Carol Guimaraes - A global ACCA journey

Welcome to a transcript of this podcast

Isobel Wroath: Welcome to this ACCA podcast. I'm Isobel Wroath. And today we're meeting with Carol Guimaraes, a prize winner from December 2020. Our focus today is to learn a little bit about her career so far. Discuss her journey into ACCA and find out what has influenced her route through to the exams.

So I know that you're a prize winner for the December 2020 exams in which you sat Advanced Audit and Assurance. And that's a really brilliant achievement. So just want to say congratulations at the start.

Carol Guimaraes: Thank you very much.

Isobel: It'll be really interesting to hear more about your approach to studies and revision shortly. But first things first, can you tell us what initially attracted you do accountancy?

Carol: Yeah, of course. So I'm Brazilian. And I'm originally a lawyer. So I started my career A few years ago, was a lawyer and worked for six years in Brazil. But before coming to Ireland, I was working for an American company in Brazil, very close to the accounting and financing team. So I felt like I had a passion for the subject. And I decided to move to Ireland to pursue my dream of an international degree. And then I did a postgraduate course in accounting, a transition course. And that's why I changed from law to accounting.

Isobel: Wow, that's quite an exciting move, isn't it? So can you tell us a little bit about your current role?

Carol: After I finished my postgrad course, I was hired to work as a trainee accountant in Baker Tilly, Ireland, in June 2019 in the corporate advisory team. So I've worked with a lot of examinerships, liquidations, receiverships, but also all sorts of reports to the courts. For example, loss assessment reports, which are very interesting. And now I'm having more exposure to audit. In interesting enough, before I took the AAA exam, I hadn’t ever had specific experience in audit. So now I'm having more exposure. And I'll be moving to the audit department of the firm.

Isobel: Interesting. So you've had practical experience alongside taking the exams?

Carol: Yes, Yes, I did.

Isobel: So moving on to the ACCA Qualification. Can you tell us what exam you started with?

Carol: So the postgraduate course I did gave me nine exemptions. The first exam I took was SBL, and for me was a huge challenge, because it's a very large subject. So it was a huge impact from college to the first exam on ACCA because I went straight into the Strategic Professional exams. I think maybe for those working towards ACCA in taking the first exams, maybe it's more natural, the movement, but for me, it was a little bit difficult. But in the end, I had great results for SBL and SBR. And then Advanced Audit and Assurance now. And I started with the paper based one in at the end of 2019 December. I was supposed to do one in June, and it was it was postponed to September, which was SBR. And the last one I did now was AAA in December.

Isobel: Yeah, imagine the pandemic has thrown quite a lot of planning out of the window for some people. True. So you mentioned you had exemptions there. But aside from the exemptions, were there any other factors that you had to consider when making decisions on what exams to sit and in what order?

Carol: Yeah, of course I did, I had a lot of, well, I'd say my success on my exams because of the fact that I've chosen the right exams one after the other. So I started with SBL because it was the biggest subject. That's what I thought about it when I first left college. But after that, I went to SBR and AAA just one after the other, because one feeds into the other. So when I started studying for AAA, half of the subject was already was knowledge brought forward.

Isobel: That's quite interesting. So you planned to build upon the knowledge as you progress through the qualification,

Carol: Definitely. And there’s an ethics part in all of them. This is a huge chunk of the marks for, for example, for SBL, it is a very good part of the marks is on ethics, but also SBR. And also AAA. So it's knowledge that you build up during this time. And it definitely helped me increasing my scores, I had to score I had 69 on the first exam 76 on the second and 90 on the third. So definitely was knowledge that I was building up during time.

Isobel: Oh, that's amazing. It's so nice to hear how that the planning played into those increasingly good scores.

Carol: Definitely, yeah.

Isobel: Did you speak to anyone, or asked for advice on that pathway to take through the qualification, maybe an employer or other students,

Carol: I read a lot of articles online prior to making a decision on which exam I would start with. I decided to do the SBL, because I've read a lot of opinions from other students, but the decision of SBR and then AAA was natural, it felt the best idea and it worth it. And also listening to my teachers, because I have chosen a learning provider that is recognised by ACCA. And they also provide some techniques and how to choose the next exam as well.

