Three is the magic number

February 2024

Nasheen Wuisman explains how you can harness the power of the number three to help you get that all-important pass.

In the words of Bob Dorough back in 1996, three is a magic number. It might just be – you have seen there are three accounting principles to double entry booking, and we all know the 3Es of Management; Efficiency, Economy and Effectiveness. People speak of the Rule of Three for learning, too. There are many more. Let’s see how these fit into study and learning.

You have already seen that study is a challenge, especially as there is a constant balance that you trying to achieve between all your commitments. You are trying to get the maximum possible benefit from the time you can commit to your learning. Let’s see how some threes can help you.

Economy, efficiency and effectiveness

You have already seen how these apply in business, or you will soon in your studies. This concept can be applied a little closer to home:

Economy – Time… there is never enough time! Yet we need to be able to allocate it to study, to be able to manage it in the exam, and to be able to have a life around it all.

Planning your time: Plan your time week by week, and make sure you include everything in there to make it realistic. You will find there are usually few opportunities to have long study sessions, so allocate more shorter amounts of time (20-30 minutes, say). These will still be effective, as long as it is focused time.

  • Be prepared: Time management, whether you are studying or in the exam, means you should be aware of how long you have and what you need to try to achieve in that time, be it a chapter of study or completing a question. If you overrun, amend the rest of the plan based on the time you have left – but remember to keep clearly defined goals in sight.

    Efficiency – making the most of what you have.
  • Reduce distractions: It pays to silence your phone, as every time you check it you lose your focus, and the time you put aside to study will not reach its potential.
  • Resources: Equip yourself with all the support you need. Download articles from the Study Hub, save tricky topic webinars or YouTube videos, choose the study route that will suit your study habits and budget the best.
  • Exam awareness: Be aware of what you can and cannot do in the exam early in the learning process. This will allow you to navigate your exam better and reduce the worry caused by unfamiliarity with the software.

    Effectiveness – to be effective it’s extremely important to have that end goal in mind, the exam date and the outcome you desire.
  • Stay motivated: Think about how the professional qualification will change your life. Always set yourself sub-goals: “I want to do extra questions”; “I want to study half- an-hour longer tonight”. Make sure they are things you can do now. “I want to pass the exam” is an important goal, but the smaller steps to get there will motivate you more.
  • Question practice: Focus on question-led revision to make sure you are able to recall the concepts, able to apply them to a given question and get faster in answering questions under testing conditions. This will allow you to apply your knowledge better and get the desired outcome.
  • Taking control of your mindset: Try not to put off study, or to ignore a topic you do not like or understand straight away. Try not to think of the exam date as being flexible – be determined to achieve what you have set out to achieve. You will never feel 100% confident about the exam – no one ever does, but it does not mean you will not be successful.

A final magic three

You will find at times that you have studied something but when it comes to answering a question, you can’t! The Rule of Three for learning considers the need to give yourself the opportunity to learn something at least three times before you are expected to know it and apply it. This doesn’t apply to everything of course, as some topics can be absorbed more easily than others. But when you can’t answer a question, it might just be that you have not allowed yourself the opportunity yet to master the concept – so don’t think “I can’t do it”. You can do it, you just need to give yourself the fair chance.

So remember: plan, prepare, practise = pass!

  • Nasheen Wuisman, Senior Manager of Global Academic Progression at AICPA & CIMA, together as the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants