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1. Confirm the fundamentals
Using theperformance pillar as an example, this point affects two particular groups ofstudents - those who have been awarded an exemption from the certificate stageand are attempting P1, and those who have been awarded exemptions from thecertificate stage and P1 and are attempting P2.
In both casesstudents are advised strongly to examine the syllabi of papers from which theyare exempt to ensure they are familiar with the full range of syllabus topics.The awarding of exemptions is not an exact science and it is unlikely thatevery item in the syllabus of the exempt paper will have been covered; theremay well be knowledge gaps to be ‘plugged’.
All studentsshould be mindful of the ‘progressive nature of the syllabus’ - topics that areincluded in the P1 syllabus can be still tested in the P2 exam, even thoughthey do not appear in the P2 syllabus. Two key examples are variance analysisand investment appraisal.
2. Pre exam reading time
Make full use ofthe 20 minutes’ reading time. Plan your approach to the paper, identify yourstrongest question, decide (if appropriate) which of the option questions toattempt and decide in which order you’re going to attempt the questions.
Good planningmaximises the time available. Avoid the common error of not using the readingtime properly and simply rushing into answering questions.
3. Time management
A welldocumented point, but one worth repeating. I recommend you keep to a ratio of 1.8minutes per mark. This will save you from having to write comments, seenfrequently on the last page of an exam booklet, such as ‘Sorry, ran out oftime.’
Taking an extraten minutes to finalise the answer to one question will prevent you making agood start on the next question. An overrun of just five minutes per questioncould mean you have no time to attempt the last question.
4. Prepare an answer plan
Prepare a planfor each answer, especially for 20/25 mark questions. This will help you avoida common error where students pack all they know into answering part (a) of aquestion, and in doing so have also answered parts (b) and (c). A plan, howeverbrief, would stop you losing valuable marks in this way.
5. Relate effort to marks
I mark scriptswhere students have written two pages for a subpart of a question worth onlytwo or three marks. Relate your effortto the marks available.
6. Follow instructions
Marks are veryoften lost because answers do not answer the question.
For example, ifthe question calls for the answer to a payback question to be to one decimalplace of a year, then marks will not be awarded for answers such as 'two yearsfour months'.
7. Keep to the scenario
Many questionscontain a simple scenario; your answers should relate to this scenario.
I often see twotypes of error here. Firstly some students introduce their own scenario, forexample, in a question about a gain sharing agreement between employer andemployee, students have put forward answers which introduce the supplier andthe customer.
Secondly, someanswers completely ignore the scenario which is a mistake because the examinermay have been trying to establish whether students could apply the accountingtechnique in a normal business situation.
8. Don’t write out the question
This is acomplete waste of valuable time.
9. Write clearly
If markerscannot read the answers, they cannot award marks, so practice yourhandwriting.
10. Relate to workings
If you prepareand refer to workings, and the workings are clear and relevant, marks can beawarded. The opposite also applies.
11. Attempt all required questions
Give yourselfthe chance to attain 100%. If you only attempt 70 to 80% of the paper you willseriously affect your chances of passing.
Do not attemptall the optional questions. If you are required to answer two questions out ofthree, do not answer all three, as you simply do not have the time.
12. Understand the question
Many studentsfail to understand or appreciate what they are required to do. For example if aquestion asks you to ‘explain target costing and standard costing then comparethe two’ there are three parts to the questions. If you fail to make acomparison, you will miss out on available marks.
13. Understand the syllabus and verb hierarchy
Right from thestart, you need to appreciate how the overall syllabus fits together, tounderstand how each pillar is constructed and the characteristics of eachindividual paper.
For example,each subject in each syllabus is divided into a number of broad syllabustopics, and each topic contains one or more lead learning outcomes, relatedcomponent learning outcomes, and indicative knowledge content.
CIMA placesgreat importance on the choice of verbs in exam question requirements. You must answer the question according to thedefinition of the verb used and appreciate the level of verb that relate toeach paper and each stage of the syllabus. For example, you must understand thedifference between ‘describe’ and ‘explain’ and answer the question accordingly.
14. Avoid a ‘brain dump'
If you ignorethe question and simply write everything you know about a topic, you are ‘braindumping’ - expecting the marker to extract those parts of the answer that maybe relevant to the question. Such answers gain very few marks.
15. Do not answer your own question
A common faultis that some students answer their own question, not the one that was asked.
A May 2011 P2exam question asked students to ‘Explain why and how controllable costs shouldbe shown on the profit reports.’
Many studentssimply stated ‘controllable costs should not be shown on the profit reports’and then went on to explain their reasoning for this statement. No marks could be awarded.
16. Ensure a sensible answer
Submitting ananswer to a numerical question that is simply not possible in the context ofthe question is a common but easily avoidable fault.
For example, aMay 2011 question required students to calculate the selling price that wouldmaximise the company’s profit. The company forecast demand to be 150,000 unitsand the total variable cost was GBP13.80 per unit.
Students wereputting forward, and then attempting to describe figures, such as a sellingprice of GBP3 and an optimum output figure of 3.8 million!
If you knowthere is an obvious mistake in your answer, append a note to this effect.