Planning ahead for the September exams

With many exams now rescheduled for September, ACCA students around the world are changing their study plans. We ask some former prize winners for their advice on making the most of the extra preparation time, and how to keep motivated during the next few months.

Our contributors

  • Yogesh Tikmani, senior manager (finance department), Pepsico Inc – Strategic Business Reporting prize winner, September 2019
  • Meera Patel, assistant accountant, Kaplan international – Advanced Audit and Assurance prize winner, December 2019
  • Zoe Clark, ACCA trainee, Alder, Demain & Akers Ltd – Strategic Business Reporting prize winner, December 2019
  • Alex Milligan, trainee accountant, Russells Ltd – Taxation prize winner, December 2019

Many students now have three extra months of study time before their next exam. How should they adapt their preparation strategy?

Yogesh: If you have more than one exam left to take, use the extra time to prepare for two exams rather than one. I only have one exam left, so I plan to spend more time working through past exams, examiners’ reports and revision kits in order to thoroughly familiarise myself with the pattern and style of the exam.

Meera: I want to ensure I use this extra time as productively as possible so, for me, strategic planning is important. As the exam is a long way off, I need to find the right balance – I want to carry on studying, but not do too much too early. My plan is to review my different revision methods and slot them into a schedule that covers the next few months. For example, I prefer to begin by preparing my notes, covering the entire syllabus, then I read technical articles, and then move on to doing practice papers as this is the best form of revision as the exam approaches.

Zoe: I think it’s important to have a plan when preparing for exams, but usually my plan is based around my college course – so a few months of tuition leading up to question practice a couple of weeks before the exam. Given the changed timetable, I need to put more thought into preparing for my next ACCA exam, so that I maintain my good understanding of the syllabus and of exam technique after my tuition course ends.

Alex: The only thing I usually plan in advance of my next exam (before I start formal tuition) is working out when I am going to study. For example, I like to study in the morning before work, so to prepare I start getting up earlier in anticipation. It’s only when I see the syllabus that I start to plan what I’m going to study and when.

What are your top tips for revising at home?

Yogesh: When family, work and study are all in the same place it’s easy for one to disrupt the other. My advice is to stick to your study plan and leverage this extra time to better prepare yourself for the next exam.

Meera: When revising at home I need a space where I can concentrate without distractions, and I allow myself regular breaks to recharge. It’s also important to plan your time well – for example, I find it very helpful to write down my revision targets for the day and for the week. This gives me something to work towards and makes me feel like I am making progress. I try to make my revision plans achievable – if I am too ambitious, then my plan can become quite daunting and I’m less likely to reach my targets.

Zoe: I find it difficult to maintain focus and motivation if I try and study for long periods, so with the Strategic Professional exams I like to complete a question and then reward myself with a short break. As the exam gets closer, I do question practice a few evenings a week, and sometimes in my lunch breaks, so that I don’t leave everything for the weekends. This helps keep the information fresh and means I can do more revision. I also think it’s important to complete lots of practice questions and to do these under exam conditions. This helps to identify where your knowledge is weak, gives you an idea of how much you can write within the time allowed, and shows you how the examiner will award marks.

Alex: If a topic just isn’t sinking in, then rather than persist, give yourself a break until the next day. Also, make sure you’ve got plenty of different types of materials to learn from. Seeing the same topic from different perspectives will give you a better understanding.

How can students keep motivated when studying for longer?

Yogesh: I’m always motivated and encouraged by good marks and recognition, such as my exam prize – but, personally, I’m also motivated by the fact that I have almost completed my exams. I’m ready to go the extra mile and make the final push.

Meera: At the moment I’m still studying with Kaplan Financial, which gives me the motivation to continue – I don’t want to fall behind and I also have something to work towards. After my classes finish, I will continue to study, but not so intensely as I don’t want to burn out before the exam. I’m planning to set myself weekly tasks for the first couple of months to ensure content is not forgotten, and so I don’t fall out of the study routine altogether. Six weeks before the exam I’ll start revising more frequently and attempting practice papers, as I usually would. My tuition provider is also planning booster revision classes closer to the exam, which will help refresh my memory and provide exam practice.

Zoe: Usually, I remind myself that the exam will be over in a few weeks and then I can then spend my free time doing what I want. Now that we’re facing a longer gap, I will instead focus on my end goal of becoming qualified and remember how close I am to achieving this. I also don’t want to retake any exams, so by putting in the work now I will hopefully not have to study for the same exam again.

Alex: See this extra time as a positive, as you have more time to understand all the syllabus before the next exam. I also advise against studying every day – do enough to keep the subject fresh in your mind, and compare your progress week by week. When you start studying, there is so much information to take in that you can struggle. But if you know you’re getting somewhere, then you will feel motivated. So if you learn the syllabus bit by bit, it will gradually all come together and your motivation will continue to improve.