Joint 1st in Ireland, Joint 11th Worldwide: An ACCA Success Story [Interview]

We chat to Kelly Crawford about her incredible ACCA result. We hear her secrets to balancing work, study and a young family, and her tips for ACCA success.

47%. 50%. 48%. Those are the pass rates for the last three sittings of ACCA F8, Audit and Assurance. More students fail than pass.

But what about those few students that don’t just pass, but pass with flying colours?

Like learnsignal student Kelly Crawford, who sat F8 over the summer. Kelly came joint 1st in Ireland and joint 11th worldwide for ACCA F8.

We caught up with her, to find out the secret to her success.


: Kelly, hi. And first things first – a huge congratulations!

KC: Thanks! I’m thrilled. And shocked, to be honest.

LS: Ah, that was our first question – how expected (or unexpected, as the case may be) was this result for you?

KC: It was very unexpected. Everyone says F8 is difficult to pass and you need audit experience but I have absolutely none. I really wasn’t expecting this sort of result.

LS: How did this compare to your marks on other papers?

KC: I’ve been doing pretty well. On F1 to F3 I scored in the mid-80s, then for F4 to F7 I’ve been hitting mid-70s.

LS: That’s brilliant, well done!

KC: Thanks! But this F8 result was still very unexpected. I mean, F8 has one of the lowest pass rates of all the ACCA papers, and they say you need experience.
And I know any paper is easier when you enjoy it but I wasn’t a big fan of F8.
All in all, I had it in the back of my mind that I’d find F8 very difficult to pass.

LS: So, the million-pound question: what’s your secret?

KC: Haha! There’s no huge secret, I don’t think. I definitely passed F8 thanks to exam technique, which is thanks to learnsignal.

And I’m really structured about how I study, which learnsignal has really helped with. I have two young kids and work for myself, so I never get huge chunks of time to study.

Instead I get a couple of hours in the morning before the kids wake up, and a couple of hours in the evening once they’re in bed. learnsignal is really good for that, because they’re really short videos. It’s perfect if you don’t have huge chunks of time.

LS: Thanks Kelly. It’s great to hear all our hard work is paying off!

KC: No, thank you. learnsignal has been really great. The videos are short so you can build your skills quickly but the content is more than comprehensive enough to get a good pass. If you have a textbook, you can use that too to read around the topic more extensively.

Then after each video there are questions to test your knowledge immediately.
The thing with self-study is, you miss that instant gratification you get in a classroom. Where you can ask a question straightaway and test your knowledge.

For me, learnsignal is great because it ticks that box. You can immediately assess your knowledge level after each video, then email any further questions to your tutor after that.

LS: Yup, the questions are a really important feature. Everyone you ask about ACCA success will tell you to do more exam questions.

KC: Exactly. I know everyone says that, but it’s genuinely the best advice. Especially for a paper like F8, where there are no computations. It’s all written work, which is more difficult for your stereotypical accountant. Which means exam technique is massively important.

I found the learnsignal questions incredibly helpful because the tutor walks you through them in a really structured way. Like, how to approach each question and what each is really asking for, and how to structure your answer to tick the right boxes for the examiner. And there are loads of questions too.

I was sitting there in the exam, remembering what I’d done with learnsignal so I could pick apart the questions quickly and get the answers down on paper. I definitely believe I have the learnsignal past paper questions to thank for my success.

LS: You mention getting the answers down quickly – I think speed is a big issue.
Lots of students each sitting run out of time, and can’t finish.

KC: Yes, I know. And again, for me that’s about exam technique. Getting numbers people to sit down and write a whole paper is difficult – getting them to do it twice, once in a mock exam, is even more difficult! But it’s really important.
You can do a mock exam through learnsignal and you get feedback on the marks from an ACCA tutor so you know where you’ve gone wrong. That increases your chances of passing considerably – it really is an incredibly valuable thing.

LS: Let’s talk about timings. How long do you study for? When do you sit the mock exam?

KC: I probably start 2 to 3 months before the exam, but I know some people won’t allow that much time. As I say, I’m balancing a young family and working from home, so I know I need longer than someone who can study in huge chunks of time every day. For me, it’s about chipping away, not cramming.

I think you need to have covered the whole syllabus three to four weeks before the exam. Then you have those three to four weeks to revise.

I always try and do the mock exam a week or two before the exam, so you’re at the final stages of revision. I mean, it makes most sense to sit the mock paper when you’re almost done with studying, so you can get a fair mark forecast. Then you’ve got that last week or so to refresh any problem areas your mock highlighted.

LS: When do you move onto past questions?

KC: As soon as possible. Well, with learnsignal you get questions after videos so you’re doing questions all the way through which is really helpful. But however you’re studying – answer past paper questions as soon as you can.

Obviously you do need to get through the content, but where you really nail it down – where you pass or fail – is the application of that knowledge to the questions.

LS: You’re making it sound simple! But why do you think the ACCA has such low pass rates?

KC: It is simple. I don’t mean easy but there’s no huge secret to passing the ACCA, I don’t think. Nothing I’ve found so far in the ACCA is really difficult – there’s just a lot of volume. It’s not an insurmountable thing.

That’s where past paper questions are so good, because there’s so much volume to the syllabus that you need to know what you should say and when. Which knowledge is applicable to which questions and which knowledge isn’t.

I mean, I needed a tutor to pass GCSE Maths! Maths really wasn’t my strong point at school – if I can do it, anyone can. It’s just work, and timetabling. Being strict about sticking to a firm study timetable will get you a long way.

LS: Let’s talk about that, because you’re doing an incredible job balancing work, a young family and study. How do you do it?

KC: For me, it’s just that: sticking to a timetable. Well, and leaving plenty of time so you’re not putting too much pressure on yourself.

That means you can have your Saturday night off, can go out to dinner, whatever it is. You have to keep life in balance; if you aren’t strict with yourself it just won’t happen, and you’ll go crazy.

As I say, I probably start 2 to 3 months before an exam and I only sit one exam per sitting, so it’s realistic to chip away at study, a couple of hours a day. I very rarely study during the day because I work in the week, and weekends are my family time.

Sure, it might take me a little longer to fully-qualify than someone who does the maximum number of exams each sitting. But I’m putting my family first, and slowly working towards qualifying.

LS: Forgive us courting trouble, but let’s talk about the worst-case. How would you cope if you failed a paper?

KC: The results come out six weeks after the exams, so I’d be 2 to 3 weeks into studying for the next course. My plan has always been to shelve the new one until the next sitting and take the resit so it’s fresh in your mind. I’d make sure I covered the whole syllabus again in-depth, and then took as many past questions as possible.

LS: Kelly, thank you! You’ve been fantastic, thanks for sharing your experiences. And best of luck with the next papers.

KC: You’re totally welcome. And thanks to learnsignal!

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Topics: ACCA, ACCA tips, ACCA study tips