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Understanding CIMA - What is it and why to do it?

understanding cima Dec 28, 2021


The world is changing rapidly and so is the professional scape.  Making a career today is a lot more confusing than it used to be, with infinite options. Accounting and Finance once directly implied doing Chartered Accountancy. But today, things have changed. With a wide plethora of unique traits (like, course content, delivery methods, market value, etc), each course offers something of its own. Out of the many alternatives available, one amazing course to consider and evaluate is CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants). On successful completion of the course, you get offered the CGMA (Chartered Global Management Accountant) designation. Which is globally recognized and valued.





CIMA is a four-level course with a total of 16 exams. The certificate level is exempted for anyone with a bachelor’s degree and the real magic begins from the operational level. You’ll find plenty of information about what each subject is about and what content it entails. But I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the fundamental idea of CIMA.

Recall your days at school. You had mathematics as a subject every year, but the difficulty level kept rising every year with the addition of new concepts. CIMA follows a very similar structure. It has three vertical pillars split into 4 horizontal levels. Each pillar is 1 key area of Business and Finance. So the core subject remains the same throughout the pillar, but the difficulty keeps increasing. One of the pillars is the Enterprise Pillar, where you learn about enterprise management. In the operational level, you learn about it from an operational perspective. In the management level, you learn about it from a middle management perspective. And finally in the strategic level, you learn about it from a strategic perspective. A similar system exists with the Performance Pillar (that talks about improving business performance through diligent management accounting) and the Finance Pillar (Which talks about finance, accounts and taxation). Imagine yourself to be an employee in a company. In your career journey, you’ll probably begin as an operational employee, where your technical skills matter the most. Then, you’ll progress on to a middle management position, wherein along with your technical skills, you must understand people management. And finally, you’ll reach a strategic position where you need to keep your technical and people skills in mind to drive the business ahead and lead the company through carefully planned strategies. The CIMA course takes you through the various stages of this professional journey. Also, not only do you give objective exams about the subjects, you also have to give a subjective case study at every level, wherein you are given a hypothetical company with real life business challenges. You are given ample pre-reads about this company and your role/ designation in this company. In the exam, you need to solve problems on the spot using all your knowledge of each subject and the pre-read material provided to you. Your answers in the case studies are evaluated according to your position (operational, management, or strategic) in the organization.


After completing all the exams, every candidate has to apply for PER (Practical Experience Requirement). You must have 36 months of work experience to apply for PER. Your PER too is evaluated just like a case study and has the same 4 parameters for you to clear.

Looking at the weightage of each component in the various levels of evaluation, you must have understood that CIMA emphasizes not only on academic rigor but also on the correct soft skills that one needs to have to be a successful professional. This is one aspect of the course which is unique to CIMA.

CIMA’s entire focus is on building an employable individual who is ready to take on challenges. CIMA candidates are taught analyzing situations and solving problems from the very beginning. Also, the syllabus is extremely adaptive and up-to-date. It recognizes the growing importance of IT in businesses today and hence focuses a lot on technological-awareness. Not just during the course but even besides that, the CIMA institute keeps holding various webinars and events to keep its students and members up to date with the industry.  


The CIMA exams are all on demand. They are conducted at Person Vue centers which are abundantly available in major cities. Generally speaking, getting a slot for an exam is not a problem. This helps you pace the course as per your comfort and requirement. The exams are of two kinds. Objective tests and Case studies. You can take the objective test in your level in any order you like. The case study of any level can only be scheduled after you have already cleared all the objective exams of that particular level. Even the case study is conducted four times a year (February, May, August and November), with a window of 5-6 days. Hence you can choose your exam date as per your comfort. Hence, the course provides a lot of flexibility. Also, CIMA offers various exam exemptions based on your other qualifications. These can be explored as per personal requirements.

As you clear each level, you get a certificate, as is depicted in the image above. After the strategic level, you have to submit the PER. Your work experience can be both pre or post qualification. You get 4 years after clearing the SCS to submit 3 years of work experience.



All in all, CIMA is a very well-rounded course with caters to a lot of modern day needs that we have as professionals. It focuses not just on academics but on practicality. The institute, exams structures and guidelines are all very student friendly and are built on a strong ethical foundation. It is definitely worth taking a look at and considering if you want something out-of-the-box from your course. 


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