How to Become a CIMA World Prizewinner: Interview with VIVA Student Craig Rimmer

VIVA Founder and CEO Thomas Newman sits down with CIMA World Prizewinner and VIVA All Access student Craig Rimmer, to discuss the highs and lows of his CIMA journey.

Craig Rimmer started studying with VIVA at the Management level in 2021, when he discovered VIVA's All Access pass. Six months and seven exams later, he had passed his final SCS exam! And then the cherry on top - he was awarded No.1 in the World in the Feb22 SCS!

We sat down with Craig to discuss his amazing CIMA journey, some lessons he learned along the way, and how he overcame obstacles to realise such a great achievement.

Hi Craig. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us! So it was the SCS you won the world prize for, in the February2022 window, is that right?

It was ya! I'm not yet technically qualified, as I still have to do my PER. But ya, finished my exams as of February 2022.  

And what about the speed of your progression through the CIMA qualification? How long did it take you to get through the entire thing?

So I did the AAT qualification from 2013 to 2015, and then I focused more on my career, if you like. So I didn't really start my CIMA qualification until around 2019, I think, or maybe late 2018. I passed a few exams first time, and then I got to F2, which historically has quite a low pass rate. And I failed F2 twice in that period. Around the same time, I didn't know if I wanted to stay in finance or not. So I actually moved away from finance in my career and switched to data analysis. And I just left my studies until picking it up again last August, around August 2021.

So then after I came back I passed the exams quite quickly. I passed F2 on the 20th of September I think, P2 on the 21st of October, I did the Management Case Study in November 2021, the Frinta one. And then in January, because I had VIVA’s All Access, I sat E3, F3 and P3 within about three weeks -  the 16th, 21st and 30th of January, something like that. Because I wanted to pass them all before the cut-off date for the February 2022 Strategic Case Study exam, which was about the 6th of February. And then I sat the Strategic Case Study at the end of February. So it went quite quickly in the end! For the last seven exams, I think I completed them in six months. So it was quite quick in the end, once I picked it back up.

Well, that's fast! That's actually very similar to my own situation when I was studying CIMA seven or eight years ago. I went very slowly through the first kind of level or level and a half. And then I also failed F2, the only exam I failed while I was doing CIMA. And then just really put the head down and got through I think it was about seven exams in six months. So remarkably similar! Now I did not win an SCS prize! (laughs) So that's fantastic.

So you said you were working in finance,right? And then you switched over to Data Analysis?

Yeah, that was about… it’s so easy to lose track of time with this pandemic! I think around March 2020, it was actually around the start of the pandemic. And I just  thought, “I might have to go back to this qualification.” So once I did decide to go back into finance, I thought, "let's just get this qualification done once and for all!"

Okay, data analysis, that's a super interesting area. Did you find that anything you did during your  CIMA studies or even AAT helped you to transition into data analysis?

Yeah, I mean, they're not massively dissimilar. There's a big overlap I think between data and finance. Finance professionals will get involved with data, and data professionals will probably get involved in finance. However the data that I was dealing with when I left that job, there wasn't really much finance stuff in it at all. It was a complete departure. When I came back to finance in the middle of last year, I thought that in maybe 5 to 10 years’ time I’ll get back into data analysis more. In the long-term I’m thinking of maybe doing like a degree in data science. Possibly not yet, I'll let the dust settle for a year or two after getting my CIMA qualification. But I do see myself getting into that again. Because I do enjoy it, and working in finance you do work a lot with data anyway. And that's the part of the role I enjoy the most, rather than some of the more technical aspects. But I don't know, that's still a bit up in the air. I think just working in finance helped me work on data in general. I don't know if the academic qualifications help that much.

But the big thing that I learned from F2 was that it was all about question practice. I wasn't doing half as much question practice as I should have been doing. I was watching all the lectures,reading all the textbooks, but particularly with that F pillar and F2, you do need to do the question practice.

