“I’ll finish this question today”. Confident, energetic, enthusiastic – that’s the way I start most study days. “I’ll nail it today!”.

I had a clear schedule for my recent study week (and all recent weekends!): day one, get the company overview and first question finished, day two, finish question two etc. but I found that this schedule was broken so many times – and I began to wonder: “Why can’t I stick to a simple schedule?”, “Why am I failing so badly at getting this thing done?!”.

I started to think about learning itself and why these CIM modules, of all the courses I’ve ever studied, seemed so tricky. And I identified four key issues:

CIM assignment questions and framework

In theory the CIM questions are laid out in a staged framework, three sections each with a theme, “marketing plan”, “justification report” etc. with several questions under each theme. You can even look up the learning outcomes (LOs) that relate to each section. Not only that but the CMC study guide gives you the syllabus references at the start of each chapter, so, in theory, it should be straightforward. Do the relevant reading, answer the question, move on. But this is not an A-level exam, as my tutor Karl Meyer pointed out, the assignment as a whole has to tell a story, each section has to connect with the preceding one. So, often I bounced around inside the assignment, revisiting previous sections and refining them because my answers often didn’t relate to each other.

Applied learning

Learning the theory, models and history of marketing is not enough to get through this. It all has to be synthesised and applied appropriately to your own workplace. I’ve had to learn almost as much about my own company as I have done about the syllabus! In fact, the SWOT, PESTLE, micro and macro audits are so comprehensive that I’ve identified issues that will form the basis of marketing activity in future over and above what I’ve included in the assignments themselves. So, it’s not a case of running through the list of questions reeling off the relevant theory and referring to suitable authors to pass.

Learning is messy

My brain was often my worst enemy at a time when I relied on it most! Something I’d read several weeks before would suddenly come back to my mind, but this time, with a light bulb above it, “finally I get it!”. This often happened when I was away from my desk, walking or cycling with my family or during a meeting with colleagues. I’d have to go back to a section I thought I’d completed well and rewrite or rework it. Suddenly the day would end and I hadn’t achieved what I’d hoped…


One thing I at least did get right about this qualification was acknowledging that I would have to leave plenty to time to tackle the assignments (especially since I have two modules running concurrently) and I’m so glad I did. I feel almost like my brain needs days off to build new neurons, to connect one part of my brain to another – to make links between new information and old. Without that time I really believe that learning is superficial and temporary.

When I signed up for the CIM Level 6 Diploma in Professional Digital Marketing I had no idea that it would be so intellectually challenging. I’ve developed critical skills and knowledge which will help put marketing at the heart of our company where it truly belongs. I’m now confident that I will become “the voice of the customer” as tutor Alistair Pryde put it.

If you are hesitating about whether to apply for a course, I would say “go for it, you have so much to gain”. If you are in the thick of assignment writing, I feel your pain, but you will get through it!