How to Pass the ACA Exams
Updated: 2 hours ago
‘I know someone with a First from Cambridge who failed all the first stage exams and got sacked’
‘Apparently, each module has the same amount of content as a degree’
‘If you fail an exam 4 times you are barred from ever becoming a chartered accountant’
Anybody thinking about becoming a professional accountant will have heard the horror stories about how tough and time consuming the exams are. It is understandable how students, often from a non-financial background, can become overwhelmed when they are faced with a 500 page textbook full of numbers, formulas and accounting standards, only then to then be told, ‘this is just the first exam’. But as with any significant task in life, breaking it down into manageable chunks, getting the right support and developing effective techniques is the key to success. I speak from experience. Having trained at a Big Four firm, I passed the ACA first time and won prizes for 7 of the 13 exams I sat, including the highest mark in the world for the final Case Study exam. Am I genius? Far from it. Am I am workaholic? Not really. The secret behind it all is effectiveness….
Working full time and studying means time is at a premium, so you need to study effectively, i.e. learn as much exam crucial content in as short a time as possible. Exams are incredibly time pressured so you need to answer effectively i.e. write as many mark scoring points is as short a time as possible. In fact, you even need to read the questions effectively, i.e. identify exactly what the examiner wants in as little time as possible.
So what this boils down to is the fact that you need to learn the most examinable parts of each syllabus and have an exam strategy for demonstrating that knowledge as quickly as possible. This firstly requires a rigorous analysis of the syllabus, past exam papers and examiner comments to identify which technical areas study time should be prioritised. Secondly, and more crucially, it requires the creation of exam techniques to enable you to score as many marks as quickly as possible. Fortunately for the new generation of professional accountants, I have already done all the past paper and exam methodology development that is required. The effectiveness of my techniques has not only been proven by the prizes I have won personally, but also by the marks and prizes of the students I teach. Through the use of condensed and concentrated technical learning, exam technique development, shortcuts and tips, I have taken students who have failed multiple times to achieve upper quartile grades within a matter of weeks.
The underpinning philosophy is that every student has a unique way of learning and struggles with different aspects and this is what the large scale ’30 in a class’ mass tuition providers fail to account for. Whilst some students can battle through the qualification on their own, others find having a tutor more focused on them and their needs is priceless. Having an expert to structure your tuition in a way to develop your weaknesses, teaching in a manner tailored to how you respond best, adapting your individual writing style and improving your personal learning techniques are just a few of the benefits. So whether it is just one exam, one stage or the entire qualification that you require guidance for, the guidance of those who have been there, done it and got the prizes can be a useful source of support through this notoriously tricky journey.
ICAEW Professional Stage Prize Winner (Financial Accounting and Reporting, Tax, Financial Management, Audit, Business Strategy)
ICAEW Case Study Prize Winner (highest score in the world)