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The Quick Start Guide for Passing Your Accountancy &

Finance Exams 1
st
Time
Pass1stTime.com ACCA - Essential Exam
Report
By Soul Patel
http://www.pass1sttime.com
Copyright © Soul Patel 2009 – All rights reserved.
No part of this report may be reproduced or transmitted in any form
without the written permission of the author, except for the inclusion of
brief quotations in a review.
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© Soul Patel 2009
Table of Contents
................................................................................................. ABOUT SOUL PATEL 3
.......................................................................................................... INTRODUCTION 4
.............................................................................................. THE AIDE PRINCIPLES 5
............................................................................... ACCA STUDENT CHALLENGES 5
.............................................................................................................. A - ATTITUDE 5
.......................................... ATTITUDE DETERMINES 80-85% OF YOUR SUCCESS 5
...................................................................................................... DEFINE SUCCESS 6
...................................................................................... CREATE ACCOUNTABILITY 6
............................................................ CONTROL OF RESULT VERSUS PROCESS 6
...................................................................................... I - INTELLIGENT LEARNING 7
....................................................................... THE EMOTIONAL CYCLE OF EXAMS 7
.................................................................................. ASK POWERFUL QUESTIONS 7
.............................................................................................. DO THE SCARY STUFF 8
................................................................................................................. MINDMAPS 8
................................................................ THE 3 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE LEARNING 8
...................................................................................... D - DEVELOPING ABILITIES 9
...................................................................................... THE COMPETENCE CURVE 9
............................................................. NEVER SECOND GUESS THE EXAMINER 10
.............................................................. INTEGRATE QUESTIONS EVERYWHERE 10
............................................................................................. E - EXAM EXECUTION 10
................................................................................... TALK LITTLE, LISTEN LESS 10
................................................................................... EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED 11
............................................................................ THE 2 “SECRETS” TO PASSING 11
................................................................................................. HELP THE MARKER 11
...................................................................................... AVOID EXAM DISSECTION 12
.............................................................................................................. FINAL NOTE 12
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© Soul Patel 2009
About Soul Patel
I took my first professional finance
exam in June 2003. Since then my life
has changed A LOT.
At the time I had hardly any money,
no career, and I was 18,000 in debt. I
had to borrow money from my mum to
pay for the books and exam, and on
the day of the exam, my father was
barely out of intensive care after
almost passing away during a heart
operation a few days before.
Now I am what you could call a financial expert. I’m both a Chartered
Accountant (ACA) and a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) charterholder.
In 2009, at the age of 30, I became financially free through property
investing, and in the same year set up www.pass1sttime.com
www.pass1sttime.com is a blog, website, and set of products that
educates readers about the psychology, strategies, and techniques that
are needed to pass accountancy and financial exams 1st time round - and
survive!
Why www.Pass1stTime.com?
I set up the site because I’m the only person who has taken the ACA and
CFA exams at the same time, completing 6 years worth of study in only 3
years whilst working full-time. I passed each exam 1st time.
In contrast, friends of mine were taking just one of those qualifications
and they were failing exams. However, as much as I wanted to believe
that I was some kind of financial genius (and inflate my head to ten times
it's current size) I soon realised that the difference wasn't because I was a
genius, it was because I had marched to a distinctly different beat,
following principles that others had not.
I’ve given lectures at the London School of Economics, CASS Business
School, and at both consultancy and accounting firms about the principles
that I explain in this report.
The key difference between me and other teachers is that I finished my
exams recently so I have a current view on the pressures that
accountancy and finance students face. Other teachers may cover similar
information, but they’re doing so retrospectively. They didn’t apply
modern studying techniques when they took their own exams. I did. Also,
there’s information here that you won't find anywhere else! So I speak
from direct, relevant and recent experience.
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© Soul Patel 2009
Introduction
Thank you for downloading the www.pass1sttime.com Essential Exam
Report. You made a great decision. I’m going to show you how to be more
effective with your exam preparation. When you apply my techniques,
you can expect:
! Better results
! More free time
! Less stress
Some of my advice may seem obvious and some of it may seem new, but
all of it is simple and practical enough to implement straight away. Even if
you only implement a few of the ideas, you’ll likely see a difference fairly
quickly.
“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The
man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who
tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Philosopher
This guide focuses mostly on principles rather than techniques. or
methods. My products at www.pass1sttime.com/my-products teach the
techniques, but before you can use those techniques you must have the
correct principles in place.
The driving idea behind this report and my other products is the question:
“Would you rather pass each exam 1
st
time, or pass with high marks in
some and fail others?”
