SEVEN TIPS FOR SUCCESS
The first critical instruction to follow is to arrive at the correct exam hall at the correct time. Always allow plenty of time to get to the exam hall so that you will be fully ready to approach the exams in a calm state of mind. Ensure that you have brought your stationery, calculators, your examination dockets and your student identification.
Read the paper instructions carefully when you receive the exam scripts and always check the number of questions to be attempted and the time you have.
When reading the questions, read the requirements for each question carefully. It is useful to underline key words and understand the verbs in the requirements. This will ensure that you answer the questions correctly and to the point.
You need to make sure that you will be answering the correct number of questions, and that you spend the right length of time on each question. The amount of time you spend on each question is determined by the number of marks available. The ‘magic’ number is 1.8 minutes per mark. So for instance, a 20-mark question should be selected, completed and checked in 36 minutes. Always attempt all parts of the questions and stick to the time allocation.
All three-hour papers have an additional 15 minutes of reading and planning time (RAPT).
During this time, students may only write or make notes on the question paper.
To use this additional 15 minutes most effectively:
- carefully read and understand all question requirements, making an informed choice about which optional questions to attempt where applicable
- read through and highlight relevant information and financial data, noting why it is included
- take note of the marks awarded for each question and the allocation of marks between different requirements within a question
- start to plan your answers, particularly for discursive questions
- make preliminary calculations
- calculate the time to be spent on each question based on the marks it carries.
Planning your answer properly and presenting it clearly is another critical component to ACCA exam success. While you’re planning how your answer should be structured, consider what format it should be in and how long each part should be.
Always show which question you are attempting clearly and remember to use black ink. Make use of headings, sentences, paragraphs, bullets and tables to present your answers in a clear and concise manner. Paragraphs that are too long or which lack a header do not help the marker. It is also essential to include all your workings in your answer. Do not scatter question parts from the same question throughout your answer booklet. If you are stuck with a question, leave a space in your answer booklet and return to it later.
To score well, you must follow the requirements of the question, understanding what aspects of the subject area are being tested and ensure that you tailor your answer to the question asked. You should make it a point to read the requirements at least twice and this will determine what information you should provide in an appropriate format.
Always plan your answers and do not just write down everything you know about a topic. Check whether your plan covers all relevant points and exclude irrelevant material. Remember, credit will only be given for what is relevant, and by including irrelevant points, you will also be showing the examiner that you lack the ability to judge what is important.
Don’t forget professional marks where available. Professional marks are awarded for the overall quality of answers, and for effective professional communication skills. These will be determined by the strength of arguments, the use of logic, sensitivity to the intended target audience, and for structure and presentation.
Remember that examiners are not just looking for a display of knowledge; they want to see how well you can apply your knowledge in the context of the exam questions. Evidence of application and judgment will include writing answers that contain only the relevant information.
Get the easy marks first – do the things you find easiest, it guarantees you some marks right away, and gets you into the ‘flow’ of the exam. You should also select the optional question you feel you can answer best, basing your selection on the topics covered, the requirements of the question, how easy it will be to apply the requirements and the availability of easy marks.
Some questions require you to present your answer in the form of a report or a memo or some other document. Use the correct format – there could be easy marks to gain here.
We have all had those nightmare exams where you don’t recognise any of the options or you don’t even understand the question; don’t panic. Take your time, leave it and come back to it if necessary but don’t let your head go down.
If you don’t understand what a question is asking for, state your assumptions. Even if you do not answer the question in a manner precisely the way the examiner requires, you should still be given some credit, if your assumptions are reasonable.
If you find yourself stuck on a question and unable to answer it, then move on to another question and return to this question later. Move on and come back later.
Success is what you can expect to achieve if you apply all of the above tips and techniques during your exams. To achieve success, you must also sufficiently revise for your exams. Being prepared will help you enter the exam hall in a confident frame of mind, which will help you as you start your exams. Make sure that your revision covers the breadth of the syllabus, as all topics could be examined in a compulsory question.
Another crucial factor in achieving success is practice. Going through question practice and mock exams will prepare you for the real exam. The more exam-standard questions you practise, the more likely you will be to pass the exams.
Remember, the key to your success lies in your own commitment and resolution towards doing well in the exams. So, get prepared, write your own success stories and be prepared to IMPRESS.
Excerpts from: ACCA [The global body for professional accountants]