All You Need to Know About CIMA

The CIMA examinations blend management accounting, financial accounting and business-focused subjects into one comprehensive qualification that helps you to deliver exceptional performance and discover your true potential.

If you’re seeking to develop your skills in accountancy to provide management accounting consultancy or lead finance departments, then CIMA is your ticket to achieve it. The CIMA course is globally known as one of the most applicable global finance qualifications for a business career.

CIMA is the leading professional body of management accountants across the globe. This course is a unique combination of management and finance courses, where management accountants examine financial data from the perspective of management. Additionally, CIMA experts have the advantage of carrying the CGMA accreditation managed by the AICPA and CIMA, which are two of the world’s most reputable accounting bodies.

For accounting professionals looking to get CIMA certified, this article gives an overview of the essential things you need to know about CIMA.

What is CIMA?

The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants or CIMA was established in 1919 and is now one of the world’s most recognized qualifications in business and finance. It aims to develop management accounting as one of the most valued careers in business across the globe. It is also known as the world’s widest-reaching professional body of management accountants, covering more than 281,476 members who work in 177 countries.

Professionals who are CIMA-qualified to pursue typically work in the jobs related to business analysis, financial analysis, financial reporting, corporate finance, project finance, risk management, treasury management, etc.

In partnership with the CPA institute in the USA, CIMA members obtain an additional qualification which is the CGMA or Chartered Global Management Accountant. CIMA has more than 4,500 recruitment and training partners all over the globe, giving it ties to some of the most-respected companies in the world.

Ever wonder what is a CIMA qualification for? Management accountants review information to boost strategy and manage sustainable success in business, and anyone has the opportunity to study the CIMA qualification, whether you’re an experienced professional or new to business and finance.

For those lacking any sort of education in accounting, there is the Certificate in Business Accounting. This is CIMA’s entry-level accounting qualification. It’s considered a well-known qualification in its own right which employers highly value. The CIMA Professional Qualification is also recognized highly by employers across the globe for its business relevancy.

How Many Exams in CIMA?

The exams in CIMA depend on the person’s educational level.

Candidates with no relevant bachelor’s degree

For those who don’t have a degree in business or finance, or those who chose not to go to university, CIMA provides a way to get up to speed.

To obtain the Certificate in Business Accounting, you must take four exams. In the UK, it is recognized formally as a substitute for a university degree, although most candidates take the Certificate in Business Accounting to become CIMA qualified, rather than to gain a qualification equivalent to a degree. After passing all four exams, you can move on to the next level of CIMA - the Professional Qualification.

Candidates with a relevant bachelor’s degree

For those who already have a related bachelor degree (business, finance, management etc), you can go directly to the Professional Qualification.

There are a total of 12 exams for the Professional Qualification:

  • Each of the three levels (Operational, Management, Strategic) have 3 objective tests i.e. 9 exams in total across all 3 levels
  • 3 case study exams, one at every level (Operational, Management, Strategic)
Candidates who have a Master’s degree in Accounting

For those who have already obtained a Master’s degree in Accounting, you may want to skip the first two levels of the Professional Qualification by taking the Gateway exam. The CIMA Gateway exam is a bridge between the Master’s degree and the Strategic level in the exam, and is identical to the case study exam taken by Management level candidates.

If you pass the CIMA Gateway exam successfully, you only need to take four more exams:

  • Strategic level’s 3 objective tests (E3, F3 and P3)
  • Strategic level’s case study exam

The full structure and assessment approach of the professional qualification

The CIMA syllabus is divided and separated into three levels (Operational, Management, Strategic) and three pillars (Enterprise, Performance, and Financial), and includes 12 exams (3 Case Study exams and 9 Objective tests).

