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On track - study and revision

by Shaun Browne

What happened to Christmas?! I can’t believe it’s approaching that time again. The time when you wish you opened your course manual much earlier, the time when you wish you didn’t miss your classes because of working so late and the time when you wish you read those articles in Student Accountant (or even opened your Student Accountant!)

Well all is not lost. You still have time now so no regrets about ‘I wish’ and let’s get down to some basic concepts about examination technique and revision.

Where do you start?
When you read you begin with ABC, when you sing you begin with Doh Re Me (marks will be awarded for guessing the musical) so why not start at the beginning with your revision.

Draw up a timetable:


Complete the timetable, for example:

  • Monday morning Work (why not read an article from Student Accountant whilst travelling to work – unless you are driving of course!)
  • Lunchtime Attempt a past examination question whilst munching on your lunch
  • Afternoon Work
  • Evening Allow some relaxation (say until 8p.m.) then attempt an examination question and review the Examiner’s answer. Never try to memorise the Examiner’s answer or believe that the Examiner’s answer is the only answer in the world - you should be able to identify some of the points mentioned in the Examiner’s answer when compared to your own, that’s all.

When allocating your papers to be covered within the timetable, don’t just say Tuesday evening – Audit, Wednesday evening – Tax. You need to be more specific so that you can tick off the subject matter. For example: Tuesday evening – audit: Internal Controls – Q1 December 1999 examination; Wednesday evening – Tax Framework: Capital Allowances – Q3 June 1998, etc.

Stick to your timetable!!!
Try and develop some self-discipline and work to the times set in your timetable. If you hear a conversation in the street under your window whilst studying – ignore it, stop listening and stop being nosy!!

OK – you have designed your timetable, you have allocated an even time to all of your papers and you are making good ground. As it gets closer to the examination date you need to start planning for the examination itself.

The week before the examination
Visit your exam centre
First of all find out where the examination centre is and what time your examination starts, e.g. 09.30 hrs. Then visit the examination centre a week earlier at the time you intend to arrive the following week. This will give you a ‘dry run’ so you know how heavy the traffic is or road works, etc. The worst feeling in the world is to be running late the day of the examination.

Be prepared
Make sure you buy the necessary stationery, pens, pencils, etc., and hunt for your student identity card – don’t leave it to the last minute!

The day before the examination
Get your bag ready to take with you:

  • Checklist: Pens, pencils, calculator (take two – solar & battery), ID card, examination docket, watch, money for car park or bus and a piece of paper for the ‘wobbly desk’.

Don’t forget to take something to eat (no, not a hamper) just a ‘nibble bar’ to sit on your desk (out of its wrapper – no chocolate or crisps) – ideal exam food is a flap jack or something similar.

Avoid water and drinks at all costs! If you drink water during the exam you are likely to need the toilet and you will need to be accompanied by an invigilator when you go. The invigilators are usually 94 years old and won’t be able to walk (or run) as fast as you – so don’t waste precious time in the exam room, don’t drink during the examination!

The day of the examination
Don’t panic!! You are well prepared; you have your route planned and your bag ready. All that you need to do is to get yourself ready – don’t forget to eat before you go – a 3 hour examination is a long time with no energy.

Make sure that you and your bag arrive early (at least 45 minutes before the examination starts). Find the examination hall and the nearest toilet. By arriving nice and early you can find a quite place to sit and flick through your notes.

The examination
Set up your desk
Once you have found your desk place the blank piece of paper under the leg of the wobbly desk. A wobbly desk is part of the examination process! Set up your desk (no clutter – keep lucky mascots on the floor). Don’t wear your watch, place it on your desk so that you have one eye constantly looking at it.

Put your ID card and exam docket on your desk as the 94 year old invigilators have difficulty bending down on the floor to pick them up – but it would be revenge for their squeaky shoes!

Once you are set up remain calm and look around at your fellow students sitting their looking panic stricken (unless they have also read this article of course!)

Listen to all announcements
“You may now open the paper in front of you” you will hear the invigilator’s 89 year old grandson announce. Calmly read the front of the paper and be sure you know exactly how many questions to answer (you would have practised this 100 times before if you are well prepared).

Read the requirements
You are now ready to open the examination paper. When you open the paper cast your eyes to the REQUIREMENTS IMMEDIATELY – do NOT read the question. By reading the requirements you know exactly what is being asked and don’t waste any time reading the question. Read all the requirements of the entire paper and pick out your best question first (unless you are instructed to answer questions in a specified format).

Time management
Once you have read all the requirements and selected the order to attempt the questions, work out your TIME MANAGEMENT. Alongside each requirement work out how long you will spend on each question. A general guide is 1.8 minutes per mark, e.g.

Q1 a. requirements……. 10 marks x 1.8 = 18 minutes
b. requirements……. 5 marks x 1.8 = 9 minutes
c. requirements……. 3 marks x 1.8 = 5 minutes
d. requirements……. 2 marks x 1.8 = 4 minutes

If you follow the guide above you will be able to answer all of the questions required in the time allocated.

To be this precise you need to have one eye on your watch and one eye on your script. You must observe time management rules as one of the reasons why students fail their examinations is due to a lack of time.

When reading the requirements always look out for the AND as marks are allocated before the and, and after the and e.g., calculate the income tax AND capital gains tax for Mr AND Mrs Smith. In this example you would need to perform calculations for both Mr and Mrs Smith for both taxes.

Read the question
You are now ready to read the question. When doing so put circles around any important words or dates e.g., John started his business on 1 January 2000. This date is very important for opening year rules in taxation.

When you are answering your question in the answer booklet don’t forget your presentation skills. Always answer in small paragraphs and always leave a two-line gap between each paragraph. The marker will be very pleased that you made it easy for him/her to mark – remember THE MARKER IS YOUR BEST FRIEND!!

I am sure that your lecturers and friends will give you advice about how to revise, etc., but do listen to them as they have been through it and know what is expected. The purpose of this article is to take a lighthearted common sense approach to planning your revision and making the best of your examination. You have paid for your examination so why waste it – go for it and pass!