CAP 1 and CAP 2 exams: time for preparation

Mar 01, 2019
Time pressure can really wreak havoc on your success in the CAP 1 and CAP 2 exams. There is only one thing that will assist in developing your time-management skills: preparation.  

Spring greetings to those of you who are undertaking the CAP 1 and CAP 2 exams in summer 2019.  There is no doubt that you have received plenty of guidance and materials to help you navigate your journey to becoming a Chartered Accountant. At this point, however, some of this guidance is more pertinent than others.  

In the Exams department, we often marvel at the diversity of educational background and experience that a student brings to the Institute. Many are graduates, some from a business or accounting related college or university programme. Others will have previously studied with other professional bodies or are currently working as experienced professionals. Regardless of background, there is one over-riding theme that unites these trainee Chartered Accountants: none are used to the time pressure that is synonymous with the CAP 1 and CAP 2 exams.

A 50% score is required to achieve a pass in each CAP 1 and CAP 2 paper. Of course, attending class and investing in time to studying the relevant materials is important. However, preparing to sit the exam under exam conditions is often overlooked by candidates. Unlike a secondary school test, college exam or other assessment you may have sat in the past, taking a tea break, finishing up with 20 minutes to spare, or sitting back to re-read your script are luxuries that will simply not be available to you on the day.

Time to prepare

The Exams Department works closely with the examiners to ensure that the entire allocated time per paper (three hours for a CAP 1 paper; three and a half hours for CAP 2 paper exclusive of reading time) is necessary to complete all requirements. It is one thing to be able to calculate a cost of capital, to complete a variance analysis or to prepare a statement of cash flow; however, it is an entirely different challenge to do this under exam conditions.  

When preparing for your exams, time management must be central to your studies. A 
CAP 1 student has approximately one point eight minutes to allocate to each available mark on the paper (this increases to approximately two minutes per mark for a CAP 2 student). Turn off the radio, put your phone away and close the study room door behind you – see how well you do in completing a CAP 1 20-mark cost of capital question in 36 minutes. You may well get a shock the first time you try this! With discipline and practice, however, your time taken per question will fall, and with that your chances of exam success will increase.

In the exam itself, once you’ve used the suggested completion time on a particular question, finish up and move on to the next one. You will almost certainly get a better return by attempting the next question rather than spending time chasing an additional one mark around your page. The same time management should be applied to each requirement within that question. 

Time management is a key component of preparation for your professional exams. Actively managing your time ensures you will attempt all required parts of an exam paper and significantly increases your chances of passing that paper. Good luck with the study!

Garret Mulvin is a Paper Development Executive at Chartered Accountants Ireland.