 So the data analysis you’re doing currently is not related to financial data, it’s related to something else, is it?

No, so I actually went back into finance the middle of last year. So now I’m a financial accountant in the social housing sector. And so I am back in finance now, I thought I’d leave the data analysis stuff. It was a bit of a two-year departure if you like. 

Did you find that AAT gave you a good grounding before you went into CIMA?

100%, yeah. So I studied AAT in a bricks-and-mortar college if you like, with tutors, and that gave me a really good foundation. Both for my career and then coming into CIMA. When you're at the Operational level, even though you might not get exemptions with the AAT qualification you have, there's definitely still some overlap. There are a lot of things you cover that you've already covered in AAT. So I think it stands you in good stead, yeah.

Did you get any exemptions when you entered CIMA?

I did but it was only a handful. I can't remember, I think I came in at the Operational level because I sat the Operational Case Study. And I only marginally passed with 82. Whereas on the two (MCS and SCS) where I studied with VIVA I think I got 116 and 118. So I was very close to not passing the OCS! I definitely came in at the Operational level. I think I may only have had to sit two of the Objective Test exams at that level, but I can't remember to be honest off the top of my head! It was a few years ago…

1. Dealing with disappointments

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 I actually think that, you know, getting exemptions, obviously it can be very appealing. But we actually find that those students who take a lot of exemptions often struggle later on, as they just don't have that foundation in the more technical elements.

So okay, what about disappointments along the way? I mean, you mentioned failing F2, was that the only one you failed?

It was yeah. Out of AAT and CIMA, it was the only one I failed. But I failed it three times! I failed it twice in 2019. And then when I came back into finance last year, I sat it in August, and I failed it again. And I got a lot closer that time. But I was using Open Tuition at that point, you know, the free resource. And it is good, you know, it got me through a lot of early exams. But because they use like a lot of volunteers as lecturers, if the syllabus changes I find the content becomes a bit disjointed. Because they use old lectures and they stitch little parts together. So there were certain bits that weren’t given much time in the lectures, which actually, I got about four or five questions on in the Objective Test exam itself. So I thought, “this might be a bigger part of the syllabus than I thought based on the Open Tuition lessons”.

I had a bit of money in my pocket last year, so I thought I might as well throw some money at it. And that's when I started getting the Kaplan textbooks. And then I passed F2 in September, I think I got about 118 or so, so I passed comfortably, finished with 20 minutes to spare I think. I had time to go back and check my answers. Whereas the first three times I sat that paper it was a real struggle. I felt lost and I was struggling with time and Iwas like, “I do not know this content”.

But the big thing that I learned from F2 was that it was all about question practice. I wasn't doing half as much question practice as I should have been doing. I was watching all the lectures, reading all the textbooks, but particularly with that F pillar and F2, you do need to do the question practice.

So then I just started getting the Kaplan textbooks and the VIVA lectures and stuff. And the good thing about VIVA is you have like 500 questions per Objective Test subject. I had the All Access, so when it got to the Strategic level, I used them extensively. You know, I must have done about three or four hundred questions out of each of those banks per subject. And that I think is what I really learned with F2. All the other exams were quite easy after that. With F2 I think a lot of people fall at that hurdle, at F2 and P2. People always say they're the two hardest exams.

I think it's like a bit of survivorship bias. The people who get past that are more likely to pass all the Strategic stuff anyway, because probably a lot of people get disheartened at that level and drop off. I think there’s just a bit of a jump there. And to be honest going back to what you said about exemptions, I sat probably F1 and P1 in 2018/2019, and then took two years out. When I came back, I had to go back to F1 a bit and P1 and start going over some of that content. It was like I needed to get a grounding again. And that's what you're saying, you know, if you skip past those subjects or get exemptions, sometimes you haven't got that foundation.

But yeah, I've just done a lot of question practice and then I thought it was a bit of a doddle to be honest, the F2 paper. But my approach was all wrong for the first three sittings.

