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CIMA Syllabus 2019: Operational, Management and Strategic Exam Levels

The CIMA exam is very comprehensive, aiming to be one mile wide AND one mile deep. Potential candidates should take a closer look at the CIMA syllabus and make sure this is something they are willing to commit to in the next 3-4 years.

In addition to this existing standard for CIMA, we are also introduced to a CIMA syllabus change in 2019. There are new updates and additions happening with this exam and it’s going to be very important to know what these syllabus changes are and how they will affect you if you are currently a candidate for the CIMA exam.

Throughout this post, I am going to tell you all about the CIMA syllabus change, what you need to know about preparing for the CIMA exam, and information about the operational, management, and strategic exam levels.

cima syllabus 2018

CIMA Syllabus Overview

Before we dive into the CIMA syllabus changes for 2019, let’s take a look at the basics. First, you need to know that the CIMA syllabus is split into three parts, or levels. I will go into these three levels in more detail below, which is key to you understanding everything that the syllabus covers. The 2019 changes really only affect one part of the exam, so I will go over that for you as well.

I am going to outline the different levels and sections of the CIMA syllabus and also break down the new changes so you can see what is different in 2019.

Key points to know about the CIMA syllabus and upcoming changes: 

  • 2019 CIMA syllabus will be enforced starting 04-11-2019.
  • Only professional level exams (meaning e.g. E1, P2 or F3) are affected by the 2019 CIMA syllabus changes.
  • The 1st new case study will be conducted in Feb 2020.
  • BA papers will not change at this time (they are from 2017 syllabus).
  • The structure (3 pillars, 3 OT exams + 1 case study per level) and the format of the exams(online based, Pearson Vue, etc.) will not change.
  • The difficulty will not change.

Why Is CIMA Changing?

You may be asking yourself, why is CIMA changing? Perhaps you’ve already begun studying and now you worry that these changes will impact your ability to pass. Just like all other accounting exams of this caliber, research is regularly conducted to look for changes in the industry. CIMA is no exception.

For that reason, CIMA has been conducting research for the past 18 months into the digital world that CIMA covers to get a good foundation for what the finance function looks like. This research included 5,500 individuals, 2,000 organizations, and 150 countries. The purpose of the research was to:

  • Understand future needs in the industry
  • Gain insight into the finance function in the digital space
  • To mark the new competency implications for finance professionals today
  • To understand the new competencies emerging in this digital space

The core finding of this research was: In a digital world, the focus of finance function is shifting from based on costs, to based on organizational value.

What Does This Research Mean?

So, what does this research and its findings mean, and how does that relate to CIMA syllabus changes? In short, it means that the industry is no longer being evaluated solely on how much it costs to run. Instead, it’s judged on the value that it brings to the organization as a whole. This will lead toward a shift in how people in the industry look at those who work in finance and it can lead to major shifts for those working in a career in finance already.

For those who practice management accounting, new doors could open in their career paths as a result of these changes. The syllabus changes, while mostly minor, are intended to reflect these shifts and the results of that research that has been conducted. The 2019 CIMA syllabus change is not a major change like the one that took place back in 2015. In other words, don’t worry about it too much, especially if you’ve already been studying.

I’m going to highlight the changes below, but for the most part, they are just adjusting the content of the papers for what’s currently happening in the world of finance. All good changes to help further the industry and help the professionals who work in it.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the CIMA syllabus.

CIMA Syllabus – Operational Level

The first level of the CIMA syllabus is the Operational Level. Operational level is the first in the CIMA exam levels. This is used as a foundation block for the next two levels, and therefore, the knowledge is applicable to those at the technical, working level. Let’s take a look at the categories this level is broken down into.

E1: Organizational Management

E1 covers the organization structure at the basic level, and how efficient and effective management (through finance, IT, marketing and HR functions) facilitates the organization to achieve its strategic goals.

  • Introduction to organization (25%)
  • Managing the finance function (15%)
  • Managing technology and information (15%)
  • Operations management (15%)
  • Marketing (15%)
  • Managing human resources (15%)

E1 2019 Changes

Let’s take a look at what is different.

