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Balancing work and exams

If you're on the ACA pathway, you will no doubt have to take on 3 years (at minimum) of exams whilst working with a recognised employer/firm. The ICAEW website has a list of recognised employees that you can undertake a training contract with.

When looking for placements, I did not narrow my search down to audit companies as this was the last thing on my mind! In fact, I applied for technology roles that tied in more with my ITMB degree. However, I was transferred within PwC from their Digital Services role to Assurance due to the timings of my application. After 8 months with PwC, I can say that this is a job I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to working in this industry after I graduate.

A big part of becoming a chartered accountant is passing these ACA exams whilst completing a minimum of 450 days of practical work experience. The exams are split into three levels: Certificate, Professional, and Advanced. There 6 exams in each Certificate and Professional level, with a maximum of 4 attempts per exam. For the advanced level, 3 exams without a maximum number of attempts.

Having completed 5 exams whilst working, here are my tips on finding that balance:

1. Prioritise

Understand your priorities and schedule your routine towards it. Sometimes your priority may be the client you are working on, but other times it could be the upcoming exams. By penciling time in your schedule for a few hours of revision during the evenings and/or weekends, you're one step closer to passing those exams!

2. Speak up if you're struggling

Your manager, buddy, peer group, and tutor are all there to help you in your time of need. If you feel that you are struggling with an exam, you should speak to your tutor and try out different learning techniques. If you don't speak up, no one will know that you need help.

Often if you let your in charge/manager of the job you're booked on know that you have an exam in the next week or so, you can leave at a decent time to ensure you are able to utilise your evenings for revision.

3. Utilise your resources

As above, people in the firm are there to help. Use the question bank as many times as you can as well as mock exams provided. The more questions you attempt, the more questions you're exposed to. A couple of them might even be on the real exam! Also try not to bother with making pretty notes, the question bank is your best friend.

4. Start early, but not too early

I find that these exams are definitely tougher than university exams. Plan ahead and start revising early if you can. No one needs the added stress of failing mock exams a couple of days before the real one!