ACCA Winners Top Tips

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ACCA Prize Winning Top Tips

April Palmer, financial analyst, WEX Travel, UK (Gold medal winner)

‘Start studying early, and if you’re studying with a learning provider try to keep on top of any question practice and further reading you’re asked to do between sessions. If you’re working while studying, then segregate your time – for example, take a walk after work and before studying to give your brain a chance to swap from one context to another. Also, learn to say “no” if asked to take on extra work, especially if you are at full capacity. It may be difficult, but you need to prioritise your studies in the evenings and at weekends. Finally, make sure to take plenty of breaks while studying so you don’t burn out and can go into the exam feeling fresh.

Jack Saunders, accounts and audit senior, Deans Chartered Accountants, UK Silver medal winners (joint)

‘I really enjoyed studying for my final ACCA exam, Advanced Audit and Assurance, and I focused my preparation on Question 1, business and control risks. In the exam, my approach was to read through the case studies and note every business or control risk that I spotted – this gave me plenty of risks to choose from for my answer. By starting with the easiest risks I knew I could bank some marks. Overall, for me the key to the exam overall is completing practice exams. I found that eventually I could almost anticipate questions, and knew the examiner’s question style, so I was well prepared before I started the exam. I also preferred to put in 100% effort for up to eight weeks before the exam to give myself the best possible chance of passing, rather than 50% and risk a re-sit.’

William Douglas, full-time student, University of South Wales Silver medal winners (joint)

‘Students combining work with study should take every opportunity to find out how exam topics are applied in the workplace, as this is a real chance to link the practical with the theoretical. As part of this, also discuss a few “what if” scenarios with colleagues to gain a more robust understanding of the subjects covered in your next exam. When preparing for an exam I read the study text cover to cover and made my own notes, which I used to reread the text multiple times. In addition, I answered every exam kit question under timed conditions, noting errors and redoing those questions where I made the most mistakes. I found the “blank exam” feature on the ACCA Practice Platform very useful – it gives you an idea of the format and style of the actual exam, and allows you to practise past exams. Finally, I always read technical articles to gain a more holistic understanding of syllabus content.’ 

Emily Watling, financial controller, Greyfort Services Ltd, UK Bronze medal winner

‘Revise every area of the syllabus as any topic can come up in the exam, and also attempt (or at least read) every practice question you can find. All ACCA exams are very time pressured, especially Strategic Professional exams, so it’s important to practise good time management. Finally, try to stay relaxed and schedule some rest time just before the exam so you don’t become too stressed.’

Oksana Glodik, financial controller, Iyuno-SDI Group, Ukraine (Performance Management)

‘In my opinion, the key to passing an exam is good organisation. Set yourself study deadlines and stick to them, and practise as much as possible. I also like to make short notes on each chapter of the study text and use these to quickly review material. I have a demanding job, so I know it can be tough to combine study with work. My advice is to establish your ultimate goal and use this as motivation, especially when times are challenging.’

Shreyanth Thiyagarajan, full-time student, UAE (Taxation (joint))

‘A key tip for the Taxation exam is to make thorough notes on the similarities and differences between the rules for different tax types, so that you don’t get the rules confused in the exam. In general, to pass an ACCA exam you need to be disciplined and dedicated, and to work smarter and more efficiently. Start studying as early as possible and follow a realistic schedule that includes appropriate breaks. Allocate a fixed topic for each study session and make sure you cover it, rather than study for a fixed number of hours per day. This helps you become more goal-oriented and makes sure you cover all the important syllabus areas. Practise several mock exams to improve your time management, and carefully review model answers to get an idea of how to structure your own answers in the exam.’

Renáta Jóna, tax reporting compliance junior manager, DIAGEO Ltd, Hungary (Taxation (joint))

‘Try to find the perfect balance of study, work and social life, but definitely be prepared for “short-term pain for long-term gain”. For the Taxation exam I would also suggest reading tax law to improve your understanding of the subject. If you’re combining work with study, then I would recommend starting earlier than you would do normally, so that you are fully prepared by exam day. Also factor in holidays, workload and other commitments to make sure you have time to cover the whole syllabus.’

