Friday, 18 December 2015

Tips for Effective Industry Research

Today I came across an old article from one of our many esteemed affiliates, Matthew Evans. The article is centred around 5 tips for the best approach to take when analysing the case study industry.

Although the article relates specifically to the old T4 exam, the principles remain the same for the MCS. The industry analysis is an important part of the case studies now, with recent examiner's reports referring directly to the proper use of industry analysis within the exams. Although the company is at the centre of the case study, with a little bit of industry information provided alongside this, the examiners have highlighted the importance of not simply reciting the information found in the case study. 

Friday, 11 December 2015

Ethical Thinking - Corporate Social Responsibility

In recent years organisations have put tremendous amounts of time, money and effort into ensuring that their corporate image and reputations are better than they have ever been! 

However, as onlookers it can be hard to distinguish between those who do this simply to appear as socially responsible as possible to potential investors, customers or the general public, and between those who genuinely believe that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an important, ethical and moral part of their organisational culture, and something that they truly believe in.

"Corporate social responsibility is about how the company acts towards the community and environment in which it operates. CSR focuses on ethical business management through ways that improve and protect the environment and social relations and supply a positive public image."

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

2015 - The Final Push!

For many of us the last 11 months have brought with them a whole plethora of highs, lows, triumphs and obstacles. Where some have seen the year as  roaring success, others may be counting down the days until it is over and a new page can be written.

It is to those people that I would like to target now, the ones who perhaps haven't achieved what they wanted to achieve since the clock ticked over to introduce 2015!

Whether you are trying to finish your objective test that has been haunting you since February, or whether you are waiting for the turnaround in the new year and the latest case study exam, I have one tip for you...

Why not finish with a bang?! 

Friday, 13 November 2015

The Problem with Self-Actualisation

Motivation Theory is something that, by now, we are all familiar with, and perhaps one of the most recognisable theories to date, often being the first one mentioned when the concept of motivational theory is raised, is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

To recap the theory briefly, Abraham Maslow suggested that there are five tiers of motivation; physiological, safety, belonging, esteem and self-actualisation, with each one superseding the previous factor, until you reach self-actualisation, where all of an individual’s motivational needs are met and hence, this is when they have reached the top and have become the “best that they can be”.

Monday, 2 November 2015

How to plan your revision (around your life!)

Revision is inherently not meant to be enjoyable. At the same time, we all need to do it at some point or another and we can’t put it off for ever.
With the latest set of case study exams just around the corner for operational, management and strategic case study students, it is currently crunch time when it comes to swotting up on everything you need to know!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Top tips from the CIMA Case Study markers!

Top tips from the CIMA Case Study markers!

At the recent CIMA conference there were a number of presentations by CIMA markers and case study writers. 

They gave invaluable insights into what they are looking for in the exams – and in particular they highlighted the areas where many students fall short.

This is excellent feedback for students as it 'comes straight from the horses mouth'! They have produced and marked many exams so know exactly what they are talking about!

There feedback reinforces the fact that many students are still getting the basics wrong and how with good preparation and planning many more students could be achieving passes.

Here are their top 10 tips to help you succeed:

1. Plan your answers – don’t launch straight into your answer, think about the key points you want to raise and how your going to structure it before you begin writing.

CIMA News - what you need to know! Introduction to scaled scoring for the OTs + personal calculators permitted

Hi Everyone,

A couple of interesting points were raised at the CIMA conference that we thought we would share with you.

Firstly, CIMA announced the introduction of the 'scaled score' for the Objective Test exams.

From November 1st 2015, Objective Test results will include:
  1. Grade (pass or fail)
  2. Sectional Performance Feedback
  3. Scaled Score
Why scaled scores?

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Management Results Overview 2015

A number of interesting facts and statistics were presented at the 2015 CIMA conference last week.

The conference was attended by key people from CIMA and tuition providers including members of the Astranti team.

