Prepare to pass

You have studied each paper in depth – so why fail by misreading an examiner’s requirements? We provide hints to ensure you know exactly what’s being required of you

Passing each paper of a professional accounting qualification can often be as much about technique in the exam hall as it is about knowing your subject inside out.

And it’s possible to increase your marks substantially simply by improving your understanding of what the examiner is looking for. In fact, many examiners and markers say that failing to understand the requirements of the question is a major contributor to missing out on easy marks – and ultimately to failing a paper.


Looking into the past

Past papers are an essential tool for exam preparation, as examiners don’t suddenly change tack deliberately in order to ‘throw’ candidates in exams. However, do not attempt to ‘question-spot’ – no-one can predict with accuracy exactly what knowledge areas from the syllabus will be selected for inclusion in any sitting. All you can do is gain a general sense of how the exam will be structured, allowing you to allocate time effectively on the day, after reading through the paper.


Read the question properly

Students have been known to pin their hopes so much on a certain topic being examined – or it being examined in a certain way – that instead of answering the question in the paper, they answer the question they want to see. This really does happen – which makes it imperative that you read, and re-read the question thoroughly. It might help to highlight or underline key demands or requirements – but be careful to look out for words or phrases that might trip you up.

For instance, if you are asked to say which of a series of statements contravene a certain accounting standard, you are being asked (a) for more than one and (b) for those that don’t comply with that standard – not the ones that do.

If you find that you can answer two questions in the same way, don’t congratulate yourself on your luck – it’s more likely that you have misread one of them. Go back over both and really scrutinise the examiner’s requirements. Similarly, never answer just part of what the examiner has asked for – extra marks will not be awarded for the requirements you do attempt.

And take care to use as much of the information provided as possible, particularly in financial calculations. Figures are there for a reason; if you haven’t taken them into account, you may have read the question wrongly. Go back and re-read.

"If you find that you can answer two questions in the same way, don’t congratulate yourself on your luck – it’s more likely that you have misread one of them"