Exams – The Double Edged Sword

Whether its ACA, ACCA, AAT, ATT, CTA, FIA or CIPFA, a big part of your life as a Grant Thornton trainee is studying and taking exams (and it seems, learning acronyms). How you study for your qualification will vary; it may be via day release or a block of time away from work at college or out at our training centre in Bradenham (where Kaplan college come to us to teach the tax qualifications, rather than the other way around).  What is common throughout, however, is the effort required.

Exams are difficult for everyone. It is of course that some find them easier than others for a variety of reasons including, previous study, your general exam technique and how quickly you ‘get it’ –  however the majority of the time, if you put in the hours and take advantage of the wealth of support available to you both from the tuition provider and internally, you will reap the rewards.

On the odd occasion, effort may exceed attainment and as such a re-sit may be on the cards.  At this stage further internal support is offered to get to the root of the problem and your line manager and peers are keen to provide assistance in any way they can, as you take the time once more to prepare for the dreaded exam. In this circumstance, unfortunately Grant Thornton can’t accommodate more time in the diary for college and as such our people are required to use their own holiday to prepare and take the exams as well as paying for the re-sit themselves. You may think that this sounds harsh, but with the support network around you and the focus on your exams, the holiday and money will be the least of your worries.

The really tough part then comes where you may fall into the unlucky position of failing an exam for the second time round, and in most cases the firm will be forced to let you go at this point. I’ve fortunately only had the one re-sit thus far and although very confident of passing going into the second exam (I had failed the first time around by the solitary percentage and was much better prepared for the re-match) there was that nagging thought: ‘What if…?’

During my time at Grant Thornton I have seen a couple of people fall victim to exams and times like these can be hard for all involved. However, finding yourself in this situation can be a realisation point that perhaps the profession just isn’t for you, although as I have found it is mainly a case of gathering yourself up and starting again, this time with a wealth of knowledge and experience behind you which should mean that finding another job is not as hard as it was the first time and being stronger for the experience.

Exam failure is a fairly poignant topic in the Spilling the Beans team at the moment as one of our members has left the firm in this manner recently (as the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed).  It is obviously very disappointing for us to lose such a great member of the team in this manner and we wish her every success in the future. It’s been a reality check for the rest of the team and it really brings home the fact that a huge part of being a trainee is passing exams, as well as the work we do with clients.

At difficult times such as these I think of this: if they were easy, everyone would do them.  The toughness of the exams is what makes the qualification you are taking prestigious, what makes the qualified professional proud and subsequently opens up the opportunities available to you as a result of having come through that process.  Much better for the exams to be hard and give you something of immense value rather than be easy and the qualification pale into insignificance.

If you have any further questions re exams then please feel free to comment below or send me a message on twitter @GT_Rhys

Leave a Reply