It has been little over two years since I took my first exam – how little I knew about accounting, audit, or, well, life more generally. During that time it has been a roller-coaster of going into college to prepare for exams, sitting the exams, and awaiting the results, all interspersed with numerous financial audits and value for money projects.
While it has certainly been stressful, it has also been rewarding. Psychologically rewarding as I breathed a sigh of relief on that Friday, having anxiously waited all morning for the results while wondering how much longer I could put off lunch; and also financially rewarding, as I looked at my new exam-qualified salary increase with much joy, but also a little nervousness at knowing that the drinks were on me.
Admittedly, though fast becoming a rarity, I do still dream of that moment I sat down to the Case Study exam (the Case Study is the final exam of the fifteen, whereby no new knowledge is required but you are asked to apply the technical knowledge of the previous exams to write a report advising a made-up firm in a specific industry – my exam was about the cycling industry). My dream soon turns into a nightmare as I usually realise that all of my pens have stopped working, or I have forgotten to bring the advanced information with me. (Case Study is an open book exam.)
When I wake up terrified, I sometimes need reminding that I passed the exam. Luckily a quick call to my mum and she reminds me that I did indeed pass – normally with a picture of her framed copy of the Financial Times, which displays everyone’s name who has become exam qualified in the last sitting.
(My mum insisted that I buy her a copy which I embarrassingly did.)
When I finally regain my composure I then realise that my actual exam was a lot more dramatic than even my dream. (I thought the four hour exam was actually a three-and-a-half hour exam, leading to immense panic, tears, and finally despair.)
However, somehow I still managed to pass – and that is the message I wish to close this blog post on. While the ICAEW exams may seem daunting at first, the NAO has a fantastic pass rate and the time and support the office provides gives the best possible chance of success.
With the benefit of hindsight, I can also say that some exams are fun (I certainly was not saying this as I was walking into the exam hall), and what I learnt during it (that I did not immediately forget) will be of use to me throughout my career.