We would like to share with you some of the key points raised at the conference.
In this blog I am going to summarise the conference content that focused on the Management level. This included a review on the E2, P2, F2 and Management Case Study exams. It also covered what went well for students on the previous sittings and key areas that need to be improved for the future.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Mock Exams – Key points from our August student survey

A lot of you will be starting off your revision for the latest set of exams, but perhaps you may be a bit unsure of how to progress and get the most out of your time leading up to the big day. To give you some inspiration, I have assembled a few results from our recent Mock Exam student survey that may be of some interest to you if you are stuck for ideas.

In a recent student survey from August, we asked our students what they felt were the most important factors in helping them pass their exams. One of the common themes among our survey results was the inclusion of mock exams.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Eat, Drink, (Study), Sleep, Repeat!

We all have our own little ways when it comes to exam preparation, and for some of us these techniques have proven to be successful over and over again. Whether that involves religiously scrolling through mountains and mountains of revision notes right up until the exam itself, or whether it’s making sure that we have our lucky exam socks on that haven’t been washed since the miracle success in the chemistry exam of ’98!

However, for the vast amount of us, we still haven’t quite worked out a routine which works best for us individually when it comes to exam preparation. We may have all of the knowledge around the theory that we need, but by the time the exam comes around the corner, and the questions are in front of us, our minds just go blank…

For this reason, I’ve compiled a short set of tips for people who may be unsure of how to physically prepare during the last few days leading up to the exam.

Number 1: Brain Food.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Throughput Accounting

There are many challenging P2 topics that you will need to understand in order to successfully pass your P2  exam. For example, Throughput Accounting is a subject which many students find difficult to grasp at first!

At Astranti we aim to make difficult subjects easy to understand. All of our materials are designed to ensure that our students are given in-depth knowledge of all the key subjects, but in a format that allows you to learn easily and effectively.

As an example we'd like to share with you a new and updated section of our P2 Study Text which explains Throughput Accounting in a straight forward and clear way. 

Throughput Accounting 

Introducing Throughput Accounting

Friday, 26 June 2015

CIMA official pass rates - P2 has the lowest pass rates at Management level

Hi everyone,

As you are probably aware, yesterday CIMA published the pass rates for the Objective Test exams. These statistics are based on students who have attempted the exams between January and May 2015. 

Friday, 12 June 2015

The secret to passing the CIMA OT exams revealed

Hi Everyone,
Thanks to those of you that completed our survey to find out - What does it take to pass an Objective Test exam?
So far we've had a great response with over 60 students taking part!
We've received responses from students who've passed and failed exams across all CIMA subjects, This means we have good range on which to base our findings.
These findings should definitely help you in your upcoming exams and will surely be beneficial to future students.
Here is an overview of the key points:
The secret to passing is...
Putting in the hours!
We were able to break down the exam pass rate by hours of study and the results were clear.
Hours of studyNumber of PassesNumber of Fails
Less than 404041
  • Students that studied for between 40-60 hours had a pass rate* of 69%
  • Students that studied for less than 40 hours had a pass rate of 49%
If you want to increase your chances of success, you should aim to study for 4-6 weeks and put in 10+ hours each week.
*Pass rate= number of passes/total number of attempts
The toughest exam is...
  • Based on the survey, students are failing P3 and F3 on more than one occasion before they pass.
  • So far P3 had the highest failure rate in our survey proving to be the toughest exam.
  • Now that CIMA have changed the pass mark, I would hope that the pass rate in these exams falls into line with the others!
What materials should I be using?
  • Study Texts, Mock Exams and Revision Questions were the most popular study materials used by students, with a majority of respondents finding them 'useful' or 'extremely useful'.
  • Everybody (that's 100%!) who had passed an exam had used Study Texts as part of their revision and 95% had completed Mock Exams.
  • 80% of those people who have used Mock Exams had completed 3 or more.
  • More than three quarters of students who had passed exams had used Revision/Practice Questions.
  • A combination of study texts, revision questions and mock exams was seen by students as the most useful revision materials.
  • By contrast, the use of these materials was much lower for students who failed exams. More than half of the students who had failed, did not use revision/practice questions as part of their preparation for the exams.
Lastly, we were pleased to see that every student in the survey that used our Astranti materials had passed their exams.
You can still take part in the survey by going to the following link. It's totally anonymous and will only take a few minutes - What does it take to pass an Objective Test exam?

