New MBA CIMA Exemptions - Giving away the qualification?

Replies : 41
Keywords: MBA Exemptions

I see that CIMA has a new exemption route for those holding MBAs from 'legitimate' institutions where they can sit a CGMA exam and then only need attempt strategic level papers.

I would be be very interested to know what constitutes a legitimate instiution given the vast number of insitutions offering MBAs that can vary from triple accredited (AMBA etc) to the downright dodgy from XYZ college. Is there a list of approved organisations?

One would think if CIMA were offering this to MBA they would come out an expanded list of fast track MBA options for CIMA members/students but that does not appear to be the case.

I would love to know who sanctioned this option, [content was removed by a moderator 19/3/10 as it contravened our community guidelines with regards to respect] but Council Members should care or do they not get a vote in such matters?

Is it any wonder there is such a glut of accountants on the market. I'm waiting for the day I visit McDonalds and get asked "oh would you like a CIMA qualification with that?" 


Couldn't agree more

I've argued elsewhere that the CIMA qualification isn't "equivalent" to an MBA except under the NARIC score for people looking to get into the UK as students, and for exactly the same reasons agree wholeheartedly with Brendan.

CIMA is CIMA, an MBA is an MBA. I happen to think the two complement each other rather well, but they're very different qualifications and they're certainly nowhere near as interchangeable as this new initiative seems to suggest. When does an MBA student cover the ground our own students work through at Operational and Management levels? Do we really want "management accountants" who could write a paper on the impact of IFRS but can't tell a debit from a credit?

Perhaps it's about time CIMA's constitution was amended to ensure that anything fundamentally affecting the quality of our qualification (and its value in the market-place) has to be approved by a majority of CIMA members, no matter how bright an idea the change might seem to our Chapter Street staff.


My boss/employer has an MBA (amongst many other things) and, talented as he is, he'd be the first to admit he has no knowledge of, or interest in, accountancy.  The thought of him being exempt P1 or F1 is bizarre.  Having said that there's a lot of ground to cover in this new exam.  All 3 of the management level (which assumes operational level knowledge) in one exam.  It could be (and should be) pretty tough.

50% pass mark

In principle I am not in disagreement with the 'concept'. With regard the 'consolidation' entrance exam does it include dr/cr knowledge etc (i.e. essential knowledge) but that the pass grade is only 50%. My question to CIMA is, for an MBA degree holder is a 50% pass mark simply a 'give away'? But then if CIMA exams are all at 50% what should you expect? For comparison the USA accounting bodies have a 70/75% pass mark and for a CPA a time for completing all exams within an 18 month window. Best regards Cliff Moggs

Pass mark's "no indication of future performance"

Cliff, the 50% hurdle recognises that an exam is a completely artificial snapshot-test of memory and recall, with little or no correlation to any realistic assessment of the ability to apply knowledge and make professional judgements in practical situations. Like democracy and government, it's the worst test there is apart from all the alternatives.

So passing at 51% certainly doesn't equate to being only barely half-effective as a chartered management accountant. Are you really claiming that US CPAs are 50% brighter and better than ACMAs because their sausage-machine grinds smaller than ours? I'd be interested to see data supporting that view. 

Just stating facts

1. My posting was just stating facts of comparative accounting body ‘pass rates’ UK - USA. One can design pass rates that require at least answering 70%+ correctly if one deducts marks for incorrect answers which can still equate to a 50% pass mark.  2. All professional qualifications are not jobs and each individual stands or falls in their competence at the ‘coal face’. 

3. Continued progression in an organisation is either fact or not. Perhaps if it also includes two international postings between continents for the same organisation makes the exam pass mark academic. It certainly hasn’t done any harm be it 50% or 70% as the case has been

 Best regardsCliff Moggs



Apparently my questioning CIMA's CEO motives in sanctioning this MBA fast track route was disrespectful hmmm (see post edit & removal above)

Pass marks are irrelevant difficult exams mid range pass mark or easier exams higher pass mark usually set to determine the amount of people passing.

Fact is there are too many accountants at least in the UK (see FRC for data) Too many accountants for too few roles. How many CIMA students/members is enough (ditto for ACCA/ICAEW)? Market reaction to over supply of anything is to raise the bar hence having a degree becomes 2.1 preference for ACA/Big 4 over CIMA/ACCA and we want to throw a lot more accountants into this mix by giving a fast track to MBA's .... what happens the CIMA member without a degree then where is the fast track for them?

