Studying for the ACCA can seem like an uphill battle, especially if you’re sitting more than one paper and trying to juggle work at the same time. You’re tired, busy, and pretty stressed out on top of it all… and sometimes you wonder if you’re ever going to pass the ACCA.
The worst thing you can do if you feel like that is bury your head in the sand. The ACCA isn’t going to go away, and there’s no need to jump the gun and defer to the next exam sitting.
Instead, set aside an hour to create a structured, thoughtful ACCA study plan.
I promise, if you take an hour now to create a study schedule you’ll feel better afterwards. The ACCA exam will feel more manageable, and you’ll be able to clearly see how much time you have and what you need to achieve.
Here’s how to create an ACCA study plan that will help you pass with flying colours.
Start as early as possible
In our popular piece on hyper-effective ACCA study techniques, we wrote about the practice of overlearning. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, the principle is this: studying beyond that point of initial proficiency helps embed knowledge, so you’ll do better in the exams.
To do this, it goes without saying that you need time.
For the last-minute crammers amongst us, it’s time to change your ways. I could throw out any number of clichés (“practice makes perfect”; “the early bird catches the worm”; “little and often makes much”) but the point stands. You’re simply not as likely to pass the ACCA if you don’t leave yourself enough time to study properly and comprehensively.
How much time do you realistically need? It depends on how quickly you learn and how challenging you find the paper, but as a general rule you probably want to study for around 5 months. We’ll cover revision a bit further down, but the absolutely critical thing is to allow around 6 weeks to revise on top of your studying time.
Use the syllabus
Download the relevant syllabus from ACCA Global and familiarise yourself with the subject matter you need to know before creating your ACCA study plan.
Depending on which ACCA paper you’re taking, you might already have covered some of the related topic areas in previous papers.
Go through the syllabus with a highlighter and mark the crossover areas, so you can refer to past notes and understanding. Many of the ACCA marks, especially in later papers, are for the ability to draw connections so this crossover is going to be important. Never throw away your notes from previous ACCA exams!
Prioritise by “intellectual level”
The ACCA syllabus is broken into a series of subheadings, to give you absolutely clear direction on what you need to learn. The ACCA uses numbers 1, 2 and 3 to denote the “intellectual level” of the subheading, which is the depth in which it could be examined.
Level 1: Knowledge and comprehension
Level 2: Application and analysis
Level 3: Synthesis and evaluation
When you’re creating an ACCA study plan, you’ll want to allocate the most study time to areas you’re going to need an Intellectual Level 3 understanding of.
That’s not to say Level 1 topics are easy or should be glossed. Rather, you’ll want to cover the entire syllabus in detail, but you’ll likely need to allow more time to get to grips with higher-level content.
This is where you actually start learning the course materials. If you’ve got an effective study plan in place, this should simply be a case of sticking to your plan. This is where starting early becomes so important.
Things are going to come up, or elements are going to take you longer than you thought, and you’re going to deviate from your plan. That’s OK; it happens to the best of us. So long as you’ve built in plenty of time, you can afford to be flexible. See your plan as a guideline.
The ultimate ACCA study plan isn’t just about studying the material, but about revising that material multiple times so you solidify your knowledge. Once you’ve studied the original texts, you should work from your own notes or use specialist revision materials to help you revise most efficiently. As we said above, it’s absolutely fundamental that you include both study time and revision time if you want to pass the ACCA.
Your ACCA revision should focus on covering key areas and concepts. You’re building up the depth of your knowledge throughout the studying process, and it’s this depth that will help you pass the ACCA exam. Your revision is a chance to solidify your knowledge and go back over the areas you’ve studied and ensure you know everything you need to.
It’s also really important to understand exam technique. Technical knowledge is only one part of the ACCA equation, and knowing how to express that knowledge is vital if you want to pass.
If you’re starting to think about exam revision we offer a comprehensive ACCA online revision course, designed to maximise your chances of passing. Sign up for your free 7 day trial and check it out.
This is something we’ve written about before, but self-testing is an absolutely critical part of your ACCA study plan.
We’re all guilty of reading a text and thinking, “Yup, I know that” but let’s be honest here… how many times has that question then come up and you find you don’t really know it at all? With the text in front of you, you’re not testing your ability without prompting – and there won’t be any prompting in the exam.
Self-testing is an absolutely critical part of your ACCA study plan.
Practice papers are a great resource to use so you can practice timing and technique but there’s only a limited number you can realistically take. Most students struggle to find time to sit one full practice paper, let alone several which means you’re not testing yourself on anywhere near the full syllabus.
We recommend using other self-testing strategies in addition to a practice paper, so you get the benefit of comprehensive testing and of practicing an actual exam. Self-testing strategies include the likes of quizzes or flashcards. (And P.S – if you sign up for our ACCA revision course, we’ve built in quizzes after each section to make your life easier!).
As you can see, a successful ACCA study plan is made up of four stages: planning, studying, revision and practice. If you get these four stages right, you’re infinitely more likely to pass the ACCA.