Passing a professional exam is a standard requirement before anyone can be award a professional qualification. However, the pass rates of many professional exams are very low. For example, CIMA announced a 42% fail rate for their strategic level papers in May 2014 whiles ACCA professional exam (P1-P7) had a 58% average fail rate in December 2014.
The question, is there any tips on how to pass these professional exams? And the answer is yes. I was able to pass all my ACCA exams on the first attempt and within 2 years. In this article, I will share a few tips on how to pass a professional exam.
Before we go on with these secrets, you must have at the back of your mind that the purpose of any professional exam is not just to land a good job but also to make you a thoroughly professional.
What are the Tips?
1. Believe that you can Pass.
You have to remove the limiting belief that you can’t pass a particular professional exam. If you believe you can pass or you believe you cannot pass any paper, you are right. You should always remember your self-believe is a good indicator of what you can achieve for yourself.
2. Invest to Pass Professional Exam
Most students cannot pass exams because they failed to invest their time and money. You have to invest in textbooks, revision kits and pass note for each paper you intend to study. The most important investment is time, not money. If you only use your free time to read your notes, you will also earn only free marks from the exam. I used to carry my summary notes to almost everywhere I go.
3. Practice Application of your Notes
The major reason why professional qualifications are assumed to be difficult is that most people cannot easily relate to the real world to lecture notes. If you want to understand a professional course note, look for a practical way to apply the knowledge. When I was doing corporate reporting (ACCA P2), I tried to apply the accounting standards on the live financial statements we prepare in the office. This approach has also helped my understanding of IFRS. A similar method was used on overhead costing, taxation, financial performance reports, etc.
4. Understand the Exam Structures
Another key reason why people fail their professional exam is the lack of understanding of the exam structure. Each paper has guideline and syllabus which also provide the structure of the exam. Some guidelines even provide mark allocation per topic. Again, if there is any marks allocation, is the examiner following it? The best thing to do is to review the exam questions of the past five or ten sittings.
5. Take Personal Summary Notes
Prepare for exams by way of notes which you can be recalled quickly at the time of taking an exam. This will help you in two ways. First, when you write something, you are in a better picture of giving your mind instruction through written letters. Secondly, you can revise from your summary notes instead of opening the whole book when exam day is near. Write bullet points for important concepts and key ideas which you need to remember.
6. Remember the Key Ideas and Formulas
Many calculation papers may require the use of formulas which are not given in the exam. It is therefore important to create ways of remembering these formulas. One of the key ideas to memorize formulas is to write them in small charts and hang it in front of your bed. See those formulas daily before going to bed and rising up. You can also make use of mnemonic like SWOT, PESTEL, etc.
7. Practice Past Exam Questions
They say “practice makes perfect.” You should, therefore, practise sample exam papers and be your own examiner. Consider taking the last ten past papers and solve them as different mock exams. It will be helpful if you attempt these mock exams in the time allocated in a real exam. Assumed that you are in an exam hall and solve the papers accordingly.
8. Group Studies – Two heads are better
Most likely, you are not the only person doing a particular course in your office or community. Make a group of 2 or 3 people in other to share your understanding of a particular subject or topic. You should avoid larger groups as they are synonymous with group conflict. Group studies will not only help you to learn the topics or subject you do not understand but also network with others. Your network can refer you to job opportunities.
9. Attend Lectures
After you make up your mind to write a professional exam the next critical step is attending lectures. Professional qualifications such as ACCA, CIMA, CFA, CIPD etc. focus their attention on practical application. The lecturer’s personal experience can help students to understand certain topics.
10. Allocate your Exam Time
If there is one thing that students will always complain about, it is time. You have several months to study but only a few hours to pass any professional exam. So, you need to effectively manage your time.
It happens that students try to focus on one particular question and if they are unable to solve it, they get confused. Don’t panic, start the next question. If you have time, you can take up that particular question later on. Always try to allocate 10 minutes at the end of the exam for a thorough review of your answers.
11. Don’t annoy the Examiners
Never think that the examiners will assume what you intended to write. They will mark what they understand and see it clearly. It is important you check your spelling errors and writing style. Writing needs to be legible and understandable. As a lecturer, I used to see major spelling errors on exam papers. Examiner has very less time to check your paper. If your paper is examiner friendly, you are going to attract good marks.
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