Bad Habit #1: Studying without a plan
Still at number 1 this is the single biggest mistake students can make! Planning is really important when you come to studying and learning. The problem is that studying without a plan is unfocused and you are likely to waste time. It’s always best to create a study plan first that outlines the specific activities you are planning on doing. Map out every day, whether it is a work day or not and allocate a reasonable amount of time (this is probably 10-12 hours per subject per week as you get into the last 2-3 weeks prior to the exams)
Bad Habit #2: Memorising your notes or the study text
Do you revise by reading your notes to yourself again and again? Research has shown that this is a really inefficient way to learn. Instead, imagine you were a lecturer at FI and lecture to an imaginary class about the main topics, without using your notes.
Explaining a concept out loud, in complete sentences, is likely to help you learn it and understand it. If you can’t explain it out loud, then go back to your notes and review what was confusing you and try again (you might even start to enjoy lecturing!). If you don’t want to hear your voice then try to write down everything you know about a subject. Use the simple headings to help you of “Why? How? What? When? Who?” as this normally helps to structure your thinking.
Bad Habit #3: Studying late at night
Such a big no no! It’s remarkable how many students think the best time to study is around 10/11pm (once Champions League highlights have finished) for an extended period of a couple of hours.
Firstly, research shows our brains cannot focus in the middle of the night, secondly staying up late will impact on stamina the next day and you are more likely to fall ill. Research shows that it is best to study in smaller chunks and (ideally) early in the morning.
Bad Habit #4: Focusing on note-taking rather than understanding
Concentrate more on understanding what is being said in a lecture as it is being said, as opposed to switching into note taking mode. Ask questions if you need to – all tutors are there to help.
When taking notes, try to write the concepts in your own words as it will help you understand the ideas when you reflect on them in the future.
Bad Habit #5: Never taking a break
It is not the amount of time you spend revising it is the quality of study during that time. Some students think that as long as they are in their room with books out then something is going in, unfortunately this is not the case (neither is putting notes under your pillow and hoping for learning osmosis to happen!). Unless doing timed questions you should be taking a 10-15 minute break every 45 minutes. When you come back the FIRST thing you should do is a quick test of yourself on what you were doing in the previous hour to ensure it is retained.
Bad Habit #6: Always putting off doing question practice
If you were to learn to drive a car would you only ever spend time reading the highway code or would you get in the car and make a lot of mistakes? No one can learn to do something without actually trying it, and the more you try the better you get (if you have excellent feedback on what went wrong). That is why getting questions marked, self marking, reading good examples of answers and doing questions to time is so important. Your last week or so should really be spent doing questions and then going back to notes when you don’t know the answers.
Bad Habit #7: Leaving it until the last minute to read your exam attendance information
You should receive an exam docket or email confirmation when you book your exam. This includes a timetable of your exams, details of your desk location in the exam room and directions to the exam centre (if you are attending a physical location). If you are not completely sure how to get to your exam centre or how long it may take you, you could end up being late for your exam. Make sure you rehearse your route before the day of the exam. Please remember that exams may start at peak times so you should allow for rush-hour traffic and possible hold-ups.
Bad Habit #8: Forgetting something on exam day
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Don’t be the one who forgets their ID and has to race back home to avoid being refused entry to the exam. Here is a simple list of key items to remember to have with you during your exam if your exam:
- Photographic ID
- Face mask (if visiting an exam centre)
- Hand sanitiser (if visiting an exam centre)
- Water bottle
Bad Habit #9: Spending too much time on each requirement
Good time management in the exam is crucial. Candidates often waste time by:
- working on a question for longer than necessary because they want to correct a mistake then amend all related follow‑on figures
- feeling they have so much to say about a certain requirement that they ‘dump’ all their knowledge in one answer
- persevering for too long with a question even though they are struggling.
When you start your exam, be aware of the clock. If you are struggling with a requirement, move on and come back to it later. The key to managing your time well is to divide the time allowed between the marks available. For example, in a three-hour exam allow 1.8 minutes per mark, and in a two-hour exam allow 1.33 minutes per mark. This way you will give yourself the best chance of answering all the questions and consequently maximising your chances of passing the exam.
Bad Habit #10: Dwelling on your exam once it is finished
Talking about the exam after it has finished is a great way to deflate your confidence. When you step out of that exam room, don’t discuss your answers with other candidates in detail. Instead, leave the exam room feeling lighter and go and do something you enjoy, like spending time with friends (socially distanced, of course).
We wish you the best of luck in your next exam.
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Read ACCA’s pre-exam checklist for more exam preparation tips.
CIMA share tips for online exams.
Alternatively, you can read more exclusive tips and news from First Intuition on FI Hub.