Top tips for managing work and study

ACCA preparation plus a demanding full-time job can be a challenge, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do well in both your exams and your career. We ask our December 2021 prize winners for their advice on how to survive – and thrive – when combining work and study.


Jordan Slade, business adviser, BDO LLP, UK (Gold medal winner)

‘If you’re starting your ACCA studies, I recommend devising a personal study plan as early as possible and then make sure you stick to it. ACCA is a long journey, so keep chipping away. You’ll be surprised by how much you can get through if you plan in advance, are prepared to put in the time, and are willing to sacrifice some of your social life.’

Annelien Deceuninck, business analyst, Mainfreight Air & Ocean, UK (Bronze medal winner)

‘Look after yourself and go through the exams at your own pace. Remember the importance of quality over quantity – rather than spending 10 hours studying, you can probably achieve the same in seven hours and then spend three hours recharging your batteries.’

Rebecca Kennedy, audit and business services semi-senior, Ashgates Corporate Services Ltd, UK (joint Audit and Assurance prize winner)

‘Balancing study with a full-time job is definitely the most challenging aspect of studying the ACCA Qualification for me, especially allowing myself the necessary study time when I am also busy at work. My key advice is to put in time whenever you can, even if you only have 10–20 minutes spare it all adds up! Also, put in effort right from the start of your studies. This can really be helpful when preparing for later exams that build on earlier syllabus content. And remember, some exams will cover areas relevant to your job and can actually help you in the workplace.’

Fearghus Mahon, assistant manager client solutions, Fund Recs, Ireland (Advanced Performance Management prize winner)

‘I’ve managed to pass my exams while working full time, keeping up an active social and sporting life, and navigating a couple of job changes. But it has been a challenge. Be prepared for the volume of course content and the restrictions that study will place on other aspects of your life, especially if – like me – you want to progress quickly and pass each ACCA exam first time.’

Sam Haddow, tax team member, Mander Duffill, UK (Advanced Taxation prize winner)

‘It can be hard to balance your job and ACCA studies with personal goals such as exercise or hobbies, but remember that you’re only spending a short time on something with lifelong benefits. My advice is to get into a habit of study and revision as I found it much easier to maintain a regular commitment. Even when I wasn’t very enthusiastic, the act of starting a task or question gave me the motivation to finish it.’

Millie Croudson, accountant, TLP Consulting Ltd, UK (Advanced Audit and Assurance prize winner)

‘There is a lot of knowledge to learn and some subjects were completely new to me, which added to the challenge of work and study. My key advice is to start early, be organised and don’t leave studying until the last minute.’

Kushal Banerjee, corporate finance director, Azzurri Group, UK (joint Financial Management prize winner)

‘Talk to your boss, your colleagues and (if you have one) your mentor to make sure they respect your commitment to ACCA, and give you the time you need to prepare properly. Due to the pressures of my job, my study time was very limited and, as I also had to self-study, I found that the breadth of each syllabus could be a challenge to cover satisfactorily. However, my boss has been a constant source of encouragement and has also made sure that my responsibilities allow me to gain the practical experience required to become an ACCA member.’

Thomas Fitzgerald, finance fast streamer, UK Civil Service (Strategic Business Leader prize winner)

‘For me, the work/study balance has been particularly challenging as I’ve been working on the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which demanded more hours in the office than usual. For students in a similar position, my advice is to determine your priorities and talk them through with your line manager. My employer knows that becoming an ACCA member is one of my key goals and, as a result, supports me in my studies. However, you will need self-discipline and need to be prepared to spend weekends and evenings preparing for the exams.’

Fatema Asaria, managing director, Star Optical, UK (joint Taxation prize winner)

‘It was certainly a challenge for me to combine ACCA study with running a business and raising three young children. My key advice is to be realistic in what you can achieve, study at a pace that is comfortable for you, and develop your time management skills.’