Where should I start from?

Where should I start from?

Studying and preparing for exams require you to spend time, energy, and money. But whether the study brings the benefits you desire depends on your preparation. Probably you are among the people who are wavering on planning for CIPS exams. What documents should I purchase? Is reading CIPS study guides enough to pass the exam? What level should I start from?… Those are the questions that we see every day on CIPS discussion groups.

If pursuing CIPS Diploma is a big decision to you, why don’t you approach to it as you are sourcing a strategic item for your organization? Sourcing based on well-studied model like CIPS procurement cycle is a brilliant idea. In the next section, we outline the stages and the questions you should identify to make a robust and informed decision.

Stage 1: Defining needs

CIPS points out that the stage where procurement can add the largest value is defining business needs. We should also start from defining the needs, or more specifically, your needs.

  1. What are your objectives?
  2. Do you need a degree to apply to a new position?
  3. Or do you want to learn more about specialist knowledge in procurement and supply to perform your current job better?

Ask yourself, what do you really need?

Stage 2: Market commodity/options

Once you have identified your needs and objectives, the next question is how you achieve that objective.

Nowadays, there are many qualifications and programmes on procurement and supply education provided by universities and other non-for-profit organisations. You need to do some research on the market, identify your potential ‘suppliers’. Of course, CIPS is among the options.

You already know the best qualification? Great, but how would you keep up with the qualification?

For example, you decide to pursue CIPS qualifications, would you study by yourself or would you go to a study centre? Consider it as a ‘Make vs Buy’ decision, with self-study is ‘Make’, and learning at study centre is ‘Buy’.

To the essence, ‘Make vs Buy’ decision consider cost and benefit analysis.

In ‘Make’, costs can be tangible or intangible. Tangible costs apparently are membership fee, exam fees, costs of books and other study materials (such as practice tests). Intangible costs are harder to be measured. They are opportunity costs, time, and energy, etc. You should keep in mind that these costs have linkages with each other. For instance, if you spend more time and energy to study, you will reduce the probability of re-sitting the exams and save a huge amount of money. Similarly, if you purchase some additional study materials (practice tests, books, and e-learning), you can spend less time and energy on self-study while the risks of re-sitting are reduced.

With ‘Buy’, tangible costs are generally higher. In addition to the costs of study guides, exam bookings and membership, you must pay the course fees. Conversely, your study time can be reduced if you listen attentively in the class and discuss regularly with your trainer.

The benefits that each option brings are not identical. According to our own experience, self-study students often retain the information better and have more holistic perspective on the programme. On the contrary, students at study centres remember the small details that impress them in the class, while learning with classmates also expands their professional network.

Stage 3: Develop plan

I hope that up to this point you can decide on self-study or learning at a study centre. However, this is only the first step. To achieve your objective, you need a rigorous plan. We suggest some points that you need to know so that you can plan by yourself:

  1. Study time: Each person has different study time frame and learning ability, depending on his/her foundation knowledge. Procurement is a multi-skilled profession which covers many intellectual aspects. Less-experienced students often complain about the vastness of knowledge provided in CIPS qualifications. Therefore, you should assess your own foundation knowledge when you are planning for CIPS qualifications. According to CIPS recommendation, CIPS Diploma requires total 600 study hours, with 250 guided learning hours, 335 self-study hours and 15 exam hours. The qualification has 60 credits, so each credit worth 10 study hours. So, an OR module requires 60 study hours. If you are a student with more than 5 years of experience, we encourage you to spend 100 hours or more to study OR modules. With CR modules, 150 learning hours would be enough.
  2. Foundation knowledge: Study time largely depends on your foundation knowledge. Though CIPS recommends students with more than 2 years of experience to enrol in the Level 4 Diploma, we realise that even some senior students have challenges in absorbing CIPS knowledge because of education disparity. To assess whether your knowledge is enough to start study CIPS Level 4 Diploma, you should try with CIPS Procurement Cycle. If you are unable to understand most of the Cycle, you ought to start study from Level 2 Certificate or spend at least 200 hours to study each Level 4 module.
  3. Materials: Many students (including me) complain about 2018 syllabus books and e-learning modules published by CIPS. To be frank, books contents were poorly written, chaotic and sometimes defective. You can use the alternatives such as Profex books, or supplement the books with information from study centre’s e-learning or from practice tests with detailed explanation.
  4. Study sequence: As aforementioned, procurement competency programmes are wide and complex. You should start the study route with a comprehensive module (like L4M1). But taking L4M1 at the first exam is not a good idea. You should better study L4M1 and some other modules before starting your first exam. We have written about exam combination here.


Studying CIPS Level 4 Diploma is a big decision, and not everyone had enough information to make a wise decision. We hope that after reading this article, you will be more confident to make a life-changing decision.

3 thoughts on “Where should I start from?

  1. Hi i am getting your tutorials from udemy, could you share study order advice since the link in the text is dead.

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