CIMA Student Series: E3 Strategic Management

In the following interview, Ana Ilie discusses her experiences with studying CIMA so far, as well as her thoughts ahead of sitting her E3 exam.

Ana Ilie is a CIMA student at the Strategic Level. She is a finance professional from Romania with a passion for financial strategy. She works for a Romanian group of companies and represents the main shareholder of these companies, with investments in areas like real estate, property and facility management, IT, production, logistical services, and even not-for-profit organisations. She holds a professional MBA in Project and Process Management from the University of Vienna, Austria. For 11 years in her youth until she had her first child, Ana was a leader volunteer in the National Organisation of Romanian Scouts and that was the starting point for the financial coordination of projects.

She has three children aged between 2 and 8 years old and a "very supportive husband". Ana's LinkedIn profile can be found here.

In the following interview, Ana discusses her experiences with studying CIMA so far, as well as her thoughts ahead of sitting her E3 exam...

When will you take the E3 exam? Is it your first attempt?

My plan is to take the E3 exam at the end of March 2019. It is my first attempt and I hope it will be the only one.

How long have you already spent preparing for the E3 paper so far and how much more time do you expect to spend preparing?

I started to study in January 2019, and I try to study for 1-2 hours per day during the week from Monday to Friday. Considering that I have a family with 3 small children and a full-time job, I must say that I am willing to take a little bit longer to finish my CIMA journey. For studying, I am trying to use all the spare time that I have, but it should not affect the time with my family. For that reason, I study in the morning before my children wake up, or later at night after they fall asleep.

I keep weekends free for family, as my first priority is my family.

Are you taking a course, or did you opt for self-study?

Although I consider a course would be a much easier approach and a faster approach to study, I opt for self-study, due to my chaotic schedule.

Currently, I am using VIVA’s E3 mock tests and some Astranti materials. For Case Study exams I also used video lectures from VIVA, which were very well explained and easy to listen in the car.

What (if anything), are you finding especially difficult with E3 in relation to your preparation? e.g. balancing personal life with study, balancing work with study, the material was dull etc?

For me it is very difficult to remember names, and in this subject, there are a lot of them. I am not really a fan of simply memorizing theories and for that reason I am using the model of the case study and applying the theories in my business life. I am lucky to work with different companies in different domains.

Do you prefer the Financial and Performance pillar subjects i.e. more calculation-based subjects?

Honestly, I don’t think I prefer one over another. Above all, I am interested in how I can apply everything that I learn in my day to day job. Of course, I want to be good with calculations, but I also want to be very good in interpretation of the calculations.

What (if anything), have you found especially difficult with other objective tests you have done in the past in relation to the exam day? e.g. time management, nerves etc?

Usually, on the day of the exam I go in very relaxed. Having experience only with the MCS though, I am still confident that the objective test is manageable. For sure, time management is an issue for students and for me also, but good organization and applying the tips and tricks I read about for these exams or others’ points of view help greatly to overcome that.

Is there an area of the E3 syllabus that you like more than others?


Is there an area of the E3 syllabus that you like less than others?

I don’t really like the Information Strategy of the Strategic Implementation section. I found it dull.

Do you have any tips for other students about to sit the E3 exam?

Understand the theory, do plenty of mocks, be confident and optimistic.

Have you used VIVA’s materials? If so, how did you find the materials?

Yes, I used VIVA for my Management Case Study exam, and I am currently using VIVA’s materials for E3. For sure, I will continue to use VIVA’s materials because they are very well structured, easy to follow and relevant and I plan to sit F3 and P3 after my E3 exam.

Do you have any final comments/recommendations/feelings/thoughts about your E3 experience?

E3 is an advanced level paper and requires mature handling and preparation, and it is part of my journey to a CGMA designation. Even if there is a chance that I will fail at the first attempt, I will not lose hope and move forward. I am reading about others’ experiences with CIMA objective tests and they all suggest the same steps: read the theory, understand it, apply the concepts in real-life business situations, and do lots of mock exams.

If you want to learn more from our CIMA Student Series about E3 - Strategic Management, click here.

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