You mentioned in your email about self-doubt. The third time I failed that last summer, I was thinking “I just don't thinkI can get this qualification at all, I think this is just beyond me, I’m just I'm just not grasping the content”. But then I discovered the importance of consistent and extensive question practice. So yeah, that'd be my advice, and I've got some other study tips too. But the big advice for the Objective Test would just be do a lot of question practice. And you can of course refer to your textbook. I mean, I read all my textbooks front to back, but a bit more casually. I wasn't stressing over every single line. I just very much got a feel for the material, and then the question practice was key really.

Maybe not as much for the Case Study. I didn't do much question practice for the case studies; there I was more doing a lot of pre-seen analysis. All the VIVA lectures were really helpful with that, the Top 10 Key Issues, Industry Analysis and stuff like that, even the recaps of E3, P3, F3, you have these little recap videos, the key topics, I hammered them a lot more. I didn't do much question practice at the case study level, but I knew the pre-seen document inside-out. So my approach for the Objective Test would be very different to a Case Study, really. If that makes sense!

It makes absolute sense, Craig, because the message we always tried to get across to students with the objective tests is, the very common mistake people make earlier on in the qualification, as you mentioned, is to lean too heavily on the text. Kaplan does a great textbook, BPP does great texts as well, there's nothing wrong with a textbook. But they're better used as a reference guide. And when you get stuck, there is a more accessible way, I think, to get at the theory, which is viewing video lessons. You can view videos by any number of tuition providers. And that's an easier way into the topic. It's kind of a quick overview. And then it's question practice, question practice, question practice, and if you hit a roadblock, go to the text then and check the reference in the textbook. You don't want to get too bogged down in the textbook.

Totally, ya, 100%.

The other thing that probably benefited me I think was the speed at which I went through the qualification, particularly for the Case Study, that was a massive benefit really. Because a lot of people will sit, like, the Management level Objective Tests over a year, you know. They'll do for instance F2 in February, P2 in May, or whatever. Then by the time it comes to the Case Study, they probably have to go back to the theory of the Objective Tests to refresh their memory.

2. Case Study learning technique

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But It’s interesting the different approaches students can have. Whereas with the Objective Tests, it was very much question-led for you, for the Case Study – and you're a World prizewinner – you didn't go crazy with mock exams, for example!? So did you take any mock exams? Did you do them under timed conditions for the case study, or not?

No, I didn't do any! For all my self-study, I never did any timed mock exams. So for the Objective Tests, I did a lot of question practice, but it wasn't under timed exam conditions. For the case study – I suppose I do have an advantage. And I know this came up a lot in the Q&A sessions in VIVA/Laura's SCS course - some people don't type that quickly and really struggle with time. And it's good to practice there. Frankly, I'm quite a quick typist. So that wasn't really too much of a concern for me.

But I think what I did was, VIVA has five mock exams, I read the questions and then bullet-pointed some answers, thatsort of thing. But I didn't do all five, maybe only one or two completely.

But you know, I remember from Ben Wilson’s VIVA session for the MCS, someone on a Q&A asked, “what's the difference between the Operational Case Study and the Management Case Study?” And he said "well, the Operational Case Study isn't really a case study. At that level, it's more just testing your knowledge of the modules." And I got 82 on that. And my approach for that one, before I learnt from VIVA and stuff, was just to read through all the textbooks again. So I went through E1, F1,P1, didn't really look at the pre-seen document. I think I read through it once. That was it, you know, and I only barely passed.

Whereas with the Management and Strategic Case Studies, I was thinking about it on the train to work or on lunch, you know,thinking “that's an interesting point about Frinta, they're in a semi-strong economy…”, or whatever it was. And then I'd make notes and bullet points off of it, so it was just brainstorming quite a lot.