Isobel: In terms of that higher level planning, and something that students all have to consider, do you have a long term plan that covers the full ACCA journey? Or do you take it more a step at a time?

Carol: Well, it's a part of a step at a time and also long term planning. But first is just to finish the exams as soon as possible and do them as I had just one chance to do them, I know, I can fail and do them again. But every time I I'm enrolling for one of the exams and the courses I feel, I put myself in the state of mind that I have just one chance to do them. So that's my step by step plan. But for the future, of course, I when I finished my last exam, hopefully now in June, I still need one year more of experience to be fully qualified. So after that, of course, I hope to have my qualification and get better roles in in practice or in industry as well.

Isobel: So for you It worked quite well to have the time pressure I guess you could say, of trying to achieve exams in quite quick succession.

Carol: It is a good way of organising my life because as soon as I finished my exams, I'll have more time to dedicate to the practical part of accounting. So this definitely played an important role.

Isobel: So, as mentioned, you achieved a really fantastic result in your last exam. So let's talk now about your study and revision methods. Firstly, I was wondering how you keep your studies on track. So thinking about do you use particular planning tools, for example? And do you monitor your progress?

Carol: Not really, no planning tools at all. Bur what I do is, I never study by myself, I always choose a learning provider, or maybe a, just a book or something like this, but I always had a learning provider, and keeping up with the classes, and there's nothing so special. It's just being on top of the subject all the time, attending all classes, and then reading the classes the next day and doing some exercises just after that. But the thing that I think was the most important for me to achieve any of my results, was doing past paper exams over and over again, under timed exam conditions. So, for example, for AAA exam, I was doing the exams, and we normally have three hours and 15 minutes to take the full exam, I would always give myself just three hours. So on the real day, I had 15 minutes to spare. For any issues or, you know, just to revise my, my answers, I think this was the most important thing, but in keeping track my progression, I do that just checking which of the past paper exams I did. This is a very good way to see how I am progressing on this. So if I've done 30% 40% of all exams, existing exams, and then I can see how good I am. Because practice, I don't know, if practice that leads to perfection, but definitely leads to improvement. So that's, that's my method.

Isobel: Absolutely, I think it's really important to remember the how key a role question practice us. It really helps solidify knowledge and identify gaps in your understanding of a topic. So I completely agree. Definitely, yeah. So you've kind of answered my next question, which was to say, was there one key thing that you think helped you achieve exam success.

Carol: For sure, practising past exams and reading them as well. So even when I had, because I'm working while I'm studying, and I even have a life and trying to cope up with this COVID situation. So there's a life balance that we must keep going with exams. Even those days that I was very tired or with a very hard task at work, I would read the answers to past exam questions. So I would read the question. And if I was not in the mood, very tired to type them all, I will read the questions, the answers with a highlighter or reading on the computer, just to every day, I would have a contact with the content. So this was key as well, keeping with the questions, but every single day.

Isobel: That's an excellent tip, it's very important to understand what you can and can't achieve on a given day. being realistic with your study plan is very important.

Carol: Exactly. Yeah. And also, one more thing was sometimes I was I wouldn't forget to read the technical articles, because some people they would neglect the articles released by ACCA, but they are very important. So I know it's difficult to put all your efforts studying and revising and working. And sometimes, some people they have kids and family to take care of the reading, reading the articles is very, very important as well.

Isobel: And actually, just following on from the comment you just made about people's lives being busy and trying to get a balance. It's very common that say for students to struggle with certain exams and setbacks are very normal. That could be to do with the content, but it also could do be to do with that, that difficult balance between life and study. And however common it is, it can still be a real knock to someone's confidence. So what advice would you give to a student who suffers a setback in the ACCA journey?

Carol: Well don't give up, it's hard but it worth it. You will succeed. I know it's difficult to organise your life because sometimes we have loads of things to do at the same time, work is very busy, or sometimes you're working late at night. But everyone can take at least an hour or per day, we spend so much time on useless things like social media. If we put on our mind at least one hour per day, it will increase the chances of passing and you won’t feel like, ‘was I productive enough this week’. Next week, give your best do it again, don't feel depressed because of that. There's always a chance of improving. So we cannot feel like, ‘I didn't do my best this week’, so I won't do anything at all. Every day is a chance to improve a little bit more to the next exam.

