It’s every ambitious student’s dream to become a rank holder. The reality requires a lot of grit, commitment and a laser-sharp focus on the target. Most rank holders hold the secret to their success close to their chests. However, I got lucky.
During my CA articleship (practical) training days, my room-mate was the 18th rank holder of the CA IPCC exam at that time. That was the starting point of my journey to become a rank holder. With his guidance, I was able to achieve four ranks — an all India rank (AIR) of 20 in the CA final, AIR 5 in CMA Inter, AIR 4 in CMA Final and AIR 1 in CIMA, UK.
Since then, I have taught and mentored students to get global ranks in international Qualifications, some of whom have even gone on to receive world ranks. Rank holders have their pick of ACCA jobs in India.
Now, I am going to share the secrets with you. You can become a rank holder easily in any professional qualification — ACCA, CA, CIMA, CMA, CS, etc. Without further ado, here’s what you need to do.
#1 STAY AWAY FROM YOUR SMARTPHONE
This might be the hardest point on the list. We live in screen-addicted society. We’re constantly on social media, scrolling down a series of random cat videos or tapping on the next viral sensation.
Hand-held screens are the biggest hindrance between you and the exam, leave aside achieving a rank. Your concentration span has already reduced significantly because of smartphones. It’s only making you tired, not increasing your productivity. You may think you’ve got it under control, and that you’ll only check your phone for a quick minute. Before you know it, it’s three hours later and you are down a digital rabbit role. Make a commitment to either delete your social media apps or keep your phone away from you (preferably in another room) for 2 or 3 months. You may find your fingers aimlessly marching on thin air for a day or two, but the sacrifice will be worth it.
If you need a device to attend classes or for research, a desktop or laptop is preferable. Stay away from apps that rob you of your time and mental space. Your brain will be very grateful.
#2 CREATE A METICULOUS STUDY PLAN
You need to set proper long-term study plan in place, before you even start the work. Good preparation is half the battle won. Design a detailed list of milestones in terms of topics or chapters, rather than the number of hours of study. Split up your syllabus to create a system where each subject is allowed specific study hours, along with some room for revision and practice ACCA exam papers. This system must be drafted with paper and pencil, which is then put up on a wall next to your study table. Take the help of a mentor, teacher or even an ex-student, and spend a day planning a study calendar.
However, it is possible a problem or two may arise and your schedule might need reworking. Don’t let this de-motivate you. Don’t worry if you fall behind the plan. If initially you can only reach 50 to 60 per cent of the planned outcome, it is fine. Without this plan, you wouldn’t have even done that much. When the need arises, tweak the schedule accordingly. It will take regular discipline until you will reach a stage where following your plan will become a steady habit. Work for it.
Here’s how to plan your study calendar:
One ACCA subject at a time
- Complete one full topic at a time. Before moving on to the next ACCA subject, take the practice exams and mock tests on that topic. Study it from every angle, so that if you are suddenly asked to appear for the ACCA exam, you can crack it easily.
One textbook or tutor per subject
- Keep your study material simple. Don’t make the mistake of over-researching or looking at multiple sources of information. If you’re learning from a coaching institute, stick to their notes. It will be a more organised use of your time to learn from only one source, but to learn it well.
Make short hand notes for theory-based subjects
- Write down concise notes in your own handwriting in one book. It will help you study faster. You can refer to this multiple times before the exam and during last day revision. One of the reasons, students get flustered is because they cannot view the entire material just before the ACCA exam. With a book full of shorthand notes, this problem will disappear.
Practice writing every practical question
- Solve practical questions by writing them down, at least once or twice. Most students will read answers in a book and move on. When face with the question in the ACCA exam, they get stuck. If you write it down, you understand the process and remember it when answering your own exam.
Avoid developing mental blocks
- Don’t dismiss certain subjects as your ‘weaknesses’ and avoid studying them. Some students claim that they are terrible at practical exams. Other are convinced they won’t pass their taxation paper. These are mental obstacles that will block you from achieving your goal. When you are planning your study calendar, don’t postpone learning the topics you don’t like. Take them head on. Push through the pain, really work at each subject and you might even begin to enjoy learning it.
Self discipline is important
- Keep an allotted time aside for when you sit down by yourself to work. Self study is the key to getting a rank in these qualifications. You need at least a month by yourself. Sometimes, the coaching classes get over only a few days before the exam. That is dangerous. Student needs to plan for the coaching to end at least one month before the exam date. Self study during that last month or so will give you more productivity than the six months before it.
#3 EVALUATE YOUR PROGRESS WITH MOCK EXAMS
Most students spend a lot of time hitting the books, but seem weary of taking mock exams. You need to take as many as you can so you can properly evaluate your progress. Are you able to understand the questions? Are you able remember the content? Does your time management need more work? Can your presentation be better?
The more tests you take, the clearer your process becomes. You’ll discover pressing issues beforehand and figure out the solution as well. When it is time to take the actual ACCA exam, you’ll feel relaxed and experienced. Taking around 3 to 5 mock tests will help you to not just get a passing grade, but to secure a rank.
#4 CHECK YOUR PRESENTATION
You may know the material like the back of your hand, but how good is your presentation? This is a key issue during your subjective questions of the exam. How you lay out your answer on the page can make or break you. If you have written short paragraphs, highlighted key points and made some diagrams or charts (if possible) in your paper, this will definitely increase your chances of doing really well. An examiner will appreciate your efforts and give you higher marks. It’s not enough to write the answer down. You need to present it in an appealing manner.
#5 TIME MANAGEMENT IS IMPORTANT
It won’t matter if you complete 60 per cent paper very well, if you end up leaving 40 per cent of the questions blank because you ran out of time. If you’ve not finished the whole paper, you can kiss that rank goodbye. To ensure your can manage your time well, you need to practice. Take those mock tests we discussed above. Also, get into the habit of writing the subject matter by hand on a regularly basis. Plan how to answer the questions. Scroll through the paper, decide which questions to do first and leave some grace time for tougher questions.
When the big day arrives, you’ll be ready to attack 100 per cent of the exam within the lime limit, and that rank will be well within your reach.
#6 BE CONFIDENT
If you want to be a rank holder, this point is as important as the rest. You’ve worked hard for the ACCA exam. Have faith in the effort you’ve put in. Be confident in your abilities and don’t let negative thinking affect your focus. Students who worry they are not good enough will end up getting a lesser grade than those who are sure of themselves. So take a deep breath, know that you are worthy of securing high marks and go attack that exam with all the confidence you can muster.
To secure one of the coveted ACCA jobs in India, you need to pass the exam with flying colours. The road to becoming a rank holder is not an easy one. But it’s not impossible either. It takes proper planning, time management, hard work and positive thinking to achieve your rank. So start today. Figure out how you will tackle this enormous feat and step by step, begin your preparation. You’re almost there. Good luck!