And to be honest, I found the Case Study really, really interesting. It usually is quite interesting. If you're really interested in the sort of business, particularly with computer games for example (for the SCS Feb22 case), because I grew up with computer games and stuff. I think Laura said she's a computer game fan as well. I found it really interesting. A lot of the real world examples sort of resonated with me… Frinta not so much! But I still found it really interesting just to brainstorm about ideas, potential questions that could come up. So going into the exam, I just felt like I knew the businesses inside-out.

The other thing that probably benefited me I think was the speed at which I went through the qualification, particularly for the Case Study, that was a massive benefit really. Because a lot of people will sit, like, the Management level Objective Tests over a year, you know. They'll do for instance F2 in February, P2 in May, or whatever. Then by the time it comes to the Case Study, they probably have to go back to the theory of the Objective Tests to refresh their memory.

Because of the recency with which I had sat P2 and F2, with the Management Case Study, and again at the Strategic level, I sort of knew a lot of the theory. There aren't really any hiding places for the Case Study. You do have to know all the theory quite well. You don't have to know or be able to remember every fine detail, but you do need to have a good awareness of all areas of the Objective Test subjects’ syllabuses.

And I think that really stood me in good stead, having just sat through the three papers three or four weeks earlier. So you know, I was dreaming about CIMA at that point! Having nightmares, everything! So for me, it was all about the pre-seen and I think really throwing yourself into the scenario, brainstorming as much as I could… but I know question practice does work for other people with the Case Studies! 

You know, I think that the main thing forthe study process is to not be passive. You can get into the habit of kindof fooling yourself into thinking that you're really studying the material bycasually viewing lectures, or skimming through a text and highlighting stuff,etc. Whereas, if you take a mock exam, you have to think, it's activelearning. It sounds very much like what you were doing, as you said, you wereon the train, you were thinking through the real-world industry, that was akind of a self-testing method that you were employing. So, you know, youweren't actually writing the answers out, but you were thinking through them.And that's the important thing is that it's an active study approach.

Yeah, that makes sense, I agree. I didn't actually think of it like that.

It's great advice you just gave there on the benefit of speedily going through the Objective Tests, as in taking them in quick succession. You're completely right. It's something that people probably don't talk about a lot. That recency is a big advantage when you get to the Case Study, because you're drawing on all three Objective Tests from that particular level.

I think that’s where the VIVA All Access offer was really appealing, because I bought that in the beginning of November, and I thought, “well I can use all the Strategic Objective Test questions in January/February once I've passed the Management Case Study”. So if you’re going through the syllabus at a quick pace, like I was in the end, I thought the VIVA option was ideal for that, the All Access. The amount of content on there is pretty unbelievable, you know. I only wish I had discovered it two or three years earlier, because I think it would have been massively helpful.

Maybe if you’re going through it like one module per quarter, you might not see as much value for money from the All Access. But certainly if you’re going through CIMA at a reasonable pace, I think VIVA’s All Access is excellent value for money.

3. Things you wish you had known when you started CIMA

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Great to hear! So what problems did you encounter – outside of that one F2 paper that you were getting stuck with – some problems you encountered during the CIMA qualification that you wish you had known about before?

Well, I suppose the question practice thing on Objective Tests, I wish I had known that straight away. Because to be honest, if I had passed those exams back in 2019, I would have stuck it out and Iwouldn't have left finance. And I might have passed two years ago or whatever.

And I suppose the other thing, which I'm learning now, is to do my PER as I go. Because it is just a bit of an administrative headache doing it now at the end. I need to get around to finishing it.

But I thought the rest of the qualification, the CIMA syllabus, was really well thought out. I like the way it's very flexible with the computer exams, you can just sit them when you want. Those three I sat in January I sat them all at the weekend, a Saturday, a Sunday, and a Saturday, I think. Having that flexibility, getting your results straightaway, all of that was really good.

