How Hard is CIMA? Uncovering the Difficulty of the Qualification

In this article, you'll discover the structure of the CIMA qualification and explore the factors that affect its difficulty and the strategies you can use to succeed.

Are you ready to conquer the world of management accounting? The CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) qualification might be the perfect challenge for you. 

With its unique focus on business skills, management, and strategy, CIMA can open doors to exciting career opportunities and personal growth. In this article, you'll discover the structure of the CIMA qualification and explore "how hard is CIMA" by examining the factors that affect its difficulty and the strategies you can use to succeed. Let's dive in!

Short Summary

  • CIMA provides a comprehensive pathway to becoming a chartered accountant, with prior experience and exemptions providing a head start.
  • Striking the right balance between work, life and studying is key to success in CIMA exams - build your support network & utilise effective study techniques.
  • Unlock real-world applications & career prospects by achieving Chartered Accountant status through CIMA!

Understanding CIMA's Structure

CIMA is a highly respected professional qualification in accounting and finance, offering a unique focus on management accounting. Consisting of 16 exams, the qualification is divided into four levels: Certificate, Operational, Management, and Strategic.

This structured approach ensures that you gain a solid foundation in management accounting before progressing to more advanced topics, ultimately leading to chartered accountant status.

Certificate Level

The Certificate Level serves as the perfect starting point, especially for those with non-accounting backgrounds. Over the course of one year, students gain foundational knowledge of the CIMA syllabus, allowing them to tackle more advanced levels with confidence.

Although the pass rate for each module at this level is relatively high, the most demanding exam is BA4, which focuses on Fundamentals of Ethics, Corporate Governance, and Business Law.

Professional Qualification Levels

The Professional Qualification Levels of CIMA - Operational, Management, and Strategic - dive deeper into the world of management accounting, challenging you to master increasingly complex topics. In order to progress through these levels, you must first complete the preceding level, ensuring you have a strong foundation before tackling new challenges.

For example, you'll need to excel in the Management Case Study, which heavily features topics from the CIMA F2 course, such as understanding the impacts of decisions on financial statements and the organisation as a whole.

Factors Affecting CIMA's Difficulty

Various factors, such as prior experience, exemptions, work-life balance, and commitment, can influence the difficulty of CIMA exams.

With the right approach, you can make CIMA easier to understand and increase your chances of success.

Prior Experience and Exemptions

Having prior experience in finance and accounting or similar fields can make the material more familiar and easier to grasp. However, even if you have exemptions due to previous qualifications, revising earlier material thoroughly is essential to build a strong foundation.

Being a practicing accountant may give you an advantage, but it could also require adjusting your approach, making the CIMA exams more challenging. Starting from the beginning, even with exemptions, can give you a stronger foundation in both content and exam technique, ultimately making the professional level easier to ace.

Balancing Work, Life, and Study

Effectively managing your time and prioritising tasks can help you balance work, life, and study, ultimately maximising your potential to succeed in CIMA exams. To manage your time and prioritise tasks effectively, set achievable goals, break tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks, and schedule regular breaks.

Additionally, seeking support from peers or a study group can help keep you motivated and accountable, as well as provide valuable feedback and advice.

Commitment and Time Management

Commitment and time management are crucial for success in CIMA exams, as they ensure that you dedicate enough time to your studies and stay on track with your goals. On average, completing the CIMA exams takes between two and six years, giving you ample time to master the skills needed to succeed.

With dedication and the right strategies, you can conquer the CIMA exams and unlock a world of exciting career opportunities.

Related: CIMA Pass Rates

Strategies for Success

To excel in CIMA exams, it's vital to form a strong support network, utilise effective study techniques, and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

These strategies will not only help you tackle the challenges of CIMA but also ensure long-term success and personal growth.

Building a Strong Support Network

Surrounding yourself with people looking to complete the CIMA qualification in a similar time frame is key to success. Joining online or in-person groups can help you stay motivated and get advice from others who understand the pressures you're under.

When you register with VIVA, you gain access to our Circle community - a closely moderated forum with tutor input and mutual support from students in similar situations. 

It's also essential to communicate with friends and family about the challenges you face, asking for their support and understanding. Building relationships with other students, either in real life or online, can help create a strong support network that keeps you motivated and accountable throughout your CIMA journey.