E1 –Managing Finance in a Digital World

  • A – Role of the finance function
  • B – Technology in a digital world
  • C –Data and information in a digital world
  • D – Shape and structure of the finance function
  • E – Finance interacting with the organization


  • A – Introduction to organizations


  • B –Managing the finance function
  • to
  • A –Role of the finance function


  • B –Technology in a digital world


  • C –Data and information in a digital world


  • D –Shape and structure of the finance function


  • C –Managing technology and information
  • D –Operations management
  • E –Marketing
  • F –Managing human resources
  • into
  • E –Finance interacting with the organization

P1: Management Accounting

P1 covers the important function of cost in the decision making of an organization. For example, various costing methods, the purpose of the forecast, plans and budgets, the cost in relation to pricing, and how to assess risk. In this level, the focus is on short-term decision making.

  • Cost accounting systems (30%)
  • Budgeting (25%)
  • Short-term decision making (30%)
  • Dealing with risk and uncertainty (15%)

What’s changed in 2019 syllabus?


  • A –Cost accounting systems
  • to
  • A –Cost accounting for decision and control


  • B –Budgeting and budgetary control
  • to
  • B –Budgeting and budgetary control


  • C –Short-term decision making
  • to
  • C –Short-term commercial decision making


  • D –Dealing with uncertainty in the short term
  • to
  • D –Risk and uncertainty in the short term

F1: Financial Reporting and Taxation

FI covers the role of financial reporting and why a financial statement is an important tool in managing the financial health of the organization. The concept of governance and taxation is also introduced.

  • Regulatory environment for financial reporting and corporate governance (10%)
  • Financial accounting and reporting (45%)
  • Management of working capital, cash and sources of short-term finance (20%)
  • Fundamentals of business taxation (25%)

Next, let’s look at the next level of the CIMA syllabus, the management level.

What is new in 2019?

F1 Financial Reporting Changes

  • A – Regulatory environment of financial reporting
  • B – Financial statements
  • C – Principles of taxation
  • D – Managing cash and working capital


  • A –Regulatory environment
  • to
  • A –Regulatory environment of financial reporting


  • B –Financial accounting and reporting
  • to
  • B* –Financial statements


  • C –Working capital and cash management
  • to
  • D –Managing cash and working capital


  • D –Fundamentals of business taxation
  • to
  • C –Principles of taxation

CIMA Syllabus – Management Level

Management level is the second in the CIMA exam levels. The knowledge in this level is built on the operational level and is applicable to the “managers”. They monitor and oversee how work is done. Next, let’s look at how this breaks down.

E2: Project and Relationship Management

E2 builds on the understanding of organizational structure in E1, and focuses on how an organizational strategy can be implemented through people, projects and relationships.

  • Introduction to strategic management and assessing the global environment (30%)
  • The human aspects of the organization (20%)
  • Managing relationships (20%)
  • Managing change through projects (30%)

What’s new in 2019?

E2 Managing Performance Changes 2019

  • A – Business models and value creation
  • B – Managing people performance
  • C – Managing projects


  • A –Introduction to strategic management


  • A –Business models and value creation


  • B –Human aspects of organizations
  • C –Managing relationships
  • into
  • B –Managing people performance


  • D –Managing change through projects
  • to
  • C –Managing projects

P2: Advanced Management Accounting

P2 builds on the insights about costs and their drivers (from P1) to support the implementation of the organization’s strategy.

  • Cost planning and analysis for competitive advantage (25%)
  • Control and performance management of responsibility centers (30%)
  • Long-term decision making (30%)
  • Management control and risk (15%)

What’s new?

P2 Advanced Management Accounting Syllabus Changes

  • A – Managing the costs of creating value
  • B – Capital investment decision making
  • C – Managing performance of organizational units
  • D – Risk and control


  • A –Cost planning and analysis
  • to
  • A –Managing the costs of creating value


  • B –Performance management of responsibility centers
  • to
  • C –Managing performance of organizational units


  • C –Long term decision making
  • to
  • B –Capital investment decision making


  • D –Management control and risk
  • to
  • D –Risk and control

F2: Advanced Financial Reporting

F2 builds on the competencies gained from F1, covering ways to source long-term finance, produce consolidated financial statements, and discuss the need for disclosure.

  • Sources of long-term finance (15%)
  • Financial reporting (60%)
  • Analysis of financial performance and position (25%)

New changes in 2019:

F2 Advanced financial reporting Syllabus Change 2019 

  • A – Financing capital projects
  • B – Financial reporting standards
  • C – Group accounts
  • D – Integrated reporting
  • E – Analysing financial statements


  • A –Sources of long-term finance
  • to
  • A –Financing capital projects


  • B –Financial reporting
  • to
  • B –Financial reporting standards
  • C –Group accounts


  • D –Integrated reporting


  • C –Analysing financial statements
  • to
  • E –Analysing financial statements

The last CIMA syllabus level is Strategic. Let’s explore what that entails.