And I didn't have any other issues really, I think it's a really good qualification. I think the content is really good as well. I know you mentioned work-life-study balance. That was hard sometimes, because we had a kid who was born on the 25th of September a few days after I passed F2. So then I was facing into sitting P2, the two case studies, and three Strategic Objective Test papers with a new-born! So that was hard. You're burning the candle at both ends. A lot of late nights, early mornings, on the commute on the train listening to things or streaming some VIVA videos on my phone, making notes, brainstorming about the case study etc.

So it was sometimes hard to find the time. I think that's the biggest hurdle for anyone doing the professional qualification is just finding the time, especially if you're working full-time, like I was as well, trying to juggle that, running the household etc. I kept telling myself, “when the kid gets older, it's going to be harder and harder. Once he's two, four or five, he's running around, he's bumping into things”. I thought, “the time to do it is now, while he’s less mobile”. You don't have to keep as much of an eye on him. So that was the big challenge, I suppose, towards the end.

And then I saw the first half of Ben and VIVA’s Frinta lecture I think on YouTube, and it was quite impressive. So that's how I ended up with VIVA. But having someone go through it, pick it apart, annotating the pre-seen saying, “well, this could lead into E3; you might mention this; they could ask you about this, this, and this”, just making those points, it really got my cogs turning!

Yes indeed. And did you have structured study slots? It kind of sounds like it was a case of any opportunity you got, you stuck the headphones in and tried to get in 30 minutes or an hour or whatever…!

Ya, pretty much the latter! You can'treally plan around a baby too much. Luckily, in general he has been quite regular with his sleeps and stuff, but sometimes he’ll be up unexpectedly. You can't really plan "seven till nine" for study for example. So it was a case of opportunism.

The other thing I learned was – you probably stumbled across this lecture yourself, I think it was from somewhere like Harvard - they're talking about how after you've been studying for like half an hour to an hour, you need to step away from the computer or book, take regular breaks. Because the longer you study the less you take in – I remember this curve was drawn on the graph, retention against time, and you see it taper off the longer you study.

So I was watching that once, when I was procrastinating naturally! And I applied that to my study so that I was only studying in short bursts. Once I got to 45 minutes or an hour, I would be tempted to think “I could carry on here, the baby's asleep!”. But I knew I wouldn't take in as much. So I was trying to be as efficient as I could with my study time.

That's very clever. Better to do it in short bursts and often. Rather than putting it all off until the weekend and thinking you have to sit through a six hour or seven hour study session! You take about half as much time if you spread it out over the week. Right?

Exactly. I'm pretty useless after like an hour and a half, two hours. So as you say, you can deceive yourself into thinking “I'm reading this textbook, therefore I’m learning”. Yet your interest and attention just isn't there. It's just human nature. Take regular breaks to keep yourself focused and motivated.

4. Other study tips

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 Yeah. So we kind of covered the mock paper question, objective tests. For you the case study was not so much about mock exam writing but more being very much engaged in active learning. So that's great. Any other useful study tips that you would pass on to other CIMA students?

Not really, I mean, if we're talking specifically about the case study, then it would be what we've already spoken about. Make sure you know the theory well. There aren't really any hiding places. You could get lucky with a scenario. But you need to really be going into the exam having an awareness of all topics – maybe not in forensic detail, but a solid overview. And honestly, if I had been analysing the pre-seen independently, I wouldn't have picked up on 80% of the points that Ben (Wilson) or Laura (Winkworth) picked up on in VIVA’s lessons.

And so having a good tutor go through the actual pre-seen with you is very helpful. Once I got to the Management Case Study, I thought because I was on the Kaplan books up until that point, that I’d buy the Kaplan Management Case Study textbook. But it's just very generic. It's not tailored to that specific pre-seen scenario. So I thought, “this is pretty useless”. And I was quite close to getting the Astranti one.

And then I saw the first half of Ben and VIVA’s Frinta lecture I think on YouTube, and it was quite impressive. So that's how I ended up with VIVA. But having someone go through it, pick it apart, annotating the pre-seen saying, “well, this could lead into E3; you might mention this; they could ask you about this, this, and this”, just making those points, it really got my cogs turning!