Effective Study Techniques

To pass the CIMA qualification quickly, minimise your reliance on textbooks. Instead, focus on alternative study methods like watching video lectures and practicing exam-style questions. While textbooks are still necessary for reference, quickly skim them to grasp the main ideas and then prioritize supplementary materials and active learning. 

Avoid the common mistake of focusing mainly on reading and leaving question practice until the last minute. Allocate at least 50% of your study time to questions, integrating them from the beginning. This approach allows you to pinpoint areas of weakness, indicating where further reading and study are needed.

Related: 6 Tips to Pass CIMA Fast

Maintaining Work-Life Balance

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential to avoid burnout while studying for CIMA. Creating a study schedule with realistic targets and breaks can help you stay organised and motivated, ensuring you have enough time to relax and recharge.

It's important to recognise your limitations and be honest about how much time you can realistically dedicate to studying. By finding the right balance between work, life, and study, you'll be better equipped to tackle the challenges of CIMA and achieve success.

Comparing CIMA with Other Accounting Qualifications

CIMA and other accounting qualifications, such as ACCA, have similar structures but different focus and difficulty levels.

Let's explore the key differences between these qualifications and the unique benefits that CIMA offers.

Focus and Scope

CIMA stands out from other accounting qualifications due to its unique focus on business skills, management, and strategy. This strategic and business-oriented approach equips you with the skills necessary to become a successful business leader in the accounting field.

In contrast, qualifications like ACCA emphasise technical financial accounting knowledge, making them more suited for individuals looking to specialise in specific areas of accounting.

Related: How Hard is ACCA - A Realistic Guide to the Qualification

Difficulty Level

CIMA is generally considered more challenging than other accounting qualifications due to its focus on developing business skills, management, and strategy. However, with the right strategies and support, you can make CIMA easier and maximise your chances of success.

So why not challenge yourself and take on the rewarding difficulty of the CIMA qualification?

Real-World Applications and Career Prospects

Achieving the CIMA qualification can lead to a wide range of careers within accounting and finance, with a focus on management accounting and less on auditing.

Let's explore the various job opportunities and the benefits of becoming a chartered accountant.

Chartered Accountant Status

As a CIMA-qualified professional, you'll become part of a prestigious group of chartered accountants. This status, separate from other accounting qualifications, demonstrates your expertise in management accounting and business strategy, making you highly sought-after by employers in the accounting and finance industries.

Job Opportunities

CIMA opens up a world of exciting opportunities in finance, business, and management. As a CIMA-qualified professional, you can pursue various roles, such as Chief Financial Officer, Finance Manager, Management Consultant, Management Accountant, Finance Business Partner, Financial Accountant, Business Analyst, and Accounts Assistant.

To excel in these roles, you'll need strong analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills, which the CIMA qualification will help you develop. So, are you ready to embark on a rewarding journey toward a successful career in accounting and finance?


In conclusion, the CIMA qualification offers a unique focus on business skills, management, and strategy, setting it apart from other accounting qualifications. With the right strategies, commitment, and support network, you can conquer the challenges of CIMA and unlock a world of exciting career opportunities.

So, are you ready to take on the rewarding journey of becoming a CIMA-qualified professional and make your mark in the world of accounting and finance? The sky's the limit!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the CIMA exam really hard?

CIMA can definitely be a challenge, especially if you have limited experience in accounting and have to manage studies alongside your job. And so, it’s difficult to measure CIMA exam difficulty as each person’s circumstances differ and will impact how challenging it will be.

The workload can be intimidating; however, with dedication and hard work, you can make your way through the course successfully. If you commit yourself to the program, you can conquer CIMA!

Is CIMA harder than ACCA?

Comparing ACCA and CIMA: it's difficult to decide which one is harder as both will require significant dedication and effort. However, whichever path you choose to pursue, you can be sure that success will depend on hard work.

Which CIMA exam is the hardest?

It's clear that P2 is the toughest CIMA exam, with 60% of CIMA students not making it through. With its complex material and intensive study process, P2 is definitely the most challenging exam to pass. 

Can I finish CIMA in 2 years?

Although it is possible to complete CIMA in two years, it would require a lot of dedication and hard work. Your journey with CIMA should be planned carefully and realistically so that you can successfully finish all the exams in time and achieve the best possible results.

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