We caught up with Nathan Webb, who won the ACA ICAEW Whinney Prize for getting first place in his Case Study Exam - quite a feat. We’re really proud of his hard work and wanted to find out how achieved such success.
Hi Nathan - what’s your background and what got you into studying accounting?
I grew up in Kinver and went to King Edwards VI college to study business, maths and accounting. This is where I found my passion for accounting and realised it’s something I’d like to do for a job. I quite like problem solving and I’d say accounting is primarily a problem-solving job rather than a mathematical one. I originally picked accounting to study due to my interest in business and finance.
What was it like studying with Kaplan? And which study method did you choose?
Studying with Kaplan has been a great experience, as there is a massive variety of learning resources available to you inside and outside of tuition. I did classroom study for AAT level 3, 4 and most of ACA until the final 6 ACA exams, when I switched to remote learning during COVID.
Failing an exam shouldn’t be something to be feared.
What were your challenges?
Balancing time between study, work and having a social life is always the standard challenge - it’s the biggest. However, I’d say the mental burden of expectation you place on yourself during exams, particularly as you get towards the end, needs to be talked about more.
Failing an exam shouldn’t be something to be feared, and I was lucky to be surrounded by amazing colleagues who never put any pressure on me and gave me the confidence I needed to pass the exams. That being said, it was extremely stressful towards the end given how much I wanted to pass.
How did you feel going into this exam?
I felt well prepared, but very nervous. I made sure to balance revision between the two pillars of case study; learning the advanced information like the back of your hand, and learning exam technique and easily examinable areas to properly prepare for.
How did you feel after your exam?
I didn’t feel good coming out of it. I felt my calculations were incorrect. I had glossed over certain parts of the question and had to hurriedly make up for it when I realised, and my executive summary was lacking.
On top of this, there were nationwide technical issues with the exams and I had concerns over whether my exam was saved. It goes to show that no matter how you’ve done, you’ll usually feel bad coming out of an exam.
The short years of study and exams are definitely worth it to set you up for a good career and salary for the rest of your life.
And you won the Whinney Prize! What did you do to make sure you’d ace the exam?
I used every single resource available to me to prepare for the exam. I watched ACA webinars, followed case study tips pages, and completed the Kaplan mocks. I summarised the case study in my own words with calculations, breaking different areas of the advanced information up into categories.
As I say, I tried to learn it as if it were my own business so I could answer any question about it. I then made sure to learn the marking scheme trends and common themes in order to pre-prepare potential answers for each question to maximise my chances of getting marks. This was invaluable as this was my first port of call during the exam.
What advice do you have for people thinking about studying accounting?
Accounting is a very vast and varied industry. There will be a niche that suits almost everyone so find the part of it that really interests you. I would say the short years of study and exams are definitely worth it to set you up for a good career and salary for the rest of your life.
It’s completely doable for everyone who applies themselves. I never got an A* at college or school, yet won a prize at ACA. You will get out of accounting what you put in, so use your interest to drive you forwards and there’s no limit to what you can achieve.
Interested in ACA ICAEW? Or want to start in accounting?
If you’re inspired by Nathan’s success, have a look at our ACA ICAEW pages for more information about the qualification. If you’re just starting out, and have never studied accounting before, have a look at our AAT pages for an introduction to the field.