Prizewinners from the June 2013 exam session hail from around the world. Discover their top exam and study tips. Perhaps their advice could help you.
Gold medal winner, 407 marks
Roshenka Madanayake, Sri Lanka
'My exam preparation tips include employing effective time management, revising the entire syllabus and practising past exam questions. If nothing else, practise as many past exam questions as you can. They are a lifesaver as they provide some insight into what’s to come.
Silver medal winner, 393 marks
Anitha Sudarsanam, Singapore
'To succeed in the exams, it is crucial that you are well prepared by covering the entire syllabus and working through past exam papers. It is also important that you read through ACCA’s exam resources, the examiner’s reports and technical articles, especially when preparing for Professional level papers.
'It is vital that you answer the entire paper, all questions and all parts of the questions. Time management is very important and if you get into difficulties with a particular part, you should move on.
'For questions that require carrying forward answer figures from previous question parts, I suggest you make an assumption for the figure and indicate it to the examiner. This will be very helpful since you can answer the next part and will be rewarded for the steps in that part, provided they are correct.'
Bronze medal winner, 387 marks
William Thompson, UK
'My advice would be to make full use of tutors during your studies and build up your revision gradually towards the exam. During the exam, good time management is key to maximising marks.'
Paper F4, joint winners, 93 marks
Anton Ulyakin, Russia
'Try to enjoy the subject as you learn. This is often easier said than done, but it is effective. Linking your studies to real-life work experience helps a lot too.
'My tips on succeeding in Paper F4 are to:
- learn keywords, definitions and key phrases by heart. This will, in turn, help you to manage your time effectively in the exam
- know all the topics – of course, the extent of your knowledge may vary depending on the time you spent on each topic
- learn to write quickly as this is crucial for Paper F4, but make sure your writing is legible.'
Sharoze Ali, Pakistan
'Read the question requirement carefully and try not to deviate from it. Write in a concise manner and to the point. I try to prepare for all syllabus areas, rather than undertake selective studying. As with all papers, time management is crucial.'
Zhenyi Zhao, China
'Each paper must be approached seriously – you must place sufficient attention on your studies. For Paper F4, especially, an in-depth understanding of each sentence is important.'
Paper F5, 99 marks
Rebecca Whyman, UK
'Practise as many questions and past exam papers as possible. I found that this helped in my preparation and the type of questions to expect. Paper F5 has a range of subject areas and I found it useful to write cue cards for each subject area covering the main points. While going through past exam questions I made a note of any questions that I got wrong so that I could go back and attempt them again.'
Paper F6, 99 marks
Ying Zheng, Singapore
'There are no shortcuts. Studying my textbook and exercise book thoroughly was the only way to pass. When working through exercises, make sure you really do them by hand, not just in your head. Thinking is different from actually writing things down. The latter helps you identify what you haven’t grasped and where you need to refocus your studies.'
Paper F7, 97 marks
Jennifer Smith, UK
'I think that you need to back up your general knowledge with good exam technique. You need to have an approach that not only works for you, but one that you know will also convey your points clearly and score you marks. If there are tables or formats for presentation, learn them by heart. For Paper F7, I learnt the formats for consolidations and cash flows and practised these a lot until I knew the process for each without taking too much time to think about it. For written questions, I split everything into small paragraphs and sentences. I think that it helps to highlight the point you are making and score marks.'
Paper F8, 94 marks
Catherine Coleman, UK
'Question practice is really important in general, but this is especially true with Paper F8. There are a few key areas to grasp such as how audit risk differs from business risk and the different types of audit report but, once you understand these, the questions seem a little bit easier.
'Much of the paper also revolves around writing audit procedures and a single 10-mark question on the subject can appear daunting. My tuition provider’s revision course provided some good advice on how to break down this type of question. First, look for a couple of generic tests such as recasting the relevant ledger or re-performing a control account reconciliation, then a few analytical procedures such as a proof in total or some ratio analysis, and then finally some substantive procedures that prove each assertion. You need to be specific in your procedures to gain the marks.'
