If you failed yourexam by one mark

April 2024

If you missed out by the tiniest margin then you have the knowledge to pass – you just need to upgrade your exam technique, says Helen Pretty.

Ouch – the worst mark ever! It’s like coming fourth at the Olympics.

I’m not saying this to make you feel bad, it’s more to recognise the importance of these exams and that they are tough. I know your hard work and commitment to study means you deserve to pass and then when you get one mark away from passing, I’m as gutted as you are.

I failed with this mark once and it’s tough. The best accountants fail their exams – right? I see you and I’m here to tell you it’s okay and ask you to keep going. I specialise in revision coaching, so that my students get the structure and exam day strategy in place (and practise properly) to be able to pass their re-sit… with confidence!

Having coached hundreds of re-sit students I know a thing or two about getting prepared and confident about your re-sit. I’m going to structure and break this down for you because I know it’s overwhelming to know what to actually start with and picking yourself up is not super easy.

Things to consider

Let’s start with things to consider so that you set yourself up for success. Remember, you have only just failed and I want you to be proud of yourself. You just sat your exam and I know you tried your best.

Okay – I want you to book your re-sit. Get that date in the diary and have something to aim for (no deferring the date). I recommend you book your resit two or three ahead (for CIMA students) because you have such a strong knowledge base in your head, so let’s not lose that.
If you’re not a CIMA objective test student, please book your re-sit for the next exam sitting.

My main advice is to keep your momentum. Let’s tackle it head on and make your next time the last time you sit it! Keep a positive mindset at all times.

The smart things to remember

You are not a rubbish accountant – so please don’t beat yourself up or be too frustrated. You can pass your re-sit – it’s tough but not impossible and you are so close.

Believing in yourself is a key part of exam success. Easier said than done, I know; however, a positive mindset and belief in yourself will lighten the revision and help you get more revision-ready. I’ve coached you on a strategy and mindset, now let’s focus on some techniques.

Smart things to focus


Don’t revise in the old way – it’s likely that you need a few new exam techniques to make sure you get prepared better.
There might be nothing wrong with your revision techniques, but consider which ones you know were not helping directly pass the exam and eliminate these next time.


Don’t make the same mistakes – again, think about your exam-day technique. If you repeat your old revision routine this might lead to failing again, which we both want you to avoid. The key suggestion I give to students inside my Inner Revision World is to read less. Focus on less reading and more practise – if you just failed by one mark your knowledge is great –it’s about focusing on practising exam techniques.

If you ran out of time then practise improving your time management.

Did you miss answering a question – yes – then practice smarter knowledge recall.

Did you spend too long reading the question – yes – then learn a new read/plan/write exam technique.

If you would like some direct coaching and you are a Strategic level CIMA student, send me a DM on LinkedIn or visit my website (www.prettysuccesfulcareers.co.uk).

Remember that you started your qualification for a reason and I know you want to finish it (trust me, it’s worth it). Take on board my advice, implement in your re-sit practice and keep your head up. Oh, and please write a revision plan – I’ll write about that in a future article.