CIMA exams

Objective Tests

  • 90 minutes long
  • Computer-based
  • Available internationally at over 5,000 Pearson VUE assessment centers all over the world

Case Study exams

  • 3 hours long
  • Computer-based
  • Available in four windows in the entire year
  • Available at over 5,000 Pearson VUE assessment centers across the globe


The course duration refers to the time provided to finish a course. Here are the course durations of each CIMA qualification:

How long to complete CIMA?

The CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting - You can register and study for the four certificate exams at your own pace. On average, students take one year or more to finish this level.

The CIMA Professional Qualification - On average, it takes 3-4 years for students to complete the 12 professional qualification exams. While taking the CIMA Professional Qualification, you also need to gain three years of practical work experience to be able to gain the full CIMA qualification upon completing all exams.

One of the essential parts of the CIMA qualification is the Practical Experience Requirements (PER). Upon passing all of the exams, CIMA will consider whether the student has acquired enough relevant work experience to obtain fully-qualified CIMA membership status.

CIMA Course Details

Course Structure

Based on your educational level, you can enter the program from various routes:

Undergraduates/Graduates without Accounting background

Entry: CBA (Certificate in Business Accounting)

Exams: 16

Exemptions: None

Graduates with Accounting background

Entry: Operational Level

Exams: 12

Exemptions: 4 (the certificate level)

Graduates with IMS Proschool PGP-MA

Entry: Management Gateway

Exams: 5

Exemptions: 11

MBA - Finance

Entry: Management Gateway

Exams: 5

Exemptions: 11


Entry: Strategic Case Study

Exams: 1

Exemptions: 16

CIMA Syllabus

It's important to note that CIMA has updated its syllabus in 2019:

Operational level

E1 - Managing Finance in a Digital World

F1 - Financial Reporting

P1 - Management Accounting

Management level

E2 - Managing Performance

F2 - Advanced Financial Reporting

P2 - Advanced Management Accounting

Strategic level

E3 - Strategic Management

F3 - Financial Strategy

P3 - Risk Management

Exam Fees

Here is the estimated breakdown of CIMA exam fees:

Registration Fees

Registration (one-off payment) - £77

Re-registration - £38.50

Subscription Fees

Current students need to make sure to pay their subscription before March 31st every year to prevent expiration.

  • New student - Free
  • Students (2019) - £115
  • Students who passed the Strategic Case Study exam (2019) - £270

Exam Fees

CIMA exams are set based on a tiered pricing structure (per exam):

Tier 1 (Australia, USA, Canada, Western Europe, and Singapore)

Certificate in Business Accounting objective tests - £95

Operational level objective tests - £110

Operational level case study exam - £185

Management level objective tests - £125

Management level case study exam - £190

Strategic level objective tests - £175

Strategic level case study exam - £275

Tier 2 (Rest of the countries)

Certificate in Business Accounting objective tests - £85

Operational level objective tests - £100

Operational level case study exam - £175

Management level objective tests - £115

Management level case study exam - £180

Strategic level objective tests - £165

Strategic level case study exam - £255

Tier 3 (Sub-Saharan Africa)

Certificate in Business Accounting objective tests - £70

Operational level objective tests - £80

Operational level case study exam - £145

Management level objective tests - £100

Management level case study exam - £150

Strategic level objective tests - £130

Strategic level case study exam - £225


You will be exempted from particular CIMA exams if you hold a related degree. You may be eligible for exam exemptions if you:

  • Have a Master’s in Accounting.
  • Are a member of ICMAP or a member and passed finalist of ICMAB or ICWAI.
  • Are studying or already finished a relevant qualification with another professional body.
  • Are a member or student of the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT).
  • Graduated from a degree programme related to the syllabus of CIMA.
  • Graduated with a qualification listed in the CIMA accredited programmes database.

If you are thinking of starting CIMA soon, take a look at our All Access membership which gives students 1 year of access to EVERYTHING on the website (that's over 150 hours of video lectures by CIMA experts, 7,500 objective test questions, 13 case study mock exams that are updated throughout the year, and a whole lot more).  

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