Isobel: And I have another question about your revision plan, particularly about how it adapts over time. I'm wondering, do you make any changes to the way that you're learning as you get closer to that exam date?

Carol: In the beginning until the middle of the time I normally have to study, I would always revise the material by reading or just highlighting. And when I'm getting closer to the date of the exams, I would concentrate all my efforts on answering past exam paper questions. So you'll see I'm in the middle of my studies for Advanced Tax now. But I would hope to at the end of April, and to the ninth of June, I'll be just practising questions just practicing, practising to speed up my typing and my reading. So at first reading the material, revising whatever the teacher says, watching videos, but after at least one month prior to the exam, I will dedicate my time for just answering pass exam paper questions.

Isobel: And do you have any particular tips that you would share for the night before or even the hours leading up to the exam?

Carol: Well, I would say don't study very, very late the night before the exam, because it can make you a little bit more anxious in shows the normal and have a good night of sleep - it's crucial for the next day. In the morning, I always try to have a breakfast, relax, I have my notes with me. So I get into the exam or now with invigilated exams, I would prepare myself to the exam maybe two hours in advance, I would be sitting or near to the exam centre, or at home near to where I'm going to do the exam. Just revising my notes, we always know where we are a little bit more strong, or we're stronger or less strong. So just read the parts, you're not that strong. But in a calm way. There's not much we can do one day before the exam. There's no like doing questions and getting crazy. It's not the best option for sure.

Isobel: Yes, it's something that we've talked about in other podcasts. But I know it could be a very, very anxious time. But you're right, you need to take that that time just before the exam, to stay calm, breathe, and remember that you've done lots and lots of work to get that far.

Carol: Exactly. Maybe if you have some notes, various more, I always do like notes and then smaller notes and then even smaller, smaller, smaller notes, just bullet points. And then I'll take them to the exam hall or if I'm doing it at home on in the office, I would sit in front of the computer just glancing at them. Not very specific, but maybe that will help just to bring something to my mind whenever I'm doing the exam. But the whole work is definitely much earlier than one night before the exam.

Isobel: So just to wrap up this you've given some really great tips. And I'm wondering, can you provide three bits of advice to your fellow students that you think would help them get ready for exam success.

Carol: I'd say first thing would be to try to decide to do an exam as soon as possible. I mean don't leave enrolling to choose the exam very close to the date of the exam. Start studying from day one -  don't leave things to build up to be rushing at the end, one month before, the best thing is not to watch all classes one after the other. Leave space between the classes to understand the material and practice questions. I think this is the most important thing. This is not an exam you're going to learn in one to three weeks. So it will take time. And it worth if you put the effort and do it once each exam. So definitely, if everyone goes to the exam hall or to the date, date of the exam, feeling like that's your only chance, if you have this state of mind, since day one, it will definitely increase your chances to pass the exam on the first attempt.

Isobel: I think there's lots of strong themes about practice and preparation coming through which I think is valuable advice. So it's been great to talk to you, Carol. And finally, a final question for you, which we ask everyone on the podcasts to understand a little bit more about you before we say goodbye. So can you tell us about your favourite place?

Carol: I'd say any place near to the beach in Brazil. That definitely would be my favourite place if I could, or any place with my family. I think I live far from my family. I think those that are living far from families are even now because of Covid we are all apart. We're giving much more value to being closer to our beloved people. So the favourite place is definitely where your friends and family are.

Isobel: So yeah, thank you again for your time. It was really useful to talk to you and we wish you luck for the rest of your studies.

Carol: Thank you so much. I hope we can be a something that other students will take as an opportunity for them as well. I'm not different from any of the other students I haven't done anything crazy specific or magic I just put the normal work and it worked. So if I can do it, other students can do the same. So I hope this is an inspiration to what your students for sure. It's inspiring me as well. That's great, great to hear.