After the exam day

With the ACCA exam sittings available every quarter it seems as if students are constantly studying for an exam, revising for one or waiting for the results. As soon as the exams are over students wonder about what subject to do next, whether they will have to resit or if they can take a break.

I will deal with resits separately next month, but for the moment let me share my CHECKlist to help you use your time effectively once you have sat your exam, to plan your next steps.

C is for Chill out

Firstly, you have been working really hard for weeks and months preparing for the exam and now it is time to take a break. At least enjoy an evening catching up with your family and friends who you have probably been ignoring recently!

Give yourself a treat as a reward for all your hard work and, if you didn’t think of it this time, why not book a holiday for the week after the next exams? It really is important to rest, relax and recharge your batteries. After all, you’ll need to be match fit for the next round of exams all too soon.

H is for How did it go?

The exam is over and there is nothing you can do about it now, as it is in the hands of the markers. However, it is important to reflect on how the exam went. Take a deep breath and review your performance in the exam.

Consider whether you felt you were sufficiently prepared:

• Could you answer all of the questions on all of the topics that came up?

• Could you complete the whole exam in the time allowed?

• Could you have done anything differently to make the exam easier? That last question is really important, because now is the time to decide whether your study approach is working for you.

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to studying, but if your current approach is leaving you rushed or anxious in the exam then it’s sounds as if you are under-prepared and perhaps something needs to change.

Take time to reflect on whether you spent enough time studying. Did you give yourself enough weeks leading up to the exam to go through everything AND did you spend enough time each week?

If not, then make the decision that you will start studying earlier for the next exam. Plan the days of the week that you will study and block out times in your calendar to study. Be creative with your study time – set your alarm 30 minutes earlier to read some notes, watch a video or tutorial or the bus or train while travelling, or work through some questions over lunch. Find ways to make study fit in with your other commitments.

E is for Explore your options

Arrange a meeting with your line manager and/ or apprenticeship coach to give them feedback on the exam and to discuss the next steps.

Talk about what new skills you have learned and whether there are opportunities for you to apply those in the work environment. Review the subjects you have left to study and find out if there are any work placements coming up where you could gain some real-world experience as you are studying the theory.

Look at the work schedule for the coming months and be honest about whether you will have time to fit in studies alongside year-end or the busy period, or if you need to take a break from the next exam sitting.

Think about your personal commitments, too. Will you have time to study over the summer months if you have a young family who needs you? Do you like winter sports and want to take time out to pursue those? Just because the ACCA offer an exam sitting every quarter, it doesn’t mean you have to sit every quarter. Take a study break if you need to.

C is for Courses and resources

As part of your post-exam reflection, do think about whether the course was the right one for you. It may be that your employer provides you with a study package so you may not have any input in your course selection, but you can still give feedback to your employer and the tuition provider on what worked and what didn’t.

When you are buying a course take time to discuss with the course advisors on exactly what the course has to offer. As a minimum you should have a clear and comprehensive text book and a bank of questions (whether online or hard copy) to work through. Where possible have a system where you can practise exams or mocks in an online environment to get some real exam preparation – it’s great for time management, too.

In addition, check out what tutor support is available in a classroom, video tutorials, online classes, email and phone support. No matter how great the learning materials are there are likely to be areas that you need a bit more help with, so the ability to chat to a tutor is invaluable.

Visit the ACCA website and make sure you read the technical articles, review the examiners’ feedback, work through past papers and attempt the specimen exam, just so you are comfortable with the computer-based exam platform.

Don’t underestimate the power of peer-to-peer learning. If your work colleagues are studying the same subject then arrange some group study sessions. Why not meet up with your classroom colleagues or use community forums to chat to your online study-buddies to support each other and share advice and tips?

K is for Keep going

ACCA exams are challenging, but do-able. It’s a professional qualification so, of course, the exams need to check that standards are being maintained.

Remind yourself why you want to become a qualified accountant – your hard work will all be worth it in the end.

Next month: Caron has some top advice on what to do once the results are released.

Caron Betts is an ACCA tutor with AVADO