ACCA Exam mistakes (and how to avoid them)


I’ve been a lecturer for over 20 years and in this time I’ve seen a lot of students make the same mistakes.

To help you avoid falling into the same traps, I’ve summarised the key reasons as to why students fail their exams:


Before the exam


1  Lack of preparation

It’s probably fair to say that many students don’t end up doing as much work as they’d originally planned to do. Work or family commitments mean that their preparation was less than ideal. Point 2 below should help here.


2  Lack of question practice

Stick to real exam questions. A revision course at a reputable college should help here as your tutor should be able to guide you towards the more examinable areas. Attempt as wide a variety of question as possible i.e. short and long questions.


3  Not keeping a study plan

It is really useful to design a daily study plan for the weeks running up to the exam and keeping it on your fridge door. Planning your study time now will let you know if you have allowed enough time to cover all of the material you intend to and give you a prompt if you start to fall behind. Don’t fall into the common pitfall of thinking that cramming in the last few days before the exam will get you a pass – it won’t!

Time Management

4  Not doing a full mock exam TO TIME without notes

It never ceases to amaze me how many students don’t sit an exam in full until they arrive at the exam hall. Most exams are very time-pressured and you need to acknowledge how much time pressure you may be under.


5 Being late to the exam

Know where your exam centre is and allow for potential disasters on the roads and trains. Get to the centre early and find a local café to sit and have a coffee to relax beforehand. The last thing you want when the exam starts is to be hot and flustered because you’ve just run 2 miles because your train was cancelled.

In the exam room


6  Panicking

It’s important to stay calm. Easier said than done I know but if you think the exam is tough, so will everyone else. Point 5 above should help to focus your mind before the exam and avoiding the “scaremongers” just before the exam who will try to tell you how much harder than you they’ve been working!


7  Not attempting every question

This is rule number 1 for any exam. If you only attempt 75% of the paper, you will be very lucky to pass. Work out early on which questions you are going to do and in what order.


8  Answering the questions in order

If you spot a question YOU KNOW you can answer, start with that one!  This will boost your confidence and will mean that by the time you come to the end of the exam, you are just improving your mark from 60 to 70%!


9  Bad time management

For a 3 hour exam, use the approximation of 1.8 minutes per mark to guide you as to how long to spend on a question. Therefore, if the examiner has set a 20 mark question, he doesn’t want you to spend more than 36 minutes on that question. If you write down the time you need to leave the question, you can start to “close the question” down 5 minutes from the end, even if you feel you have more to say.

After the exam


10  Sharing exam horror stories with other students

When the exam is over, forget about it. Don’t worry about what could have been or talk to others who tell you that the exam was a walk in the park. You have done your best and that’s all you can do.

Go and enjoy a few weeks of freedom before results day. You deserve it.


Mike Pennington
Chairman, First Intuition