Cima Operational Case Study Pre Seen Material Feb 2016

The sheer volume of your CIMA case study pre seen material can be a daunting propsect.  After all, there’s usually pages and pages of information ranging from:

  • Background and history of the company
  • Main people working at the business
  • Where the company is right now
  • Financial statements
  • Management accounting information
  • Industry outlook
  • And much more

Even a quick glance through can be overwhelming.  Especially if you’re not really sure what it all means ahead of your exam

But, you can’t just ignore it and put it to one side.

Because a thorough pre seen analysis is a key part of your exam prep. If you want to pass that is!  But don’t  just take my word for it.  Here’s what recent examiners’ reports have said…

OCS Examiner:

“Preparation on the pre-seen material is vital. Ensure that you are very familiar with the business, especially the financial information, before the exam as this will help you with applying your knowledge and will save you time. Similarly, an awareness of the industry that the business is in will help you to think of the wider issues that might impact on decisions that you could be asked to comment on.”

MCS Examiner:

“The pre-seen material provided some background to the business and the industry. It was expected that candidates would study the pre-seen material closely enough to be familiar with the business…The focus when reading the pre-seen material should not be to memorise its content, but to imagine what the business actually does”

SCS Examiner:

Candidates should read the pre-seen material carefully and come into the examination understanding the industry and the company which will be the focus of the exam.  This will help candidates formulate good answers that relate to the questions”

When I was coaching CIMA students for the old T4 case study exam, I used to describe the task of pre seen analysis as a lot like digging for gold.

You see, when panning for gold, you go to a river and dig up a number of rocks and sand with a little pan. You then have to shake the contents around until you end up with these little golden flakes.  Or if you’re lucky, some gold nuggets!

So how does this apply to CIMA case study pre seen analysis?

Well, the case study material is like the river.  All you can see is what’s on the surface. And you can’t immediately tell which spot is likely to produce something valuable.

So you have to go through a filtering process.

You go through the text, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, using your theoretical models learned in the objective papers.   And at the end of the process you’ll hope to have discovered the most valuable pieces of information that can help you in your exam.  These are your golden nuggets.

And as with panning for gold, you can end up wasting hours of time and effort for no reward.  That’s if you don’t have good technique. Or know what a real golden nugget looks like.

This is particularly important given that you need to spend the majority of your preparation time on attempting mock exams under timed conditions and getting expert feedback. Because without this you will have no idea whether your exam technique will be sufficient to pass the real thing.

Okay, so what do you need to achieve by the end of your pre seen analysis? Well here are the main things you want to uncover:

  1. A clear picture of what the organisation does and the industry it operates in
  2. How the business is performing and where it is heading
  3. A list of the key issues facing the organisation that are likely to come up in your exam
  4. How to deal with such issues to get a clear pass
  5. The key topics from the E, P and F pillar papers that are relevant to this particular case
  6. Your own financial interpreation of the figures provided

Now there are two ways you can go about getting these results:

1)    The hard way – analysing the pre seen on your own

2)    The easier way – analysing the pre seen using expert help

And I’m going to walk you through both methods right now…

The Hard Way to Analyse Your CIMA Case Study Pre Seen

The reason why I call this the hard way is because:

  • it takes longer
  • it’s more boring
  • it can be frustrating if you’re not sure what information is important and what isn’t
  • there’s more risk of providing exam answers without the necessary context to pass

However, if you want to analyse the CIMA case study pre seen on your own, here are the steps I recommend:

Step 1: Obtain the Relevant CIMA Case Study Pre Seen Material

You can do this by:

  • Scrolling down to your paper on my blog here: OCS, MCS, SCS
  • Or logging into CIMA Connect and:
    • Select the ‘subject’ drop down menu and choose your level and exam.
    • Scroll down to the ‘recommended resources’- section
    • Download the relevant CIMA case study pre seen and print it out.

Step 2: Give Yourself An Overview

Skim through the material quickly a couple of times to get a feel for what the case is about.

Step 3: Detailed Pre Seen Analysis

Go through the case in detail – line by line, paragraph by paragraph, taking notes.

This should involve:

  • An E paper (strategic) review  – Going through the pre seen, a paragraph at a time, using the main strategic models such as PEST analysis, Porter’s 5 forces, SWOT,  governance and ethics,  stakeholder analysis etc
  • An F paper review – Using your knowledge from the F paper on your level, analyse the financial statements using key ratios to fully understand the current financial position and performance of the organisation. You’ll also want to consider the company’s cash situation.
  • A P paper review – Using your knowledge from the P paper on your level, analyse the risks facing the organisation and how they could be managed.

