Get your exam prep right

March 2023

James Patrick shares some top tips in getting your exam preparation right, with the help of
some recent prize-winners.

New year resolutions are generally set in January and then forgotten in February, but as we approach the March exam session it’s the perfect time to set some great resolutions that will help in your exam preparation and give you the best chance of exam success.

We’ve been speaking to some of our prizewinning students to get their top tips for good exam preparation:

Taxation (joint winner) – Aimee O’Connor, audit assistant

“To conquer feelings of being overwhelmed I stayed on top of my revision, put 100% effort into my studies, and remembered that my hard work would eventually pay off. Having a balanced study plan was also essential – ACCA syllabuses are very broad, and you must make sure you are confident in every topic as they could all come up in the exam. I revise using flashcards summarising key areas, and lots of question practice, especially for the Taxation exam, which initially felt like a new language. By repeating similar past exam questions, however, I became more and more confident.”

Silver medal winner – Joshua Lawrence, management accountant

“Allocate 25% of your available study time to understanding the syllabus, and spend the remaining 75% on question practice. I’m a big believer in learning by doing and, for me, question practice is the best way to learn how to answer questions while also reviewing syllabus content. I recommend using ACCA’s past exams and also ACCA’s YouTube channel – this is a fantastic resource where you can watch expert tutors dissecting past questions and showing how to score a good pass mark.”

Financial Management – Alex Chubb, management accountant

“Don’t wait until you are ‘ready’ to start question practice – jump in early and make mistakes, as this is where the learning happens. For the Financial Management exam, always practise Section C questions using the online ACCA spreadsheets to get totally comfortable with the platform.”

Bronze medal winner – Amy Smith, accountant

“Make sure you plan ahead, so you have time to study, but don’t overwork or you could wear yourself out. Also, complete as many practice questions and mock exams as possible, as this means you are less likely to be surprised in the actual exam.”

All these students cite the importance of practice. It’s critical in good exam preparation.

And that’s why ACCA now provides an additional standard mock exam, for each exam session, for core Applied Skills and Strategic Professional exam on the ACCA Practice Platform. These mock exams come with full wraparound support and are the ideal tool to get that extra practice in as part of your exam preparation. We really encourage all students to fully attempt the mock, ideally under timed conditions, and then invest time carefully to review answers with the self-marking functionality, model answers and debrief content.

Here are some of the reasons why mock exams should be part of your exam preparation strategy:

Identify your strengths and weaknesses

Sitting a mock exam, and then debriefing it gives you an incredible insight into how prepared you are for an exam. You can find out where you are performing well but, more importantly, you can identify any gaps in your knowledge.

And because you have taken the mock exam in advance of the real thing, you can take action to fill in any gaps before your exam.

Get focused

Going through the process of preparing for and taking a mock exam can get you into a great studying mindset. Structure your studies and set a realistic target date. Then work towards doing the mock under full exam conditions – to time and with no notes! Don’t forget to plan time to debrief the mock to get the full benefit. The Compass planner tool can really help with this activity.

Fight stress

Exam-day nerves are completely natural but the more practice you have the better you will get at overcoming them. Doing your mock in exam conditions will help you become familiar with the process, which will then help you overcome the stress of exam day and make the real exam less daunting.

Look out for the new mocks, which will be released on ACCA’s Practice Platform from 13 February. These come with accompanying debrief videos to help you make the most of them. Our analysis shows that, in the live exams, students who engage with the mock exams consistently outperform those who don’t. That’s a great reason for building mock exams part into your exam preparation!

• James Patrick is head of education solutions and student support at ACCA