Walid Hlimi, tax adviser, Canada (Strategic Business Leader)

‘In the Strategic Professional level exams, the application of knowledge to the question scenario is key. This is especially true for the Strategic Business Leader exam, and is something that the examining team consistently mentions in its reports. It helps to find a learning provider that can break down complex content and explain it in a way that’s simple and understandable. But ACCA also provides a great deal of information on its website. For good exam results, I recommend students read these preparation materials, especially examiners’ reports and technical articles. Most importantly, practise as many past exams practice as possible as I found this to be the most critical step towards achieving a good grade.’

Catherine Lambeth, corporate finance executive, Knill James LLP, UK (Strategic Business Reporting (joint))

‘For Strategic Professional exams breadth – not depth – is vital. You’re not expected to be an expert on every topic that comes up, but be prepared to gain marks on every question. Remember, you’re only aiming for a pass score of 50%, so you don’t need to pressure yourself. But make sure to practice, practice, practice.’

Molly Clarke, audit associate, Grant Thornton, UK (Strategic Business Reporting (joint))

‘This syllabus covers many different standards and, as any standard could come up in the exam, it’s important to know something about them all, rather than detailed knowledge of one or two. Exam technique is really important, so practise as many questions as possible. I start by going through some worked examples to learn how to answer a question and find out what the examiner is looking for, and the examiner’s report is really helpful here. Also, invest time in understanding your learning style. I can’t absorb any information without writing it down so, rather than just listen to a video, I re-write information in my own words. Having a rough plan of what to study in each session is also helpful and will ensure you cover everything in time for the exam. I also find time for things I enjoy and, even though it can feel like I’m not working hard enough, if I take a break, downtime helps me concentrate and revise more efficiently. Finally, if you work with other accounting students, then it can be helpful to talk through difficult concepts and practice questions – it’s also good to know that you’re not the only one constantly revising!’

Oliver Pezzarini, management accountant, Arrow Film Distributors Ltd (Strategic Business Reporting (joint))

‘Practice, practice and more practice – question practice is key to ensuring your exam technique is as good as it can be. Start revising early using tools like flash cards that cover the key points, and review them for at least half an hour each day whenever you have the chance. I started this from the first day of the course, writing flash cards after each tuition session.’

Nathasha Dias, audit assistant, Deloitte India (Advanced Financial Management)

‘This exam can be tricky but it’s also very interesting – think of it as a fun subject and your study time will pass quickly. To do well it is extremely important to gain an in-depth understanding of all the concepts covered by the syllabus, ideally before starting any question practice (which is also vital). You will then find that the formulas start to come easily to you without the need to rote learn them. While it is important to perform the calculations correctly, it’s equally important to be able to put these calculations into words as this gains you marks. I also believe in having a clear set of study goals, broken down into achievable daily tasks, plus time to relax. ACCA’s online resources are very informative and I make a point of reading the examiners’ reports and the examining team guidance to gain insights into the mind of the examiner and to understand common mistakes. Also, read the technical articles to gain better insights into the practical application of various topics.’

Brian Fu, senior performance analyst, Fonterra, New Zealand (Advanced Performance Management)

‘For this exam I recommend establishing a preparation plan that is realistic, making this plan a priority among your other commitments and then sticking to it. Make sure you truly understand the core content – in other words, that you can easily explain this content to someone else. Before the exam, the more past exam questions you practise, the more proficient you will become at answering exam style questions. In the exam, for each question, first read the requirements so you have it in mind when going through the question materials. Good time management in the exam is also important. Make sure you allow time to both plan your answer and then answer the question, and always move on to the next question when the allotted time is up. This prevents you from losing marks on things you know and allows you to maximise overall performance. You can always come back and tidy your answers later when you have spare time.’

Sindhuja Sundar, ACCA affiliate, Dubai (Advanced Taxation)

‘There are a number of reasons why I won the prize for this exam. First, I am passionate about the subject – everyone discouraged me from choosing Advanced Taxation as one of my Options, yet it is the only subject I really enjoy studying and my passion made me a prize winner. I also put a huge amount of effort into my preparation, but aimed for quality over quantity. I set weekly targets and when I achieved them I stopped studying. Question practice was important, as rote learning is not enough, but rather than complete as many questions as possible, I repeated the same questions until I got them right. I also completed mock exams to improve my time management and to feel more comfortable answering questions in an exam setting. Finally, as studying all day affects my mood and productivity, I always need to find balance. So while it might look like I’m slacking, I’m actually giving my brain a chance to relax and, as a result, I am more productive.’