I have failed myexam – what next?

June 2024

Karen Groves explains how to approach a re-sit exam to ensure success.

Taking exams is never easy; life has a bad habit of getting in the way when we least need it to and throwing curveballs at us.

That is on top of long working hours and children and family commitments before we start.

So you have taken an exam and failed, and wonder what to do next. Some students I have taught over the years immediately re-book their exams as quickly as possible, while for others it can throw them offtrack and make them question whether to continue.

My advice is simple: do not be defeated, pick yourself up, dust off your study books and start revising again – and have confidence that you can do this!

How do I know, I hear you ask? Well, after taking one of my ACCA exams five times (yes, I know, it was for me the worst unit ever), having a two-year ‘sulk’ after the first attempt as I hated it that much, I then had to pick myself up and start again. Believe me, the two-year gap made it worse. As my Dad recently said after I finally passed my ACCA exams and received my certificate, “there’s lots of hard work in that piece of paper but even more sheer stubbornness and a refusal to give in”. I think that pretty much sums it up. I often say to students, you must ‘want’ to achieve and pass the exams. If your heart is not in it then you will not do well. I also say to my students ‘try and fail, but don’t fail to try’ (a quote by John Quincy Adams).

For this article I have based my approach on AAT exams. As a student, you will have different study resources depending on your method of study and training provider; however, you all have one thing in common in that you all have access to the AAT Lifelong Learning portal. For students studying ACCA, CIMA and ICAEW you will have comparable study resources available and should adopt a similar approach.

Over my many years of teaching, I have witnessed some students not even working through the AAT practice assessments prior to taking their exam. I view this as pretty much the same as taking a driving test with no lessons – how on earth do you know what to expect, the format and layout? You can practise as much as you like with other resources that will all be great, but until you work the AAT practice assessments you do not know what to expect in the actual exam, layout wise.

Another error students make is clicking on ‘submit’ once they have finished the AAT practice assessments. For the current Q2022 syllabus, you will then receive marks per task for the computer marked tasks, but the system will not mark the written tasks. So, you have a purely computer marked assessment and have achieved 80% overall, which is good news – but what about the remaining 20% (marks lost)?

Well, unless you check your answers BEFORE you click submit, or screenshot your answers and check afterwards, you will never know.

For the written tasks that are human marked you will need to check these yourself against the model answers provided. Personally, I like to know where I have gone wrong so I can make notes and go back over revision and I’m sure you do too.

The AAT practice assessments will also ensure you are ready for the exam from a time management point of view. Each exam is timed and while working on other revision papers and questions is important, you are not timing yourself here. The practice assessments are important as they gives you a feel of what the exam will be like, as it will time you the same as in the real exam.

My other advice would be to read the Examiners’ reports carefully. Where are other students making mistakes, what are the weak areas in a unit? Go back over these to ensure you are confident.

Finally, don’t forget to use the other AAT resources, including the green light tests and e-learning.

  • Karen Groves is an AAT tutor and Faculty Director – Accounting, at e-Careers