Why do students fail in ACCA exams?

May 21, 2019 by Mohsin Raza


There are two types of ACCA students

  • Those who successfully pass ACCA
  • Those who successfully fail

The seconds type of people upon facing failure commonly vocalize  their responses in a way:

  • Why did I fail my ACCA exams again?
  • What went wrong? Am I cursed or something?
  • How can I pass the ACCA exam without failing?
  • Or Will I ever pass my ACCA exam?

No matter how many times a student resists this type of thinking he or she succumbs to negativity and failure. Maybe failing is common, but transforming a failure in strength is a skill that students need to work on!

As Angela Duckworth– a professor at the University of Pennsylvania– research on the key traits of successful people asserts that IQ, talent, Social intelligence or physical health are not the determining factor of successful leaders, but the quality of perseverance and passion is the key trait.

‘’We need to take our best ideas, our strongest intuitions, and we need to test them. We need to measure whether we’ve been successful, and we have to be willing to fail, to be wrong, to start over again with lessons learned.’’                 -Angela Duckworth, TED Talk

Let’s look at the key factors because of which ACCA students–you– fail to pass Accounting profession exams.

1. You Studied Superficially

One of the common mistakes ACCA students make is the creation of an untrue image of their understanding. They based their image of knowledge and information on their expectations and not on their immediate reality which misleads the students from proper preparation as well as a miscalculation of their performances.

Those who want to pass their exams may come close to the fact that they(students) do not know well enough. There is always room for improvement and preparations to cover-up the shortage of information. There should be a hunger for achieving good marks in you. It is only possible if extra efforts are done beyond the superficial level.

Only if you have a clear image of your understanding of the topic then something can be done to overcome the weaknesses.

There is also a misconception that  Accounting bodies, whether its ICAP or ACCA would deduct marks by judging the person’s background or show some biases. No, this is not the case. It all depends on the students’ hard work and dedication.

What can you do to generate enough knowledge?

Firstly, you need to put a maximum of 150 hours of effort into each subject if you are serious about studies. Most of the time it is observed that students hardly make time to study on their own, they believe that if they are taking classes then they will pass the exams. Yes, lectures are very important when it comes to the understanding of the topic and its implications. However, every field demands some time from students.

Secondly, you have to cover the syllabus without leaving any part of it. One cannot assume to achieve great marks if the person has not completed the syllabus. Moreover, covering the syllabus does not mean to know the topics superficially, but you should know the materials and their implications.

Thirdly, you should know how to study effectively and smartly. Most of the students would assert that they studied but still were not able to pass their exams, then the problem is ‘not studying, but how they were studying’’.  It is important to study, but equally necessary to put your efforts efficiently.

2. You Did Not Study Properly

One thing our system does fail to promote is the idea of studying with proper planning. We may see schools, colleges, institutes and coaching centers in hundreds and thousands of numbers but they are producing well for nothing. In fact, the basic quality of the human mind–the ability to think and reflect– is taken from them right from childhood.

It may seem disturbing to know, but students do not know how to study as they are not taught from the beginning. Moreover, the only method which is promoted throughout this time is the rote learning(rattaa ficcation) method.

Keeping these pointers in mind, the best way to study properly is to practice more often.

So first thing first, every student must have a goal that they need to follow throughout the semester. Usually, students spend more than half of their semester thinking about studying while they do no study in real.

Planning is Important: You can prioritize your studies by sincerely involved in the mid-term, class projects and assignments, and final exams. In this way, you can tailor short term goals and eventually covering the whole syllabus in its totality at the end of the semester. To plan properly, start with making a studying schedule and stick to it for better results.

Revising Daily: Each one of us can increase one’s learning ability by making lecture notes, whether one takes a physical class or online classes, taking notes is important and reviewing them on a daily basis is mandatory. Taking out a few minutes every day (from 24 hours) to go through the lecture notes will save you from trouble and anxiety of pre-exams. Moreover, retention and memory span will also increase.

Develop Practicing Skills: No one can deny the importance of hard work and effort for passing the paper, however, practicing skills should be given its due importance as well. Most of the time, students are indulged in a reading form of practice–do not write anything on paper– They just read the question for few minutes and believe that they have gained the required knowledge to pass the paper. Do not be like those students. Practice skills will be developed when you are actively engaged in the studies.

For a habit-building practice, you can make phrases or sentence bullets to remember the information. Moreover, practicing writing the answer is also significant. Active learning is possible when more than one human senses are involved during learning. Ask, engage, interact, reflect and write while studying so that your practice is completed along the way.

3. You Did Not Attempt All The Answers

Firstly, practicing past papers give you the confidence to write in exams without having distracting thoughts. Most of the students fail to completely attempt all the questions asked and as a result, 20-30 marks are left for no reason.

