Practice makes perfect for your RI exams

March 2021

Jo Tuffill explains the concept of learning curves, to help you get faster and better at remote exams.

With many ACCA students facing remote invigilation for the March exam the motto ‘practice makes perfect’ comes to mind. However in the ACCA Performance Management syllabus it is called the ‘Learning Effect’. Repeating the task means you will get quicker and better.

I decided to do an experiment, called ‘Try it without paper’. I wanted to see what the learning rate was for my students using the online scratch pad and calculator(optional) to complete some tricky two-mark numerical questions. The issue is, with 1.8 mins per mark, you need to complete the questions in 3.6 minutes, without your tried-and-trusted scrap paper.

The learning effect means that every time you double the number of times you complete the task you will reduce the cumulative average time of the task by a fixed learning percentage. The graph below shows this. As with any task there will come a point where the performance will reach a steady state. This will then become the standard completion time for the task.

In their first attempt, it took around five minutes and so I asked them to repeat the task another three times. Their cumulative average time came down to around four minutes. This is a learning rate of 90%. At first sight, that seems too slow but is it? The four minutes is an average time over all four attempts, we need to know the actual time of the fourth attempt. Does this then meet the standard of the 3.6 minutes for the question? That is exactly what is asked of you in the PM exam.


Did they meet the target of the fourth attempt to be within 3.6 minutes?

The moral is all students need to become proficient at using the CBE tools during these times of remote invigilation. The ACCA platform is available for you to use. For Applied Skills papers there are three CBE exams and blank workspaces to practice with. Your tuition provider should also be showing you how to complete questions online, too.

So get practising, repeat, learn – and you will succeed.

• Jo Tuffill is an ACCA PM tutor with FME Learn Online