How to study effectively

I got a number of emails, and calls regarding this post on self-study. The bulk of this mail from aspiring accountants who having used tuition centres, have decided to make a go of self-study, and want advice on how best to go about it. I thought it best to use one person as a case study, so we all learn from this.

Jeni  O. wrote Audit & Assurance  (F8) in June 2013, but unfortunately didn’t pass. She wants to know how she can study effectively; she is also concerned about getting as much studying done between now and the next ACCA exams in December this year.

The 1st thing to do is to download the relevant syllabus for the relevant exam, which you can find under the tab for each paper here.  It is vital you have a copy of the current syllabus. Quite a number of people who have emailed me regarding self-study claim it doesn’t work, because they had spent hours studying, but still failed their exams. If you haven’t got the current syllabus, you aren’t focusing your studying towards the relevant exam areas.

The 2nd thing is to create a study plan – especially if you are re-taking a paper. Know the areas you need to spend more time on.

For papers with a lot of written content (like Audit & Assurance) I suggest writing down key points/definitions, and recording them on your phone.  Just like with any song, constantly listening to your recording with help you retain it in your memory.

The 3rd thing is to use past questions. As students taking professional exams, we learn that going through as many past examination papers as possible prepares us for exam-type questions, and gives us a feel of how the examiner for each paper sets the questions.

It is however not enough to just go through these past exam papers diet after diet, with no further strategy than to cover as many as possible before the exam date.  There is a better way to effectively cover all topics under the syllabus, and here is how to do it:

  • Gather/print out as many past question papers as possible, and skim through them to the questions – it is not necessary at this point to read through the whole scenarios, just the questions at the end, to know the requirements of the question
  • Looking through the question papers, write down question areas (in a notebook), and under each question area, note down the question (by year) that falls under each question/topic.
  •    Often enough, you will find more than one question area under a group of questions (e.g 2a,2b,2c (i) (ii), 2d). These should be noted separately as well. As you practice each question area, a clearer understanding of the relationship between the separate areas of the syllabus will be achieved.
  •   Now that the papers have been divided by syllabus/Topic areas, begin to study and answer questions in each area, instead of going through whole question papers.
    After having gone through each area several times and in detail, you can then try tackling the question papers as a whole.

 The advantage of the above study method is that more time can be dedicated to difficult areas, and the lesser area can be read or memorised.

*please cross-check your topic areas with the current syllabus, as some topics may have been added/removed

Here is what I did for my Advanced Audit & Assurance (P7) exam, using the method.


© countingonaccounting and Nuan Moji, 2013. The unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts & link may be used, if full & clear credit is given to Nuan Moji (blog owner), and countingonaccounting, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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