Back on Track to success in ACCA exams

Not every student passes their exams first time. I recently was invited to run an ACCA student webinar with Paul Kirkwood, Head of ACCA learner experience which was aimed at those students. We wanted to support them and to get them back on track to exam success.

The core message we were getting across to the students was to encourage them to reflect on why they had not succeeded and to encourage them to do something different next time around. We had plenty of suggestions up our sleeve e.g. doing mocks to time; playing with the ACCA’s practice platform, having a study buddy and reading examiner’s reports!

During the webinar we fielded many student questions. I want to share just a few of them with you, together with the essence of the replies that were given, and my own observations.

Student Question – What are the main reasons for failing an ACCA exam?

Our Response

In a general sense there are two. One is time and the other knowledge. If you were given an indefinite amount of time to do the exam and you feel confident that you would pass it; then time is the issue. What is needed to ensure a pass therefore is better exam technique and more exam practice under exam conditions.

If however there is a lack of knowledge then the solution is to go back to basics and to study the full syllabus. It’s not possible to pass the exam unless you have the knowledge.

My observation

It is of course difficult to generalise why students have failed. I think it’s important to try and listen to their individual stories. These are unusual times we are living through and so whilst for some tough love and home truths maybe the solution, for others a gentler approach is required.

Student Question – I am demotivated having just failed AAA a third time. What should I do to get my motivation back?

Our Response

Being frustrated and annoyed when you first hear that you have failed an examination is a natural emotion. It needs to be worked through. Getting that motivation to study is key to passing because it is tough to study for a resit alongside working and lockdown. So, think about what completing ACCA would mean to you and why you started studying in the first place.

My observation

During the webinar we were able to play a powerful recording from Chris – now a member – who shared his experiences. He qualified seemingly never having passed an exam first time. A testimony to his resilience.

He recalled the pain of failing exams which created empathy with the audience. He explained what motivated him was knowing that he was capable of passing. He wanted it for himself.

Student Question –  My theory was perfect in the exam. My time management was fine too. In fact I nailed it. And yet I failed. I just don’t understand why.

Our Response

This is a difficult question to answer. Because I don’t know why you would’ve failed either. But clearly you did fail. And therefore it’s necessary to reflect on why that has occurred. This is so that you can do something different to avoid the same outcome recurring. I hope you can get a mock marked by a tutor. This exercise should reveal the nature of the issue. Through discussions with the tutor you can hopefully then identify resources and a strategy that enables you to pass next time.

My observation

This is another classic question. Clearly the student doesn’t know why they have failed.  During the actual webinar I gave a much longer answer and suggested a whole range of things do differently. It can be difficult for some students to move on, but they need to. Those stuck blaming the system and not taking personal responsibility are not able to receive help.


Following the webinar, I also was a guest on the ACCA podcast hosted by Paul Kirkwood, where I also discussed similar themes.

Listen to the podcast here.

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