As I’ve mentioned before on a previous article, it is mandatory that you develop answer plans when developing answers. It is recommended that you practice this technique multiple times before the exam (while practicing 5 exam standard mock exams). This will ensure that you exercise the same method in your real exam as well.
An answer plan is spells out the structure and content of the answer, in an extremely precise and summarized manner. You can consider an answer plan to be a short note of the answer which you are going to provide at the exam.
The benefits gained by developing answer plans are threefold.
As I’ve mentioned on a previous blogpost, most students find it hard to manage time at the real exam. The solution to this problem is adherence to answer plans.
If you spend enough time to plan your answer, then the quality of your answers will increase significantly. Further, when you provide well-structured answers, covering all requirements of a given task, you are in a better to position to gain good marks at the exam.
In fact, the CIMA invigilators love it when they see well-structured and planned answers.
There is no need to stress-out during a case study exam if you plan your answer appropriately. Further, since you are allocating some time to think, you can check whether your answer is line with the exact requirements spelled out in the exam. If not, you can still amend the answer plan before you start typing the fully-fledged answer.
When students are unable to plan their answers, they usually run out of time. This leads to students providing partially complete answers, thereby ending up losing valuable marks.
The only solution to this issue is to develop answer plans, so that you can provide complete and relevant answers within a short period of time.
It is a must that you stick to the following 5 steps when developing an effective answer plan.
This is a crucial step. You need to read the scenario fully (both the question and reference material). Be sure to check whether any reference material is available, since I’ve come across students who miss out on reading reference material and end up providing substandard answers.
After reading all the information, you are supposed to jot down the requirement of all sub-tasks into headings and subheadings. A heading should be in “Bold and Underlined” format and sub-heading should be in “Bold” format.
Note that this step is crucial since the quality of the entire answer depends on the accuracy of these headings and subheadings.
After the requirement is broken down into headings and sub-headings, you need to spend some time to identify whether the headings and sub-headings are in line with the exact requirement of the task. If not, you will end up providing answers which are irrelevant to the requirement spelled out in the question.
This is the most important step. After rechecking whether the headings and sub-headings are in line with the requirement spelled out in the question, you need to kickstart thinking and analysis. You need to spend a maximum of 15 minutes for OCS & MCS and 20 minutes for SCS.
Try to come up with answer points considering the mark allocation. For instance, if a certain sub task carries 10 marks, your answer needs to carry 8 to 10 valid points. The relevant points should be jotted down in bullet points on the answer screen itself and should be concise as much as possible.
At this stage, try to figure out whether you can bring in any information from the pre-seen (only if necessary) to add value to your answer.
After the entire answer plan is done, recheck the bullet points with headings and sub-headings, to ensure that you have covered all requirements. Try to figure out whether your answer points are too less or excessive, compared to the number of marks allocated.
After the entire answer plan is re-checked, you can utilize the remaining time to expand your answer points. At this stage, there is little thinking involved. Instead, the focus should be on typing the answers, covering all answer points which are mentioned in the answer plan.
The time allocation for this exercise (typing answers) is 2/3 of allocated time (30 minutes for OCS & MCS and 40 minutes for SCS).
Simply put, 1/3 of your allocated time should be spent on developing answer plans and 2/3 on expanding the answer plan (typing answers).
Although this exercise looks simple, it takes time and practice to master this technique. Hence, it is recommended that you stick to a similar process when attempting the 5 mock exams. If so, you will be repeating this method at least 20 times before the exam (4 answer plans per mock * 5 mocks), which is enough practice to get this technique right during the exam!
Checkout the blogpost CIMA Case Study: Issues Vs. Solutions to understand common issues faced by students and how to overcome them easily.
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