Top Tip: Ideally at this stage you should already be revising the key models from each of the objective test papers on your level.  You can do that here:

Marks for technical skills are available for all papers and examiners have often noted a lack of technical knowledge in exam scripts:

it is evident that F1 knowledge of financial reporting standards is often poor” (May 2017 OCS exam)

The fact that the case study does not require calculations should not be misunderstood as a suggestion that it does not test technical accounting techniques. Candidates should be familiar with all aspects of all three subjects covered in the case study” (May 2017 MCS exam)

It is very clear that candidates are becoming weaker at technical accounting questions” (Feb 2017 SCS exam)

So when you’ve reached the end of your thorough analysis of the pre-seen, work through each model in turn.  And apply it in full to the pre seen where possible. Your goal is to have applied each of the main models on each of the three subject papers to the pre seen.

Step 4: List Your Top Ten Issues (Most Likely to be Examined)

At this stage you want to identify the main information needs, problems faced, and opportunities that are hinted at in the case. As these areas may well come up on your exam day

Examples could be:

  • The use of variance analysis in the Operational Case Study
  • The need for raising new funds for the Management Case Study
  • A possible serious threat to the business that would need to be resolved for the Strategic Case Study

In the exam, you will be given further information on those issues in the unseen material. You would then be required to use your technical, business, people and leadership skills to deal with the specific situation.

So create a top 10 list of the most likely issues that you think will come up in the exam.   And for each of them do the following:

  • Note down which theories are most likely to be relevant to that issue
  • Note down possible ways for dealing with the issue (sensible options)
  • Note down which of those options you are most likely to recommend

This initial analysis and thinking will help you be better prepared for the real exam if the issues arise.

Step 5: Regular Review

Now and again read over a clean copy of the full pre seen.   A fresh read through could result in identifying something new that you feel is important.  You should also keep revising your technical knowledge and consider whether your top 10 issues list needs amending.

Top tip: Keep up to date with what’s going on in the business news.  It may just be the case that a key issue you have identified earlier will be played out in the real world.   And so you’ll be able to use how they dealt with it (successfully or otherwise) to demonstrate your business skills in your exam.  But only if relevant to the question set.

Okay, so that’s the hard way.  But what about making your life easier?

The Easier Way to Analyse Your CIMA Case Study Pre Seen

This is the method that I chose when I passed my final CIMA case study exam. And so I know that it works!

Step 1: Obtain the Relevant CIMA Case Study Pre Seen Material

As above.

Step 2: Detailed Pre Seen Analysis

Watch Astranti’s CIMA case study pre seen analysis videos for:

Here the hard work of deciphering what information is relevant, and what is not,  is done for you.   Plus you are guided through which theory is most applicable to the case.  A real time saver!

You’ll get expert pointers as to the most likely issues to come up in the exam (which is not easy to discover on your own).   And you’ll learn how to deal with them to score well, should they come up.

You can pause the videos, rewind them, and take notes as you go along. Meaning that the whole process of dealing with the minefield that is the CIMA case study pre seen is much more manageable.

You also get a blank pro forma of key theoretical models to fill in as you go through the videos.   This will give you a far better understanding of the case.

Watch the samples below of what you’ll get in the videos, for yourself…

Pre-seen Analysis Preview:

Strategic Analysis Preview:

Top 10 Issues Preview:

Industry Analysis Preview:


As a bonus Astranti also give you a free strategic analysis document to add to the knowledge already built up from the videos.

Top tip: An important area often overlooked by students is that of Ethics.  Across all levels there is a 70% chance of an ethical issue coming up. And time and again examiners reports say things like:

“Ethics was one poor area” (Feb 2017 SCS exam)

This reflects a general and surprising trend of candidates performing badly at questions relating to ethical issues. Numerous candidates started discussing the ethical principles and gave up after two or three.” (May 2017 MCS)

Luckily Astranti also provide exam focused ethics packs to refresh your knowledge and learn how to apply it in your exam.

Step 3:  One Page Summary

Summarise all the key information you have been given into a one page summary.  Test yourself on this frequently.   You want to retain the key information from the pre seen in your head so that you can quickly apply the relevant context to your answers in your exam.

Top tip: All too often the case study examiners’- report of students struggling to apply their knowledge to a variety of situations and failing to address the questions set.  Don’t be one of them!

And that’s it!!!


Okay, so there are the two main methods for analysing your CIMA case study pre seen case material.  Whichever method you choose, please, please make sure you make the msot of it. Your study time will most likely be scarce and remember: you need to spend as much preparation time as possible on mock exams.

Ultimately the exam is focused on the unseen material you’re given on the day, but you’ll be expected to know the business well, as if you were an employee.  After all, you don’t want to produce a script where the examiner says:  “what was lacking was basic common sense in relation to the case study” (May 2017 MCS exam).

And so having this business context to hand – under the time pressure of the exam –  is highly valuable if you want to score well.