Personally I wouldn't recommend accountancy to anyone, if they did I'd say do ACA or better still do an MBA from the best school you can and avoid accounting like the plague  


The future's bleak

The growth in accountants worldwide and the use of IT will mean there's less requirement here in the UK.  Accountancy on it's own is no longer going to be enough.

Clifford - You clearly have a low estimation of CIMA's exam standard; you've raised the 50% pass mark a few times before.  To anyone ignorant of the exams it might appear surprisingly low but I can assure you it is not a give away.  Sitting after sitting students put their lives on hold to prepare for these exams and frequently more than half of them get the email saying FAIL.  How many do you think should be failing... 70, 80, 90%?  When I passed P1, 6 candidates in every 10 failed the paper.  Any higher than that and no one would bother.  Perhaps that's what you want?

What did I say?

1. In making the comparison, for the topic ‘fast track CIMA for MBA’s’ I related to the USA accounting bodies who have a 70/75%+ requirement for a pass. The USA certification accounting qualification contains only 4 papers because the candidate has a university degree in accounting and it is recommended best to have a masters.  2. With such knowledge assumed of the candidates the authorities have set the bar accordingly. My question to CIMA was, why for an MBA degree holder have you left it at 50%?  In the same manner for CIMA students the earlier levels have lead to presumably a ‘level playing field’ as for subsequent examinations the pass mark is equal at 50%. Is this then an opportunity for CIMA to raise the ‘bar’?  3. Of course there are many who pass with marks in excess of 70/75% and then those that are 50% and over but less than 70/755. Isn’t the key point for any examination to be knowledgeable on the syllabus? At the end of the day you will only be paid for the work you do and improve the probability of keeping the job by competence.  4. Just for final interest the ‘average pass rate’ for the four examinations at 75% is around 33%, it sorts out an element of technical competence. But for those not discouraged I am sure many succeed.  5. Because of my lack of editing skills the references 1, 2 3, etc refer to my l paragraphs in my original script. Best regards Cliff Moggs


These exams aren't about excellence (for most people) and they certainly aren't testing excellence.  They are proof at a single point in time that you are sufficiently capable of understanding and applying knowledge in a wide range of accounting topics... many of which you may never use again.

Very few qualified accountants or students who've previously passed papers could repeat the trick at a later sitting with no further studying - even if they got 75%+ first time. 

What do you wish to change?

Jamie, I am not sure what you want to change. There is a strong belief that 'examinations' do in fact test knowledge. People do pass their examinations. The reality is, will an employer offer you an accouning position without your 'passport'? Isn't an accouning qualification a 'passport'? Best regards Cliff Moggs

Another comparison.

Just for interest I looked at the ACCA Dec 2009 results in which 198K students took 389K papers. In the ‘professional’ papers 1 thru 7 the pass rate ranged from 39% (2 papers) to 58% (I Paper). The other 4 papers were % rates 41 – 42 – 48 – 49.

I then tried to find the CIMA info.........................................couldn't.

Best regards

Cliff Moggs


I'm not advocating change; the exams are perfectly fair the way they are.

It is hopefully a passport; which is why I'm doing it. 

CIMA publish their pass rates every session too.  They are generally higher than ACCA (on average) although both bodies have their 'problem' papers.  Interestingly, the Chartered Accountancy bodies throughout the UK have much higher pass rates - typically about 80%.  What conclusion would you draw from that?  It's hard enough to draw comparisons between bodies in the UK never mind the US bodies you're so fond of quoting.

I did an exam in January (computer software) which originated in the US.  Interestingly the pass mark in that exam was 70%.  By your logic - a harder exam than CIMA.  I got 100%...

More comment.

1. Thanks Jamie for continuing the discussion.

2. Each jurisdiction has its reasons for setting the exam pass mark. CIMA in wanting to attract MBA's has set out its store, this started the chain 'is it a give away'? I concurred with Brendan, why hasn't it set the 'entry exam' for this qualification higher? If CIMA believes that the USA is a 'market' for this 'new product' then will such residents, who will be familiar with the CPA process, perhaps see a 50% as a 'degree mill'?

3. For the ACA student they do have an advantage because of the 4 year training contract. Even so they too find out, poor performance on the exams leads to contract termination.

4. Nevertheless it all comes 'right' when you have been issued with your 'passport'. What you did in your exams is history, you then pursue at your leisure CPD. This has real benefit as you chose what you want to 'study'. The first focus being to maintain competence in your work. It also should be fun.

Best regards

Cliff Moggs (Of course I assume you know I have retired - they in fact found my services surplus to requirements - fortunately)


Brendan wrote:


Apparently my questioning CIMA's CEO motives in sanctioning this MBA fast track route was disrespectful hmmm (see post edit & removal above)

Pass marks are irrelevant difficult exams mid range pass mark or easier exams higher pass mark usually set to determine the amount of people passing.

