Craig Slade is a regional commercial finance manager for a private healthcare company (see Linkedin profile here), which includes lots of travelling during the week! Craig is currently studying the strategic level of CIMA. He lives with his partner and her little boy who’s 11 years old. Craig's partner is also studying for a degree whilst they both also work full time.
Craig: "It’s probably worth mentioning that I started CIMA almost 8 years ago. I found the operational and management levels really difficult and even took a bit of time out to focus on a career opportunity but also to assess my approach to the qualification. It’s really been the past 18 months since I started home studying, working at my own pace and using VIVA Tuition's material that I’ve really flown through my last few exams and I’m hoping to fully complete CIMA by August 2019. Thanks for everything you offer - it really does make a difference."
In this interview, Craig offers some great advice to prospective students of CIMA's E2 paper. Make sure to check out our other E2 interview with student Gilbert Marcus.
When did you take the E2 Exam?
How long did you spend preparing for the E2 paper?
I aim to study for up to 100 hours per exam. Weekdays I limit my study time to 3 hours per day while weekends I’ll do up to 6 hours per day. It usually takes me 4 weeks to get exam ready.
Did you take a course or did you opt for self-study?
I self-study. I previously did classroom based lectures but they are long days and burn me out. I prefer to opt for self-study so I can pick up a topic or two at a time and work through them at my own pace. It’s also really helpful having the videos to go back to if I’m struggling with a certain topic.
What (if anything), did you find especially difficult with E2 in relation to your exam preparation? E.g. balancing personal life with study, balancing work with study, the material was dull? etc.
Personally, I find balancing work/personal and study time very difficult. Having a young family with a partner who is also studying, there are days when it’s just not possible to study. I would say don’t ‘beat yourself up’ when you can’t study, sometimes life does get in the way. Make sure you give yourself enough time to complete the study plan you’ve set and include a few days off (contingency planning)!
What (if anything), did you find especially difficult with E2 in relation to the exam day? E.g. time management, nerves etc.?
Time management is always difficult with CIMA exams but the ‘E’ topics (E1, E2, E3) are especially difficult I find, due to the length of some of the questions. Reading and processing what the question is asking can take longer than you would like. I tend to skim-read these questions, attempt and flag them. I’ll then come back to them at the end to review if I have time.
I used to get nervous when I was about to go in for exams but now I remind myself that if it doesn’t go the way I’d hoped, I will at least get a good feel for how far off I am and what extra work I need to do. For example, I recently sat E3 (Strategic Management). I failed my first attempt by scoring 95 and whilst it was disappointing I knew that a bit of hard work over the weekend and I’d be ready to try again the following week. I did and I passed.
Was there an area of the E2 syllabus that you liked more than others?
I really enjoyed the section of managing relationships. As I’m progressing through my career I’m finding professional relationships and managing individual personalities very interesting. E2 was very helpful in this regard.
Was there an area of the E2 syllabus that you liked less than others?
I wouldn’t say I didn’t enjoy any of the topics, but the section around managing change through projects was probably the most laborious but at 30% of the syllabus it’s important to persevere with it.
Do you have any tips for other students about to sit E2?
Some of you will be practicing management accountants whilst others will be in different job roles. Whatever you do I would say try and remove yourself from real life and imagine if you were in a different company or perhaps see yourself in one of your manager’s roles…. how would the topics that are covered affect you in that role? Or if you were in that role, how would you manage certain scenarios?
Have you used VIVA’s study materials? If so, how did you find the materials?
I always use VIVA’s online questions, as I find them very easy to access and varied. I used them for P2 (Advanced Management Accounting) some time back and they were very clear and helped me pass that exam which I had struggled with for some time.
Do you have any final comments/ recommendations/ feelings/ thoughts about your E2 experiences?
E2 is a challenging paper but with the right preparation it's one which you should have confidence going into feeling as if you will pass. Take your time in the exam and make sure you get the easy marks available - this is what will get you a pass mark. Don’t be put off by the lack of ‘maths’ type questions. Instead see it as a welcome relief from the P and F topics. The information this topic challenges you with is all really helpful stuff as you progress through your career, so enjoy taking in new material. It will also help you when you come to sit the case study at the end of the management level, so remember to keep a hold of your revision cards for when you get to that stage.