A lot of students are asking me loads of different questions of different nature while preparing for ACCA exams including what subject to take what to leave, how to plan study and exam attempt, which questions to do first in the exam, what topics are important, what to read and what to leave etc. Following is a set of FAQs that I have compiled. Most of them are the ones recently asked by students and some are that pop up before every exam.
What subject should I focus more? (What subject should I drop?)
Admitting that every subject has its own demands however, following suggestions must not be ignored:
If you are taking classes with a teacher TRUST HIM its very important. Many a times under pressure students start deviating from teacher’s plan of action thinking that he is too slow for their best. That is a BIG NO! Every teacher follows a certain scheme to complete the course and he knows best how everything is going to fall in place. If you have doubts ask him instead of choosing your own strategy. Most probably it will be a killer.
If you are studying yourself stay equitable to all subjects you are preparing. There must be no inclination to specific ones thinking one is more difficult and the other is easy. In professional qualification every subject challenges you differently and if you are thinking one is easy you are probably misinterpreting the challenge. By “equitable” i don’t mean equal, its more like doing justice. If you can practice the questions of one subject’s chapter in 1 hour and another subject’s chapter in 3 hours its a job still well done. As you have prepared one chapter for both subjects.
Many students starts preparing multiple subjects and might have already paid the exam fee but close to exams they realise they will not be able to coup up and they have to decide what subjects to actually prepare and what to leave for next attempt. If you are in such a situation then follow practice over understanding approach i.e. take the subject(s) for which you can practice the best in given time. To clarify, sometimes you understand subject pretty good but do not have enough time to practice the questions then it won’t help. Practice is an execution of your understanding. So don’t target what you will understand better rather extend your target further and decide on the basis of practice.
For example you took F4 F5 F6 and F7 in the beginning but later have to drop two then decide for which you subject you can practice completely in the given time. To me F5 and F7 are more practice hungry then F4 and F6.
What syllabus areas to focus? (Important topics)
I require my students NOT to prepare with this state of mind. But yes it is in our nature that we seek help for the uncertain and there is nothing bad in this. Although no one can tell you absolutely what will be in exam but here are the suggestions:
- Go through past exam papers and if you can, try to analyse the trend of questions or seek the help of your teacher in this regard.
- Read recent Student Accountant magazine articles
- Go through examiner’s commentary on recent exams and record the areas where students perform less than expected. Those areas are re-examined most often in short spans.
- Identify your weak areas. This can only be done by practicing as many questions as you can. Don’t rest with any weakness on your part.
- Don’t skip any area. You might pay less attention to certain areas but ignoring them altogether is NOT recommended.
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How to plan my study? (With job, family and exams)
Majority of my students are working students and have family and exams to take care of as well. It is definitely a big feat in itself juggling all the roles at a time. Big salute to them especially mothers.
Often problem starts when other role interferes in studies. So we have to relational problems here. Study-Job, Study-Family.
- Follow a steady routine. I am not saying you need hours of study every day. Even an hour every day is enough if you are applying it effectively just for studies. Study on daily basis. Don’t make it your secondary goal. You can adjust it in 24 hours clock but don’t put if off the chart for a day. Following a steady routine will keep you going in right direction and also peace of mind as you progress on daily basis.
- Don’t mix up the two roles i.e. studying in job timings and doing job in study times. Get yourself free completely from one role and then switch to the other. Your work break is NOT a study time if you still have office work to do. So, don’t feel sad if you cannot apply your on job off timings for study purposes as you are still on job!
- Be realistic. Not overly optimistic or pessimistic. Look ahead. Start with an end in mind. Most of the time you know when your job will put a full load on you and thus require more time resulting in you being tired and not giving much time to studies and with many subjects taken up you will be depressed. Work out how many hours you will be able to spare a day in next few weeks or months. Generally one subject require 2 hours a day. Now its a simple math. For 2 you need 4 hours and for three you need six. So plan accordingly.
- Holidays, day-offs, leaves are the best chances you have to catch up if you have study work piled up. But hey! don’t leave your studies for leaves and holidays and that is a disaster many working students fall into. Make your holiday a perk not a punishment for yourself. Don’t leave your daily study routine just because you have a day off from job.
Crucial of all. I can understand what my student go through when they are sitting to study after a long hard day at office and suddenly their child is crying or asking for something immediately. Definitely a never wreck. But again, I salute them second time especially mothers that they keep on going! OK, enough emotions back to suggestions:
- Pray for a partner to stay supportive and be thankful to your better half and children if they already are.
- Define priorities. If your study and family matter stands equal, attend your family and then come to studies.
- Be flexible. Leave a breather hole and don’t plan your schedule very tight. For example if you have four hours to spare at home then it doesn’t mean 2 hours for family 2 hours for study all the time. In this four hour make room for 1 hour contingency as well and adjust and adapt accordingly. If you are too hard at schedule you will start making your dependents annoying and in the end your studies will be the reason of every conflict.
- Give casual time to your family beyond schedule sometimes. This will help keeping confidence and relations in great shape as dependents feel more secure and important and not just part of a schedule.
How to plan exam time? (What questions to do first?)
I take every reader and visitor on this website just like my normal student and from my students I expect that they must have done required practice so that they are ready for every challenge. Every subject has its own planning requirements to answer questions in 3 hours and 15 minutes mind wrestling.
- Your exam attempt depends heavily on how you practice for it. I always ask my students to do their every homework thinking as they are sitting in the exam hall and they have limited time. Think about exam pressure and then answer. This help them build stamina and gain confidence in fighting the odds of ultimate day of exam.
- Make the best use of 15 minutes. Many students don’t practice for this before exams. I like if student respect this time window more than next 3 hours. It won’t be wrong if I say that these 15 minutes will either make your next three hours or break them. Once you finished the course and have practiced individual questions. They start doing full-length past exams in the same exam conditions. Isolate yourself, sit down with the same apparatus as you will be allowed in the exam hall and start doing the question paper. The best possible way to fight exam pressure.
- Reach exam hall on time. Leave no stone unturned. What a sorry sight it will be if you fail the exams after months of preparation and you just didn’t make up to exam hall for those 3 hours.
- Start with the question you are most comfortable with. But even better will be to do those questions which are short and can cash in marks in less time. Do them as fast as you can and secure more marks in less time. Don’t pound on questions that are long just because you think you are fresh and ready to tackle them. I would not do it if I were you.
How to plan for exams with no break in between?
Do you really think that just by having a day in between you can move earth and heaven? I don’t believe. One thing I can agree on is that yes a break between two exams can surely give you time to rest and feel fresh. But, the exam time table is announced months before exams and if you are not keeping that in mind and leaving everything for just one day is not a good idea. Yes a day is better but not a must so don’t leave your exam or change the scheme of your subjects just because of that. I really don’t take it as a reason to be honest.
If you have no breaks then after exams come straight to your resting place. Rest. Eat and be in good shape before resuming your revision session. If you are to stay up all night then make sure you will be able to sit through exam. Please avoid energy drinks!
I will be updating this guide with more question as they spring to mind. In the meanwhile if you people have any question feel free to ask them in the comments below and I will try my best to answer them.