CIMA Exemptions - A Full Overview

CIMA provides multiple gateways into the qualification. Here we explain how previous financial and accounting studies can help you to achieve CGMA membership faster.

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Before you register for the CIMA qualification, take a moment to consider whether you are eligible for CIMA exemptions. 

CIMA provides multiple gateways into the qualification, and it is well worth it to check whether previous financial and accounting studies allow you to achieve CGMA membership early.  

Read on as we guide you through the process.

Starting Point - Certificate Level

As a CIMA student, you don’t have to repeat your studies and can be eligible for exemptions from a number of CIMA exams.  

The CIMA qualification begins with the Certificate in Business Accounting. If you have completed this or have another relevant qualification, CIMA recognises the work you have already done. 

Any of the following professional qualifications allow you to apply for certificate level exams exemption:

  • Accounting 
  • Business Management Studies
  • General Management
  • Finance
  • Economics
  • Commerce

How to join at Management Level

Joining at this level will award you with an Advanced Diploma in Management Accounting. This is the halfway point for the CIMA qualification, saving you a great deal in exam fees!

If you have a BSc in accounting or finance (or similar), you can bypass the Certificate and Operational levels.

How to join at the CIMA gateway exam

A Master in Accounting (MBA) will take you directly to the final stage of the management level exams. This will be an incredibly tempting route because you avoid 11 exam papers. However, it must be noted that the pass rate of doing it this way is much lower, so students must be confident in basic and technical knowledge up to the management case study level.

When registering as a CIMA student, you must pick the ‘gateway option’ from the available selections. You will not be eligible for the gateway exam without selecting this option. 

AAT membership exemption

An AAT professional diploma at level 4 will exempt you from all CIMA certificate level exams. 

At level 2 or 3, you can still get an exemption for some of the exams. Check the exemption calculator on the CIMA website for confirmation. CIMA provides a special exemption service for AAT members - your application will be processed in 4 days.

ACCA exemption

Passing all 14 ACCA exams allows you the following exemptions:

  • 4 certificate level exams
  • 3 operational level exams and case study

In other words, you start at the Mangement level.

CFO exemption

Suppose you are a senior management professional like a CFO or CEO with more than 10 years of experience in business and finance. In that case, you can apply to take the strategic case study exam.

This exemption falls under CIMA’s CFO programme. You will have to apply and send your CV to You will then be notified whether you have been accepted into the program. Once accepted, there is a fee to be paid and a workshop you need to attend. 

When you are ready to take the strategic level case study, you can register for the exam and if you pass, you will be awarded CIMA membership and a CGMA designation.

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Professional Body exemption

CIMA has a database of professional institutions which hold recognised memberships and qualifications. Search their database online to determine eligibility.  

Exemption Process

  • Register as a CIMA student on the CIMA website so your exemption can be processed electronically
  • Search for your qualification on their database
  • Send copies of your highest level of professional qualification and transcripts. Your documents must include details of subjects and the marks obtained. Send to 
  • You will receive a confirmation within 72 hours that your documents are being processed. Allow between 10 - 20 working days.  
  • Receive an email confirming exemptions from CIMA exams
  • Register as a CIMA student at the appropriate level and start your studies!

All documents must be sent in English. Should your qualifications and transcripts be in another language, you need to have them translated by a person who is fluent in the language and in English.  

Documents that cannot be understood will not be considered for the exemption process. 

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CIMA Exemptions - FAQS

What will it cost to get a CIMA exemption?

CIMA is the only professional body in the world that doesn’t charge students for exemptions. Their objective is to produce qualified management accountants quickly since they are sought after by global companies. 

For how long are exemptions valid?

CIMA exemptions are valid for 5 years. Before applying for exemptions, students should be sure they will write the remaining exams within that timeframe. 

You must apply for an exemption before you sit for exams. If you write an exam and fail, you cannot apply for an exemption from that exam. 

I obtained my degree 10 years ago. Can I get an exemption?

Unfortunately, degrees completed more than 7 years ago do not qualify for exemptions.

I cannot find my qualification on the CIMA database. What now?

You may still be eligible for exemptions. The CIMA team will consider the qualification based on the documents you submit. Some higher education certificates may be exemption-eligible in the UK.

Do you really want CIMA exemptions?

This may sound incredibly strange since this entire article is about getting exemptions, but we have to advise students appropriately. The later stages of the CIMA qualification are built on knowledge acquired in the earlier stages.  

It is advisable that you first investigate the material covered at each level. Students have found it more difficult to pass higher levels if the material they covered was not sufficient to prepare them for the management and strategic level of the qualification.

Here at VIVA, we provide support services for current and prospective students. Be sure of what you need before you begin. Contact one of our experts today, who will be happy to discuss how your current studies will aid you to pass the CIMA higher level exams.

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