10 Case Study Exam Time-Saving Tips

Case Study Exam Time-Saving Tips

Have you noticed that nearly every examiner report comments on exam time management?


Because apart from failing to address the specific questions asked, poor time management is the biggest reason why students don’t achieve a pass.

It can lead to writing too much for one requirement and not enough for another.  Even though both requirements within a section carry equal marks.

And with the way the software works for CIMA case study exams, once the allotted time is over for that section, you’re locked out.  So you can’t go back to complete your answer.

Needless to say, an incomplete answer usually leads to a failed script overall.

So how can you ensure you finish your script despite this time pressure?

Try following these 10 tips to ease your time management worries:

#1: Create your answer plan in the answer area provided

One of the biggest benefits of doing this is that you can simply copy and paste your headings etc underneath your plan where you will write your answer.

This will help you quickly format your answer and mean that you spend the majority of writing time developing your ideas and turning them into well explained paragraphs.

It will also mean you avoid duplicating work by having to type out your plan from the laminated book.  Or waste time switching between windows if using the scratch pad.

#2: Be precise with your planned timings

It’s really worth spending a few minutes allocating specific timings to each part of your answer plan.   And then adding a “completion time” next to each element. You can then keep track of where you should be compared to the “time remaining” clock on your exam screen.

For instance, in a variant of the August 2017 management case study exam, there was requirement to evaluate political risk in 3 different areas.   Which was worth around 12 marks.

So if you had planned well for this requirement, you would have allocated how long it should take to write your answer to each of the three areas.  And at what time you should start and finish each part before moving onto the next.

With these timings there in front of you, as you type out your answer, it will force you to keep an eye on the time remaining clock constantly.  And in turn force you to be strict with your time when you are tempted to write that bit extra.  As even a 5 minute overrun is time you’ll never get back.

#3: Avoid re-reading the scenario when typing

As you’ve probably gathered, being an effective planner is a must if you want to pass your case study exam.  And this includes using 25% of the time allotted for each section of the exam on reading and structuring your answer.

Within this time I advise you read through the scenario twice.  And no more.

The first time should just be a skim read where you are looking to identify all the requirements.  The second read through should involve carefully going through each paragraph, and considering whether you can apply what you’ve just read to address those requirements.

If you follow this approach, you shouldn’t need to read the scenario again when you are typing out your answer.

#4: Resist the temptation to access the pre-seen

As part of your exam preparation you should have been able to discover the golden nuggets of information from the pre seen material.  And created a one page summary of key facts and figures to memorise.

If you keep reading over your one page summary in the final few days before your exam, you will be better placed to commit this data to memory.

So unless there is a vital detail that you have forgotten – and want to reference in your answer – you shouldn’t need to waste time scrolling up and down the pre seen in your exam.

#5: Trust yourself and your plan

Hopefully during the planning phase of your exam, you will have come up with enough ideas to match the number of marks that you think are available for each requirement.

For instance, a 45 minute section will typically have two requirements to respond to.   And each one will be worth around 12 marks.  So if you can come up with 6 ideas that can then be well explained in your answer to that requirement, you should be able to earn two marks for each point made.

Of course, this is not always the case and new ideas will come to you as you’re typing.  But unless they really are better than what you already have down on your plan, try to ignore these distracting thoughts.

Stick to your plan and trust that your original ideas are good enough to earn you pass marks.

#6: Pick up the “easy” marks first

Often, you can earn marks simply by coming up with common sense ideas that help address the requirements, without having to dig deep into the scenario.

For instance, in one of the variants of the August 2017 Operational case study exam, you were required to come up with suggestions for advertising job vacancies.  And give a benefit and drawback of each.

So it wouldn’t have been too difficult to come up with some ideas such as using recruitment agencies, social media, company website, local newspaper etc.  Which would have earned you marks.  Then it was just a matter of commenting on the pros and cons of those ideas with reference to the situation in the scenario.

#7: Think and type at the same time

CIMA’s guidance tells us that a typing speed of 20 words per minute should be enough to generate the volume of answer needed to pass.  For most people this is easily achievable.

But if you’ve found during your practice exams that your typing speed is an issue, force yourself to keep typing whilst you’re still thinking of how to explain your points.

Also, ignore any temptations to correct any spelling and grammar mistakes.  As long as the marker can follow the logic of your points, they will look to give you marks wherever possible.

#8: Don’t get bogged down with theory

Now, I’m sure you know there are plenty of marks available for displaying technical skills. And that any theory from the three objective papers on your level can come up in your case study exam

But it’s easy to fall into the trap of writing everything you know about a model or theory, rather than pick out the relevant points and explain how they are helpful in answering the question being asked.

This wastes a lot of time and effort as you won’t earn marks for using technical knowledge in a generic way.  And neither will using theory to address a question that hasn’t been asked.

And if you’re really running out of time, making a practical point – rather than a theoretical one – is often the quickest way to pick up any remaining marks.

#9: Keep paragraphs short

If you’ve read my post on how to write out your case study answers, you’ll know that I recommend writing 4-5 line paragraphs for each point you want to make.   But if you’re really struggling for time, be concise and aim for 3-4 lines.

In those 3-4 lines you should either be aiming to a) make a clear point and explain it, or b) apply that point to the case

#10: Use 2 line bullet points in an emergency

Ideally you want to earn two marks per well developed point.  And the best way to do this is to use a two paragraph approach – the first paragraph stating and explaining your point, the second applying that idea to the scenario/pre seen.

But if you are really tight for time – where there are just a few minutes before you are timed out – you can use two-line bullet points instead.  The first bullet should state what your point is.  And the second bullet should explain why it’s relevant in this situation.

Now, you won’t score as many marks as you would using in-depth paragraphs, but it will allow you to get all your points down quickly before you run out of time.


Time management in case study exams doesn’t have to be a struggle. If you use the tips I talked about above, then you should achieve a completed script.

I’ve found that these tips have worked consistently over the case study sittings, no matter what level you are on. So, make sure you start practicing them in your mock exams.

What other time-saving tips could you use in your case study exam?

P.S. If you want to learn more about writing a really strong case study script, just enter your email below.

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