5 Ways to Stop Failing Your CIMA Exams

5 Ways to Stop Failing Your CIMA Exams

Failing CIMA exams is really common especially when it comes to case studies. In this article we look at the main reasons why students fail CIMA, and provide insight into how to avoid them to make a fail a pass.


Common questions our tutors hear from students about their CIMA exams includes:

  • Why do I keep failing?
  • Is it normal to fail CIMA exams?
  • What can I do to get back on track if I fail?
  • What can I change to pass next time?

What do we tell them? Unfortunately, failing is all too familiar amongst CIMA students.

In fact, if you look at pass rates, failing is more common than passing.

CIMA pass rates

The key reason is because you're probably not aware of what you’re doing wrong and as a result are struggling to change it. And if you don’t make changes, the result will be the same every time – a fail.

Let's explore 5 ways to avoid the mistakes of other students to pass your CIMA exam on the first attempt. 

5 Reasons You Keep Failing CIMA

We consulted with our tutors and Education Team to find out HOW students can turn a fail into a pass.

1 – Your knowledge was lacking

A stressed student is learning between books


If you keep failing CIMA exams and getting a mark well below the pass rate, knowledge was the issue.

It could be due to you using question spotting (which doesn’t work), you wasted time taking notes and failed to learn anything or you weren’t disciplined about study time.

In our experience, the students who pass invest about 150 hours to study for each paper. In addition, they make sure to cover the entire syllabus.

It also could be because you assumed you knew things you didn’t. This is common in later papers amongst students that have early exemptions.

Having an exemption doesn’t exclude you from reviewing that syllabus. If you ignore the early material, you could keep failing CIMA exams.

Alternatively, maybe you studied hard, and studied the entire syllabus, but didn’t understand the material. This means there could be an issue with how you’re studying. 

#2 – You studied in the wrong way 

 

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Studying the wrong way will make it difficult to learn what you need to pass CIMA. The most common issue here is learning through classroom or online with a provider that records classroom lectures.

While working full-time many students undertake CIMA – but they chose a classroom learning provider. While it can work for some students, it can put you under a lot of unnecessary pressure.

That's because you travel to classes after a long, exhausting day and the pace of learning is dictated by people in the class, not you. That’s still the case if you’re watching recorded lectures. It’s just not an efficient way to learn – everything takes longer than necessary, and you’re likely to be tired, burnt-out and frustrated long before your CIMA exams come around.

It’s the classic working hard, not working smart scenario. You could easily invest 300 hours for each paper, or 600 hours, but if you’re not studying efficiently you’ll keep failing CIMA exams.

3 – Your knowledge wasn't applied 

Puzzle head brain concept as a human face profile made from crumpled white paper with a jigsaw piece cut out on a rustic old wood background as a mental health symbol.

CIMA clearly states that knowledge isn’t enough to pass particularly as you make your way through the papers. The secret? Applied knowledge.

We use the example of ledgers. Imagine if a client asks you about the best solution for their company. If you launch into a speech that tells them everything you know about ledgers, you’d struggle to keep their attention!

Plus, you haven't answered the question, which means you’d be seen as a pretty bad accountant. That's exactly how CIMA exams are designed: they teach you to be a good accountant.

The main thing to remember is to treat the examiner as if they are a client. So, don’t answer questions by telling them everything about the topic. Instead apply you knowledge and answer their question in a concise, relevant way.

4 – You missed some questions

thinking woman with question mark on gray wall background

Almost every student has been guilty of this. It often comes from not applying knowledge and wasting time writing everything you know so you run out of time for other questions.

‘Isn’t it better to answer the questions I know in detail, to ensure I get maximum marks?’

We often hear that, but no, it’s not better. If you only answer three quarters of the required questions, it’s like having to get a higher mark to pass.

If a question is worth five marks, it’s looking for five points. If you write eight points, you have wasted three and missed out on three you could have got on another question.

Plus, don’t make each point longer than it needs to be. Each point should probably be a couple of lines, and shouldn’t take up huge amounts of time. 

To figure out how long you should spend, divide the writing time in the exam (minus reading and planning time) by the number of marks the paper is worth. 

5 – Exam day stress got to you

portrait stressed sad young woman outdoors. City urban life style stress


Stress comes hand in hand with exams. No matter how well-prepared, it's likely you will feel pressure on CIMA exam day. It happens to everyone.

But some people handle stress well and channel it positively to get a mark that does them justice. While others fade under pressure and fail despite knowing the material well.

If you fall onto the second category, there are 4 things you can do to help.

1. Ensure you're prepared

Obviously, the thing to start to avoid stress is to be super prepared. If you're relying on certain questions to come up, don't know the material or seeing the format for the first time, it would be hard not to be stressed.

2. Practice under exam conditions

It's key to practice a mock in exam conditions. It gets you used to the paper, highlights last-minute gaps in knowledge and familiarises you with exam conditions. Exam day is mainly stressful because we don’t do exams often, so it’s unfamiliar. Practice to make them more familiar.

3. Make sure the little things are organised

Reduce stress by taking care of the little details. After all, you’re less likely to do well in the exam if you arrive late or stressed because you forgot something.

So, do your body and mind a favour by getting those little details right. This will help you free your mind to focus on passing CIMA.

4.  Embrace stress relief tactics

If you still battle with exam day stress, practice tactics like mindfulness and deep breathing. These can seem silly, but they can force your body to be calm to help combat the physiological aspects of stress.

How do you stop failing and pass CIMA?

The question you should ask is ‘What can I do differently to turn a fail into a pass?’

Sometimes students are better off if they fail badly because they know their study and exam techniques require a big adjustment.  The problem is in the nearly passed. It’s easy to think you were so close that next time will be a pass next time without changing much. Unfortunately, if you don't change your approach it's very likely you won’t.

So, don’t be the student, who takes multiple failures to realise a change is required. Even if you’re getting closer, something has to shift because a fail is a fail – no matter what the mark.

Get started now to change how you study and make sure it's time to celebrate when results day comes around.


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Topics: CIMA