Made of gold

Jan 03, 2019
Rachael Bell, Trainee Tax Consultant at KPMG, is the first winner of the Chartered Accountants Ireland FAE Gold Medal in 18 years, scoring 80% on her exams.

You are the FAE Gold Medal winner – an honour that hasn’t been awarded in many years – how does it feel?

Overwhelming. It’s an amazing feeling to have my hard work recognised in this way. I feel very proud.

How did you decide to become a Chartered Accountant?

There were many influences that went into my decision to select this career, but mostly I chose to become a Chartered Accountant because it’s a profession that offers such a wide variety of opportunities across all sectors. I have always enjoyed working with numbers and I’m a meticulous person with an eye for detail. 

Were you always studious throughout second and third-level education?

Yes, I always studied very hard in second and third-level education. It wasn’t as much about the result but rather knowing that I gave 100%. This was especially the case for my leaving cert. It was never about getting the points for my course – it was just about dedicating myself to my studies and achieving the highest result I could. Once I moved onto third level and my accountancy exams, studying became that bit easier, as I was genuinely interested in the topics I was studying.

What was your study method like leading up to your exams?

For the duration of my study leave, which was 10 weeks, I studied from 6.45 in the morning until 18.30 most days. My days consisted of cases in the morning and theory after lunch. I found that consistency was key with these exams. I had a routine and I stuck to it throughout study leave. I also had friends who were sitting the same exams and that helped enormously. Hearing that other people found certain cases as difficult as I did was comforting and helped keep me sane in the weeks before the exams

What advice would you give to your classmates who would like to take your methods and apply that to their own study habits?

Don’t! Know what works for you. If you’ve made it as far as your FAEs, you will already have a method that suits your ability by now. While these exams are different to any other exams you would’ve sat before, your approach to study does not need to change. I don’t think there’s any magic secret. You just need to practice cases and work hard throughout the year.  

What are you doing when you’re not working or studying? How do you balance your study, work and downtime?

My favourite thing to do to unwind and take a break from study is to spend time in Cork with my sister and her kids. During study leave, I’d go on walks and listen to podcasts to try to relax. With regard to balancing work and study leave, KPMG are very supportive and it was always very manageable.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

As I’m driven to be the best at what I do, I see myself working as a Chartered Accountant and in a position where I’ll have the opportunity to develop my skills, take on interesting projects, and work with people from who I can really learn.