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Study Tips for Exam Success

To become a qualified accountant you must pass your professional exams.

In preparing your Study Plan you need to decide what works for you, you can re-read chapters from the study texts, practice questions and access the recorded lectures as many time as you like. You should also spend some time considering your exam technique, practising past exam papers will help you to test your knowledge, identify any knowledge gaps and understand question type, mark allocation and time management. 

Critical to your success is your own commitment, planning and determination towards doing well in the exams. Below you will find some more useful tips and techniques that will help you be successful in the AIA professional accountancy exams.

Good luck in your exam preparation!

The following guidance is to assist you in studying for the AIA’s professional qualification and in preparing for the online exams:

  • Questions set for every exam paper cover the Learning Outcomes (LOs) – you should read the LOs in the paper syllabus you are studying. A learning outcomes approach focuses on the candidate’s demonstrated achievement of the LOs, at a targeted level of proficiency.
  • Appropriate command words for the level are used – the ‘Levels of Proficiency and Levels of Learning’ document explains the cognitive levels of learning and the command words used at the Foundation, Professional 1 and 2 levels.
  • Questions offer an appropriate balance of application versus knowledge for the associated level of attainment.
  • Questions offer an appropriate coverage of the Prescribed Subjects (PSs) and International Education Standards (IESs) – the PQ Programme Section 3.2 provides a summary of the competencies mapping for the PSs and IESs.
  • The number and type of questions differ between papers and levels – it is important that you read the ‘Syllabus Structure’ to understand what is required.
  • Questions ensure appropriate coverage of the syllabus subject i.e. all subjects are examined throughout the qualification.

Case study and case scenario questions

Case study questions are substantial questions where candidates face (typically) a number of issues which they have to analyse. These questions are often presented over 2-3 screens, and require candidates to select specific issues and explain their implications. Additional material is presented as an ‘Exhibit’ button, which candidates can ‘pop-out’ to view.

A key issue is to identify the key components but also analyse them, identifying links between the issues raised. Some elements may be superfluous, but candidates need to identify what is irrelevant to provide an appropriate response. A case study involves a detailed examination of issues within a specific context. 

At the professional levels the examiner is expecting you to demonstrate critical thinking skills – you will identify the arguments and conclusions, evaluating the evidence and drawing conclusions. At the higher level you should draw together your judgements to form a new position. Critical thinking requires you to be more accurate and specific in noting what is relevant or not in your answers. You should read the question requirements carefully, identifying the key points in the context of the case and analysing what is required.

A case scenario is a smaller question which embodies elements of a case study but addresses more limited and potentially less complex issues. Typically, it could be used in a shorter question or shorter series of questions. It can be used in a problem-solving way to resolve real life issues.

Case studies and scenarios may be based on real or imaginary data. The allocation of marks to these types of questions vary – you should therefore refer to the Syllabus Overview for each paper.

AIA has a list of recommended reading texts (see resources) which provide advice on areas such as:  how to improve your study skills and critical thinking,

Generally we would advise candidates to work out how long they have for each question depending on the marks. Refer the Syllabus ‘Structure of Paper’ for details on the assessment.

If it is a 3 hour paper (excluding reading time) then that equates to 180 minutes or 1.8 minutes per mark (assuming 100 marks). 

Sample paper example:

10 marks of multiple choice questions = 18 minutes

40 marks of  a long question= 72 minutes or 1 hour 12 minutes

20 marks short form questions= 36 minutes

30 marks of choice questions = 54 minutes

Total 100 marks = 180 minutes. 

Put simply, all candidates have to do is multiply the marks by 1.8.

For example:

Financial Accounting & Reporting 2 at the Professional 2 Level:

Question 1 scenario 40 marks =72 minutes

Questions 2, 3, and 4 20 marks each = 36 minutes each X3 = 108 minutes

Total 180 minutes 

Some candidates make a small deduction for reading through and checking answers. You can also review answers you may have ‘flagged’ by clicking on the ‘Navigation’ button.

For a 40 Mark question you might possibly allow:

62 minutes plus 10 minutes checking over/ reading through =72 minutes.

If after 72 minutes  ( working on a 40 Mark question) you are not finished, the general advice is to leave it and go on to the next question, coming back to it if you have time at the end of the test.

It doesn’t depend on the level of the qualification how much time you allocate per question, it depends on the marks allocated in the Syllabus.

When answering ‘practice questions’ candidates should always try to undertake the questions as if under exam conditions. Initially questions may take longer and that is fine but by the time candidates are ready for the exam they should try to replicate exam conditions. 

To monitor and improve your performance in the practice questions you should:

  1. Check the model answers and review these answers against your responses.
  2. Review tutor feedback you receive for graded practice questions and follow up recommendations.
  3. Be reflective – consider any knowledge gaps you may have and refer back to the study texts and other recommended reading texts.
  4. Consider additional revision sessions – review your Study Plan.
  5. Request advice from the study support team or the tutor – we are here to help you improve.

Time management is critical, and hence may not be so straightforward. You may, for example, be better using 15 minutes to start answering a new question rather than using that 15 minutes to polish up or finish an answer you have already written. Generally speaking it is better to attempt each question even if that means leaving some questions incomplete. It is always important to review your answers – this is key to producing a clear and well organised conclusion, especially for case study type questions.

You should make sure you understand how to sit online exams. The Online Exams web page on the AIA website provides key advice on to sit the exams and how to make sure your computer is compatible. There are specific rules for sitting online exams – make sure you understand these, a useful first step is to try out the onscreen sample assessment.

You can improve your success in online exams by:

  • Making sure you prepare your exam environment - most papers are closed book so your room should be free of other material/books
  • Taking time to relax before the exam – be ready early before you need to login
  • Take a comfort break before you start – you are only permitted one during the exam
  • Remember to manage your time – there is an onscreen timer
  • If you experience technical difficulties use the onscreen Chat Box to ask for assistance
  • Show all your workings in your answers, correct parts will receive marks. Any workings shown in the onscreen Note Pad will not be marked.
  • Practice your exam technique by answering Practice Questions
  • Be up-to-date on current accountancy issues including the examinable standards.

The Online exams web page provides key advice on how to sit online exams – you should also access this resource by logging in to My AIA