Skip to main content

Award winning training provider

Award winning training provider

Excellent pass rates

Tutor support until late

Market leader

What to do if you fail your accountancy exams

Fail accountancy exam

Understand how to approach your results for better insight, no matter what the outcome.

For some, getting exam results will be great and your next decision will be a satisfying one to make; which exam paper next, how many to sit, or how to develop your career prospects. If you feel clueless on any of these matters and what move to make next then get in touch with Kaplan through the contact methods at Kaplan Financial.

Even if you suspect, or have indeed already discovered, your results were disappointing you can create yourself an opportunity.

In the following article Stuart Pedley-Smith discusses how you can improve your prospects by learning how you affected your performance. Stuart Pedley-Smith is a Kaplan Tutor with specialist insight into the process of learning and certain skills which can help students both in the classroom and in life.

What to do if you failed

I have been reading a book 'Talent is overrated' by Geof Colvin who puts forward some interesting arguments as to the role talent plays in the success of people who, by many, would be considered exceptional, even gifted.

He argues not so much that innate talent does not exist, more that successful people, those at the top of their respective tree, Tiger Woods, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, for example, have other qualities, they worked hard and practised a lot…

Greatness does not come from DNA but from practice and perseverance honed over decades.

The key is how you practice, how you analyse the results of your progress and learn from your mistakes.

What has this got to do with exam failure?

If you looked around your class and picked the best, brightest, most talented students, they most likely passed their exams however it is less likely to be as a result of their talent.

What Geof Colvin and many others have found is that it is often down to hard work and practice, and we are all capable of that.

If you believe that your poor exam results were because of your lack of innate ability then you are wrong. You are in fact creating what is called a fixed mindset, you begin to believe that you can’t affect your performance and so don’t try.

What's more it's not productive to believe you are naturally talented. Research has proven that if you believe that you do well because you are talented, when faced with failure you are more likely to give up. If you believe that you did well because of hard work and then you fail, you carry on but just work harder next time.

So what should you do?

Geof goes on to say that it is not just practice that matters but how you practice, you need to practice deliberately. He calls it deliberate practice and it should;

  • Be designed to improve performance
  • Be repeated a lot
  • Enable you to get feedback continuously
  • Be highly demanding mentally
  • Not be much fun

But what satisfies the above criteria... yes practicing using past exam questions.

So if you were not successful in your exams, find out when you can re-sit then.

Take a deep breath, get out your notes from last time and draw a mind map or review the one you did for revision, sometimes it’s best to make a fresh start. This will remind you of what you have to cover and get you thinking about the subject again.

Analyse the past exam questions (including the last exam) and find out what is examined the most then identify the areas you need to improve.

Start to practice these past questions using the answers for feedback, and no it may not be much fun but then you know that.

Failure – the only way to learn

At the moment failing an exam can feel like the biggest disappointment in the world and it may seem that your career is over before it really started. But it is what you do next that really matters.

If you’re looking to retake your exam, you might benefit from a course that offers more support, or perhaps you only need to revise or practice answering questions and getting feedback on how you did. If you have any questions, you can get in touch through phone and email via our: ACCA or CIMA section on Kaplan Financial.

By visiting the section on this site for your qualification you will find a collection of useful free resources relating to your exam both from Kaplan and your Global accountancy body. Try our exam reviews and review past exam papers so you can see where you went wrong in the last sitting and practice for your next attempt.

Whatever you choose to do, the best of luck.


Stuart Pedley-Smith, Head of Learning for Kaplan Financial, has been involved with training and educating finance professionals for over 20 years. He is especially interested in the process of learning and the exam skills and techniques that contribute towards success in the classroom and in life. Stuart has written two books – The E word – Kaplan’s Guide to Passing Exams and A student’s guide to writing Business Reports.