5 Ways to Stop Failing Your ACCA Exams

Failing ACCA exams is really common. Find out key reasons why students fail the ACCA, and how you can avoid them to turn a fail into a pass.


The most common questions we hear from students when it comes to their ACCA exams is:

  • Why do I keep failing ACCA exams?
  • Is failing ACCA exams normal?
  • How do I get back on track after failing the ACCA exams?
  • What should I change to pass the ACCA next time?

And, what do we always tell them? Failing is really common.

In fact, it's more common than a pass,  if you look at the pass rates. Some students keep failing ACCA exams, over and over again. Unfortunately, if you fail once, you’re likely to fail twice when it comes to the ACCA.

That's because you probably don’t know what you’re doing wrong and so don’t know how to change it for the better. And if you don’t make changes, you’ll keep getting the same results – a fail.

So, let's take a look at 5 ways you can avoid the mistakes of others and pass your ACCA exam on the first attempt. 

5 Reasons You Might Keep Failing the ACCA

After speaking to our tutors and Education team we have some understanding of HOW students can turn a fail into a pass.

#1 – You didn’t know enough

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If you keep failing ACCA exams and your mark was in the 30s or below, knowledge was your issue.

That might be because you tried question spotting (which doesn’t work), you weren’t disciplined about your study time, or maybe you wasted time making notes without actually learning anything.

In our experience the students who consistently pass usually invest around 150 hours to study for each paper. Plus, they definitely cover the whole syllabus and learn what they’re studying rather then taking notes.

Or maybe it's because you assumed you knew basic things you didn’t. This is a common issue for later papers amongst students who had early exemptions.

Exemption doesn’t mean you don’t need to brush up on that syllabus – and if you don’t, you could find keep failing ACCA exams because you didn’t know that early stuff.

Read more:  The pros and cons of ACCA exemptions

Alternatively maybe you studied hard, and covered the whole syllabus, but you didn’t understand the material you were studying. Which means there could be a problem with how you’re studying. Which brings us onto the next most common reason students fail ACCA exams.

#2 – You didn’t study in the right way

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If you don’t study in the right way, you’ll struggle to learn what you need to pass the ACCA. The most common issue here is classroom or online learning that just records classroom lectures.

Many students take the ACCA while working full-time – but they’ve chosen a traditional classroom learning provider. While some students do find that model works, it can put you under a lot more pressure than necessary.

That's because you travel to classes after a long, exhausting day and the pace of learning is dictated by people in the class, not you. That’s still the case if you’re watching recorded lectures. It’s just not an efficient way to learn – everything takes longer than necessary, and you’re likely to be tired, burnt-out and frustrated long before your ACCA exams come around.

It’s the classic working hard, not working smart scenario. You could easily invest 300 hours for each paper, or 600 hours, but if you’re not studying efficiently you’ll keep failing ACCA exams.

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#3 – You didn’t apply your knowledge

ACCA makes it very clear that knowledge isn’t enough to pass – especially as you progress through the papers. The key is applied knowledge.

We often use the example of ledgers. Imagine you’re in a professional setting and a client asks you about the best solution for their business. If you sat them down and launched into a monologue covering everything you know about ledgers, you’d lose their attention instantly.

Plus you wouldn’t have answered their question, which means you’d be a pretty bad accountant. That's exactly what the ACCA exams are designed around: teaching you to be a good accountant.

The key thing to remember is treat the examiner as your client. Don’t answer questions by telling them everything you know about the topic. Instead answer their question by applying your knowledge of the topic in a concise, relevant way.

#4 – You didn’t answer all the questions

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Almost every student has been guilty of this at some point. It often stems from not applying knowledge and , wasting time writing everything you know that you run out of time for other questions.

‘But isn’t it better to answer the questions I know best in loads of detail, to make sure I get maximum marks?’

We hear that often. No, it’s not better. Because if you only answer 75% of the required questions, it’s like having to get a mark of 75 to pass, instead of 50. As we say all the time on our weekly podcasts, there aren’t bonus marks for making more points than they’ve asked for.

If a question is worth five marks, it’s looking for five points. If you write eight points, that’s three that you’ve wasted and three you could have earned on another question.

Read more: 4 Must-Know Exam Techniques to Pass the ACCA

Plus, don’t make each point longer than it needs to be. Each point should probably be around a couple of lines, and you shouldn’t spend long on it.

To work out exactly how long you should spend, divide the writing time in the exam (minus reading and planning time) by the number of marks the paper is worth. You’ll usually have a minute or so per mark.

#5 – You succumbed to exam day stress

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Some stress is inevitable. No matter how well-prepared, you’re bound to feel the pressure on ACCA exam day. Everyone’s nervous and has that exam day fear.

But some people handle that stress really well, channelling it positively to secure a mark that does them justice, while others buckle under pressure and fail ACCA exams despite knowing the material well.

If you’re the second type, there are 4 things you can do to help.

1. Be prepared

Obviously, the first one is to make sure you’re super prepared. If you don’t know the material, are relying on certain questions to come up, or seeing the paper format for the first time, you’ll be stressed.

2. Get used to exam conditions

Take a mock in exam conditions. That has the big bonus of getting you used to the paper, highlighting last-minute knowledge gaps and gets you used to exam conditions. Exam day is stressful partially because we don’t do exams often, so it’s an unfamiliar environment. Make them more familiar by practicing.

3. Organise the little things

Take care of the little details. You’re less likely to do yourself justice in the exam if you arrive with your heart pounding because you might be late or stressed because you forgot something, and so on.

Do yourself a favour and get those little details right, so you can free your mind to focus on the big thing: passing the ACCA.

4.  Practice stress relief techniques

Finally, if you still battle with exam day stress, practice techniques like deep breathing and mindfulness. These can seem silly, but they can help combat the physiological aspects of stress by forcing your body to be calm.

How to stop failing and pass the ACCA

If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got. Nowhere is that more true than with ACCA exams.

The question you should be asking, whether you got 20 or 45, is ‘What am I doing differently, to turn a fail into a pass?’

In fact, sometimes students are in a better position if they fail with 20-something because they know something big needs to change. The issue is the 40-something marks. It’s easy to assume you were so close and you’ll pass next time without doing much differently. But unfortunately, if you don't change your approach it's very likely you won’t.

Don’t be that student, who takes two, three or even four failures to realise something needs to change. Even if you’re getting 49 as something has to shift because a fail is a fail – whatever your mark.

Take the initiative now to change how you study and make sure you’re celebrating when the results day comes around.


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Topics: ACCA, ACCA exam, ACCA exam fail, study ACCA, pass ACCA, ACCA results