The exam countdown has started – there’s now less than three weeks to go until your exams. Which means you probably fall into one of two camps: the nervous-but-quietly-confident camp, or the holy-smokes-I’m-not-ready-for-this camp.
If you’re in that first camp, you’ve done more than enough work. You’ve covered and recovered the entire syllabus, done plenty of practice questions and you’ve probably just passed a mock exam too, which validates your prep.
If you’re in the latter camp, you’ve missed out one or all of the steps above. You’re probably feeling a bit guilty that you haven’t worked as hard as you could.
This article is mostly for you.
There’s no point looking back: you are where you are today. So let’s look at what you can do over these final three weeks to give yourself the best chance of a pass.
1 – Make a plan
It’s time to face facts. Cramming 12 hours of revision into your remaining days will only mean you understand everything badly.
You need a plan, to ensure you focus selectively on the areas with maximum potential returns. Note, we’re not advocating question spotting here (which rarely works out!) but when you’ve got three weeks left, you’re going to have to be a bit selective.
You’ve probably heard you needed a plan more times than you can count. Maybe you have made one, complete with colour coding and snazzy layout, that you’ve ignored since you stuck it above your desk.
Not this time! This plan takes five minutes to make: we’re talking bare bones. There are only two things you need to include:
- Time to do at least 2 questions every day
- At least 20-minutes revising an area every day
How you prioritise which areas to study depends on which paper you’re setting.
The fundamental papers
The fundamentals papers have a broader and shallower syllabus so knowing a few areas in-depth is unlikely to get you enough marks for a pass. You need to be harsh with yourself about moving through the topics briskly so you can aim to cover as much ground as possible.
If you know the depth of knowledge that is required to earn a mark, don’t waste your precious remaining revision time studying areas in more depth than you need. Be mercenary – learn what you need to and move on.
The professional papers
For the professional papers, you’re going to need a much deeper, narrower understanding of the areas that you’re questioned on. Which means a brisk, shallow understanding won’t get you the pass.
So if there are any topics you really, really struggle with, you might do better to gloss them now and maximise your chances to doing well on other areas. If you really totally don’t understand something with three weeks to go, you’ll struggle to build enough knowledge for the professional papers now.
Revise a few areas in-depth and you might get lucky with the questions that come up… or you might not. Question spotting really isn’t an ideal tactic (and it very rarely works) but with three weeks to go, you need to be realistic about what you can achieve.
No matter what your approach is, grit your teeth, start with your strengths, and hope for the best.
2 – Focus On Exam Technique
If you’re unprepared with three weeks to go until exams, you have to accept you might lose marks because of lack of knowledge. But losing marks because of exam technique is never acceptable.
You’re throwing away marks you can’t afford to lose if you drop marks on a question that you knew but didn’t know how to answer.
Before you go into the exam at least know the basics:
- How long is the exam?
- What are the requirements? How many sections, compulsory questions and options are there?
- What is your plan? How long will you spend reading versus answering?
- How much time can you spend on each question? Work out how long each mark justifies, based on how long the paper is and how many marks there are (don’t forget to allow reading time and checking time!)
And read the examiner’s reports.
Every sitting the examiner of every paper indicates some exasperation about the fact that students are losing marks by not answering what they were asked.
Understand your examiner. Some like bullet point answering; some hate bullet point answering. Know your examiner and you’ll get more marks.
3 – Be smart about how you study
If you’ve left ACCA exam revision to the last minute, you don’t have time to waste. You’re going to need to smart about the techniques you use, to maximise what you can learn with only three weeks to go.
Don’t copy out paragraphs of notes, for example – that’s ineffective and time-consuming. The most effective tactic for now is self-testing.
This means anything that tests your knowledge without having the answer in front of you. The most traditional self-testing method is past papers, but this might not be feasible with only three weeks left. One thing you definitely have time for is the LearnSignal videos, because they’re super short.
Make sure you attempt all the questions and then let the tutor show you the answer and mark yourself to check on your progress. If you allocate the time you do have in the most efficient way, you’ll be able to maximise the marks you can pick up in the paper.
If you’re unprepared with three weeks to go, you need to accept that you might not pass. But you don’t need to panic – because three weeks could still be long enough to turn things around.
Remember, the more work you do now the less you are leaving to chance. The video you look at today or the question you attempt tomorrow could be the difference between a pass and a fail on exam day. Even if you scrape a pass with 51% – a pass is a pass.
So don’t let get yourself worked up, and commit to doing what you can. And, hey. It be cold comfort now but if the exam doesn’t go your way you can view it as a learning experience and do better next time!