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Revising for your accountancy exams. Not much fun? There IS another way!

Well – it really hit home this week, that ‘traditional’ revision doesn’t work for everyone.  The pages & pages of notes aren’t much fun. Maybe that’s you?


The truth is that there are loads of different ways to revise. Many that you might not have come across before (they should really teach this stuff at school!).


So I’m going to share everything with you in this week’s blog, in the hope that inspiration hits! To not only make your revision easier & more fun – but to help you actually PASS your exams.


I’ve just started work with an amazing new client, who was revising hard but wasn’t making the progress he needed. He was fed up with the endless notes & specifically asked me ‘think outside the box’.


And I love being that coach! The one who suggests a heap of new ideas, until we hit on the revision method that feels right & actually works for you.


Like Priya, one of my fab clients last year. She used to work in the library and revise…until I suggested she find a whiteboard to write down all her answers. And she loved it! A simple whiteboard helped her get to the point & get it out of her head. She massively increased her confidence because she realised how much of the syllabus she actually knew.


One of the problems my clients talk about all the time (and it was the same for me) is that you can revise so much in your head – but when it comes to the exam, you can’t type or write the answers out properly. So you don’t make the right points quickly enough, run out of time or just make the wrong point and fail. And the feeling of not writing the correct point in the exam is SO frustrating!


Revising all this stuff in your head is tough. Because when you come to practise questions, again you can’t get the point and feel awful that you can’t pass a mock exam in time for the real exam. Which hardly makes you feel confident on the day itself.


Here’s the thing…


I’m a classic note writer. And a planner. BUT since I’ve become a niche revision coach for accountancy exams, I’ve realised this is a h-u-g-e part of why I failed my own exams.


Because I wrote amazingly detailed and pretty revision notes. I spent so long on them, that I didn’t actual spend the time ‘revising’ – getting the knowledge in my head and applying it to exam questions, the way Mr CIMA wanted me to.


If I could go back, I’d shout at my old self “what are you DOING?! Stop trying to make the perfect notes. That’s not gonna work! Get your notes done in 10 mins and spend 50 minutes actually practising this stuff!”.


Sadly, I don’t have a time machine (yet). But the fact is that long revision notes are NOT a smart way to revise. And you don’t need to fill endless A4 notebooks to pass.


If I could go back – knowing what I’ve learnt during my time as coach – here’s what I’d do instead:


1. Write a MAXIMUM of 1 page of notes (A4) for each chapter.

2. As a maximum, write out the formulas.

3. And as a maximum, write 1 revision card (postcard size) per topic.


How does the thought of that make you feel? Relieved? Would you revision feel way easier & simpler, without those pages & pages (and pages) of notes?


And how much more FUN would it be?! I know, imagine that – actually enjoying revising. ‘Cos it’s 100% not fun when you’re ploughing through the text book & spending hours writing notes (especially when it doesn’t even work).


Honestly, revision really doesn’t have to feel that way!


Here’s some SMART-er ways to revise (you know the specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely thing):


·        Read it out loud (because it helps you verbalise what you know);

·        Read it out loud to yourself in the mirror (I know this sounds weird – but it works!)

·        Write bullet points, not paragraphs (it makes you get to the point in a few words);

·        Use A6 revision cards (to write less and know the points quickly);

·        Use a whiteboard (again, this forces you to write less & get to the point);

·        Give practical examples to the theory (to link theory with knowledge, so it makes sense to you);

·        Do short bursts of practise questions (to retain the knowledge and answers smartly);

·        Do mock exams to time (with closed books – to test yourself properly and practise for the real thing in a REAL way);

·        Listen to your voice saying the answer (to verbalise what you know and get to the point);

·        Call me & leave me a 60-second voicemail about ‘activity-based costing’ (or whatever it is – seriously, I won’t even listen if you don’t want me to! But it proves to yourself that you DO know this stuff).


There’s plenty more in my revision toolkit too. Not all of these will be right for you. But when we mix it up, try new stuff & find the methods that DO work for you, it sets you up for exam success in a whole new way.


I don’t know about you – but like I said at the start, I was never taught how to revise at school. ‘Revision week’ came along & we were packed off home. So I completely get that trying something new like this takes self-awareness, an open mind & the courage to try a new path.


Yes, I’m sure some of my clients think I’m a little odd for suggesting these things. But then they try them and LOVE them! They get such a confidence boost when they pass a practise question & realise all this amazing knowledge has actually stuck in their brain.


And when my coaching clients sit their real exams and pass, it makes me SO happy to have played a little part in their accountancy career journey!


So! I really hope the ideas in this blog have been useful for you.


Why not come & join our Facebook group – Exam Success for Qualifying Accountants? Be part of our supportive community, on this journey together. And I’m always there to help too, with loads more tools, tips & inspiration.


Or for a chat about 1:1 Revision Success Coaching, click here now.


It’s niche revision coaching for CIMA, ACCA & AAT exams, for when you’re in that phase. Not the study, teaching & knowledge stage – I support you during the bit in between that and the exam. Where you practise, grow in confidence and focus on the exam (the bit that’s critical to pass them!).


Here’s to you flying through YOUR next exams!

Have a great week! Helen

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