Preparing for the unexpected

May 01, 2018
Smart study tactics can contribute to a positive exam strategy at FAE level. In this article, we show you how to prepare for the unexpected.

At this stage, candidates should be fully engaged in study. The Elective Interim Assessments are complete and the upcoming FAEs should feel very real. Indeed, you should now be assiduously working through the detail of every aspect of your Core and Elective materials.

More of that anon– first, a quick sporting story… Mike Tyson, the one-time undisputed heavyweight boxing champion of the world, was asked before a fight against Evander Holyfield whether he was worried about Holyfield and his plan for the fight. Tyson responded: “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”.

Tyson’s underlying message was simple: it’s important to plan but given the unpredictable nature of events, a plan must be flexible and adaptable to be able to absorb the unexpected.

This advice had even greater significance for Holyfield, as Tyson attempted to bite his ear. Holyfield wouldn’t have anticipated such an event in his plan for the fight, but he adapted his fight plan to avoid being drawn into close holds – a strategy that ultimately helped him beat Tyson.

Holyfield’s preparation clearly wasn’t wasted. His training was the correct approach and most of it was drawn upon to finish the fight and defeat Tyson.

This boxing analogy illustrates the need to build resilience into your study plans. An exam paper may throw up something unexpected or ask for a requirement in a manner that you haven’t seen before. Don’t panic! This is where your preparation should come to the fore and allow you to battle on.

To achieve this level of preparation, work through all available past materials to understand the different ways indicators can be framed.

The main principles of the material don’t change just because the angle of the requirement does. In other words, gaining a solid understanding of the examinable content should give you the confidence that, irrespective of the requirement, you should be able to rely on your learning to answer the question in a comprehensive manner.

Examiners have noted that candidates tend to approach papers in a linear manner, answering questions in the order in which they are written on the paper. This isn’t necessarily the best approach. You can always answer a second simulation first if that will give your confidence a boost. Be adaptable – answer indicators in an order that suits you and give yourself the opportunity to build your confidence before answering other, more challenging indicators.

This year, FAE examination marking will revert to a percentage marking system with candidates able to secure marks in two ways:

  1. Technical marks for answering all the requirements of an indicator; and
  2. Professional marks for demonstrating a logical, structured approach with recommendations where appropriate.
Stay fighting, all the way to the final bell, and good luck with your studies.

John Munnelly is a FAE Paper Development Executive at Chartered Accountants Ireland.