The CIMA professional qualification allows accounting students and professionals multiple entry points into CIMA membership, making it a highly adaptable option for prospective management accountants.
One such option is the CIMA gateway exam, an accelerated entry route to receive the designation CGMA. Also known as the Management Case Study (MCS) exam for those who have completed the Certificate and Operational levels, it allows you to gain exemption for 11 modules and start at Management level exams.
If you pass this exam, you will be awarded the CIMA advanced diploma, and you will be able to progress to the Strategic level through this accelerated route.
If this sounds like an appealing option to you, keep reading while we lay out everything you need to know to get through the Management Case Study exam, from entry requirements to successful completion.
What is the CIMA Gateway Exam?
It is a special gateway for those with previous finance and accounting qualifications and relevant work experience.
The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants allows such candidates to progress straight to the Management level without completing the Certificate level and Diploma (i.e. Operational) level of the CIMA qualification.
How do I know if I qualify for this exam?
Eligible individuals must register as students on the CIMA website and pay the CIMA student registration fee.
If your previous studies qualify for exemption, you will be asked to provide documentation to prove your qualification. These can include:
- Complete transcripts for all degree or qualification levels
- A graduation certificate from the university or a completion letter from a professional body
As a member of the International Federation of Accountants and Examining body, AICPA and ACCA members are among those who qualify for the professional gateway. The Master’s Gateway is for those with a Master’s in Accounting or an MBA.
There are no fees for exemptions to be processed, but you will have to pay registration and exam fees.
Here is an idea of what fees* you will pay:
- Once off registration fee: GBP 95
- Registration for management accountant’s gateway: GBP 95
- Registration for CIMA professional gateway exam: GBP 425
- Registration for CIMA master’s gateway exam: GBP 425
- Case study exam fee: GBP 178
*accurate as of time of publication, July 2023
When can the Gateway exam be taken?
Case study exams are written during four windows a year (February, May, August and November). It is a 3 hour computer based exam. The format is a case study of a real-life scenario and assesses knowledge and competencies covered on the management level of the CIMA qualification.
You can expect syllabus topics such as Advanced Financial Reporting (F2) and Advanced Management Accounting (P2), and Managing Performance (E2). This exam simulates the role of a finance manager.
How Hard is the CIMA Gateway Route?
As discussed, very good knowledge of the topics covered in P2, E2 and F2 should be established before attempting this exam. Some Gateway students will have the relevant knowledge based on their work experience and previous qualifications. However, it will be worth reviewing the topics covered in these subjects to ensure that you have all the requisite, up-to-date knowledge. Successfully passing will depend on your preparation, including completing mock exams and using other resources (such as the award-winning MCS resources provided by VIVA here).
What is the pass rate for the CIMA?
Compared with other case study exams, the CIMA gateway exam yields the lowest pass rate. Here are some figures obtained from the CIMA website for the 2022 period.
You can see from this it's a bit trickier than most professional students like to think. However, with the right preparation, you can achieve a good pass rate for the CIMA gateway exam. The trick is to not underestimate what it takes to pass from the beginning and you should do just fine.
What to expect
A month to a month-and-a-half before the exam window, CIMA releases what they call ‘pre-seen materials’. This is a document of around 30 pages that presents detailed information on a fictitious (but realistic) company from almost any sector/industry.
They will tell you all about this company, the industry, what it sells and how it does its costing - as well as provide you with some details of the financials.
You will have to analyse the information because the Gateway exam questions will be based on this company. Your knowledge of E2, P2 and F2 will be combined with your analysis and understanding of the pre-seen materials, and then you will have to provide management accounting advice in the role of a finance manager on the day of the exam.
CIMA tries to make the case study as close to a real-life scenario as possible instead of having a purely theoretical exam. This is what enables students to apply previous qualifications and work experience successfully at this level.
CIMA practice platform
CIMA provides all registered students with an online practice platform, even if you are a gateway student who hasn't taken the traditional route.
This practice platform allows students to view possible scenarios, work on time management, study out the format of case studies, and practice using multiple windows such as the word processor window, spreadsheet window and the scratchpad.
Will I Need Help, or Can I Just Go it Alone?
The honest answer is: It would be better if you get help from people who know what it takes to get through this exam.
VIVA has the resources that you need to get through the Gateway exam on your first try. Our experienced tutors understand what it's like to write this exam and can help you thoroughly prepare. We can also provide you with model answers and recommendations on how best to close any skills gaps you have before sitting for the exam.
Our MCS/Gateway courses include E2, P2 and F2 review lessons as standard, to help familiarise you with the key topics covered in those subjects.
Our free specialist video, How to Pass the CIMA Gateway/Management Case Study Exam, is presented by VIVA founder and CEO Thomas Newman, and deals with every aspect of the Gateway exam, starting with the pre-seen materials. This is a good starting point.
In that video, you’ll get an idea of the quality materials and mock exams that VIVA offers its students. If you sign up for our All Access Pass, you’ll have all the resources, support and confidence you need to move swiftly onto the Strategic level and complete your CIMA qualification.
With multiple entry points into the CIMA qualification, there is no reason for professionals with previous qualifications to start from scratch.
The gateway exam is the perfect way for you to enter at the management level and be fast-tracked to the designation, CGMA and CIMA membership.
Make sure you take the preparation seriously and use an award-winning education provider like Viva Tuition to increase your chances of passing this exam with one attempt.
We hope that the information we have provided in this article has been useful as a short guide to the CIMA Gateway Exam. See you online for our next CIMA Gateway/MCS course! And if not, we wish you every success on your CIMA journey.