The CIMA Professional Qualification
CIMA’s objective in designing the syllabus is to enhance the employability of students and members. It intends to create a learning system that enables learners to acquire skills, competencies and mindsets that are in high demand by employers. This has never been more important with the pace of change increasing and traditional roles being redefined by technology and digital advances.
The Professional Qualification comprises three pillars of domain knowledge divided into three levels of achievement. The pillars are Enterprise, Performance and Financial. The levels are Operational, Management and Strategic. When combined with the required practical experience, CIMA qualified members will be capable of supporting and leading their organisations through the challenging environment of constant change. The syllabus, assessments and practical experience requirements ensure members are competent in the essential accounting, finance and business-related skills. It also provides them with the skills required to lead the finance function in a digital age.
To complete the CIMA qualification, and be able to use the Chartered Global Management Accountant® (CGMA®) designation, students need to:
Meet the entry requirements of the professional level qualification.
Study for and complete the relevant professional level assessments, culminating in the Strategic Case Study Exam.
Complete three years of relevant practical experience, which can be gained before, during and/or after studies.
The CIMA Qualification Framework
The diagram below shows the CIMA Qualification Framework. This includes the Certificate in Business Accounting; the Professional Qualification; Assessment of Practical Experience; and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in the form of lifelong learning.
Structure of the CIMA Syllabus
The CIMA Syllabus comprises nine subjects that are organised in three pillars and three levels.
The three pillars represent specific areas of knowledge.
The content of each pillar develops as students move up the qualification. The three pillars are interlinked to provide a coherent body of knowledge that will equip successful students with the competencies they require.
The Enterprise Pillar focuses on the role of the finance function and how it interacts with the organisation using data and technology. It looks at business models and the management of people and projects to achieve organisational goals. It deals with the formulation and the effective implementation of strategy.
The Performance Pillar uses the tools and techniques of management accounting and risk management to ensure that strategy is realistic and to monitor its implementation. It shows students how to use their understanding of costs to construct budgets, make decisions about prices and capital expenditure, manage costs and manage performance. Digital costing is introduced alongside traditional costing techniques and cost management is expanded to reflect its growing importance in an increasingly competitive environment for organisations. It develops the ability of students to progressively identify, classify and evaluate various risks to an organisation, including enterprise risk, strategic risk and cyber risk and manage these risks predominantly through internal controls.
The Financial Pillar focus is the financial accounting and reporting obligations of the organisation. This includes an understanding of the regulatory framework and external reporting requirements, including integrated reporting. The ability to construct and evaluate complex financial statements, including those relating to group accounts to show the financial position and performance of an organisation is essential. The principles of taxation and the tax implications of financing decisions are covered. It also looks at formulating financial strategy, which is linked to the formulation of organisational strategy in the Enterprise Pillar and assessing risk in the Performance Pillar.
The subjects in each learning pillar are designed to be sequential, from Operational to Strategic Level, encouraging the progressive development of knowledge, techniques and skills.
The syllabus is also divided into three levels of achievement. Students progress from the Operational Level to the Management Level and finally to the Strategic Level. At each level students study subjects across the three pillars.
The Operational Level focuses on the short term and the implementation of decisions. Students will be able to work with others in the organisation and use appropriate data and technology to translate medium-term decisions into short-term actionable plans.
The Management Level focuses on translating long-term decisions into medium-term plans. Candidates will be able to use data and relevant technology to manage organisational and individual performance, allocate resources to implement decisions; monitor and report implementation of decisions; as well as prepare and interpret financial statements to show performance.
The Strategic Level focuses on long-term strategic decision-making. Candidates will be able to support organisational leaders to craft strategy; evaluate and manage risks that might prevent organisations from successfully implementing strategy; value organisations; and source financial resources required to implement the strategy.
Each syllabus section contains one or more lead learning outcomes, related component learning outcomes, topics to be covered and explanatory notes that help provide the context for that topic area.
Each lead learning outcome defines the skill or ability that a well-prepared student should be able to demonstrate at the end of the period of learning.
The lead learning outcomes are part of a hierarchy of learning objectives. The verbs used at the beginning of each learning outcome relate to a specific learning objective.
Eg, ‘Analyse the features of internal control systems’. The verb ‘analyse’ indicates a high-level learning object (level 4). Because learning objectives are hierarchical, it is expected that at this level, students will be able to examine and communicate the role, features and purpose of internal controls in managing organisational risks.
For the first time, from 2019 examinations onwards, CIMA will publish examination blueprints based on the syllabus. It will set out in detail what is examinable in each of the objective tests and case study examinations for a given period and will provide information about the format, structure and weightings of the assessments. It is intended that blueprints will be updated and published annually.
For more information, go to cimaglobal.com/examblueprints
CIMA assessment strategy
Each level of the CIMA Professional Qualification culminates in a case study examination, which integrates the knowledge, skills and techniques from across the three pillars into one synoptic capstone examination.
The case study examination is a role simulation, requiring candidates to respond to authentic work-based activities presented during the examination, drawing together learning from each of the three subjects to provide solutions to the issues and challenges presented.
Case study materials are provided in advance of the examination to allow candidates time to immerse themselves in the fictional organisation and industry within which the simulation will occur and to undertake analysis of the organisation’s current position prior to the examination.
The case study examination at each level simulates the job role linked to the level and focuses on the core activities which employers expect competent individuals in those roles to routinely perform.
Objective tests for each of the individual subjects ensure the acquisition of the breadth of knowledge, skills and techniques which provide the foundation for approaching the case study examination.
More details of both types of assessment can be found in the examination blueprints at cimaglobal.com/examblueprints.
All assessments are computerised and CIMA works in partnership with Pearson VUE, who have over 20 years of experience in offering electronic testing. There are currently over 5,000 Pearson VUE test centres in 180 countries. Locations of Pearson VUE test centres can be found via the CIMA website.