In order to become a fully fledged and qualified accountant you are going to have to pass some accountancy examinations. It makes no difference whether you want to be an ACCA, a CPA, an ICAEW or a member of any other professional accountancy body you are going to have to sit some examinations. Unfortunately, there is no getting away from it. When sitting accountancy examinations you will have to fit your study around your normal working life, meaning you will have to go to work every day during the week and study during your free time, such as in the evenings and during the weekends. Studying accountancy whilst holding down a full time job is not an easy task and in order to succeed you have to out in the hard work and effort and really want to become a qualified accountant.

Random studying is counterproductive and it is very likely you will miss some important topics, which may lead to failure. Before you even open a text book you need to set up a detailed study plan which clearly states the topics you will study on specific days and at specific times. Constructing a study plan is not difficult however it will take some time and a bit of thought. Firstly, you need to identify every single topic you need to cover in order to pass the examination. Once you have identified the topics you need to rank them in order of importance. All examinations are weighted towards specific topics and you need to know what these are so you can focus more energy on researching and learning those topics. With the topics ranked it is then time to put them on your study plan. The study plan gives your studying some focus and direction and will allow you to plan your studies around your lifestyle. When devising a study plan it is important to build in some free time to allow you to chill out, relax or pursue one of your hobbies. If you don’t have any free time you will find you will lose motivation to study, which is not good.

When studying it is best to start of slowly and gradually build up to the date of the examination. Doing too much study too soon is counterproductive and you are likely to find yourself burned out way before the examination. You will also find that when you know everything you need to know a long time before the examination you will forget some of it by the time the day of the examination arrives.

A good way of studying the theory is to read a chapter of the study book slowly and thoroughly to take in and absorb as much as you can. At the end of the chapter you should summarise the chapter in your own words, highlighting all the key areas as you go. If there are some areas you can’t remember, don’t worry. It is impossible to take in everything during the first reading so go over the text again and summarise the areas you originally missed off. Once you have your summary you should re-read the chapter of the study book to compare it to your notes and ensure you haven’t missed anything. Any omissions should be noted down. This approach should be used on every single chapter in the study book.

Only once you have completed your notes should you then decide what chapters and topics are going to need more time and effort than the others. You should not miss out any chapter, regardless of how important you think it is as everything in the study book has the chance of being included in the examination paper.

Learning the theory, book reading and taking notes is not enough to pass the examinations, and in order to maximise your chances of passing the accountancy examinations you are going to need to adopt a two pronged approach of book learning and then putting that in to practice by answering questions. Many study books have a section of questions at the back of the book, and these should be completed first. If you find you struggle with a question consult the answer and see how it should be answered. At this stage, this is not considered cheating and it will actually help your exam technique in the end as it allows you to see the format of how the questions should be answered.

Once you have exhausted the questions in the book the next port of call is the internet. Each professional body will have a students’ section on its website, and this will contain some more questions for you to attempt. In addition to the additional questions the website will have previous examination papers, as well as the answers, for students to download. Past examination papers are a valuable resource and you should aim to complete every single past paper that is available.

Completing past papers allows you to identify the style of the examination paper. You will see the format of the examination and how the questions are asked. By looking at the accompanying answer paper you will see how you are expected to answer the questions and the level of detail you need to go in to.

When completing past examination papers you need to make sure you do at least two of them in examination conditions. This means you need to sit them in a quiet room, with no study material, no internet etc to help you out and that you complete them in the allotted time. If you don’t manage to complete the required amount of questions it is nothing to worry about at this stage, although this will have identified you need to work on your time management and examination technique. One of the most common reasons for examination failure is poor technique, spending too long on some questions and running out of time.

So, in order to maximise your chances of passing your accountancy examinations first time there are four simple steps:

  • Devise a study plan
  • Do some book reading and note taking to learn the theory
  • Apply the theory learned through the book reading and note taking by answering questions
  • Develop your examination technique by sitting past papers in examination conditions

The above won't guarantee you pass every accountancy examination first time but if you combine the above with hard work and effort you will get there in the end.