To find out more about what it’s like to study for the CIMA qualification, we met up with two of our former students, Amy and Graeme, who have now completed their studies and are reaping the benefits in their career.
Amy and Graeme, thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy work schedules to talk to us about your CIMA journey. Can we start by asking a bit about your background and how you came to be studying for accountancy?
(A) By the of 23, I’d dropped out of three different college course and was changing jobs frequently. I just couldn’t seem to fit into or enjoy any of the jobs I was doing. This was until I started in my first accounts position, as a credit controller for a company in my hometown of Braintree. At this point, I found my love of working with numbers and the career I have now stemmed from there. Studying accountancy had never really crossed my mind and I don’t think anyone who knows me, including former teachers, would ever imagine I would become an Accountant. Once I’d looked into it and started to study for my AAT level 2 and 3, I realised that this might be something I may actually be good at. I progressed into an Accounts Assistant role in Colchester, took on a much wider range of tasks and took on my AAT level 4 with FI Chelmsford.
(G) Similarly, I didn’t finish my sixth form studies, due to some personal issues and found myself working at a timbers merchant. It wasn’t really fulfilling me and wasn’t something I wanted to carry on with. I was, therefore, looking for a career move and wanted to find something that would give me long-term career prospects. Having discussed it with a number of people and analysing some of my strengths, I decided that accountancy could be the road to go down, so I looked at ways of approaching this. Initially, I enrolled on an online AAT course to try and get a sense of what was involved and whether I thought it would be something worth pursuing.
You both studied AAT, what made you decide to carry on studying and specifically for your CIMA qualification?
(A) I got through my AAT with first time passes in all my exams and after researching both ACCA and CIMA, I decided that CIMA was the right choice for me and my career path. Having to give up my weekends for lessons was a bit daunting at first but I quickly got used to it and it wasn’t half as bad as I imagined. I was promoted to Assistant Accountant and was learning more and more about management accounting. Studying CIMA did take a lot of commitment and I did have to sacrifice a lot of my free time to study but passing each exam made it all worth it and it filled me with a real buzz every time.
(G) Having studied for my AAT qualification, I had a good basic knowledge of accounting and was keen to take this further. I’d heard of CIMA through my dad, as he did his studies at the beginning of his career and qualified in CIMA, so I already had an awareness of the board. I didn’t consider myself to be a techy accountant and was pretty sure that I wanted to enter the world of industry rather than practice. For this reason, I felt it made the most sense for me to study CIMA, which is more geared towards business. My Finance Director and manager at the time, were also both CIMA qualified and encouraged me to choose this route rather than ACCA which one of my colleagues had started.
How did you find the course? What were the highs and lows for you?
(A) I was dreading the first-year case study as I imagined it would be incredibly difficult. However, we were given so much help, support, plenty of practice questions and tips for the exam that I felt confident when I sat the first exam. I continued to power through my studies and in my final year landed my dream job Persimmon Ltd; my first managerial role, a more senior position and one based purely on management accounts.
(G) I found the course quite challenging at times but also very interesting. It covers a broad range of topics from pure accounting to business approaches and leadership which means there is something for everybody. It really helps to broaden your horizons and become a well-rounded management accountant. There were plenty of moments along the way where I thought I wouldn’t be able to pass a certain module and would start to panic but the satisfaction of getting a successful result was always worth the hard work.
The structure of the course, with a case study at the end of each level, allows you to bring many of the components parts of your studies together and shows you how much you’ve learned along the way. This was tough but ultimately rewarding. Passing the case studies was always a highlight, as the tasks, and the approach for them was very different from the objective tests and brought a level of uncertainty. So much work went into bringing myself up to scratch with everything we’d covered before the exam and coupled with the extended wait for results, it was always a nervous time. It was always extremely satisfying to find out that I’d passed. P2 was probably the module that brought the biggest lows and I seriously wondered at points whether I’d be able to pass. Thankfully I achieved this and could then look forward to completing the rest of the course.
How do you feel studying CIMA has benefitted your career?
(A) I qualified in November after passing my final case study and getting my practical experience verified. It was such a surreal feeling finally getting those letters after my name. It made me realise that those six years of studying AAT and then CIMA had been worth it. Studying accountancy takes a lot of time and effort but I certainly wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve had in my career without studying and I’m excited about what the future might bring.
(G) Studying CIMA has helped in my role at work, giving me knowledge of different elements that I now come across on a day to day basis. It’s helped me to understand new concepts that I’ve been exposed to and offers some insight as to how they work or ways in which to approach them.
It has been beneficial in showing my dedication to my job and acts as a level of progress which has allowed me to move forward in my career, earning promotion and pay rises along the way. It’s definitely made me much more employable and if I was looking for a new position, many jobs ask for qualified accountants. CIMA is well recognised in the profession and brings with it a real recognition of my achievements. Above all, it has given me the confidence to feel that I can go on and achieve much more than I thought was possible when I first started this journey.
How did you find studying CIMA with First Intuition Chelmsford?
(A) I started my level 4 AAT with FI Chelmsford and soon realised that their teaching and resources were of a much higher standard than I’d experienced elsewhere. The level 2 and 3 courses I’d taken before weren’t very well organised and the teachers were changing constantly. It was nice joining FI to see that everything was structured, and all the information was readily available online and in your course notes in class. In fact, the online resources are one of my favourite things about studying with FI. You can watch pre-recorded lectures and do practice questions. I would sometimes listen to lectures on my way to work and then do practice questions in my lunch break. The tutors were always available via e-mail if I needed them and I could ask about questions I didn’t understand. They’d explain it to me on a one to one level. Everyone’s friendly at FI and the admin team were always helpful if I had any queries about the courses.
(G) Studying at First Intuition was always a pleasure. I had several tutors throughout my studies, all of whom were most welcoming, knowledgeable and helpful. Many times when I was having doubts or difficulties with certain things, the tutors were always available on e-mail and would reply promptly with help or some encouraging words.
For almost all of my exams, I went into the Chelmsford office for the taught classes and also signed up for the revision courses, which were normally a couple of class days which took place around a fortnight after the initial course. I found this a really good way of scheduling my revision so I could set a target to get enough done to feel comfortable heading into the exam. I’d then consolidate my knowledge and brush up on any areas that I wasn’t as confident about. Luckily this proved to be a successful formula for me, as I managed to pass all my exams the first time which was a great relief. By going into taught classes, I also found it beneficial to have the opportunity to discuss the course and syllabus with other students which was a big help at times. Knowing others had the same fears as me, meant we were able to help and push each other to complete the course.