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Why exam failure never stopped me (and why it shouldn’t stop you!)

Why exam failure never stopped me (and why it shouldn’t stop you)…



My Grandma is in hospital right now. It’s the weekend – and as I type this, I’ve come down to Devon to visit her.

I’m staying at her house and last night, I found a letter I wrote to her, 10 years ago.


I remember writing every word of that letter. Because I had to tell her I’d failed 2 of my exams.


I tried my hardest – and yet still, I’d failed.


I’d worked SO hard. Focused, revised, gone to college, practised, worked full-time and was so motivated for the challenge of 2 exams (which is tough!).


I’d waited 10 long weeks for my results. Only to discover I’d failed them both.


What a ‘waste’ of time, effort & brain power (feeling emotional again just remembering!).


I know I tried and I know I’m a great accountant. But failing two exams is hard. And felt truly, deeply embarrassing.


So I wrote a letter to my grandma, who I know wouldn’t mind, because she loves me and is just proud that I’m challenging myself to make a great career (I know you’re the same, doing it for your career & your family too).


But I remember vividly that it would have been ‘easy’ for me to not tell her or not write the letter. I knew writing it down would kick all my mindset demons into overdrive. But still I did it!


Telling your manager can feel even tougher, especially if your company is funding your study support. When your career depends on passing, it’s a tough conversation to have.


I had to tell my manager I’d failed both of these exams (with 36% – the pass mark was 50%, so I was waaaaay off on both).

It’s even worse when your fellow qualifying colleagues are passing with flying colours…


So why I am telling you this?


Because I want you know that if you’re in this boat right now, you’re not alone!


Now – a whole decade on – I’m wiser. I’m a coach. Now, I’ve developed the skills & experience to quickly get past my mindset blimps (and yes, they never go away completely. You just get different challenges are your career progresses!),


So many of my clients say they hate telling people when they’re sitting exams. Especially work colleagues, because when these people ask ‘how did you do’, it’s embarrassing.


And we pile even MORE pressure on ourselves to make sure we pass, so we can tell these people good news and not have to sigh an embarrassed ‘yeah, I failed’.


Setting yourself up with the right mindset, confidence & self-belief for success can feel impossible.


I wish this stuff didn’t matter. But it does. In fact, it’s CRUCIAL. Because if your mindset & confidence aren’t in the right place, it dramatically affects your thought process. You put extra pressure on yourself that detracts from your revision & exam preparation.


And here’s the thing.

Do I tell loads of people I failed my exams a few times? Hell no!

I tell them I’m CIMA qualified & it’s one of my proudest achievements.


Do I worry that I only got 51% pass rates? Nope – I positively shout about my current salary and my amazing senior accounting career!


At the time when your exams are your main focus, of course you care. But worrying what other people will think or say – or how other people are doing – is a HUGE waste of your precious energy.


Truly, you don’t have to worry about them. Because all that matters is YOU, your pass marks & your career.


Please (please) focus your energy on YOUR exam journey and exam preparation.


I know it’s easy for me to say, 10 years down the line – but I remember my exams as if they were yesterday. And I wish I’d invested in myself & got the support I needed back them.


It’s my passion now to coach positive exam mindset, putting yourself first and taking control of your life.


When you’re studying, your life revolves around May/November exams (well, mine did!). And going to college, homework, studying the syllabus, revising, practising questions, mock exams…it’s full on!


When you fail, it’s hard to not take it personally. Not to think ‘I’m a rubbish accountant’. It would be SO easy it would be to stop the exams, or take a break, or even worse change your mindset & actually start to believe you’re a rubbish accountant.


It’s not true. And maybe you just need the right support, to get those exams in the bag.


Keep going.


Because it’s SO worth it in the end!


In 2013, I qualified and got my ACMA CGMA letters after my name (this is my plaque taking pride of place on the wall!)

cima exam plaque


I’m so proud of where I’ve got to in my career now. And I know the best is yet to come.


And if I can help YOU – to coach & support you through your exams, to:

·       Increase your confidence;

·       Reduce your stress;

·       Set a revision plan, to balance exams / work / life;

·       And ultimately get the successful exam pass you need…


…please, do get in touch. I’d love to help you!


Just email hello@prettysuccessfulcareers.co.uk or call 07855 130066 for a chat today.


I’d love to support you on your journey to exam success & the finance career of your dreams!


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