Interview with Lauren, ACCA gold prize winner for having the highest aggregate score

OpenTuition member Lauren Lockwood has won numerous ACCA prizes, (and OpenTuition Genius Hunt Prizes as well!) and  has now won the ACCA Gold Prize for overall score in the ACCA exams!

OpenTuition members had a chance to ask her questions and we have received many responses. We chose 26 of them, and  Lauren has been very kind and answered all of them. The best 4 questions were awarded the latest ACCA ebooks from TonySurridge.
(TonySurridge Exam Study text and Practice Questions & Answers for December 2011 Exams)

The winners are OpenTuition users: uko111, ali1750342, subasshi & syedaqibshah

Here is the interview

I am a young ACCA student with six papers left to sit. After sitting and failing f9 at the last sitting, I am hoping to just do a revision of it closer to the time of exam while I concentrate on the papers P1 and P3 for this December 2011 sitting for now. What would you say is the best approach to revision? As you say you revise a month before each paper in your interview; Would it be to just focus on past questions or perhaps run through course material for key areas..etc?

I do revise for a month before each paper, however this is after 2-3 months of tuition and normal study. I think it is very important to focus on past exam questions but this is only possible after going through the course material thoroughly. Personally I have found it very difficult to sit 3 papers in one sitting and I would just concentrate on 2.

What is the maximum number of papers you would feel confident in taking in any one sitting and still be managing good grades?
The most I have sat is 3 and I found this to be very challenging. With 3-4 months tuition and revision I would only aim for 2 papers in one sitting. However I do work full time so I only have the weekends available for this, I believe that as a full time student 3 or 4 could be possible.

Could u plz tell me how much revision hours and what best strategy did u think student should adopt for revision ?
Following tuition and revision courses at Kaplan I spend about 50-70 hours revising for each paper. I start by re-reading the text book, I then start to go through practice questions in a revision kit. This takes hours!! I also print off past exam questions and the pilot paper from the ACCA website and technical articles relating to the subject. On the day of the exam I read the Kaplan pocket notes on the train on my way to the exam for a final refresher.

Every human being only have 24 hours in a day for a fact! How did you manage your time well and planned your studies ahead and what extra measures have you taken to mitigate the planning fallacies when it occurs?
As soon as I receive the results from the previous sitting I start to plan the next set of exams. I book a weekend tuition course and weekend revision course with Kaplan financial and plan these into my timetable as well as the exam days. I then look at the days I have left over, Every weekend following the end of revision becomes a study day, I receive 2 days study leave for each exam paper from my employer and I book in 2-3 holiday days for each subject as well. This means I have very little time left for anything else but everyone understands that I am busy during the 4 months leading up to the exams.
Despite the planning, things always go wrong. I have spent days away from my study materials because of snow, I have been ill and I have spent time in hospital with my grandma and my mum. However, since I have planned in so much time, there is some room for these things to happen.

Can you share with me what is your experience in studying P3 & P7? How to pass? I failed them several times and still struggling with them now.
I didn’t take P7. However, I did take P3 and it was a very difficult paper. There seemed to be more content to learn than in any other and I have never felt as scared going into an exam as I did in this one.
I had a very good tutor for P3 and he encouraged me to think about the different models all the time. He would ask what shops I had been in and then to list the critical success factors, or to talk about the key stakeholders in my work. This really helped as it would encourage application of the models to a wide range of situations and organisations.
I found the size of the case studies to be very intimidating, however I spent a lot of time doing practice exam questions and this prepared me for it on the day. In the exam I read the requirement and then the case studies highlighting key words and phrases. Before I started my answer I read the requirement again to ensure I was answering the right question. The most important thing was to plan the answer. I made a few notes of the key points I wanted to make and I ticked them off as I made them.

I am a student of ACCA skill module .My question to ACCA gold prize winner is that how can i manage the time and tackle the pressure in an exam hall because every one prepare him or her self the4 best for exam but the one who gets the highest marks in exam is one who knows t tackle the problems .
I use the 15 minute reading time to read each question and plan which options to do . I always read the requirement before the case study so as I can focus myself on what is required. I highlight key words as I go through the case study and I write the really key words in the margin of the question paper. I try to decide on my options but sometimes I can’t make a decision and it ends up being done at the last second. It sometimes takes me longer than 15 minutes to read the paper properly but I still finish it and try not to rush in and start writing too quickly. I always do an answer plan before I start writing. This can be very basic such as a couple of words or it can be more thorough, but I always write something ( I aim for at least one key word per mark). This ensures that I include everything I want to, if I don’t do this I realise I have missed things out at the end when it is too late to do anything about it. I am very aware of the time in the exam hall. I stick to a set amount of time for each question and when this runs out I move on. This is essential as otherwise I could easily spend the whole time on one question. If I leave a question unfinished I always leave space in case I have time to come back and complete it at the end.

