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CIMA New 2015 Syllabus

The new 2015 CIMA syllabus: Are you ready?

Why have CIMA introduced a new 2015 syllabus?

The changes are as a result of research conducted by CIMA with finance professionals and employers worldwide. It has been designed to provide the business skills employers have requested.

Employers have told CIMA about the operational challenges they face every day and identified important future issues and requirements. Employers also said clearly that many accounting graduates simply aren't ready for the workplace.

These days, finance professionals don't just need accounting and analytical skills. They also need an understanding of the organisation, its business model, its strategic context and its competitive position.

In addition, students emphasised the need to adapt to new technology and modern workplace practices.

How have the subjects changed in the new syllabus?

CIMA have retained the existing syllabus structure. The CIMA professional qualification still has three pillars of domain knowledge divided into three levels of achievement (making nine separate subjects in total):


  • Enterprise / Performance / Financial


  • Operational / Management / Strategic

Within that syllabus structure, CIMA has moved some syllabus content between pillars and levels. CIMA have removed or reduced some syllabus content as it has become less relevant. To complement this, CIMA have created new syllabus topics to address new or evolving business issues.

There is approximately a 10% to 15% change in syllabus content across all papers.

How has the assessment of subjects in the new 2015 syllabus changed?

All exams will now be assessed on a computer and there will be no more hand written exams, in addition the 20 minutes "reading time" before exams has been abolished.

Objective test exams

Each of the 9 individual exams will now be objective test exams will contain only 60 questions and will last 90 minutes. They will be short questions that will have a decisive answer to be selected or inputted into the computer. They will use various different types of test methods, including multiple choice, fill in the gap, calculate, make selections from a range of options type questions which will examine anything from basic knowledge recall, right up to testing higher order skills, such as analysis and evaluation.

You will know your results straightaway after the exam and the pass mark needed now is set at 70%.

Integrated case study exams (ICS)

You will now have to sit a new exam at each level after completing the 3 papers at each level, known as the integrated case study exam or ICS exam.

Available four times a year, these are 3 hours long and will also be conducting on a computer. These assessments test knowledge at each level across the three pillars, and focus on application, analysis and evaluation.

You must complete all three objective tests within a level (operational, management or strategic) before you can sit the case study assessment for any level.

Consolidating learning at each level, the case studies are set within a simulated business environment and, while using a fictitious company, are based on a real-life industry or organisation. The case studies consolidate the cross discipline learning at each level and challenges students to develop innovative multi-faceted solutions to real business problems.

The assessments comprise calculations, short answers and essays. Candidates are allowed to see some of the case study information and associated databases before the assessment and will encounter fresh information during the assessment.

The new case studies are human marked and results will be available within a few weeks. If a candidate needs to re-sit an assessment, he or she will receive feedback to help address shortfalls in their performance. The pass mark for all ICS exams is 60%.

I am a Gateway Assessment student and so what exams do I need to do now?

If you are one of the students coming to CIMA through one of the Gateway Assessment routes then you will now need to sit the ICS exam for the Management Level. If you pass this then you will go straight on the Strategic Level.

Where can I sit the new exams and how do I book them?

CIMA are working in partnership with Pearson VUE, who have over 20 years of experience in offering electronic testing and already run computer-based assessments for the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting. There will be 5,000 Pearson VUE test centres in 178 countries for you to choose from. To find your nearest test centre and book your exam visit PearsonVUE.co.uk.

When can I sit the ICS exams?

You can sit the ICS exam 4 times a year, that being in March, May, Sept and November. Each ICS level will be conducted over a week and you can choose when you would like to dit your ICS exam in that week.

The dates for 2015 are as follows:

  • Operational - Tuesday 24th Feb - Saturday 28th Feb
  • Management - Tuesday 3rd March - Saturday 7th March
  • Strategic - Tuesday 10th March - Saturday 14th March
  • Operational - Tuesday 12th May - Saturday 16th May
  • Management - Tuesday 19th May - Saturday 23rd May
  • Strategic - Tuesday 26th May - Saturday 30th May
  • Operational - Tuesday 11th August - Saturday 15th August
  • Management - Tuesday 18th August - Saturday 22nd August
  • Strategic - Tuesday 25th August - Saturday 29th August
  • Operational - Tuesday 10th November - Saturday 14th November
  • Management - Tuesday 17th November - Saturday 21st November
  • Strategic - Tuesday 24th November - Saturday 28th November

Can I use my own calculator?

