Over 71% of all our customers achieved Distinctions or Merits in the CIM June exam board (results issued 25th September 2015).
Here are 10 top tips so you too can achieve top grades.
- Balance – the CIM Strategic Marketing assessment is unique. There are in effect 3 elements: an audit for your chosen organisation, a plan (which you take with you into the exam) and the exam itself. Make sure you give yourself enough time over the 12-week schedule to successfully cover all three elements. E.g. It is easy for candidates to become paralysed by analysis with the audit and as a result under prepare the remaining two elements.
- Planning – Give yourself plenty of time to plan. You need to think through the following: What you need to find out (e.g. data, existing marketing plans, theories, contemporary articles.), where you will find this material, who you need to speak to, and most importantly how much time this is all going to take. Create a timeline. You might well be shocked by how much time you need to achieve all three elements. Be realistic!
- Resource – examiners like to see a good mix of theory, academic journals, industry articles and contemporary thinking (e.g. good blogs). The key is to make sure you apply the theory in the context of your organisation. Theory for the sake of theory is a waste of time. The CIM Diploma is a professional qualification, so try to use theory as a way to clarify what you are doing well as and organisation and what you need to improve on. Good academic thinking used well can help organisations enhance their competitive advantage. This is an argument I like to use when dealing with sceptical management!
- Time Management – Now you know what you have to do, work out when you are going to do it. You need to allocate at least 7 hours per week over and above class time. The key here is each week! Do not procrastinate. Work out when you can find this time – e.g. during your commute, after work, on a Sunday. What works best for you? Now block this time in your diary as unmovable meetings.
- Presentation – the way you present your audit and plan is an opportunity not just to gain some bonus presentation marks, but to improve your effectiveness as a marketer. So yes it is helpful if you are a dab hand and graphic design, but it is not just about pretty pictures however. The key to a good audit is for your audience to understand the key issues. I like to sketch out in freehand what I hope my graphics should show before I go anywhere near Powerpoint. This helps me decide whether a line diagram is better than a bar chart for example.
- Consistency – Often candidates treat each task in the brief in isolation. To counter this, I like to ask candidates to verbally summarise their whole plan in 30 seconds – the classic elevator pitch. There should be a clear narrative – what are the key opportunities? How can this organisation take advantage of them better than the competition? What are the financial benefits? It sounds simple but it requires thought to get right. Think about the best and worst Dragon’s Den pitches you have seen on TV.
- Practice Papers – Most people hate exams. I certainly did. Practice does make perfect though. So look at previous exam papers and practice at least 1 paper every week for the final three weeks of the course. Start by spending as much time as possible deconstructing each question and then answering each element using CIM’s formula of: Theory, Application, Evaluation. What theoretical frameworks/ models can you use, what have you learned from the application of the theory, what recommendations might you make. Top Tip: create a study buddy group and develop fiendishly difficult questions for each other. Then mark each others’ papers! As you get better you can limit your time.
We will tackle exam preparation and technique in future blogs.