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).
- 90 minutes long
- Available internationally at over 5,000 Pearson VUE assessment centers all over the world
Case Study exams
- 3 hours long
- 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
Based on your educational level, you can enter the program from various routes:
Undergraduates/Graduates without Accounting background
Entry: CBA (Certificate in Business Accounting)
Graduates with Accounting background
Entry: Operational Level
Exemptions: 4 (the certificate level)
Graduates with IMS Proschool PGP-MA
Entry: Management Gateway
MBA - Finance
Entry: Management Gateway
Entry: Strategic Case Study
It's important to note that CIMA has updated its syllabus in 2019.
Operational levelManagement levelStrategic levelE1 - Managing Finance in a Digital WorldE2 - Managing PerformanceE3 - Strategic ManagementF1 - Financial ReportingF2 - Advanced Financial ReportingF3 - Financial Strategy P1 - Management AccountingP2 - Advanced Management AccountingP3 - Risk Management
Here is the estimated breakdown of CIMA exam fees:
Registration (one-off payment) - £77
Re-registration - £38.50
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
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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