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5 Ways to Stop Failing Your ACCA Exams

Find out key reasons why students fail the ACCA, and how you can avoid them to turn a fail into a pass. These tips can be the difference between passing and failing.

Failing ACCA exams is really common. Find out key reasons why students fail the ACCA and how you can turn a fail into a pass.

The most common questions we hear from students when it comes to their ACCA exams are:

  • Why do I keep failing ACCA exams?
  • Is failing ACCA exams normal?
  • How do I get back on track after failing the ACCA exams?
  • What should I change to pass the ACCA next time?

And, what do we always tell them? Failing is really common.

In fact, it’s more common than a pass if you look at the pass rates. Some students keep failing ACCA exams over and over again. Unfortunately, if you fail once, you’re likely to fail twice when it comes to the ACCA.

That’s because you probably don’t know what you’re doing wrong and so don’t know how to change it for the better. And if you don’t make changes, you’ll keep getting the same results – a fail.

So, let’s take a look at 5 ways you can avoid the mistakes of others and pass your ACCA exam on the first attempt.

5 Reasons You Might Keep Failing the ACCA

After speaking to our tutors and Education team, we have some understanding of HOW students can turn a fail into a pass.

1. You didn’t know enough

A stressed student is learning between books

If you keep failing ACCA exams and your mark was in the 30s or below, knowledge was your issue.

That might be because you tried question spotting (which doesn’t work), you weren’t disciplined about your study time, or maybe you wasted time making notes without actually learning anything.

In our experience, the students who consistently pass usually invest around 150 hours in studying for each paper. Plus, they definitely cover the whole syllabus and learn what they’re studying rather than taking notes.

Or maybe it’s because you assumed you knew basic things you didn’t. This is a common issue for later papers amongst students who had early exemptions.

The exemption doesn’t mean you don’t need to brush up on that syllabus – and if you don’t, you could find you keep failing ACCA exams because you didn’t know that early stuff.

Read more:  The pros and cons of ACCA exemptions.

Alternatively, maybe you studied hard and covered the whole syllabus, but you didn’t understand the material you were studying. This means there could be a problem with how you’re studying. This brings us to the next most common reason students fail ACCA exams.

2. You didn’t study in the right way

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If you don’t study the right way, you’ll struggle to learn what you need to pass the ACCA. The most common issue here is a classroom or online learning that just records classroom lectures.

Many students take the ACCA while working full-time – but they’ve chosen a traditional classroom learning provider. While some students find that model works, it can put you under a lot more pressure than necessary.

That’s because you travel to classes after a long, exhausting day, and the pace of learning is dictated by people in the class, not you. That’s still the case if you’re watching recorded lectures. It’s not an efficient way to learn – everything takes longer than necessary, and you’re likely to be tired, burnt out and frustrated long before your ACCA exams come around.

It’s the classic working hard, not working smart scenario. You could easily invest 300 hours for each paper or 600 hours, but you’ll keep failing ACCA exams if you’re not studying efficiently.

3. You didn’t apply your knowledge

ACCA makes it very clear that knowledge isn’t enough to pass – especially as you progress through the papers. The key is applied knowledge.

We often use the example of ledgers. Imagine you’re in a professional setting, and a client asks you about the best solution for their business. If you sat them down and launched into a monologue covering everything you know about ledgers, you’d lose their attention instantly.

Plus, you wouldn’t have answered their question, which means you’d be a pretty bad accountant. That’s precisely what the ACCA exams are designed around: teaching you to be a good accountant.

The key thing to remember is to treat the examiner as your client. Don’t answer questions by telling them everything you know about the topic. Instead, answer their question by applying your topic knowledge concisely and relevantly.

4. You didn’t answer all the questions

Almost every student has been guilty of this at some point. It often stems from not applying knowledge and wasting time writing everything you know that you run out of time for other questions.

‘But isn’t it better to answer the questions I know best in loads of detail to ensure I get maximum marks?’

We hear that often. No, it’s not better. Because if you only answer 75% of the required questions, it’s like having to get a mark of 75 to pass instead of 50. As we say all the time on our weekly podcasts, there aren’t bonus marks for making more points than they’ve asked for.

If a question is worth five marks, it’s looking for five points. If you write eight points, that’s three that you’ve wasted and three you could have earned on another question.

Read more: 4 Must-Know Exam Techniques to Pass the ACCA

Plus, don’t make each point longer than it needs to be. Each point should probably be around a couple of lines, and you shouldn’t spend long on it.

To work out exactly how long you should spend, divide the writing time in the exam (minus reading and planning time) by the number of marks the paper is worth. You’ll usually have a minute or so per mark.

5. You succumbed to exam day stress

Under stress and pressure

Some stress is inevitable. No matter how well-prepared, you’re bound to feel the pressure on ACCA exam day. Everyone’s nervous and has that exam day fear.

But some people handle that stress really well, channelling it positively to secure a mark that does them justice. In contrast, others buckle under pressure and fail ACCA exams despite knowing the material well.

If you’re the second type, there are 4 things you can do to help.

  1. Be prepared
    Obviously, the first one is to make sure you’re super prepared. If you don’t know the material, rely on certain questions to come up, or see the paper format for the first time, you’ll be stressed.
  2. Get used to exam conditions
    Take a mock in exam conditions. That has the big bonus of getting you used to the paper, highlighting last-minute knowledge gaps and getting used to exam conditions. Exam day is stressful partially because we don’t do exams often, so it’s an unfamiliar environment. Make them more familiar by practising.
  3. Organise the little things
    Take care of the little details. You’re less likely to do yourself justice in the exam if you arrive with your heart pounding because you might be late or stressed because you forgot something, and so on.
    Do yourself a favour and get those little details right, so you can free your mind to focus on the big thing: passing the ACCA.
  4. Practice stress relief techniques
    Finally, practice techniques like deep breathing and mindfulness if you still battle with exam day stress. These can seem silly, but they can help combat the physiological aspects of stress by forcing your body to be calm.

How to stop failing and pass ACCA

If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got. Nowhere is that more true than with ACCA exams.

Whether you got 20 or 45, the question you should be asking is ‘What am I doing differently to turn a fail into a pass?’

In fact, sometimes students are in a better position if they fail with 20-something because they know something big needs to change. The issue is the 40-something marks. It’s easy to assume you were so close, and you’ll pass next time without doing much differently. But unfortunately, if you don’t change your approach, it’s very likely you won’t.

Don’t be that student who takes two, three or even four failures to realise something needs to change. Even if you’re getting 49, something has to shift because a fail is a fail – whatever your mark.

Take the initiative now to change how you study and make sure you’re celebrating when the results day comes around.

Alan Lynch
6 min read
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