Astranti Financial Training.

Friday, 5 June 2015

60% find exam harder than expected - see the results of our survey

Hi Everyone,

Thanks to those of you that have taken the time to complete our MCS survey!

We've been looking at your feedback very carefully and here is a summary of the key points:

Almost 60% of respondents found the exam to be 'more difficult' than they anticipated, with only 9% finding it 'easier'.

Time management was stated as an issue by many students emphasising the need for mock practise.

Other comments indicated that many students found they had a good understanding of the theory and the pre-seen but said they found it difficult to apply both of these within the exam questions.

Relating to this, students found it difficult to understand the requirements of some of the questions.
Over 50% of students concluded that they should have spent more time on mock exams.

Industry research was not considered to be as important as expected - 42% said they would have done less research on the industry. BUT students should note that in the recent MCS examiner's report, the lack of Industry awareness shown in student's answers was criticised - so future MCS students should not abandon industry research entirely!

Here are 5 great tips from the survey for future students:
  1. Complete as many mock exam as you can
  2. Get to grips with the pre-seen early in your revision
  3. Make sure you've revised the entire syllabus
  4. Typing speed is key
  5. Become an expert on time management
We hope you've found this information useful.

If you've not yet completed the survey we would love to hear from you - MCS Survey

Nick Best and the Astranti team

Monday, 11 May 2015

Useful Memory Techniques! - Part Two


Further to Friday's blog post on memory techniques, here are four more tips for you to use in your revision. 

Remember it's not just about knowing the content, the key to being successful in exams is to be able to recall it in a structured way. 

Everybody learns in different ways so find the techniques that best fit with your own style. 

5. Reinventing your notes

By reinventing your notes in different formats you may find that you are able to retain them better in your memory. So rather than re-reading your notes time and time again, consider re-writing them occasionally. This refreshes your memory and also makes you think about what you are writing and what it's about. This could be key to passing the exam.

6. Choose an easy for read font!

When revising for an exam it is recommended that your revision notes are in Times New Roman. This font is considered one of the easiest to read and as a result of this it will make it much easier for you to learn and memorise your revision notes!

If your notes are clearly written and easy on the eye then it will really help when it comes to trying to remember the content. 

7. Chunking information

Have you heard of the term 'chunking'? By dividing large amounts of information into smaller chunks an individual can remember a lot more detail. This is achieved through focusing on memorising those chunks as individual pieces. It's then relatively easy to bring the individual parts together. 

A great example is how an eleven digit telephone number is often broken down into three chunks. People remember the area code and then break down the remaining digits into two pieces. This chunking of telephone numbers is done without even recognising that it's 'chunking'!

8. Use Flashcards

Flash cards are an effective way of summarising important parts of your revision notes such as key definitions and formulas. Not only does it contain the vital information, the appearance of the flashcard can also help you to remember the content in an exam situation. There are many flashcard creators on-line for you to try out- why don't you take a look and see what's out there?!

Look out for our next four memory tips over the next week. 

Nick Best and the Astrani team
Astranti Financial Training

Friday, 8 May 2015

Key points from the CIMA Q&A session hosted by the head of Learning and Development at CIMA, Peter Stewar

Key points from the CIMA UK Facebook Q&A session hosted by the head of Learning and Development at CIMA, Peter Stewart on Wednesday 6th May 2015.

Here are some answers from Peter Stewart in response to student questions raised on Facebook.