Fact is there are too many accountants at least in the UK (see FRC for data) Too many accountants for too few roles. How many CIMA students/members is enough (ditto for ACCA/ICAEW)? Market reaction to over supply of anything is to raise the bar hence having a degree becomes 2.1 preference for ACA/Big 4 over CIMA/ACCA and we want to throw a lot more accountants into this mix by giving a fast track to MBA's .... what happens the CIMA member without a degree then where is the fast track for them?

Personally I wouldn't recommend accountancy to anyone, if they did I'd say do ACA or better still do an MBA from the best school you can and avoid accounting like the plague  



"Fact is there are too many accountants at least in the UK (see FRC for data)"

 Seems to me that if someone is using evidence from a certain source, such as this, that that person should provide us with a link to the evidence to prove their point. Telling us to look it up ourselves is just lazy. Otherwise it merely looks like you are providing statements disguised as facts in order to disguise your own inadequacies by telling us to "see FRC for data".

rationale for MBA

My more optimistic view is as follows: many people choose CIMA as a postgraduate qualification, with the rise of MBAs and the significant cost involved, the decision between the two is tough.

With the new pathway CIMA is giving the option to those who chose an MBA not to be excluded from the CIMA qualification, having already been studying for 2 years. It is likely any MBA student who has to pass the entrance exam will have chosen a significant amount of finance options through their MBA otherwise they will struggle with the exam. In addition the work experience requirement will mean they have a background in accounting.

I find it unlikely that that MBA route qualifiers will be going after the typical accounting roles (don't worry Brendan), and rather they will be going for consulting / strategy roles which MBAs typically go after. The aim is to have CIMA as competitive addition to the MBA to set them apart from other MBA holders.

I doubt their will be signifiacnt entry through this route, and I would suspect that the majority would be outside the UK. So fret not - they can always change the policy after a year or so depending on the level and quality of candidates.


Actually I posted the link some time ago on a previous post it is below for anyone interested. I suggest looking at page 12 which suggests that there has been an increase of approx 34,000 CCAB members (excluding students) between 2003 and 2008 in UK & Ireland. Globally student numbers of CCAB bodies have inceased from 285k to 427k between 2003 and 2008 (page 28).

And an extract from a recent job spec I was emailed 

"They are looking for the following: - No more than 3-5 years post qualified experience - Must be ACA, ideally big 4 or top ten qualified" I am not suggesting all jobs have this requirement but a sizeable number do



The FRC numbers, be they of members or students are those who have paid their annual subscription. Many, like me, are retired or not working (15%) so not a threat to the working accountant. Secondly I continued my membership, as many do, which for the last 26 years I did not work in the 'finance arena', again hardly a threat for the dedicated accountant. As to the student numbers, are they what you would term 'studying to complete a qualification say in the next 3/4 years'? CIMA student number setting examinations is at best 60% of its number. The ACCA had 198K sit the Dec '09 examination out of a total of some 360K registered students. Because of the CA 3/4 year contract perhaps their numbers of students has a basic meaning 'in serious pursuit of qualification' - some 25K. The ACCA is global, CIMA is international, the CA's are more or less UK with the last report showing just 1.3K outside UK. Best regards Cliff Moggs

demand and supply

Brendan - I am not sure your link proves that there are "too many accountants".

You have maybe proved that there is an increase in qualified accountants, I'm not sure that this proves anything about demand. In my eyes demand for CIMA and such qualifications has increased well beyond the traditional role of an accountant in to many commercial / finance / strategy roles.

There are so many variables as Cliff points out: retirees, students, international members and students.. etc..

 As for the job spec.

I just searched CIMA within 20 miles of my home:

86 CIMA postings

94 ACA postings

- but then I checked ACMA as well and found another 8! so pretty much level pegging :) 


% increase

Put as percentages, as the report does, the increase doesn't seem so stark.

Many will be doing unconventional accounting jobs, particularly with CIMA.  I've said before that in future it probably won't be enough on its own so why shouldn't as wide a range of people as possible be financially qualified.  If our politicians demonstrated the necessary financial probity we mightn't be in such a mess.

Brendan's job advert above is age discrimination by the way!

Age discrimination

Jamie - its only age discrimination if all "graduate entry" jobs are age discrimination.

When you complete a degree or when you complete an ACA training contract is entirely down to you - you have control over it and as such it is not age discrimination. (you have no control over your gender, orientation, race etc..)

