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Diaries of an oddball accountant acca cima aat

Diaries of an Oddball Accountant – Year 1 – Super Keen! 🤓

As you may (or may not) know I am CIMA qualified and I didn’t pass all of my exams 1st time.

My ‘Diaries of an oddball accountant’ is me sharing my highs and lows to the emotional but very rewarding Accounting rollercoaster qualification that I know you guys are on.

Read and use it as a confidence booster (to know you’re not alone) – a motivational story (to prove it’s worth it) – and a fun read (yes, you have permission to laugh at me!)

I’m a very proud qualified Accountant and I describe myself as an oddball – because my accounting geek focus is uniquely combined with being super keen to smash my goals, ridiculously determined to finish what I start and sometimes overconfident!

Over the next six weeks I’m sharing my honest, candid, funny and inspiring six-year accounting journey (yeah sounds ages doesn’t it!).

I’d love to hear what you think and where you are in your journey, leave a comment below or send me an email – hello@prettysuccesfulcareers.co.uk


Being super keen!

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin 😎


‘What do you want to be when you grow up Helen?’ – asked by Mrs Edelman (Year 5 Junior school teacher)

‘I want to be an Accountant!’ I answered.

Yes really, when I was 8 (and ever since) I have always wanted to be an Accountant. (Sorry about the photo quality – it was the 1990’s!)

When I grow up I want to be an accountant cima acca aat


The perception I had was that I would always be in demand in the workplace, have a professional respect in the office, oh and carry a briefcase!

So I worked and focused on this throughout my Academics – Including my 1St Class Honours Degree in Business Studies.

Fast forward to 2007 and I was signed up to CIMA (with the exemptions from my degree), working as an Assistant Accountant and sitting my first CIMA exam!


Why did I choose CIMA? Well that was a no brainer for me, I knew I wanted to work in Industry (not practise) and I chose Business Studies for a reason – because of the commercial nature of understand all aspects of business. CIMA incorporates leadership, management and commercial awareness as well as the Financial skills.


Finally, I was starting my CIMA and becoming a massive step closer to really being called an Accountant! I was super focused, really excited and felt ready for my career journey. In my first job, I was a temp so didn’t have study support, so I paid for the registration and my exam by myself. I was committed and it felt great!


Super keen Helen mode!

I don’t think I could have been more keen and enthusiastic, at the start of my finance career, I had just got married, I was earning a salary and now I was starting what I had wanted to finish for such a long time.

Since Uni, I had a few temp jobs, but this one was different, there were 5 trainee accountants in my department, lead by a senior (who wasn’t actually qualified but I’ll share my views on that in a bit) and a qualified Finance Manager.

As well as having a sales and purchase ledger department, I knew this was a junior accounting role but there was loads of opportunities and it was such a great culture for my studies.


Along came May 2007.

I was in a random exam room in Leeds sitting my 1st CIMA Exams – eeekkk!! P1 and P4 were my exams of choice, for which I was self studying and self funded.


Can I just admit something … sitting 2 exams in 2 exam sitting is tough! It’s not testing your accounting skills and looking back it just puts too much pressure on the whole learning aspect.

Still a keen accountant, I waited for my results, I would say I patiently waited but that’s so not true – 10 weeks is a long time!


Along came July and results day, my colleagues were waiting for their results too and as the new girl I wanted to ‘prove’ my Accounting ability and status in the team.


Drumroll …….. Results were in … P1 – Failed 43% … P4 Passed 55%


For those who are reading this and failing P1 multiple times (then I feel you and no it hasn’t got any ‘easier’ has it?!).


Luckily I was doing well at work and I was offered a permanent position, it really is as important to show up and improve at work as well as passing your exams guys.


For the next exam sitting, which was November (back in the day we only had 2 sittings a year), I got full study support and used it! I signed up to BPP in Leeds for P1 and P8.

I know I said before sitting two exams together isn’t a great idea, but I genuinely didn’t see that at the start and because I was ‘competing’ against my colleagues and I am an impatient lady, I had to take two. In my head, one was a resit anyways, so I knew lots of it.


I’m not going to lie, so bare with me with my honesty here, but going to college was a pain in the bum!

