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ACCA: An investment that’s well worth it

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James Carew recently secured three ACCA awards: ACCA Gold Affiliate and first in the world for both Advanced Financial Management (AFM) and Advanced Performance Management (APM). Discover more about his experience studying ACCA and his top tips for success.

I am currently working in industry as a Financial Analyst for Puffin Produce, they are a fresh produce company in west Wales.

I really enjoy the data analytics and management accountant side of things, analysing accounts to proactively drive performance and looking forwards rather than just reporting. I feel this role makes a difference and I really enjoy it.

Why data analytics?

Towards the end of ACCA, more data analytics are involved, with the last four strategic papers being more tailored towards current conditions and the direction the world is moving in.

I am much more interested in this than I am in accountancy practice roles. I enjoy looking at data and trying to identify trends.

Data analytics is dynamic and it’s different every time. Presenting the data and helping people understand it to make strategic decisions motivates me. I like making a difference, understanding and contributing to other departments within the business.

Studying LiveOnline during a pandemic

My course was employer funded and they let me study two courses at the same time, which meant I could get through it quicker. I studied via LiveOnline (LO) as I’m not close to any Kaplan centres.

When the pandemic started, I wasn't really affected too much, but it did become a lot harder to find the cut-off point between finishing work and starting studying as you’re always in the same space. I only had 4 exams left so I could see the finish line, so this was my motivation.

Studying LO means you don’t have a support network in the same way as a classroom, so it’s important to rely on your tutor, find people in your company and speak to people on your course. It’s key to interact as much as possible.

Studying Advanced Financial Management (AFM)

AFM is a very maths-based paper, there are lots of calculations and understanding methods. It isn't just about learning these methods, but doing exam question practice and applying it to scenarios.

I did a maths degree so I had the knowledge, but I would say definitely practice, buy a tuition kit, apply it to real world scenarios and work with your tutor.

I had great tuition and used the complete exam kit, I fully recommend this as it’s really maths based. I also used the integrated workbook and then did all the exam kit questions.

It’s painful, especially with such long questions, but it’s necessary and you need to carve out the time to do it. I recommend doing this early on, even in the first week, as it is vital to understand where you are going wrong as early as possible.

Towards the final couple of weeks I’d just focus on the areas that have been highlighted as where you’re weakest and then work through these questions.

Studying Advanced Performance Management (APM)

This exam is the polar opposite of AFM, it’s more about the ideology of management accounting. You need to learn the bare bones of the subject, and apply it to real life scenarios.

It’s more of the human side of accounting and performance management, how humans will respond, and how you can manage and motivate people.

I thought I'd failed to be honest, but I suppose the key to this is question practice. You need to get into the mind frame of questions and what they are requiring you to say. As with AFM I think it is really important to do mock exams.

This exam can be a pitfall to people like me with a mathematical brain as it’s more reasoning based and open ended. You need to elaborate on your answers and understand the topic and be able to apply it in different contexts.

My tutor, Dan Simmonds, was brilliant and really made a difference. He teaches you what you need to know to apply these topics in the real world and this helps you to be ready for the exams.

My honest thoughts on ACCA

ACCA is really challenging, especially with studying LiveOnline.

My recommendation is to group the exams together with a break in between. Work as hard as possible, get your head in it and then give yourself a good amount of time off.

I had 12 weeks off between each exam and I really looked forward to this as I knew I’d get my life back for 12 weeks and it motivated me to get through it.

It is a big commitment, I was doing 2-3 hours per evening for 8 weeks after work. This is a lot, but when you get your ACCA qualification, nobody can take it away from you.

It’s an investment. Exams are the worst part, but in the end it’s well worth it.

I had no experience before I started and Kaplan really guided me through it. The platform is amazing, the tutors are fantastic and the study materials are so useful for exams.

Job security and salary is great once you’re ACCA qualified. Now I’m done with my studies, I’m looking to gain more experience in the working world.

Interested in finding out more about ACCA?

Take a look at our ACCA pages for more information about the qualification and the study methods we have to help you pass your exams.