My experience with the MCS programme at Imperial College of Business Studies

The Management Case Study (MCS) exam is one of the major hurdles facing any candidate pursuing the CIMA qualification. The case study exam is challenging in that it examines your theory knowledge with practical application to a real world business context. Being a gateway route candidate, MCS was the very first case study exam I faced in the CIMA curriculum.

I am elated that I passed the exam comfortably in my first attempt. Given the low pass rates and the challenge of taking the exam through the gateway route, it is not an exaggeration to say that it was truly a “Eureka!” moment. Hats off to my MCS lecturer, Mr. Shane David and Imperial College for the amazing tutoring programme for MCS, which definitely was the driving force behind my success.

When I initially joined the MCS session, I honestly had no clue about what a case study exam was like. Shane sir set the tone for the session with his advice to “approach the case study as an opportunity to learn rather than an exam to pass”. He ignited our fullest interest to the case study with his pre-seen analysis session and got us totally invested in the company. It was quite clear that he wanted us to think on our feet, as Finance Managers, from day one.

The methodic approach and the smooth delivery of the sessions by Shane sir helped me understand the nitty-gritties of the case study and prepare myself accordingly to face the case study exam with confidence. He made us think, question, deliberate and resolve business issues on our own. Little did I know how critical this approach was to passing the exam.

The strategic analysis of the company provided us with a comprehensive overview of the position of the company. The industry familiarisation helped us discover the real world business issues and these insights were really valuable when tackling the mock exams.

We began question practice with individual exam styles tasks. The feedback Shane sir provided on the exam style tasks was invaluable in understanding what areas we needed to work on before attempting the mock exams. A mini mock was assigned after the individual exam style tasks and then we moved on to take the full mocks. This gradual progression from individual exam style tasks to mock exams enabled us to be well prepped for the mocks. The ICBS Exam Engine is a very similar platform to that of the Pearson exam platform, and this enabled us to familiarize ourselves with the PC based exam environment. In my opinion, it was the mock exams which helped me to brace myself to face the real challenge of a case study exam.

The mock exams were arranged in a logical order where we could carry forward the learning that we got from one mock exam to the next. In simple terms, we were leveling up from one mock to another. And the specialty here was that all our answer scripts for the mock exams were evaluated by our lecturer himself and he facilitated individual feedback for each student. This support was absolutely priceless. When discussing my answers with the lecturer on a one-to-one basis I could figure out where I had gone wrong, the areas on which I could’ve scored more, and also the scope for improvement. All the mock exams were structured to meet the exam standard and the grading with feedback helped us get a real picture about where we stood at the time.

Shane sir adopts a very interactive approach in the mock exam discussions. He would ask us to provide our points first and would just type it out on the screen. He will then deliberate on it and would show us how those points could be validated in our answers and how it could be better phrased to gain due merit from the marker. The more points we put forth and discussed, the more confidence we gained on our ability to think on our feet. Shane sir would develop a comprehensive answer plan from our points itself and improvise it with additional points. Shane sir also did special recaps of key P2, F2, E2 areas with application to the case study and this was immensely helpful in our exam preparation with the technical areas of the syllabus.

Online sessions require a great deal of concentration and discipline from the student’s side to make the learning more effective. However, MCS sessions were never boring for us. Each minute we spent listening to our lecturer’s explanations was absolutely worth it. Shane sir carries a good sense of humour and would not miss a chance to infuse some excitement to the discussion

Since this is an exam which requires a great deal of thinking, taking sufficient breaks and relaxing were as equally important as studying. So basically it wasn’t only about working hard but also working smart. This was another important thing that our lecturer constantly advised us to do. This is why I can say that he was more like a mentor to us. He knew where each student stood, his or her capabilities, and based on that guided us individually to achieve our best. The last few sessions were more like one-to-one sessions where he personally advised each of us on how we can effectively work in the last few days to get gear up our preparation for the exam. His support and dedication are incomparable.

Although I attended the classes for the August exam sitting at first, I was unable to take the exam in August due to an unexpected change in my University exam schedules. It was very frustrating not to be able to sit for the exam having prepared so much for it. Nevertheless, Shane sir encouraged me saying that “the time and effort that you put into this will obviously be a great learning when you will be doing it the next time”. Because of his words I was determined to give a better attempt next time.

Due to the uncertainties that prevailed due to the second wave of Covid-19 at the time when we were preparing for the exam, we had to choose ‘remote testing’ (online exams). There also I had to encounter several technical issues but with my strong determination I managed to complete the exam successfully. And later on, months of hard work, dedication and patience finally paid off. It’s actually difficult to put that feeling into words but that was one of the biggest accomplishments in my life.

The knowledge that we gained through MCS is never a one-time learning. As we are pursuing a degree together with CIMA, the answering skills that we developed in MCS and the in-depth knowledge we gained on subject areas such as financial analysis and risk management were quite advantageous in successfully completing our third year modules in the degree programme.

Personally, one of the biggest lessons I learnt while doing MCS is that just because things don’t go according to plan you must never get discouraged nor give up. Patience, tolerance and dedication are key to success.

I always trusted Imperial College with my higher education and they have never provided me a reason to doubt my decision. The immense support and guidance that I received from our lecturer throughout the programme is truly praiseworthy. I knew that I was under the correct guidance and that thought itself boosted my confidence to face the exam successfully. MCS with Shane sir was truly a unique learning experience.

I would like to express my heartiest gratitude to our lecturer, Mr. Shane David, and the management and staff of Imperial College for always placing me on the winning side and brightening my future.

Thank you!
Sapna Ravishika

CIMA – Advanced Diploma in Management Accounting
BA(Hons) International Business & Finance - University of the West of Scotland
B.Sc Finance (Special ) - University of Sri Jayewardenepura


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