As well as practically it was a pain (over an hour from my house), the whole emotional pain was intense. Having to sit in a classroom for a whole day and learn new, often complicated knowledge, with a teacher who rushes through the syllabus because it’s so huge and by 2pm I was so tired.


Juggling the work-life-study balance, as well as being in my 20’s, newly married , I had just got a new puppy (Emily) but I really disliked the fact I had to firstly sit that long to learn all this stuff, and secondly use up all of my annual leave (I got study support from work but no time off).


Exam Day – again!

November came along and I was feeling good, that I had done just enough work and balanced my life to put my studies and college time first.


I actually had to sit P1 and P8 in the same day – ouch!

I remember one of my colleagues giving me words of wisdom a few days before and saying – just make sure you pass one of them and do your best at the other.


For those who have sat two CIMA exams in the same day, two 3 hour exams, will know it’s ridiculous. But I had no choice in the times.

Looking back in my diary at the time I wrote ‘P1- estimates 50% and P8- Estimated 51%’ – So I wasn’t super confident was I?!


Trust me guys, the fact that you get your results in less than 10 weeks, cheeky CIMA students on the same day, you are very fortunate.

For most of my exams, I had a 10 week wait and for these I had to wait until after Christmas! (Thanks CIMA!).


Drumroll …….. Jan 21st results are in …….. and I failed both (yes both!) with a very embarrassing score of 36 for each!!!


Officially a rubbish accountant!


Yes I am officially a rubbish Accountant! Oh my gosh, how embarrassing and frustrating. All of that hard work and I wasn’t even close! I went to college, I studied, I committed and took it seriously and for what?!

I had to go into work and hear my colleagues telling each other and our manager their results…. And I had to share mine! Damn it. Honestly, how do you look face to face with your Finance Manager, who for the last year you have been impressing at work and asking for more responsibilities and pay and say you got 36%?!


I might as well not have shown up. (I didn’t believe that at all, but the emotions take over!)


2008 was a year of growing as an Assistant Accountant. At work this meant I got promoted, was involved in a great finance project (which I shined at) and being a really strong team player that grew with confidence and finance ability.

For my exams I resat P1 in May and pass with 60% (Thank goodness!) and sat P2 in November and actually passed first time with 59%! (Clearly I was stronger on this topic!)


So, I’m two years into my CIMA journey, I have sat 6 exams and passed 3. Not too bad but Oh I could have been twice as far forward by now ‘if’ I had just passed them!

My job was going super well and I was learning every week as well as getting promoted and having more responsibilities. Everyone in my company knew who Helen is and how much value I can add.


Year 1 thoughts

To summarise ‘Year 1’ I remember how excited I was and eager to start and finish my CIMA as quickly as possible. But I’ll be honest, it was harder than I thought it would be and I clearly didn’t understand some of the Accounting knowledge.

I remember learning ‘parrot fashion’ just to pass the question and although I went to college, I didn’t love it and I always felt like it was wasting my precious time! (And don’t tell anyone, but this gets worse in year 2!).


Biggest learnings from year 1

If I could share my advice on my biggest learning from this time, then it would be to commit and take more time to really learn the syllabus so that you pass first time. BUT your job is as important, so keep this a big priority as it will pay dividends later on in your career.


That’s year 1 of the ‘Diaries of an oddball accountant!’

What do you think?! – please leave a comment or send me an email (hello@prettysuccessfulcareers.co.uk) if you’re at the start of your accounting journey and have any questions.

To the lucky ones that are on my email list – I LOVE you for being here! Thank you!

If you’ve been sat under a rock for the last few months and not on my list – join here and you’ll get my secret tips and weekly coaching advice specifically for qualifying accountants! http://bit.ly/PSCsecretexam


Keep an eye out next week for year 2 where you can be the judge to if I’m an oddball or not!

Helen x

One comment

  1. Maleeha says:

    Absolutely love this. I’m new to CIMA going in the gateway route to MCS & i relate a lot to you at the start of your studies. Having a 1st class accounting degree i thought this would be a breeze – definitely not!!! Learning a lot the hard way. Keep these coming, exactly what i needed right now 🙂

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