the E2 syllabus that you liked more than others?
I particularly enjoyed the part of the syllabus dealing with managing change through projects. The reason why I enjoyed this part is that I actually like the whole change process. You are involving more than just management, you are actually involving the whole workforce here by getting everyone’s input and that actually provides you with a lot of brilliant ideas and also shows the spectrum of the workforce you have employed in the organisation as a whole.
Was there an area of the E2 syllabus that you liked less than others?
No, the whole subject was interesting. I prefer Enterprise pillar papers (E1, E2, E3) as they go a bit deeper into what we as managers need to consider in our daily jobs with the people in the organisation and helps us to understand the complexity of everything we have to deal with, which is not just finances and results, but systems, people and that everything links up together making an organisation what it is.
Do you have any tips for other students about to sit E2?
My advice would be to work hard on E2 and understand the theory and how it all fits in to the everyday workplace, as that helped me a lot. Also, study the theory and models until it is ingrained in your mind. Every time I would study a topic, I would recall something from my own experience and then apply it and remember that it is related to this topic. That helped me a lot in passing this exam.
I also did at least 400 exam-style questions from various providers.
Have you used VIVA’s study materials? If so, how did you find the materials?
I have not used VIVA’s case study materials yet but I have used VIVA’s materials for F2 (Advanced Financial Reporting), and I found them extremely helpful, as it was also exam style questions which helped me to prepare for and pass the F2 exam.
With VIVA you can do questions under exam-style conditions with time limits (or no time limit if you're less confident) to put yourself under pressure. Then there were the 5 mock exams, which was a great help, as it prepared me extremely well for F2 and allowed me to pass first time.
Do you have any final comments/recommendations/feelings/thoughts about your E2 experience?
Just enjoy the material and don't stress about the exam, and write when you are ready and fully prepared.