And then as you say, independently going away, actively thinking about it for yourself.

The Q&A sessions with VIVA were good aswell. I didn't join them live, but I watched them retrospectively. It’s very rare when when you're self-studying that you get to interact with other students, unless you go to a classroom. Unless you seek them out on a forum or a discussion board. But watching the Q&A sessions, listening to all the students’ perspectives on the case was helpful. They’d ask “do you think they might ask about this?” And Laura would say, “well, yeah, that's a good question, it's very likely to come up. And if it did, I'd structure my answer like X, Y, Z”. And that just helped me think a little bit as well.

You've just got to know the pre-seen inside-out really.

And then I think it all just comes down to exam day. Like in the MCS exam, I didn't bring in any real world examples. And even though Ben told me five or ten times to do that in the lectures – and he gave me a lot of real world examples to use like the Amazon hive, or whatever. But on the exam day, all of that just went out the window. And then obviously, naturally, a couple of days later, I was thinking, “why didn't I mention this and that!?”

But in the SCS, I was a lot more composed. So I thought, “you know what, I'll bring this in about eSports being in the 2028 Olympics – I remember Laura mentioning that – or Rockstar Games and the crunch on developers”, bringing all that in.

So you’ve just got to stay composed, and keep your method throughout the exam. I spent… I think VIVA recommends that you spend like 10 minutes at the start of every question just mapping out your answer on the notepad/whiteboard they give you. How I'm going to structure it and stuff like that. And I stuck to that method a lot more on the Strategic paper.

That was just what I wanted to come to was your approach on the day of the exam itself. For the Case Study, you had your method down by the time of the SCS, clearly. So you're planning, reading over the question carefully for the first 10 minutes, right? You're plotting out the main points you would address on the notepad/whiteboard…?

Yeah, I'd do it on the whiteboard they give you on the exam screen and then I'd brainstorm. And even if I thought I got all my main points jotted down in, say, five minutes, I'd still sit there and think for another five to be sure. As I said before, I had the advantage of being quite a quick typist. Not everyone will have the luxury and it might make more sense for them, if they can plan well within 5 minutes, to crack on with the actual answer writing. But I knew I could sort of type all of what I wanted even if I went a bit over time on the planning.

And so yeah, I’d really brainstorm for like a good 10 minutes at the start. And I think Laura said, for every point you want to make, try and bring in the pre-seen or the unseen, and then some technical knowledge and perhaps a real world example. So once I've got my points plotted out, I'd sort of pull out a few lines on each point, asking myself “can I bring in some technical knowledge, can I bring in some pre-seen stuff?”, etc, to really flesh the points out.

But I was strict on the SCS with that planning approach, “I'm gonna give myself 10 minutes at the start of each question”. Whereas on the Management one – and I think this might come down to a lack of mock paper practice – I was sort of like, “right, I've got the main points identified, I’ll crack on with the answer writing now”, you know. And if I had sat there for another five minutes, maybe I would have found it easier. Because once you're typing, you can get easily distracted as you make your points and go off on tangents. So you need to really spend that first 10 minutes I think getting your key points down and knowing exactly how each point will be elaborated.

Great advice. The temptation is just to get in there and start typing from second one, right!? Without thinking things through carefully enough…

I mean, I think if you're not a quick typist, as you say, you can probably make your notes on the actual answer screen, in the answer box, rather than on the notepad, so you have something there in the answer box anyway. And then you can get to immediately filling it out.

VIVA's Case Study content is just invaluable! The pre-seen analysis, the industry analysis, the key issues… I think for the MCS, 4 of the key issues identified in the lecture actually came up in the exam! And in the SCS with Laura, at least 3 of them did! That was really good - signposting me towards a deeper dive than I probably would have done on my own.