You could argue that training contract providers discriminate against older people - but that is a different arguement.

It can be if it's not justifiable

One for the lawyers to argue about but they are on dangerous ground. 

The fact that you can't get the job with more than 5 years pqe is indirect age discrimination against older people who are much more likely to be in that position (and can't do anything about it).  Just cause, due to the nature of the job, would need to be shown for this to be valid.  Not easy!

We were stopped from advertising for a non smoker.  The reason wasn't because it's illegal to discriminate against smokers - it's not - it's because more women smoke and it could be held to be indirect sex discrimination. 

I'm the accountant in an employment law training company and I know this isn't clear cut; it will only be decided if someone takes a case before the tribunal.

Was it a 'first class degree' course?

1.   Jamie to continue the dialogue on ‘pass marks’ and your 100% success in a ‘computer exam paper’ designed in the USA leads to this question, “Would you say that the design of the exam paper was at a first class degree standard?”. 2.   MBA degree holders sitting the consolidation exam for entry to the fast track ACMA qualification have only to get to 50% or more. CIMA students without any contact between themselves and the ‘tutorial staff of CIMA (which doesn’t exist)’ are unknown in terms of any course work. CIMA has zero knowledge of how they have ‘learnt’ the syllabus. CIMA’s charter was granted on the basis that professional knowledge would be equivalent to a first class degree. 3.   CIMA is designing its examination papers to assess knowledge of the syllabus at the threshold of 50%. 4.   Clearly CIMA is satisfied with this position. CIMA is challenged to be an international professional body. It will succeed where there is no alternative; some countries simply have a different expectation for this type of examination in which there is no attendance, no course work, no contact, no record of learning, no time frame, no self-regulation. The ability to demonstrate technical knowledge is simply an examination, CIMA’s approach. (Research in the USA concludes that motivation levels are similar for formal classes and distance learning but it is in the area of self regulation that a ‘distance learning’ student achieves lower grades.) 5.   For CIMA the design of the exam paper is that a 50% or more mark signifies technical knowledge equivalent to a first class degree, for others with a similar type programme it is 70 – 75%. For CIMA this is conditioned by ‘being in the publics interest’, a key element of being ‘Chartered’, in reality it is someone’s judgement 6.   Best regards Cliff Moggs (Because I can’t do ‘paragraphs’ the refs. 1 – 5 are my original paragraphs.)  

Back on track

We were going off on a bit of a tangent there.

No the exam definitely wasn't degree standard (which was kind of my point).  You can't assume a high pass mark means anything.

I must admit in my more confident moments I have thought that the pass mark in these exams should be as much as 60% but no more - and obviously after I qualify!  It's understandable that many now want to pull up the drawbridge but it's hardly fair.  I know the exams have changed many times... I first considered CIMA in the late 80s and it was very different then in terms of number of exams and overall average marks needed etc.  However it was still seen as an easier option than the modular ACCA that CIMA has adopted now.

The fact is (I think) all the accountancy bodies in the UK have a 50% pass mark and it's not likely to change.  I guess they didn't feel they could make this entrance exam any different from the rest.  Whatever we think about that won't change anything, and I don't really care that much anyway.

That's enough from me.

What is the real problem?

1.    Jamie I acknowledge that participation takes valuable time and from what you say, “you should be studying” and I wish you well.  2.    So let’s go back to the ‘first’ posting. The underlying message is really one of surprise, members have no idea what is being done by the employees of CIMA for its benefit. You may say, well that is what Council is for, to control, monitor and approve actions to be put into place, such as a ‘fast track to an ACMA for a MBA degree holder’.  3.    But if you do not know what plans Council are pursuing you will continue to be surprised.  4.    CIMA is supposed it to act ‘in the public’s interest’, a requirement for incorporation by a Royal Charter and secondly Council members are supposed to act in an ‘open and transparent manner’. What you see is ‘silence’ coupled with a refusal to answer questions. The issue therefore is ‘power’ and I even accept that this has been delegated by members to Council and the Executive, it is the members will.   5.    What is fundamental to a professional body is openness and transparency exemplified by communication of what is being done for the benefit of its members so that a member can both participate and express an opinion. This is the problem; it fails to behave in this manner.  6.   The ‘Charter’ requirement is that more than 75% of members should be qualified to first degree level standard, that is they achieve at least a 70% pass mark (Noting that the Open University has a 85% threshold for a first class degree award, this recognises the ‘freedom’ of sources in learning).    Best regards Cliff Moggs (Sorry about paragraphs but the references 1 - 6 are my intended paras.)