The key distinction that this question leads us to is:
It is more important to pass 1
st
time.*
Passing 1
st
time leads to huge benefits, particularly for your career. For
example, when you apply for a job they rarely ask about your marks, but
they almost certainly ask, “Did you pass 1
st
time?”
And in order to pass 1
st
time you must stick to the AIDE Principles...
*Please note: If you are a university student reading this then it does matter what marks
you get! The distinction applies to professional accountancy and finance exams. However
you can still apply all of the principles described here to help you pass your uni exams.
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© Soul Patel 2009
The AIDE Principles
The AIDE Principles are the framework for how I approached my exams.
At the time I didn’t realise this, but after the exams I collected all of the
techniques I had used and fit them within the AIDE framework. AIDE
stands for:
A – Attitude
I – Intelligent Learning
D – Developing Abilities
E – Exam Execution
This report covers a few of the essentials points for each of the four AIDE
Principles – enough to get you well on your way.
There are many more points not included here so please click on the link
www.pass1sttime.com/resources for further resources. These cover the
AIDE Principles in more detail along with techniques and exercises.
ACCA Student Challenges
ACCA students face a unique set of challenges compared to other
qualifications. Often studying is done at home or part-time without formal
classroom training. Other times you do not have access to the best
training materials and often have to pay for your exams yourself. For
most of you English will not be your first language either.
The ACCA is also a very global qualification meaning that you have to
compete with students from all over the world, who may have different
access to learning materials and teaching to you.
This report has been written to focus on the AIDE principles that will
specifically help you with your ACCA exams.
A - Attitude
Attitude Determines 80-85% of Your Success
In many fields of activity, you’ll hear that attitude is more important than
the methods used - that it’s a major determiner of success. Maintaining a
positive attitude is key for success with your exams.
Focus on taking positive action toward your goals and what you can do,
rather than on what you haven’t done yet. You’ll slip up on the way -
everyone does – but the key is not how often you slip up, it’s how fast you
recover.
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© Soul Patel 2009
Define Success
What is success for you? If you haven’t defined it, how will you know
when you reach it? It’s like setting off on a journey by car with a map and
not knowing your destination - you won’t know when you’re heading in
the wrong direction.
Define what success is for you. It could be to pass all of your exams by a
certain date, or pass with certain marks. Or, it could be to pass each
exam 1
st
time (– just a suggestion!). Once you’ve defined it write it down
somewhere and refer to it frequently. It will help you stay on track toward
your goal.
Create Accountability
Most of the challenges that we take on as individuals we keep to ourselves
- we don’t tell anyone about them. Why? Usually we’re worried that we
might not succeed and we’ll look like failures to the people that we told.
The truth is that telling people about what we’re aiming to achieve can
help us massively. They can hold us accountable for the things that we
said that we would do – just like holding up a mirror to us as if to say “Are
you really doing what you said you would?”
Sometimes having the truth reflected back to you isn’t easy, but it’s very
effective. Choose supportive people you know and make the promise to
them so they can help you achieve what you want to achieve.
Control of Result versus Process
Imagine Tiger Woods about to take a golf shot. He’s focussed on his
breathing, his posture, how he holds the club, how he swings the club,
how he is thinking, etc. - the process. After he hits the ball, he no longer
has control of where it will land - if a gust of wind will blow it off course
etc. - the result.
The same is true for exams. The result, the actual pass or fail, isn’t within
your control, but everything up to that point is. If you ever feel nervous
about passing your exams, focus on what you can control: the process to
prepare for them.
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© Soul Patel 2009
I - Intelligent Learning
The Emotional Cycle of Exams
Any individual or team taking on a new challenge will go through
emotional as well as mental and physical challenges. The emotional
challenges are just as important, if not more important, than the others.
Understand that you’ll go through what I call the Emotional Cycle of
Exams.
Stage 1: Uninformed Optimism: You will start off very optimistic at the
start yet you won’t really understanding the challenges you face
Stage 2: Informed Pessimism: You will start to feel pessimistic and down
when you realise how much work you actually have to do and how difficult
it is.
Stage 3: Crisis Point: This is where the pressure comes together and you
literally feel like you’re at the edge of a cliff and thinking of jumping off!
From here you can either move to Stage 4 or Stage 5
(Stage 4: Defeat: Let’s not talk about this one too much. This is giving
up.)
Stage 5: Informed Optimism: After your crisis you have continued to work
hard and can now see “the light at the end of the tunnel”. There’s still a
lot to do but you understand what needs to be done, and can see how you
could get through your exams.
