ACCA Revision: Breaking Bad Habits

ACCA Revision: Breaking Bad Habits

Revision is the secret of exam success, says ACCA tutor Rob Sowerby, who outlines four areas on which you should focus.


By Rob Sowerby

We have talked about ACCA revision courses for as long as I can remember, and I for one have always thought it a curious term. Revision, according to the dictionary, is to alter or correct; this is most certainly not what is meant by most ACCA students and tuition providers. Instead, what revision is about is repetition of knowledge, exam question practice, building confidence and managing time.

Assuming that we have some basic knowledge, how can revision improve your score in the final exam?  Revision should help in the following four areas:

Knowledge base

You need to know something to pass most exams and the core knowledge base is best learnt by repetition and developed by applying that knowledge to exam questions.  The more times you do a specific calculation or write about an element of theory or present an argument, the better you will become at it. Note the importance you should place on the written word.  Too many students focus on the numbers at the expense of the written parts of a question.  If you were to look at most exams, they require 50% or more on essay rather than computational answers.

There is a limit to how many marks you may get on a computation, a relatively straight forward calculation will probably gain you full marks, and unfortunately this is the same for everyone!  A more difficult question will leave you with some or no marks almost regardless of the amount of hard work you put in.  With written requirements, however, it is normally relatively easy to score some basic marks. If you concentrate as much time on revising essay questions, either by preparing essay plans and writing some of them in full this should materially improve your chances of passing.

Understanding the question set

Remember that the examiner has asked you a specific question and wants a specific answer. Too many students want to show knowledge and this is not what is required in the exam. By writing everything you know about a subject, you simply waste time and give yourself some misguided view that you have ‘done something’. Unfortunately this view will be exploded when you receive your result.

Instead you must consider the requirement to ensure that you fully understand the instruction or verb and the subject area or noun. It is possible that your question will have multiple instructions and subjects. By understanding these you are able to break up the question and better understand what you have to do and possibly how to ‘weight’ your answer.


“Discuss, in respect of the extension to the factory and the new African subsidiary, the strengths and weaknesses of DEC’s management information system.                                                          (9 marks)”


Instruction = Discuss

This means that we have to talk about a range of issues and typically we have to consider as this question is probing the pros and cons or strengths and weaknesses. Discuss is one of the most typical requirements alongside explain.

Fundamental subject = MIS

Everything must relate to a MIS to gain a mark allocation

Subordinate subjects = Extension and African subsidiary

Note the word and. This word is the most powerful word that you see in any requirement as it typically splits the requirement into two

Answer plan (9 marks)

Instruction : Discuss

Subject : MIS

Extension ->     – 2 strengths and 2 weaknesses (4-5 marks)

African sub->    – 2 strengths and 2 weaknesses (4-5 marks)

Time management

After knowledge, time management is critical to exam success. It is the most common reason for well-prepared students to fail. To manage time in the exam you must practise managing it when revising. During your revision period you should do all questions to time and also practise at least one mock exam in timed conditions. It doesn’t matter if you themes up your timing in the mock providing that you learn valuable lessons that will help you in the real exam.

Building confidence

If you feel well prepared it will show in the exam. Revision either in college or at home is designed to give you that edge. Students who attend revision courses learn more than just the subject matter; instead they gain a better insight into how to convert their knowledge into marks.


Good luck in your ACCA exam!


Robsowerby _thumb Rob Sowerby is an ACCA Tutor at LSBF

Other Opinions and Features

The Rise of Mobile Accounting

Accounting has always been a field that’s associated with piles of paperwork, spreadsheet and staggering numbers. Using computers to carry…

What will the role of the CFO look like in the future?

The CFO role is often thought of as being largely preoccupied with numbers and data, but in the last few…

7 Myths About Accountancy

Wondering what accountancy is really like as a career? Many people think that being an accountant is just number crunching…

Back to top