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Answer the question!

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Answer the question!

January 2021

Geoff Cordwell explains that passing accountancy exams should be straightforward to the well-prepared PQ: just answer the question as set.

Why do hardworking students fail exams? This is an interesting question. Maybe you should pause and think about it for yourself for a moment.


Maybe the exam was especially difficult. Maybe the student was just a bit unlucky with the topics that came up. Maybe the pressure all got a bit too much and a little panic set in.


These are all possibilities, and some might apply to you or someone you know in the past. But what is the most common reason for failure?


If you’re a hardworking student, then you should know enough to pass. The precise questions asked shouldn’t have upset you, and besides you make your own luck, don’t you? Gary Player, the legendary South African golfer accused of being lucky having holed from a bunker, once said: “The more I practise, the luckier I get”. He won nine major championships and is fourth equal in a list of most major titles won.


The reason most students fail an exam is that they fail to answer the question set. Of course, you say, since if you don’t do that you can’t score marks. The reason for not answering the question isn’t that the students did not have the knowledge, since they are hardworking and practised. It is that they either misread the question, answered a different question or wrote so poorly that the marker couldn’t give them credit.


• Geoff Cordwell is an ACCA APM tutor at FME Learn Online.

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