When asked the reason, students usually complain that the paper was lengthy. However, the paper was not lengthy. Because of the lack of practicing writing skills, it is commonly observed that students spend an hour thinking about the question and getting their minds prepared to write in exams. As a result, students are seen writing non-stop at the very last moment. Henceforth, the paper is not completed within the given time.

Why does that happen?

Well, it happens because your brain took an hour to synchronize your hand and brain together. If this connection was previously built it would not take as much time as it did. Similarly, practicing before the paper ensures a better position for you in the future.  

The second reason for failing to answer all the questions is that you did not read questions nor they planned properly before answering the question. Most of the time students are guilty of writing more than asked. They pen down each and everything on the paper they remember about the topic. This can create a troubling situation for the students.

If you have a misconception that writing everything in detail will get you good marks, then leave this thought right now! This does not guarantee you more marks.

If the examiner asks for 5 points, write down 5 points. Do not write more nor less. Take it as, if someone asks you to hand over the salt, and you hand them sugar and spice as well–Imagine their reaction– try to be relevant and meaningful for your examiner and save yourself from trouble.

Similarly, calculate the time so that you are able to save a few more minutes to earn marks for another answer. It’s important that you do not spend 30 minutes on a question that only counts for 5 points.

In addition, manage your time from the start, keep a few minutes for reading and making an outline for the answer, plan it logically and then attempt the question in a way that is to the point. By doing this you will be able to save the time and marks for other question. While reading the questions briefly jot down all the ideas coming into your mind regarding the question, so that you can use them in your answer later.

To understand the paper pattern and examiners’ thinking, as well as how to plan, draft and write the answer, watch our video lectures that are available on our TSB education website.

4. You were not in the right frame of mind–Anxiety Alert.

Exam stress is legit and inescapable. One way or the other, every student succumb to exam day stress. But the way you deal with it do the wonders. Likewise, different students respond to stress differently like the mind goes blank, starts to have all sorts of precipitation, nervousness, frustration, distraction and as a result students fail to perform the way they planned and prepared.

Due to stress, students fail to retain, recall and absorb any information at the 11th hour. The brain’s ability to comprehend and understand is greatly affected too.

But there are some students who take this challenging opportunity and guide themselves through all the difficult paths and secure really good marks in ACCA examinations. If you want to be like this latter group, try following these four things. Channel your stress into positivity from today:  

  • Be Ready

First things first, you should be ready for the exams both mentally and physically. For that, you have to know and understand your syllabus, as well as you are aware of the examination pattern so that it can reduce your exam day stress. This leads us to our next point

  • Pay attention to your self-talk:

Humans have a natural gift of thinking and verbalizing thoughts. Thoughts also have the power to manifest itself and create a new reality for the individual. Thoughts that are not spoken out loud (self-talk) also has a great impact on our lives. Most of the time students are not aware of their thinking pattern but it is continuously shaping an outward reality for them

Similarly, when you are worried about our examination or think that something bad will happen, you start to feel anxious. This anxiety leads to further physical and mental limitations–such as the ability to recall and retained the learned information during the test/examinations.

The most common thought you may encounter as a student is that you will fail the paper. This creates tension. In order to feel relax and calm, you should focus on your self-talk.

Such as:

“I have done all the preparations, I just need to put out my best.”

“This has happened before and I know how to handle this anxiety”

“It’s okay, My anxiety won’t last forever.’’  

“I know I can do this.”

“Everyone experiences anxiety. I can handle this too.”

“Lots of students struggle with tests and it doesn’t make me a loser.”

“I’m strong enough to do this test. I am ready for this.”  

  • Prepare yourself through Mock test:

Another way to deal with exam anxiety is to get acquainted with the exam conditions. There are numerous ways through which you can access your knowledge and preparations such as Computer-based online exams ACCA-FA1 Mock Exams and others. These mock exams are the best way to learn about your strengths and weaknesses so that you can work on all the shortcomings before the actual exams. Not only this, it’s a good technique to familiarize yourself with the exam style that can help to reduce exam day stress.

Sometimes it happens that you do not score well in Mock exams, but do not dishearten over this. Mock exams are not about failing or passing, it’s about preparing and familiarizing yourself before the exams. In addition, if you get the actual picture of your knowledge then you will be able to work on your progress.

  • Try Exercising:

The forth helpful tip to reduce the exam stress is to follow physiological stress relief techniques.

You can overcome your test anxiety by getting into the habit of exercise, such as Deep breathing and mindfulness activities. These tips may seem to be of no importance right now but after proper exercising, for several days you will notice a positive change in yourself. These will not only help you in reducing your exam stress but also keep you relax and active and assist you in other matters of life.

Realize Now or Cry Later!

You have the time now to start questioning yourself ‘’What are you doing differently for your ACCA exams?’’ Start your preparation from today to save yourself from future failures.


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