Paper F9, 94 marks
Muhammad Husnain Kakar, Pakistan
'The key to passing Paper F9 is understanding the underlying concept and then applying it to the exam question with an open mind and taking into account the implications for each piece of information given.'
Paper P1, joint winners, 84 marks
Andreas Kyprianou, Cyprus
'I always attempt at least three exam questions every week. In the final month in the run-up to the exam I always time myself under exam conditions. I never study the day before the exam – usually, I will visit my favourite restaurant and treat myself to my favourite meal.
'I use the first 15 minutes of the exam to read all questions and answers on the exam paper and make bullet points for all questions. Very importantly, I use the classroom time to obtain as much knowledge and information as possible. Finally, I always make a plan of how to study effectively and how to pass the exam.
'In addition to sitting past exam papers, I also studied my instructor’s model answers and I focused much of my time on understanding exam question requirements.'
Olayinka Oseni, Nigeria
'Attempt as many questions as possible and try to cover the entire syllabus. I solved all the questions in my exam kit at least three times to make sure I had a sound grasp of the different concepts and principles. I also tried as much as possible to cover most of the topics in the Study Guide. Additionally, I set up a study plan at the beginning of my studies to help me stay focused and keep on track.'
Paper P2, 88 marks
Virginia De Gersigny, UK
'Study a little each day, right from the beginning. I tend to set aside an hour each morning before work. Also, do plenty of practice questions.
'For Paper P2, I think you need to make sure you understand the basics before you start trying to add in the complex bits and use the proformas that your tuition providers suggest for Question 1, otherwise you may end up being completely confused and lose your way in the exam.'
Paper P3, 93 marks
Alayna Cloake, Trinidad & Tobago
'Read the entire textbook and practise as many questions as possible.'
Paper P4, 89 marks
Anitha Sudarsanam, Singapore
Also the silver medal winner.
Paper P5, 91 marks and Paper P7, 90 marks
Stephen Jackson, UK
'My tip would be to simply answer the question set. That may sound obvious but I honestly believe that most people who sit exams have the knowledge to pass but, in the exam hall, they panic and identify only a few keywords in the question before simply ‘knowledge dumping’ at the expense of reading the actual question requirement.
'I would recommend:
- taking a deep breath and realising that everyone is feeling nervous but that you have studied and are as prepared as anyone in the exam hall
- reading the scenario and making sure you understand the situation, dates, group structures and key events. In Paper P5, especially, most of the marks are for application to the scenario. This is an absolute gift! If you carefully read the scenario with the requirement in mind, then your memory will be prompted and you will identify clues in the scenario that you can use when answering
- identifying in the question the exact requirements, making note of the word ‘and’ – for example, ‘identify and explain’. This will help you when you look at the available marks as you will have a clear idea of how many points you need to achieve
- managing your time. It is simple – 1.8 minutes per mark in a three‑hour exam like Paper P5. Be tough on yourself. If you are running out of time, then very briefly and concisely put down your points before moving on
- using headers and leaving big spaces. It took me until Paper P2 to work this out and I credit an article in Student Accountant for helping me to realise this. If you are making clearly identifiable separate points you are putting the onus on the marker to deny you the marks. The markers are on your side and want to give you the marks, so make it easy for them. Give them a paper that looks nice and is easy to mark
- forgetting introductions to answers and essay-style answers. Don’t bullet point either but do just make concise, separate points
- learning enough about all syllabus areas and then practising past papers. This taught me how the examiners think, what they are looking for, question style, time management, etc. You will also find that you learn while you look at the answers to the past questions
- spending the day before the exam cramming. Get those acronyms learnt the day before, read articles, learn the exact structure of the more complex models.'
Paper P6, 91 marks
David Oliver, UK
'Attempt all questions in the question bank that your tuition provider provides you with. Also, attempting past papers will also alert you to the style of questions and how they are worded. Some people try to question spot and focus on parts of the syllabus that they believe will be examined. However, I strongly disagree with this. Instead, I believe you should study the entire syllabus. Doing all of the practice papers and other questions available to you is a great way of ensuring you have covered all the syllabus and have a good all‑round knowledge of everything that could come up.'