Students taking exams
There are many things that university graduates will swear they will never do again; such as too many late nights, that one drink too many, and exams. Some will decide to pursue a career in accountancy and be put off by not one or two, but the 15 exams that stand between them and membership! That’s right, 15!

And they are hard exams, let none tell you otherwise. The first week in college is difficult, and you will feel as if you are learning an entirely new language, with words, sentences and grammar that simply do not make any sense.

But like any new language it is unbelievably satisfying when the parts come together and you ‘get it’ for the first time. The ‘debits’, ‘credits’ and ‘double entry’ (go ahead, laugh… we all did) start to creep into your work vocabulary and surprisingly seem to make sense as if it were something you knew all along but had simply forgotten how to express.

The same is true of the exams. At the start of the process of college and then revision for the Knowledge and Professional stages life will be tough. You will spend hours reading your study manuals, doing questions, revising at home when you really just want to be out having fun with the payslip that just landed in your bank account. But again, the feeling of everything coming together and when, dare I say it, tax actually seems fun (it is incredible, but for many it is true), you realise that it was worth every moment. When you finish your exams you can step outside and enjoy life again, appreciating the time that you have. You realise then that these exams are just like any other; putting in the time to revise is the first step to succeeding.

By the time you reach the Advance stage exams, you will be familiar with not only the terms, the tricks, the ‘knack’ of doing what the examiner wants but also the skills of the profession, the language, the knowledge and experience. There is no significant new information, instead you draw that knowledge together into the Technical papers and use your professional experience to understand the Case Study exam.

You will then be able to look back at the three years at the NAO, at college, working at clients and with colleagues and feel that you have achieved something that is difficult and that people do respect. You will feel proud of what you have achieved and ready to take that knowledge and experience forward onto new and exciting challenges, either within the NAO or beyond.

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