Exams are NOT the only test

I can't sit on my keyboard any longer.

No-one could offer much evidence that CIMA is a democratic and representative body, but, first, neither can any other professional institute, and, second, there are many reasons for that - not least that it's almost impossible to get CIMA people to engage with the Institute unless they have either a direct personal interest or a particular bee in their bonnet, and if anything like a meaningful proportion did so, then the logistics of consultation and decision would simply collapse. Some of us are working on that but it's a long process.

(Nearly) back to the point of this debate: a snapshot entry-threshold exam is a pretty ineffective test of professional contribution to the public interest over a working life of around forty years. Any assessment (like Jamie's) of whether CIMA was easier than ACCA is purely subjective and will be most likely be fiercely opposed or supported depending on which exams the arguer took.

So if we are going to waste time arguing about exams, let's at least recognise that what counts is the knowledge-level after the exam, not the percentage used to assess that knowledge. Aren't management accountants supposed to be the people who recognise that inputs are only the first stage of achieving outcomes?


Just to point out that wasn't my assessment, but that of my peer group at the time.  Totally subjective and ill-informed but that was the view (probably based solely on pass rates).


1.   Adrian welcome to the ‘temptation’ from the dialogue.  2.   Step by step, the syllabus is designed as a ‘knowledge base’ of the subject. The purpose of the examination is to test technical knowledge gained from the learning process and no one restricts your preparation. The sole objective when taking an examination is to maximise your score.  3.   Qualifications are required if you wish to progress in most work disciplines and fundamentally viewed best as a ‘passport’.  4.   Now you have the job and to ensure retention perform.  5.   There is the issue of responsibility, are you producing value for the compensation?  6.  Is there any reason, not to raise standards?     Best regards Cliff Moggs (References 1 – 6 are my substitution for paragraphs – which I fail to ‘conquer’)

Continue in CIMAsphere

1.   The latter thread of this ‘board’ has moved into the “Institute”, its policies and in particular ‘participation’. As such for those wishing to continue these interests see the board “Institute” in the category Using Cimasphere.  2.  A final observation on examination pass rates; the Open University has a higher threshold for the class of degree than a ‘red brick’ university. For a ‘Lower Second-Class honours’ (2:2, 2.ii) instead of 50 – 60% average pass mark it has a requirement of 55 – 70%. I understand that its reasoning is that as there is a significant amount of independent study rather than structured attendance course work a higher threshold demonstrates the learning retention in examination. 3.   Progression to a Master’s degree normally requires to have a least a 2:2 honours degree – these require for the Open University a 55 - 70% pass in all examinations. 4.   One thing that this points to is the impact to be gained from the principle of CPD, lifelong learning recognising your make the chose of the ‘topics’ for your sole benefit without examination. Though for the ACCA to be acceptable CPD you must be able to demonstrate the learning benefit gained to count.  Best regards Cliff Moggs 

Numbers are not objective - and that includes pass rates

Cliff, sorry you're still having trouble with paras but thanks for the para-numbers.

But my impression is still that you're focussing on the visible measure and not the reason for the measure. You're throwing pass-marks into the debate, leaving people with the impression that the higher the pass mark the "harder" the exam, but no-one seems to be considering where those marks come from.

Despite what students might think, examiners are human too, and human nature means that examiners will award marks with the outcome in mind - if you set the "pass" at 70%, then an examiner who assesses an answer as "good enough" will probably award it 71%; if the pass was 60% the same work would get 61%. How do you know, for instance that OU tutors aren't simply awarding 70% and a 2:2 to work that would get 60% and a 2:2 from tutors at the red-brick? And does it matter if the measured outcome is a 2:2 in each case?

The outcome we're looking for is a profession able to apply a broad and deep range of technical knowledge to benefit our communities. That's what we get paid for, and I guess was behind Brendan's original posting - is CIMA's fast-track membership for MBA graduates helping or hindering that outcome? I still think it's hindering, but the reasons are nothing to do with exam scores.

Can we continue?

1.  Adrian, a suggestion, can we continue the thread in CIMAsphere under "The Institute"?  2.  As you rightfully state, "The outcome we're looking for is a profession able to apply a broad and deep range of technical knowledge".  3.  Is it not true that a registered student does not have to seek membership of CIMA?  4.  Is it not true that a registered student of CIMA in fact does not have to sit any examination ever?  5.  Is it not true that a registered student only has to be a 'bona fide' in preparation for the professional examinations.......but when this does not occur, what then?   6.  Is it not true that the answer is, nothing? Best regards Cliff Moggs