CIMA Syllabus – Strategic Level

Management level is the third (and last) in the CIMA exam levels. The knowledge is built on the first two levels and is applicable to the senior management who make long-term, strategic decisions for the organization.

E3: Strategic Management

E3 aims to develop the skills and abilities of the strategic leaders or organization, e.g how to evaluate key external factors on strategy, handle ethical issues, implement organizational changes, and evaluate IS requirements for successful strategic implementation.

  • Interacting with the organization’s environment (20%)
  • Evaluating strategic position and strategic options (30%)
  • Leading change (20%)
  • Implementing strategy (15%)
  • The role of information systems in organizational strategy (15)%

E3 Strategic Management 2019 Syllabus Change

  • A – The strategy process
  • B – Analysing the organizational ecosystem
  • C – Generating strategic options
  • D – Making strategic choices
  • E – Strategic control
  • F – Digital strategy


  • A –The strategy process


  • A –Organisational environment
  • to
  • B –Analysing the organizational ecosystem


  • B –Strategic position and options
  • to
  • C –Generating strategic options
  • D –Making strategic choices


  • C –Leading change
  • D –Implementing strategy
  • into
  • E –Strategic control


  • E –Role of information systems in organizational strategy


  • F –Digital strategy

P3: Risk Management

P3 shows how to identify, evaluate and manage various risks that could affect the implementation of the organization’s strategy, and be able to recommend appropriate responses.

  • Identification, classification, and evaluation of risk (20%)
  • Responses to strategic risk (20%)
  • Internal controls to manage risk (20%)
  • Managing risks associated with cash flow (20%)
  • Managing risks associated with capital investment decisions (20%)

P3 Risk Management 2019 Syllabus Change

  • A – Enterprise risk
  • B – Strategic risk
  • C – Internal controls
  • D – Cyber risks


  • A –Risk identification and evaluation
  • to
  • A –Enterprise risk


  • B –Responses to strategic risk
  • to
  • B –Strategic risk


  • C –Internal controls to manage risks
  • to
  • C –Internal controls


  • D –Cash flow risks


  • D –Cyber risks


  • E –Capital investment decision risks

F3: Financial Strategy

F3 focuses on the formulation and implementation of financial strategy to support the overall strategy of the organization, by evaluating the financial and non-financial objectives, the pros and cons of mergers, acquisitions, and divestment, and recommend appropriate actions.

  • Formulation of financial strategy (25%)
  • Financing and dividend decisions (35%)
  • Corporate finance (40%)

Now, what kinds of syllabus changes are happening now in 2019?

F3 Financial Strategy Syllabus Change 2019

  • A – Financial policy decisions
  • B – Sources of long term funds
  • C – Financial risks
  • D – Business valuation


  • A –Formulating financial strategy
  • to
  • A –Financial policy decisions


  • B –Financing and dividend decisions
  • to
  • B –Sources of long term funds


  • C –Financial risks


  • C –Corporate finance
  • to
  • D –Business valuation

CIMA New Syllabus 2019

So, now you can see what is new for 2019. You can see from the highlighted changes above that they are not major changes at all.  CIMA certification is changing again, which is important to keep the standards up to date so candidates are learning the most accurate information in the industry. It will likely happen again at some point in the future.

First, it’s important to know that the structure of the exam is not changing. The difficulty level is also not changing. The CIMA exam will continue to follow the existing educational principals.

The changes are intended to bring more transparency and clarity to make it easier for you to prepare for the exams. It will also help you be more confident as you enter the exam room on test day.

CIMA Syllabus for Case Study Exams

Candidates must pass all three objective tests before taking the case study exams at the same level. This is because the case study exams integrate all the 3 learning pillars.

In other words, there is no specific syllabus for the CIMA case study exams, but the candidates should know everything at that level.

CIMA Syllabus Conclusions

Now that you have this information about the CIMA syllabus and the 2019 CIMA syllabus changes, you can feel confident in your abilities to understand the exam content. You can review the changes above for each level and part, in order to help you prepare for taking the exam.

Any Questions?

If you have questions on the exam content, please drop a note in the comment section below and we will try our best to answer. You can also check out the CIMA exam blog page for common questions from readers. My goal here is to help you learn all you need to know about the CIMA exam, how to prep for it, and anything else you need to know about becoming a CIMA member or starting your career in the industry.

For Your Further Reading

About the Author Stephanie Ng

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites.

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