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Prizewinners from the December 2013 exam session hail from around the world. Discover their top exam and study tips. Perhaps their advice could help you.

Elzbieta Kondratowicz, Poland, 98 marks

The earlier you start reading through your study materials, the earlier you will get a good grasp of all the Paper F4 syllabus areas.

I started going through my study texts for Paper F4 in August to prepare for the exam in December. By the end of September, I already had attained knowledge of all the subject areas, and I knew what I should learn in detail by the end of November.

By starting early, the knowledge will start to naturally sink in. By the time of the exam, you will feel as if you have always known this stuff!

What is even more important is that the knowledge will stay with you for much longer than if you learnt by memorising case names or provisions of a convention just before the exam date. While not everyone will have as much as four months to prepare for an exam, starting as early as possible is always a good idea.

Steve Bilocca, Malta, 90 marks

When writing audit procedures, choose your terminology carefully. Verbs such as ‘check’ are unlikely to explain what you intend to say. Use verbs such as ‘observe’, ‘enquire’ and ‘inspect’. In addition, when writing audit procedures, try to be as detailed as possible. State the documents from which the evidence will be obtained, and whether they relate to any specific period (for instance, ‘post year-end cash receipts book' or 'pre-year-end cash receipts book’ is preferable to simply writing ‘cash book’).

Also, ensure you have a good understanding of the various formats. For instance, deficiencies, implications and recommendations may be requested in the form of a report to management. By simply knowing the format of the report to management, you can easily obtain a couple of marks available for presentation. Make sure that you do not miss out on easy marks.

Fabian Harrington-Poireau, UK, 95 marks

For pretty much every exam I've sat, practising as many past papers as possible has really helped. ACCA’s website has past questions and answers from previous exam sittings. For the more technical exams, such as Papers F6 and F9, I think this strategy works especially well because you need to get used to reading the question, identifying which bits of information are important (and which you may need to work out for yourself), and then working through whichever model/computation is necessary.

Jasreen Kaur, Malaysia, 85 marks

My top tip for passing Paper P1 would be to read through the answers to every past paper and see how the exam questions are answered. I also made sure that the points noted in the answers to the previous year's exam paper were included in my notes, and I memorised them thoroughly in the days leading up to the exam.

Stavros Stamatiou, Greece, 87 marks

When I first began studying for the paper, I thought that answering the compulsory and longest question to the best of my ability was enough to pass the paper. I believe that this is a common view among students. However, I soon began to realise that answering effectively the more ‘theoretical’ questions in Section B was essential. Section B questions are much more difficult – but you will have a better chance of success if you grasp a good understanding of the many accounting standards.

If you are not a native English speaker (and I am not), then try to write as clearly as possible. Try to gain all the easy marks because these are a good base on which to aim for that pass mark.

Vishal Chauhan, UK, 91 marks

Make your own pocket notes from the very beginning, especially the various models and diagrams you have come across, so that they are in your memory bank. Although the pocket notes given by my learning provider are excellent, I feel that more personal notes are easier to remember. Everyone retains information in different ways, so you should tailor your notes to whatever works best for you.
I would recommend getting into the habit of reading business/finance-related news articles as the more reading practice you gain, the chances are that you will improve your reading speed, which will benefit your time management on exam day.
One thing I would say to students is to read the question more than once to ensure that you answer what the examiner is specifically asking and that you do not simply regurgitate what you think is the answer. Far too often in exams, students get a little blinkered and don’t understand what the examiner is asking of them, so be sure to read the question more than once before answering it.
For Paper P3 a level of confidence to say what you feel is the correct answer is essential and this can only be attained through gaining a sound knowledge of the various models and the syllabus, reading a wide range of business articles and practising past exam papers, as well as sitting mock exams set by your learning provider. A relatively small percentage of the exam is purely knowledge-based, with the majority of marks scored for effective application of knowledge.
Lastly, I would say that you must never be afraid of writing what you believe to be the right answer as it could be the difference between success and failure – so go ahead and write it!   

Loh Jia Ying, Malaysia, 89 marks

My tip can be summed up in an acronym 'ICU' – interest, commitment and understanding – because lacking these three important attributes is fatal.

If you want to pass the exam, make sure you understand the topics and commit sufficient time to both studying and practising past exam questions. If you want to score well, then it's important to develop an interest in the subject matter – only then you will go the extra mile.

Time management is key to exam success. Monitor your time. If you have spent too much time on one question, just move on. It's better to attempt most of the questions rather than spending too much time on one particular question.

In addition, improve your reading and writing speeds. These are often the two main obstacles for time management, especially for candidates whose native language is not English. Try to get in the habit of reading either magazines, articles or even newspapers, and perfect your writing technique when you attempt past exam questions.

My last piece of advice is for those who have come from the CAT/FIA route or those who weren't exempted from the earlier exam papers. Study hard because your foundation determines how far you go. If you settled for a marginal pass mark in the earlier exam papers, then I can assure you that you will find it difficult when progressing to the Professional level. When selecting your Options papers, try to juggle between your interests and capability. Your marks for Papers F5–F9 should help you decide. As I say, a strong foundation is a good platform to build on.

Vladimir Lutchenkov, Russia, 81 marks

Spend around 20% of your revision time on attempting theory questions and 80% on practising past papers. Read through your textbooks and make a short summary of the main theories – and learn them. Read through past exams and exams kits from the previous five years to gain a feel for the style of exam questions and answers. Do as much as you possibly can to prepare.

Last updated: 20 Apr 2015