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Study Zone

‘Fab Four’ exam sittings

ACCA has moved from two to four exam sittings this year. Rebecca Evans outlines what this means for you

March 2016

Following a successful pilot last September, the ACCA has now formally moved to four exam sittings a year. These will be in March and September, in addition to the traditional June and December sittings. This will affect all students studying subjects F5 to P7 (F1 – F4 are already on-demand computer-based exams).
This move creates much more flexibility for students, but also much more uncertainty around when to study and how many subjects to study at one time. It is important that this additional flexibility does not delay your progression because the temptation to defer to the next exam sitting, in just three months, is significantly greater. To avoid this you should plan your studies over the next year to help you remain motivated.
Tuition providers have always recommended that students sit four papers a year and this advice remains unchanged. Up to and including 2015, this would mean sitting two papers each exam sitting, meaning that a student would qualify within two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half years, depending on any exemptions they may have. A reduction in the number of exams taken each year will extend the period until qualification and therefore delay any increase in earnings as a result of receiving the ACCA accreditation.
With the aim of still sitting four papers a year, what are your options?

Study two subjects every six months, to June and December or March and September:
This will give you 12 to 16 weeks to prepare for your exams and still allow you to know the results from your previous exam sitting before moving onto the next. This means you can really focus on your new subjects without the worry of the looming results day.
Taking this approach gives you the time to ensure you fully understand the material you are studying, giving you both a greater chance of passing and retaining the knowledge. This is essential when you move on to the higher level papers, for example as you move from F7 to P2. It also provides you with the opportunity to apply your knowledge to the workplace and complete your Practical Experience Requirement (PER).
Studying to two sittings a year provides natural breaks in your studies for you to recharge your batteries or focus on getting on top of things at work.
If you happen to be unsuccessful in an exam you can use the additional exam sitting, while your knowledge is still fresh in your mind, to take your resit without delaying your studies (and that pay rise!).
The downside is that you will be studying two subjects at a time, which can be demanding, particularly at the Essentials and Options levels.

Study one paper at all sittings:
This approach gives you the opportunity to focus on one subject at a time, which you may find beneficial as you progress to higher level papers.
However, it may be that you have to start studying for your next paper before you have the results of your most recent examination. Some students may find it hard to focus on the new subject without knowing their results. Studying after results are released means an intensive period of study of just seven weeks!
You might find you have less choice over which subject to sit at a particular exam sitting if your tuition provider isn’t running all course options four times a year. Planning your studies will be critical to ensure you keep on track.
Resits could become more difficult as you have no ‘spare’ exam sittings, so you may find yourself resitting alongside a new subject, increasing your workload. Alternatively, you might defer a subject you have just started studying, putting you at risk of delaying your path to qualification.
Some employers might be concerned at the prospect of this continuous approach to study as it may negatively impact your work performance or take you out of the office at busy periods. Many employers report that the first quarter of the year is their busiest time so taking time out to study may be inappropriate.
However, you may find that your employer prefers you to be out of the office little and often, rather than for intensive periods. It is always worth a conversation to determine your employer’s preferences.

A combination:
Some students may decide to take a more unpredictable approach, and vary the number of subjects they choose to study sitting by sitting, avoiding peak work period or events in their personal lives.
It is, of course, possible to sit a mix of the two approaches outlined, perhaps sitting one subject to March, two to June and another to December.
This would allow a student to sit four exams in a year (and have a summer holiday).
This route gives the benefit of flexibility and spreading the volume of study throughout the year while still allowing for study breaks.
It doesn’t, however, give a clear window for any resits. If choosing this approach, it will be essential to obtain your tuition provider’s timetables to ensure you can sit the subject combinations you want at the time you want. It may be that you need to be more flexible with your method of study.
There is no one best approach; everyone faces different circumstances, but before you make up your mind there are a few important things to consider:
• Your workload: do any of the exam sittings clash with busy periods at
• Your personal life: do any of the exam periods clash with holidays, etc?
• Your employer: what is their preference and when will they give you time
to study?
• What suits you and your approach to learning: would you prefer an
intense period of study with breaks or continuous study?
• What courses is your tuition provider offering to each sitting and are
these offered via your preferred study method?
Taking time to think through these questions will help you to develop the
most suitable, and successful, study approach for you.
• Rebecca Evans is Head of ACCA at Kaplan Financial

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