Interesting details on the pass mark for Objective Tests

“We released an indicative pass mark of 70% for Objective Tests last year. This represents the standard required to pass, however the way in which we assess students in objective tests means we can't issue percentage scores. A raw score is produced, but due to objective tests drawing on a range of questions from a question bank, we cannot compare student performance from exam to exam. To determine whether a student has passed or failed, an industry standard psychometric method called Anghof has been used to identify the minimum boundary required by a student to demonstrate competence in each question and syllabus topic area. Once a sufficient number of exams have been sat across all nine objective tests we will be in a position to start issuing scaled scores as we currently do for Case Study exams”.

Information on pass rates

“Detailed pass rates will be available as soon as we can produce statistically valid figures (weeks rather than months). The case study results went out recently (including a 62% UK rate at the Strategic Level) and they suggest to me that that area of assessment hasn't made life harder for candidates. For the majority of the OTQ exams, it currently looks like the pass rates are at or above what you would have expected throughout the 2010 syllabus”.

Comments regarding the review of F3 and P3

“Performance in the F3 tests is being analysed with the intention of being able to feed back to students & tutors with guidance on how to improve chances of passing. We've had no indication that there is a fault in the test and, therefore, no plans to "re-write”.

“Please don't read the "review" as being an expectation that the exam is somehow faulty and we need to make changes. We have statistical data on the performance of all questions across the exams and are analysing that to identify the syllabus areas that need attention”.

Useful advice on Time Management in OT exams

“There's always been time pressure in exams. I guess it feels a bit different when you can see that there's a clock ticking and a specific number of questions to complete. Don't work on an assumption that EACH question takes 1.5 mins. Some will take less than that, others will require longer. It's part of the process of setting what we call a "balanced" test and the mix of question styles is taken into account when achieving that balance. I've described a "3 sweep" approach to going through the exams. First - the quick and straightforward questions; Second (using the review screen after Q60) - the questions where you know that you know how to answer but need calculations or a bit of thinking time; lastly (again on the review screen of incomplete questions) the lengthier and more involved ones”.

Reasons for the exams being computerised

“We have taken a well regarded approach in the sector by using computer based assessments. Our exams are able to assess 100% of syllabus content in each subject as opposed to approximately 70% under the paper-based model prior to 2015. This ensures that the qualification you're studying is rigorous and produces competent and skilled CGMAs based on the needs of businesses”.

Answer to a student’s concerns over method marks not being given in new style of exams.

“I'll start with the 'Devil's advocate' answer. If you had to provide an analysis to your boss that was full of errors, do you think you'd get credit for 'method used'? OTQs have developed over the years to become an accepted (and expected) method of assessment in some very high-stakes exam. The variety of questions makes it highly unlikely that someone will get through on guesswork and the specifically objective nature of them means that you'll get through if you really know your stuff. No single question is worth enough marks that it, alone, makes the difference to passing or failing. We've set the pass mark at the 70% level to allow for this calculation errors etc, that you mention. We've also got the case studies which you allow you to demonstrate how you apply your knowledge in a work-based scenario”.

Response to those students that are considering moving to the ACCA qualification

“I'd be naturally disappointed. I don't think people should seek a professional qualification based upon how easy it is to obtain (which weakens the value of the qualification) but upon the employment opportunities that the qualification gives you”.

Information on the marks awarded on ‘tick all that apply’ questions

“There are about 6 different styles of OT question; "Tick all that apply" is one and is used more towards the upper levels of the syllabus. It aims to test the completeness of your knowledge/application and so the score is only awarded for a perfect match”.

Reasons for CIMA’s decision to not give students detailed feedback after their exam.

“The old system had all students taking the same exam and so you could compare scores with one another and discuss with your tutor. The fact that you all have slightly different sets of questions makes that comparison misleading. We indicate syllabus areas that need more attention than others. We can't drill into that with more detail for a few reasons (I'll come back to if time allows) but do expect that a student can reflect on that feedback and assess whether your own learning led you to a position where you were confident (and so failed with a couple of wrong questions) or if it's an area that you really didn't get to grips with - in which case you, yourself, know that the questions were beyond you”.

Visit for more answers.