I just want to go back to a point you were making there earlier. The temptation at the start of a qualification like CIMA,to self-study. To think you've kind of got it all down, and you're smart enough to get through the thing quickly on your own. And it's almost a point of pride, right?... And I realise that being in the tuition business myself, I might be a bit biased! But we do strongly recommend that students join a class or join a learning community, just to make the whole thing more enjoyable and to make the whole thing quicker. To draw on the expertise of other people, because no one knows it all.

For example, our tutors are generally fantastic, you've experienced it with Laura on the SCS and Ben for the MCS. But you know, even they don't know it all! They have a lot of experience teaching this particular subject. But there is a team behind them at VIVA who prepares a lot of the content for them to use. And then in the classes themselves, there are other students commenting in the Q&A, making points that the tutor never thought of, making points that other students never thought of. So you're drawing on not just the knowledge of the tutor, you're drawing on the knowledge of the team behind the tutor, you're drawing on the knowledge of other students. There’s a kind of knowledge ecosystem that emerges!

And, you know, as you say, it gets the ideas flowing in your own head, you get engaged and thinking for yourself, right?

Yeah, I mean, when I was studying AAT before at a brick-and-mortar college, I found that really easy those papers, because it was very structured by the experts, as you say. And I had people around me who were raising points, which might have been a bit extra-curricular or tangential at times, but sometimes that helps you reinforce your learning, doesn't it?

I mean, to be honest, the only reason I opted for self-study at the start was financial. In the sense that I thought each module would cost like £500-£600, because at that point, I didn't know companies like VIVA or Astranti really existed. I thought it was just Kaplan or maybe BPP, where you'd have to go to a classroom.

So I used Open Tuition for my first few exams but to be honest, I found it a bit of a miserable experience. And nothing to do with Open Tuition itself, because I think the content they provide for free is really good. But just being sat in your room or whatever, all by yourself, reading your notes, it's a bit lonely really. Being part of a community I think does help.

The VIVA Q&A sessions I watched them in the last couple of days before the case study exams, I thought they were really useful. To hear other students' ideas and stuff. But yeah, being sat in a room by yourself reading the textbooks is not that glamorous. So yeah, group learning I would certainly advocate for. And I can't remember but does VIVA have a discussion forum or something like that…?

5. Your career goals

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It actually is something we've started doing,Craig, precisely because we recognise the limitations of just a big library of videos or a big library of questions. You certainly need those things too, but it's just one element of the online learning experience. We want to go beyond that, to get students generating their own ideas and to have a place where they can go and talk to other students, talk to the tutors. So we've launched the VIVA community in the last couple of months and it's something we’ll be pushing more and more.

Okay, so the I think we've touched on a lot of the key questions. Your career trajectory: We've kind of talked about it a little bit up until now. What are your goals, your career goals from now on?

Right now I’m working for a social housingprovider called the The Regenda Group – they do a lot of not-for-profit and charity work and activities too – but primarily in the social housing/construction sector. It’s a sector I’ve worked in before. I want to stay in social housing because I feel like it’s easier to get out of bed in the morning if you feel like you’re really helping people, making a difference in the community, so I was delighted to get back into social housing in January.

And to be honest, I know this is a bit of a cop-out! I was asked it in an interview recently, but I don’t really have like a three-year or a five-year plan as such. You know, I did have one back in maybe 2018. But if you’d said to me back then I’d have never believed that I’d soon be leaving finance, that there’d be a pandemic, that I’d be working from home and I’d have left that company etc… So you can’t really plan that far ahead.

Now, we’ve got an 8-month-old son, and we’ve got another baby on the way, I just want to focus on my family, but also just be happy in the job that I do. I’ve been on a salary that I’d say most recently qualified accountants would be on. And I was able to invest a bit of money into my education, purchasing the VIVA courses and Kaplan textbooks. But the money in general isn’t really that important to me.