Thank you for your time, and look out for more case study tutorials on my blog coming your way soon



P.S. Here’s why I recommend using Astranti’s video analysis:

  1. Expert tips from one of the world’s most experienced CIMA case study tutors.
  2. Save time and effort when analysing the pre seen.
  3. More engagement – through watching videos rather than just reading through pages of information
  4. Save money – The same sort of tuition would cost you way more at the big colleges.
  5. 24 carat golden nuggets! – You are given the 10 most likely issues to come up in the exam and commentary on how to approach them.  Their success rate at these predictions is amazing!

Image: Woodleywonderworks via Flickr

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The seemingly never-ending cycle of CIMA Case Study exams is beginning to rear it’s head again with the pre-seen materials for the operational level case study being released next week.

So for students who are sitting case study exams in November, here is a run down of the best resources and what you should be doing if you want to pass the CIMA case study first time.

Post Exam Kits – August 2016

Learning from previous exam sittings is a great way to boost your chances of passing the CIMA November case study sittings. CIMA have provided all students with the previous exam papers for the August case study exams with the suggested answers – for ALL FIVE variants as well as other

The home page for the post exam kits (links below) will direct you to the;

  • Pre-seen material
  • Case study exam paper
  • Suggested answers
  • Examiners report
  • Exam marking guidance

TIP: As of writing, the examiners report and exam marking guidance for the August sitting are not yet available but if you search for the May 2016 case study post exam kits you will find these documents for that sitting there.

The examiners report – a topic I have written about here – is another brilliant free document provided by CIMA that will give you tips and advice on how to pass CIMA case study exams first time.

OCS: August 2016 post-exam kit

MCS: August 2016 post-exam kit

SCS: August 2016 post-exam kit

Case Study Master Classes

For those students who are self studying for the case study exams, the master classes hosted by Astranti offer TWO full days of live classes with one of their CIMA tutors – and it’s a great way to supplement your existing study resources.

The first one is based around the keys to passing the case study exam, while the second master class is scheduled a week before the actual exam date and packs in a whole day revision on the case study scenario and the likely questions that could crop up.

The video below is an example of the master class that was held regarding the SparkSpace scenario with the August 2016 MCS exam.

The dates of the master classes for the November case study exams are listed below:

OCS Master Classes: 8 October 2016 and 5 November 2016

MCS Master Classes: 15 October 2016 and 12 November 2016

SCS Master Classes: 22 October 2016 and 19 November 2016

Case Study: Full Course Contents

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive set of case study materials then Astranti also offer a full course with a PASS Guarantee – I passed the OCS last year by using their case study materials and they are really developing a strong reputation with their resources.

  • Study Text 1 – focuses on what you need to pass the case study.
  • Study Text 2 – summaries the key areas from the whole syllabus.
  • Pre-Seen Analysis – tutors detailed analysis of the pre-seen material.
  • Strategic Analysis – uses models & key theories and how to apply them in the exam.
  • Top 10 Issues – identifies the top 10 issues that could come up on exam day.
  • Industry Analysis – gives you the current industry trends for your case study.
  • Masterclass 1 – live session with tutor on keys to pass the case study exam.
  • Masterclass 2 – live session with tutor on revision of case study scenario.
  • 3 Mock Exams – with detailed feedback based on the actual case study scenario.
  • Personal Advice and Guidance – via private forums and progress reviews.
  • Ethics Pack – often overlooked but this comprehensive guide covers Ethics and how to apply it to the CIMA case studies.

You can find full details of their courses for all levels below and dates when the pre-seen material is released for the November 2016 exams:

OCS Course – November 2016 – the pre-seen material for the OCS exam is released on the week commencing 19th September 2016.

MCS Course – November 2016 – the pre-seen material for the MCS exam is released on the week commencing 26th September 2016.

SCS Course – November 2016 – the pre-seen material for the SCS exam is released on the week commencing 3rd October 2016.

Acorn Financial Tutors

Another learning provider who offer CIMA case study materials are Acorn and readers of this website can claim an extra 10% discount off ALL CIMA materials.

Their latest list of CIMA case study materials can be found here.

Currently (offer ends 30 September 2016), the hard copy of their full Integrated Case Study kit has been reduced to £240 from £360 – so you can order it for £216 by emailing your request to thecimastudent[at]gmail[dot]com

Study Support: Whats App Groups

Whats App groups for student discussion around the upcoming case study exams also seems to be an idea that is growing with every passing exam sitting.

I was part of one for the OCS last year and, if you don’t need getting lots of updates and messages on Whats App (you can always turn notifications off), I found it very interesting to hear other students points of views about the pre-seen material and how they were handling their revision. Not everything was helpful but from the point of view of a student who is self studying it’s very much worth joining.

The sign up for the Whats App groups can be found on the CIMA connect site – here is the link for the OCS November 2016 group. I couldn’t find anything for the MCS or SCS on the CIMA connect site but I am sure they will be created shortly – or you could even start one yourself.

Good Luck and Happy Studying!


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