Stage 6 - Rewarding Completion: Exams are over, you’re relieved and
happy!
Think of anything new that you had to learn in your life and you’ll see that
you went through this cycle.
The key is to understand where you are and be ok with being in that place
– particularly at the Crisis Point. For more detail on what to do at each
stage please see www.pass1sttime.com/resources
Ask Powerful Questions
Your brain is a mechanism that is driven to find answers. Ask it a question
and it will find an answer for you, even if that answer isn’t true. In the
middle of a frustrating time you might ask yourself, "Why can't I get this?
What’s wrong with me?" and your brain will dutifully find an answer like,
"Because you're an idiot!" or something along those lines!
When you’re frustrated or nervous ask more powerful questions such as
"How could I prepare better for my exams?" You'll be surprised at the
quality of answers that your brain gives you. Try it now.
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© Soul Patel 2009
Do the Scary Stuff
There’s a great phrase that I once read up which says
“What you fear most, is what you most need to do”.
Usually it’s the difficult topics that are the scariest because within those
areas there is a feeling of failure, or the fear that you won’t be good
enough. Let’s face it; it doesn’t exactly feel great when you’re trying to
learn something that you just can’t “get”. However, as you’ve probably
already figured out, avoiding things that you find difficult or scary just
makes the problem worse.
For me, this was learning about tax! I hated learning all of the detailed
rules. It bored me completely! But I also knew that if I was going to
achieve my goals, I had to focus on studying tax, so I spent hours
learning and doing question practice. So to repeat – do the scary or
difficult work because your success lies there.
Mindmaps
Mindmaps are a proven learning technique - one of the most effective
ones in existence. They’re based on how the brain collects, stores and
recalls information. They’re a great tool to use when you prepare for your
exams.
By Mindmapping you give your brain a framework for attaching and
sorting all of the information that you’re taking in. Instead of a tangled
mess of rules, techniques, and tips, your brain will be able to put new
information into the relevant buckets. This will help you with both learning
and recall. Start by mindmapping your whole qualification on a large sheet
of paper and then work down.
The 3 Steps to Effective Learning
There are three proven steps to effective learning.
Immersion
Human beings learn best when immersed, or fully involved. It’s better to
learn one new skill with full focus instead of learning five different things
at once. Use this when studying - only focus on one topic or area for an
extended period of time.
Spaced Repetition
When you learned something new and then didn’t look at it again for a
week, what happened? Yes, you forgot most of it. The human brain works
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© Soul Patel 2009
on the principle of spaced repetition, which means that you have to
review what you learned at regular intervals to fully remember it. If you
make sure that you keep the intervals short at the beginning, you’ll be
able to space them further apart as time goes on.
Peer Group
The final step to effective learning is to have a peer group, or group of
friends, around you for support. Successful teams work on this principle –
team members support each other during difficult times and challenge
each other to be their best when necessary. Find a group of people who
have the same aims that you do so you can help each other achieve what
all of you want to achieve.
For a powerful peer group of people who understand the principles in this
report come to www.pass1sttime.com/mastermind and join the
community.
D - Developing Abilities
The Competence Curve
Think of learning to drive a car (even if you don’t know how to yet).
When you first get into the car you won’t know that you can’t drive a car
– “Unconscious Incompetence”.
Very quickly you’ll understand all of the things that you need to do to
drive the car and you’ll be very aware of how useless you are at driving! –
“Conscious Incompetence”.
However, after some time you’ll be able to drive but you’ll have to
concentrate very hard to do so – “Conscious Competence”.
And once you’ve been driving for a while you’ll reach a point when you
can get into a car, drive from one place to another, and not even think
about it – “Unconscious Competence”
When preparing for your exams, you’ll go through the same cycle. The
key is to understand where you are and be ok with being in that place –
particularly at the Conscious Incompetence phase. For more detail on
what to do at each stage please see www.pass1sttime.com/resources
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© Soul Patel 2009
Never Second Guess The Examiner
This is one of the best tips that I can give you for your exams … STOP
looking for tips on what might come up in the exam!
Many students seek advice and tips from other students, tutors, and
examiners about specific questions that are likely to come up in the
exams. Not the general topic, the kind of tip that says, “this specific
question hasn’t come up in the last three exams so it’s very likely to
appear in the next exam”.
The danger in seeking that kind of tip is that you risk not preparing for
other questions as well as you should. You’ll also have the psychological
fear “What if this doesn’t appear in the exam?!”