I might do a degree in the next few years, maybe in data science – not something directly related to finance as such. Maybe go on to do a masters thereafter… because I do advocate for lifelong learning. But in terms of career, as long as there’s decent money coming in and I like what I do and I’m working with good people – which I do – then I’m not really hell-bent on promotions or stuff like that at the minute! I’m just content.

6. What you liked/disliked about VIVA


That’s wonderful. It sounds like you’re prioritising the things that really give meaning to you...

So coming back then to VIVA for a minute. What did you like about VIVA? Was there anything you disliked? Are there things you’d like to see us do differently?

So, to be honest, I thought it was first-rate in every way. In terms of the content you provide for the money I paid, it suited me down to the ground. For the pace I was studying at in the second half of my journey, the All Access pass was ideal. The amount of practice questions you get for the Objective Tests is worth the money alone. You probably get 500 questions on average per Objective Test subject! And they’ll stand you in really good stead.

The Case Study content is just invaluable! The pre-seen analysis, the industry analysis, the key issues… I think for the MCS, 4 of the key issues identified in the lecture actually came up in the exam! And in the SCS with Laura, at least 3 of them did! That was really good - signposting me towards a deeper dive than I probably would have done on my own.

I got the feeling with VIVA that these are people - the tutors, the team behind them - who have been through more case studies than they’ve had hot dinners! It is still subjective in places but there is a general framework that they know from experience to apply to each new case. So the content, in terms of value for money was amazing.

In terms of the website, I thought it was easy enough to use, once you bought your content it was easy enough to find and well laid out. I can’t remember if there was an app for VIVA… I think I maybe looked for an app but couldn’t find one. So maybe that would be something worth considering. But I was fine because I’ve got a home office setup, so that was where I’d study at night. If I was in bed say watching the lectures on an iPad or whatever I might not be as engaged… and I mean you can still access it on those devices via the web browser anyway. But that’s probably the only thing I’d say, maybe that you consider developing an app. But in terms of content and the website I thought VIVA was first-rate.

As I was saying on LinkedIn or to one of your colleagues, I just wish I had discovered VIVA two or three years earlier to be honest!

 We do hear that repeatedly! We’re working hard on getting the name out there earlier. Because we’re smaller than some of the established providers, it’s a bit more challenging. But that’s where YouTube and a blog like the one we have comes in. So eventually you can start popping up on or near the first page of Google and people get familiar with the brand name earlier.

So any final words of advice for CIMA students, say, taking their Case Study exams?

Nothing really beyond what I already said. As I said, I actually enjoyed the Case Studies. And I found taking that interest in the wider industry and the pre-seen company really helped. So just try to enjoy the process of learning about a new industry or new company. It can help with motivation.

And VIVA helped with that process. So I just want to thank VIVA for everything, for all your help in getting me through it. And thanks for taking the time to talk to me today, it really means a lot!

 Well the credit all goes to you Craig, because you had to do all the work, the heavy lifting! It’s a fantastic achievement, finishing No. 1 in the World for the SCS. Well done to you.

Ya, I still can’t really get over it, to be honest. I know you had Autumn [Bressington] as well in November 2021, she also got the highest mark in the world in the SCS! To be honest, I didn’t even know CIMA did those sorts of prizes! I must have been quite close on the MCS I did through VIVA as well, because I think I got 116 and 118 in the MCS/SCS, I can’t remember which way around it was… but I must have been just a few marks off on the MCS prize!... So ya, thanks very much again.

 It's wonderful. And I have to say, when Laura mentioned your good news, the team was ecstatic. Because it’s a big thing to us when we see this kind of thing, because the team that was behind the content at VIVA they don’t get a lot of exposure in the same way the tutor does. So it’s a big thing for them.

Ya, keep up the good work! I mean, a lot of the VIVA team reached out to me to congratulate me when I found out I was a CIMA world prizewinner, so I could tell that you were all really happy. It’s a nice achievement for VIVA as well – long may it continue!

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