Change the world



Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University student, Kirsten Illenberger, took top honours in a sought after international accounting exam, coming up joint-first in the world.

Illenberger, 23, scored an exceptional 90% in the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants’ (CIMA) Operational Level Case Study exam, which was written in August this year.

The Operational Level Case Study exam is the fourth of CIMA’s 12 exams that make up the Institute’s Professional Qualification. It is the integrated case study exam for the Operational Level, which assesses candidates’ knowledge relating to three pillars that focus on organisational management, management accounting and financial reporting and taxation.

The exam, which was written by candidates from all over the world, is based on a real world business and industry to provide a simulated business context.

An incredulous Illenberger says when she first got her exam results, she thought nothing of it, except that she had done well. It was only four weeks thereafter that she was alerted to the fact that she was joint first in the world.

“When I first got the exam results I just saw that I had passed. I was very happy to have passed,” she said. “I didn’t think anything of it. It was about four weeks later that I received the email from CIMA, saying I had been placed joint-first in the world.

“At first I didn’t believe that it could be true but after verifying it was, I was extremely happy and proud of myself.”

Illenberger was one of five NMMU Academic Trainees who wrote the online assessment, with the help of four staff members from the University’s School of Accounting in preparing for the exam. Candidates were provided with a case scenario of approximately 20 pages to work through and study prior to writing the online assessment.

The former St Dominic’s Priory pupil is currently doing her articles towards becoming a Chartered Accountant, having almost completed the first year at NMMU as an Academic Trainee and due to complete the remaining two years at PKF in Port Elizabeth.

In preparing for the exam, Illenberger would spend time after work going through the content for the examination.

“I was lucky enough to get some time off in the week of the exam to prepare [and] went through many variations of past papers,” she said.

“I also had the support and knowledge of the School of Accounting staff, who met with me and my fellow Academic Trainees to discuss the pre-seen case study before the time.

“I also believe the strong grounding I got from my studies at NMMU helped me to be better prepared.”

Illenberger was awarded a book voucher and £400 (about R6,500) credited to her CIMA account, which she will use to continue her studies.

She has since written the next objective test, which she also passed, and is now studying for the Management Level Case Study exam to be written in mid-November.

From there, she plans to write the next three objective papers and the final Strategic Level Case Study exam to qualify as a Charted Global Management Accountant after obtaining requisite practical experience.

Division Head of Management Accounting and Finance within NMMU’s School of Accounting, Professor Johnathan Dillon, has been pioneering CIMA initiatives at NMMU for a number of years and was therefore overjoyed when he heard of Kirsten’s success.

“To be placed joint first in the world for this exam is an astounding achievement and we are very proud of Kirsten, who completed her BCom Honours in Accounting in our School last year and has now taken up further CIMA studies,” he said.

“All our Academic Trainees studied diligently and four staff from the School of Accounting also assisted them by working through the case and providing guidance. It was therefore very pleasing when we heard all five our Academic Trainees passed the exam and we were overjoyed to hear that Kirsten was placed joint first in the world.”

Illenberger’s career dreams are to qualify as a Chartered Accountant (CA(SA)) and a Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA).

“I hope to finish my CIMA studies by February 2017 and write my second SAICA (South African Institute of Chartered Accountants) board exam in 2017 and then to complete my articles,” she said.

“I have found a passion for Management Accounting and Finance over my years of studies, and especially working in the Management Accounting and Finance division of the School of Accounting at NMMU. Once I have finished my articles I would like to work in the corporate world for a few years but I would like to go back in to academia in the future.”

Kirsten flanked by her lecturers Suzette Snyders (left) and Prof Johnathan Dillon (right).

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Ms Zandile Mbabela
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Tel: 0415042777