IMPRESS for success

Enhance your prospects of completing your exams successfully at the next sitting



The first critical instruction to follow is to arrive at the correct CBE centre or exam hall at the correct time. Always allow plenty of time to get there so that you will be fully ready to approach the exams in a calm state of mind. Ensure that you have brought your stationery, calculators, your examination dockets and your student identification.

Read the exam instructions carefully and always check the number of questions to be attempted and the time you have.

When reading the questions, read the requirements for each question carefully. It is useful to underline/highlight key words and understand the verbs in the requirements. This will ensure that you answer the questions correctly and to the point.

Manage time

You need to make sure that you will be answering the correct number of questions, and that you spend the right length of time on each question. The amount of time you spend on each question is determined by the number of marks available. Applied Knowledge (AB, MA, FA and LW) computer-based exams (CBE exams) are three hours long and Applied Skills (PM, TX-UK, FR, AA and FM) CBE-exams are three hours and 20 minutes long. The extra 20 minutes given for the Applied Skills CBE exams are to account for an extra 10 marks of objective test content (either five single OT questions or five OT questions based around a single scenario) which are included to ensure fairness, reliability and security of exams, but do not directly contribute towards the candidate’s score.

Paper-based Applied Skills (PM, TX-UK, FR, AA and FM) exams and Strategic Professional exams, with the exception of Strategic Business Leader, are three hours and 15 minutes long to reflect the manual effort required as compared to CBE exams.

The Strategic Business Leader exam is four hours long as it includes reading, planning and reflection time which can be used flexibly within the exam.

Prior to the start of each exam, there will be time allocated for students to read the exam instructions. Time should be taken to ensure that all the information and exam requirements are properly read and understood. You are encouraged to take time to read questions carefully and to plan answers, but once the exam time has started, there are no additional restrictions as to when you may begin answering questions.

  • As a guide to how much time you should spend per mark, take the total exam time and deduct the time you have set aside for planning, then divide this by the total marks available – ie 110 marks for Applied Skills (PM, TX-UK, FR, AA and FM) CBE exams and 100 marks for all other exams. For example, if you are sitting for a three hour and 15 minute paper-based exam and have set aside 15 minutes for planning, you should aim to spend 1.8 minutes per mark – ie (195-15)/100.


Planning your answer properly and presenting it clearly is another critical component to ACCA exam success. While you’re planning how your answer should be structured, consider what format it should be in and how long each part should be.

Make use of headings, sentences, paragraphs, bullets and tables to present your answers in a clear and concise manner. Paragraphs that are too long or which lack a header do not help the marker. It is also essential to include all your workings in your answer. For paper-based exams, always show which question you are attempting clearly and remember to use black ink. Do not scatter question parts from the same question throughout your answer booklet. If you are stuck with a question, leave a space in your answer booklet and return to it later.


To score well, you must follow the requirements of the question, understanding what aspects of the subject area are being tested and ensure that you tailor your answer to the question asked. You should make it a point to read the requirements at least twice and this will determine what information you should provide in an appropriate format.

Always plan your answers and do not just include everything you know about a topic. Check whether your plan covers all relevant points and exclude irrelevant material. Remember, credit will only be given for what is relevant, and by including irrelevant points, you will also be showing the examiner that you lack the ability to judge what is important.

Don’t forget professional marks where available. Professional marks are awarded for the overall quality of answers, and for effective professional communication skills. These will be determined by the strength of arguments, the use of logic, sensitivity to the intended target audience, and for structure and presentation.

Remember that examiners are not just looking for a display of knowledge; they want to see how well you can apply your knowledge in the context of the exam questions. Evidence of application and judgment will include writing answers that contain only the relevant information.

Easy marks

Get the easy marks first – do the things you find easiest, it guarantees you some marks right away, and gets you into the ‘flow’ of the exam. You should also select the optional question you feel you can answer best, basing your selection on the topics covered, the requirements of the question, how easy it will be to apply the requirements and the availability of easy marks.

Some questions require you to present your answer in the form of a report or a memo or some other document. Use the correct format – there could be easy marks to gain here.


We have all had those nightmare exams where you don’t recognise any of the options or you don’t even understand the question; don’t panic. Take your time, leave it and come back to it if necessary, but don’t become demoralised.

If you don’t understand what a question is asking for, state your assumptions. Even if you do not answer the question in a manner precisely the way the examiner requires, you should still be given some credit, if your assumptions are reasonable.

If you find yourself stuck on a question and unable to answer it, then move on to another question and return to this question later. Move on and come back later.


Success is what you can expect to achieve if you apply all of the above tips and techniques during your exams. To achieve success, you must also sufficiently revise for your exams. Being prepared will help you enter the CBE centre or exam hall in a confident frame of mind, which will help you as you start your exams. Make sure that your revision covers the breadth of the syllabus, as all topics could be examined in a compulsory question.

Another crucial factor in achieving success is practice. Going through question practice and mock exams will prepare you for the real exam. The more exam-standard questions you practise, the more likely you will be to pass the exams.

Remember, the key to your success lies in your own commitment and resolution towards doing well in the exams. So, get prepared, write your own success stories and be prepared to IMPRESS.