A better way is to approach exams is thinking that you have to know as
much as possible … or even ALL of it! That way, it doesn’t matter what
questions come up, you’ll be able to deal with all of them.
Integrate Questions Everywhere
Practice questions are one of the most effective ways to prepare. They’re
also the least pleasant because we come face-to-face with the fact that
we don’t know what we thought we did!
Here is how to integrate questions at every point of your learning: after
you’ve learned a new area, find the questions that relate to that area, not
the full exam questions - the short examples that usually follow in your
textbooks. Do them. You’ll realise that you don’t know the topic as well as
you thought, but that’s ok - better now than in the exams. Review and re-
learn.
E - Exam Execution
Talk Little, Listen Less
On the day of the exam, talk little before the actual exam. The worst
people to talk to are people who are discussing the content of the exams
“Have you learned this?” “Do you know how this works?” Those kinds of
conversations are only going to make you more nervous and less
focussed.
The best thing that you can do is to talk to loved ones, your peer group,
and/or your close friends for good luck wishes and supportive comments -
nothing more. That way you can go into the exam knowing that you have
the full support of your friends and family.
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© Soul Patel 2009
Expect the Unexpected
I often see letters in accountancy magazines talking about less than
perfect exam conditions. For example: the room was noisy, too hot, too
cold, the desks were too small.
The person complaining may have a point, but here’s the thing – it won’t
make a difference in the outcome of their exam. It’s highly unlikely that
the exam body will change a mark based on such factors.
So what can you do about it? Expect such things to happen and be
mentally prepared to cope with them. That way it won’t matter what
happens – you’ll have a plan and be able to execute in the exam
The 2 “Secrets” to Passing
There are two secrets to passing your exams (“only two?!” I hear you
say!): ATFQ and AAQ.
ATFQ – Answer The F****** Question!
Excuse my language, but this is a major complaint from examiners – that
students didn’t answer the question asked, instead they answered the
question that they hoped to get. Instead of understanding what the
examiner wanted, the student dumped all of the information they knew on
the topic and hoped to get a good mark. This approach is not only likely to
get you a bad mark for that question, it will also lower the examiner’s
impression of you. Remember – ATFQ!!
AAQ – Answer All Questions
The easiest marks to achieve are the first few marks in a question. E.g.
it’s easier to get the first 5 marks of a 20-mark question than the last 5
marks. This means that when you’re in the exam you must be very strict
with your time management. It’s better to leave a question when your
time for that question is up and move on, than try to get the last few
difficult marks. Leaving any question unanswered is a big factor in making
you fail.
Help the Marker
I’ll let you in on a secret: the marker is not the examiner. What do I mean
by that? I mean that it’s unlikely that the person marking your exam is
the person who set the exam.
Markers are people who take on marking work as an extra source of
income. They usually have a full-time job so often they’ll be marking your
papers in the evening, late at night, or on weekends.
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© Soul Patel 2009
Imagine what it must be like for them to come home after a hard day’s
work to a huge pile of exams scripts on their desk. Yours might even be at
the bottom of this pile. After 3-4 hours of marking late into the night, they
get a dirty, messy exam paper with text that they can hardly read. If this
was you, would you make an extra effort to search through all of it to find
the bits of information that will help that person pass? I wouldn’t either.
Keep your answers clear and readable. Use tables and diagrams where
possible. Make it easy for them to give you the marks you deserve.
Avoid Exam Dissection
Final tip for this report: Avoid analysing the exam after you’ve taken it.
This is one of the worst things that you can do.
The reality is that you can’t do anything about it. The exam paper has
been handed in. Talking about it and possibly realising what you got
wrong will affect you for the next exam that you have to take. It will also
ruin your celebration when you’ve finished all of your exams. Once you’re
out of that exam room, it’s over – you’re done with that exam so it’s time
to move on to whatever you have to do next.
Final Note
I hope that the information in this report helps you to prepare for your
exams. Starting now, implement as many of the principles I’ve described
and see how they work for you.
If you appreciate the information I’ve shared, please refer to the
resources at www.pass1sttime.com/resources for further explanation of
the AIDE Principles, and more in-depth techniques that you can use to
pass 1
st
time.
To your success,
!oul Pa"#
PS: Congratulations on completing this report. To reward you
please click on the link for your FREE BONUS Report!
http://www.pass1sttime.com/report-bonus
Plus an EXCLUSIVE SPECIAL OFFER just for you... Watch the
video!
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© Soul Patel 2009