How to prepare for your ACCA exams
With regular exams over several years, studying for the ACCA is a big commitment which demands a lot of study time. Every exam is one step towards qualifying as a Chartered Certified Accountant, so the pressure to do your best is on.
However, as with any exam, the key to success is effective preparation. In this article, we share some top tips on how to ace your ACCA exams.
There are four ACCA exam sessions every year - March, June, September and December. Session computer-based exams (CBEs) and paper-based exams fall within these allocated exam periods, whereas on-demand CBEs can be completed at any time.
When booking your exams, you should take into consideration your schedule and upcoming commitments. The next step is to effectively plan your study time. Work out the estimated number of days it will take to cover the material, then create a realistic timetable to plan your study around your job and other commitments.
Set yourself achievable targets for each day, such as getting through one chapter / syllabus area or doing a past paper. This objective oriented approach is likely to be more effective than allocating yourself a certain number of hours without working towards a particular goal.
Make sure that for each topic, you have a good understanding of the underlying concepts behind it. By getting to grips with these concepts early on in your studies, you will have solid foundation knowledge to build on when it comes to more advanced papers.
It is especially useful to get to grips with the structure of each exam, as well as types of questions. This will vary depending on exam type, e.g. question types on computer-based exams take various forms, including true and false, multiple choice, multiple response matching and number entry questions.
The ACCA study guide is a good starting point for revision. When preparing for each exam, you should first familiarise yourself with the syllabus and subject areas. The questions asked in the exams can apply to any section of the syllabus – so skimming over material is never a good idea.
Read through ACCA approved study materials and official textbooks. These contain formative tests of knowledge and helpful practice questions. They are reviewed every year, meaning they are always up to date. It is highly advisable to acquire the most recent versions of the texts, as you are risking learning material which is irrelevant to the current syllabus.
There are several other resources available on the official ACCA website. Examiner’s Approach Interviews are particularly useful as they give an insight into what examiners are looking for. Technical articles in the student magazine are also worth a read. Examiners discuss the impact of syllabus changes, standards and legislature etc on the ACCA examinations.
Completing past papers under timed conditions is a great way to test and build on existing knowledge, as well as improve your time management skills. When doing a practice paper, try to sit it in exam conditions – time yourself and resist the urge to look at your notes! It is more beneficial in the long run as it means that you won’t feel so out of your depth in the real thing.
Reading model answers from past papers is a great way to visualise how you should structure an answer. It is important to remember that whilst the layout of model answers is helpful, the content is not always relevant. The concepts may be there, but you cannot rely solely on the existing syllabus as some practices are constantly changing (e.g. Taxation and Financial Reporting). Memorising chunks of model answers is therefore not the best idea.
If you’re having difficulties, you should seek help from a teacher or a friend. Don’t let things pile up – it’s better to address any issues sooner rather than later.
In addition to ACCA’s range of resources, you can also opt for tuition from an Approved Learning Partner.
• Always ensure that your knowledge is backed up by concepts and ideas so that you can apply your understanding effectively in exam questions
• Manage your exam time carefully – don’t spend too long on each question and make sure to leave enough time to check your answers
• Plan your answers carefully and answer to the point
• Don’t leave any question unanswered – jot down a list of rough ideas if unsure, any attempt is better than none
• Re-familiarise yourself with the exam guidelines to know what to expect and minimise stress levels
• Get a good night’s sleep before the exam – don’t try to cram revision into the early hours
We hope that you’ve found these tips helpful. Be assured that no matter what stage you’re at in your studies, the end goal is firmly in sight. Every exam is taking you that one step closer to becoming an official ACCA Qualified Accountant.