Discuss your opinions about this Q&A session with other students on our CIMA forum page -


Nick Best and the Astranti team

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Useful Memory Techniques! - Part One

Hi everyone,

It's a bit unfortunate that no matter how great you are at understanding theory, exams are also a test of memory. Some of us find this difficult and most of us spend hours trying to embed information in our heads. 

Over the years though there have been many studies and articles on how committing things to memory can be made easier and more efficient. Some of them are obvious and others a bit more creative. The key thing is to find the techniques that work best for you. 

In this blog I will cover four tips for improving your memory skills. In the next few weeks I will also cover more memory techniques. 

I hope you find them useful!

1. Mindmaps

Mindmaps are excellent revision tools. They are an interesting and creative way of remembering complex topics. The use of colour and imagery can help you group ideas and thoughts in a way that you can recall when the time comes. Use one of the many free online mindmap tools or simply create your own on a piece of paper. Here is just one of the great online mind mapping tools -

2. Mobile learning
Mobile learning can be very effective. Why not try different rooms in your home, the garden, the park or even on the bus? Research has shown that you remember more things when the places you study are varied. A new environment can help to clear your mind and therefore more knowledge can be absorbed. Also when trying to recall something it can help to associate it with the place you learnt it.

3. Speaking out loud

You may feel slightly embarrassed but speaking out loud instead of simply reading something helps you remember. Research suggests that your 50% more likely to remember something by saying it out loud. Give it a go and see if it works for you!

4. Teaching somebody else

A great way to remember what you have learned is to teach it to somebody else. This is a useful test to see if the information has actually been absorbed and also whether you have really understood it. All you need to do is find a willing partner!

In Monday's blog I will cover 4 more memory techniques!

Nick Best and the Astranti team

Thursday, 30 April 2015

A guide to marking your mock exam script

Practicing exam questions through completing mock exams is extremely important. However it's also important to see where you can improve your answers in order to be really prepared for the real exam.

Practicing is just the first step in a 3 step process for improvement. The second step is just as vital and often the part of the process which is not always done properly, you must review your own answers carefully.

Here is the full 3 step process:

1) Practice a mock exam under exam conditions using your acquired knowledge -

2) Review your attempt - (See a guide to doing this below)

3) Work on your weaknesses that have been shown by in the review - e.g. Revise theory and practice how it can apply to the preseen


Of course, you can get someone else to review your script. If the reviewer is highly experienced then the feedback will be more detailed and helpful.

If you are marking your own script, here are the main questions you must ask yourself:

  • How well did you apply the case to the unseen scenario - are you scoring enough application marks?
  • Your application to the preseen - are you using preseen information enough?
  • Is the balance of your points under the technical, people, business and leadership areas even? If not and where you need to improve?
  • Your exam technique - are you focusing on what you need to do to score more marks or are your answers unfocused and unstructured?
  • Your writing style - is the way you make points scoring good marks? Often people don’t do this in the right way and lose easy marks.
  • Are your points long enough and your explanations detailed enough?
  • Are you writing enough to pass?
  • Do you need to make more points and in which sections?
  • Are there any key areas of technical weakness that you need to revise?
  • How do you rate your overall performance compared with the solution? (Our mock exam solutions are the equivalent of an 90%+ exam script so do not expect to write in as much detail as these)
Nick Best and the Astranti team

Monday, 27 April 2015

How to avoid waffling in an exam

When watching the recent general election debate here in the UK it was brought to my attention how difficult it was to truly see the different parties pledges in amongst all the heated discussions that were taking place. Often you just want them to quickly get to the point in simple language that you can understand.

This made me think how hard it must be for a marker to find an answer when a student 'waffles' in an exam. It goes back to the well known saying quality, not quantity.

Waffling in this context is when a student provides detailed information that isn't necessarily relevant to the actual question/answer. This information is often 'nice to know' and shows you've revised a broad range of topics, but this doesn't actually give you any additional marks if it's not relevant to the question.

There are three main reasons for students to waffle:
  • They are unsure of the answer
  • They get distracted by a small point that they have made in their answers that then takes them in the wrong direction
  • It makes them feel more at ease that they have something down on paper and gives them the illusion that they are doing well.
As a result of this students waste a lot of valuable exam time writing out answers that ultimately don't gives them any extra marks. It can be very difficult for the marker to establish the points that do relate to the question due to the large amount of text in front of them. In addition a rambling answer may signal to the marker that the student has not spent time revising that particular topic.

So how do you avoid waffling?
  • Make a plan! Spend some time at the start of the question making a plan of each point you want to raise in your answer. Sticking to this plan will prevent you from writing down unnecessary information.
  • When you begin writing your answer, make each point and move on. We usually recommend starting a new paragraph after each point. This will also make it clear to your marker what your points are.
  • The key thing is to 'know your stuff'. A good knowledge of the subject matter will help to avoid waffling. You will be prepared to answer a variety of questions on the subject – and get straight to the point with your answer.
  • Read the question and then answer. Answer the question the examiner has asked, not the question you wish he had asked! Re-read the question and look for the key words. Ask yourself what do they really want?
Going back to my point on the general election here is a great example of Ed Miliband giving an answer he wants to give but not actually answer the question (on several occasions!).

So waffle does not lead to good answers or high marks. Remember, make sure you don't go off track. If you start to do so, then be strong. Re-think and re-plan for a few moments before you continue.

For more advice on how to avoid waffling in addition to other exam techniques take a look at our SCS videos via this link:

I will finish this blog now so that I don't start waffling!

Good luck and keep to the point.  

Nick Best and the Astranti team

Monday, 20 April 2015

Top tips for using Google - How to get the most from this valuable search engine.

Have you ever thought about how often you use search engines? Over the weekend I used Google to find a restaurant for a family meal, to buy a pair of shoes online and to search for some holiday destinations for the summer. This made me realise the huge role in our everyday lives played by these search engines but most of us only use the basic functionality available to us. 

There are many ways in which our searches can be refined and improved to make them work even better for us.

Here are some tips that are useful in our everyday life but also as part of our studying for our CIMA or any other exams or research.  These tips will make your search more efficient, quicker and it will narrow down the search results to those that you really need.

1. Use Quotation marks - Using Quotation Marks in your Google search ensures that all the search results will include exactly those words in it. For example, “Porters Five Forces” will only generate results on this specific model, rather than include other models that Porter has developed.

2. Use the base word and not suffixes – This will ensure that you don't exclude any relevant pages. For example, use 'ethics' rather than 'ethical' or 'ethically' to capture a broader search result.

3. Use .. - This will obtain results for a specific period of time. For example,  2000..2015 will only show results within this time band.

4. Use site: - Using site: generate results directly from a specific website. For example, - will only include results from our website

5. The Google Auto-complete Function - Take advantage of Google auto-complete to obtain popular and similar searches. A drop down list will appear as you type.

6. Use OR - Using OR combines two searches. For example, SWOT OR TOWS will generate results for both terms. This can be useful where a variety of terms are used for the same subject.

7. Use Define: - This will define a word through search. By search define: working capital we get a number of definitions For example, working capital can be defined as "The capital of a business which is used in its day-to-day trading operations, calculated as the current assets minus the current liabilities”

8. Use a ~ (tidle) - Using a tidle before a word will also search synonyms and similar words.

9. Use related: - Using related: finds similar websites to the one that you searched. For example, will also generate results for other video websites.

10. Don't use common words - Try not to use common words such as 'a' and 'the' as these words are usually ignored in the search, They should only be used when they are part of a specific phrase.

11. Use a | (vertical bar) - A vertical bar will include all the words mentioned in the search bar. For example, searching for PEST | PESTLE

12. Use a – (dash) - A dash will exclude a term in the results if a dash in included before that word

I hope all of this has been helpful whether you are trying to find information on your CIMA exam subjects or simply planning a holiday in the sun!  

Nick Best and the Astranti team