Studying? how to meet the examiner’s expectations

Studying completely new marketing concepts and learning how to successfully apply them isn’t easy. Nor is studying for CIM qualifications whilst working. In recognition that it pays to work smarter and not just harder, Jon Twomey at London’s Student Support Group clarifies what you need to do to satisfy CIM Examiner’s expectations.

What the examiner expects What CIM students should do to succeed
Interpretation of the assignment task brief or exam question Respond to the command words in the brief or question, for example:
• describe; illustrate; critically evaluate
Clear, coherent, complete answers in a logical order Use the command words you’ve identified to:
• create a draft structure for each assignment section or exam answer
• answer the whole brief or question in a logical order
Concepts and underpinning theory Use your structure to:
• spot the topics required (listed in the Syllabus Guide - just login to MyCIM and choose ‘Studying’ and then select the guide for your qualification.)
• select appropriate marketing theory from textbooks, journals, online learning materials and so on
• consider which concept, theory, model, framework checklists to use
• be selective and do not brain dump. Don’t write everything you can remember about a subject regardless of whether it helps you to answer the question or not. 
Application to context provided Based on the appropriate theory, contextualise:
• apply the theory using relevant examples to the context of the question, for example, a small local company or large multi-national
• provide appropriate insight for the context in the brief/question
• refer to examples from the case study if appropriate
Evaluation techniques Based on the theory and context, evaluate:
• provide the ‘so what’, for example, say what’s good and what’s not, and explain why
• identify suggested areas for improvement
• describe the available options
• recommend solutions and justify your choices
• provide examples of good practice to amplify your points

CIM marking formula

Take note of how the importance of Theory reduces and the importance of Evaluation increases as you move up the CIM study ladder, as this table shows.

CIM Study level Concept/ theory Application Evaluation Presentation
Foundation Certificate  45 30 15 10
Certificate   40 30 20 10
CAM (Digital Marketing) Diploma 40 30 20 10
Diploma  30 30 30 10
Postgraduate Diploma 15 30 45 10

What the examiner expects What CIM students should do to succeed
Time management Get the job done up to standard in the available time:
• complete all tasks/questions
• allocate your time according to the percentage in the mark scheme provided
• do your assignment research by collecting references and examples
• allow reading, thinking and checking time
• use your tutor - submit a draft assignment or mock exam and respond fully to their feedback
Format and presentation Present your work professionally:
• follow the format instructions (report format is the CIM default if not stated otherwise)
• use Harvard citing and referencing for your assignment (login to MyCIM and choose ‘Studying’ and then select ‘Assessment Guidance’ and ‘Harvard system of referencing’ for details)
• stick to set limits: number of pages; word count; number of slides
• use appendices only when instructed
Use of wider reading Demonstrate your expertise in marketing by using a mixture of academic, commercial and professional sources including:
• academic textbooks and journals
• trade press including marketing media websites
• market and trend reports
• Industry specific and Government publications
• CIM website and Examiner reports
• mainstream press, TV, radio, podcasts, webinars
Creativity Don’t slavishly repeat theory:
• adapt the theory to suit the situation and be selective
• always credit the original author (with proper citing and reference)
• suggest creative solutions - draw upon your experience
• use annotated models, diagrams, flow charts to make your point and remember to justify all recommendations made
Are you ready to practice marketing? Think and write like a marketer. Consider:
• what’s in it for the customer?
• will this provide your organisation with competitive advantage?
• will this help your organisation to achieve its objectives?

Find the help you need

You can ask your tutor at your Study Centre for help and support. Our CIM training and qualification advisors are also here to answer your questions about CIM qualifications, please email

Some studying members choose to buddy-up with another student for practical support as well as help to stay motivated.

Senior Examiner reports provide further, subject-specific advice. Login to MyCIM, choose ‘Studying’ and select ‘Senior Examiner reports’.

For help with assignments and exams, you can contact Caroline Student Support Group which is a CIM Accredited Study Centre and has helped over 20,000 marketing students get qualified. Just email  or call 01784 463057. Fees apply to some services.