Prizewinning exam advice

Our December 2021 prize winners share their advice for exam success.


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

‘My top tip is to start learning each module as early as possible, taking the “little and often” approach. I also found it much easier to prepare for the exams with the help of a tuition provider – my previous employer didn’t offer the option of in-classroom lectures so I moved jobs so I could study for ACCA with Kaplan’s in person tuition. Practising past exam questions is also vital. Take advantage of any training kits provided by your tuition provider and complete every past paper and practice question – it takes time but for me it’s one of the best ways to pass the exam. Finally, if you know someone preparing for the same exams then get together to discuss topics and ask questions – a good friend was taking the same ACCA modules as me and bouncing ideas off each other really helped my exam preparation.’

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

‘Go into your next ACCA exam with a plan, especially timings for each mark, and stick to it, because we you don’t know the marks per question in advance. Based on my exam plan I knew I could spend, for example, 1.8 minutes per mark. If there was a 10-mark question this meant 18 minutes and 36 minutes for a 20-mark question. The exam will be demanding and it’s important to push yourself until the last second – remember, even if you don’t think you’ve done well on your first questions you only need 50% of the marks to pass, so stay positive. A tutor once said that an ACCA exam can be like a boxing match with Muhammad Ali which made me laugh, and although I often felt this way I actually did well in my exams.’

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

‘My key advice is to start every exam with a positive attitude, knowing that you’ve done as much preparation as possible. This means planning ahead, especially regarding revision, and checking off topics as you go so you know how much there is left to cover. Try not to leave too much to do close to the exam to avoid running out of time and becoming stressed. Also, try to find the study method that works best for you – personally, I learn better if I read about a topic than if I watch a video, but the opposite is true for others. For Audit and Assurance, read as many practice questions as possible – this will help you identify the type of tests to apply in the exam, and deficiencies that may be in the question scenario.’

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

‘Break your studies into manageable sections, read and re-read your materials, and take information from multiple sources – for example, I find a balance of textbooks, summary notes, lectures and podcasts very helpful. Regarding question practice, while this is always important, for Strategic Professional level exams it can also be very time consuming given the amount of reading materials associated with a specific question. If I didn’t have time to cover everything required to answer a question in one revision session, I would focus instead on a specific topic or chapter in order to increase my base knowledge in manageable pieces.’

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

‘In a tax exam you can gain a few quick marks with straightforward knowledge, such as stating the marginal tax rate, or (for professional marks) simply by implementing the correct format in your answer. I always began with the descriptive and qualitative questions as I knew how to gain marks in these, before moving on to calculation questions. For me, this strategy helped me think more clearly and accurately when answering calculation questions, reducing pressure in the exam. Practice questions are always essential – they help you see how material will be tested and make you aware of any topics where your knowledge is weak.’

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

‘Question practice is key, and be organised – start early and don’t leave studying until the last minute.’

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

‘Give yourself as much time to prepare as possible, so that studying doesn’t consume every hour, and practise exam questions.’

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

‘My key advice is to make a commitment to completing the exams and gaining the qualification. Work hard so that you are confident you can pass, and don’t wait too long after one exam before starting to prepare for the next.’

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

‘Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have, work at a comfortable pace, and practise as many exam questions as possible.’