Personal calculators from a specified list will be allowed in exam centres throughout 2015 only. This is to help you through the transition phase.

An onscreen scientific calculator will also be provided as part of the exam software, and from 2016 will be the only calculator permitted. The onscreen calculator is similar to a Texas Instruments one with which many of you will be familiar.

The exam will start with a 15 minute tutorial where you will receive advice on, for example, using the calculator and you will have an opportunity to practice using it.

Are there exams based on the new 2015 syllabus that I can practice on for free?

Fully functional and interactive practice exams, for both objective test questions and case study exams, are now available, free of charge, all you will need to create an account with Pearson VUE to access the exams which will take about 5 mins at the link below:


Once you have created an account, you will not have to repeat the process for any later visits to the practice exams.

Starting the exam: From the registration page, a short navigation on Pearson VUE's site will bring you to the start of the exam.

The practice tests are free to use as many times as you wish.

I'm part way through my exams what happens to my passes in 2015?

You will receive like for like credit for what you have already passed. You will not be disadvantage or advantaged moving from the old syllabus to the new syllabus.

If you have completed any levels then you will be exempt from that level and the case study. For example if you have completed P1, E1 and F1 in the old syllabus you will progress straight on the Management Level. No requirement to do the Operational Level ICS exam.

If you are partway through operational and management then you will have to complete the operational level and its case study before you can continue with any papers at the management level.

I hear there is a special one-time deal for all operational level students?

Under the transition arrangements from the current syllabus to the 2015 syllabus there is an option for operational level students to apply for the waiver of the third paper.

Students who have passed two operational level papers may opt to waive (bypass) the third operational level exam and move directly to the operational case study. If any of the operational level subjects were exempted, this waiver is not available. This option is available only in 2015.

There won't be any favourable financial impact as you will have to pay the waiver fee, which will be same as the exam fee though you may save expenses on studies and time.

I failed my T4 exam but the T4 exam has been abolished in the new syllabus does this mean that I am now exam qualified and have no more exams to sit?

Unfortunately not, you will have to sit the new equivalent T4 exam which is the Strategic Level ICS exam.

Do I still have to sit all three strategic papers in the same sitting?

In 2015, the strategic level objectives tests for the three subjects do not have to be sat together, as the strategic level case study exam will test the integrated aspect of your learning.

What are the new exam fees like in 2015?

How should I study for my exams now that I can do them anytime I like?

The flexibility of whenever you want to do your exams brings with it the added importance planning your studies properly. The syllabus volume has not changed significantly and the CIMA are obliged to test all aspects of the syllabus still and so you would still need to have the same in depth detailed knowledge and application of the subjects. We estimate that it will take a similar amount of time to prepare for these exams, which is approximately 4 to 5 months per paper. This will mean that you will be looking to complete a level per year.

Here are some examples of study routes:

If you have just completed operational level in the old syllabus then in 2015:

  • P2 and E2 Acorn classroom tuition from Jan 2015 to April 2015 and then sit the exams at most 3 weeks after.
  • F2 Acorn classroom tuition from July 2015 to Sept 2015 and then sit the exam at most 3 weeks after.
  • Management Level ICS Acorn classroom tuition from Oct 2015 to Nov 2015 and sit the exam in Nov 2015.

If you have just completed the operational level and P2 from the management level in the old syllabus then in 2015:

  • F2 Acorn classroom tuition from Jan 2015 to April 2015 and then sit the exam at most 3 weeks after.
  • E2 Acorn classroom tuition from July 2015 to Sept 2015 and then sit the exam at most 3 weeks after.
  • Management Level ICS Acorn classroom tuition from Oct 2015 to Nov 2015 and sit the exam in Nov 2015.