Am currently doing self study for acca exams could u please tell me the most suitable technique to pass three p level exams in one sitting
I have never passed 3 P level exams in one sitting. The most I have sat is 2 and I think this is a lot!! I put in hours to each exam and I would not be able to achieve such good marks if I sat any more that 2.

What is the key thing in your copy which makes your exam copy different from others… according to you
I always plan my answer so that I can try and have an organised answer (this was really important on papers such as P1, P3 and P5). On numerical questions I always label my workings clearly incase I make a mistake (this way I can have some marks for my method). On written answers I try to use headings so that the examiner can see what I am saying and find it easy to award me marks. I go for one short paragraph per mark so as it is easy for the examiner to understand my paper. I leave lots of white space and I try to use neat handwriting, however I am always so stressed in the exam and I write so quickly that I am sure it isn’t very tidy.
I think it is really important to regularly re-read the requirement. It is very easy to get carried away and answer a totally different question to what is being asked. I regularly go back to the requirement and this helps to refocus my answers.
I often write a lot on the written questions so my exam paper is probably very long (I always have to ask for additional work books in the exam.)

What do think if students receive their mark sheets so that they know their mistakes?
I imagine this could be very useful as it would allow students to understand the areas in which they lost marks to allow them to focus their study for re-sits. However it already takes so long to receive the marks that I imagine this would add even more time to the process.

Is there any relationship between the number of papers you sat for each diet and your exam scores?
I have always performed better on the first exam in each session and I have then done progressively worse over paper 2 and then 3. I have only sat 2 in each go over the last 2 years and I have achieved very good marks using this system.

What is the best approach to passing f9?
I did a lot of practice exam papers in F9. The numerical parts seemed hard at first however they seemed a lot easier with practice. I found I was so good at these by the exam that I could spend a little bit longer on the written parts on the exam day.

When you were preparing for your exams, did you aim for achieving an award? And did you have any expectations after the exam?
Ps: Congratulations on being an award winning ACCA student. :)
I just want to pass each exam!! I always leave every exam thinking I haven’t done enough and I dread results day.

Do you believe that past exam practice is the best way to past ACCA exams.
I think past exam practice is essential, It prepares you for the length of question in the exam, it gets you ready to write huge amounts of text and by going through the answers it helps to reinforce your knowledge of the topics and I always learned new things from the answers.

What this gold ACCA prize mean to you against your ACCA qualification?
I am over the moon! I have worked really hard and put my life on hold for 4 years so it makes it feel really worth while. I can’t wait to become a member and use the ACCA after my name but I have to finish my PER first.

Is learning to write and pass an exams an ability to study hard or an issue of IQ?
I have worked very hard and I have found many areas of the subjects difficult. I am very good at maths and I find these areas easier that the written parts. I have practised a lot to bring my written areas in-line with the numerical ones however I still struggle with these. In the exams I find I waffle on a lot with the written parts where as my calculations can be very concise and tidy.
I think it has therefore been a mix of both.

What do you think is the most essential quality of you for passing ACCA exams with high marks?
Committing a lot of time and hard work.

How do you cope up with the syllabus when sometimes you feel boring to study certain chapter.How do you overcome that and put an interest to cover that part?
I find the written revision really boring, whereas I really enjoy some of the numerical revision. I have tried to mix up the papers so I do a written one with a numerical one, however when I did P1 and P3 together I found all I was doing was writing!! I tried to spend time out reading technical articles and the text book but I still had to go back to the questions. I just kept telling myself it would all be worth it in the end.

How much time do you exactly give to studying the text, revision and practice. How do you co-ordinate your time between them?
Per subject – Prior to tuition starting I read the text book, this takes about 2-4 days. I spend 3-5 days on weekend tuition and 2-3 days on weekend revision with Kaplan Financial. I travel to college on the train which takes about 1 hour so I use this journey time to read the text books. I go into work about 1 hour early every day so I can do more reading or homework. Following this I re-read the text book and then start question practice which takes about 50-70 hours.

Is the study of two or three types of text books, good practice of exam kits/ past papers and revision enough to pass and get high marks in acca exams or the other knowledge beyond these books like experts’ guidelines etc is also necessary?

For P2 and my option papers I have only used one text book as I didn’t have enough time!! So I only used Kaplan text book, revision kit and pocket notes. I also use Open Tuition, ACCA exam questions and ACCA technical articles. I have not used anything else.

What is your studying style?

I like to study on my own for about 9 hours a day with 3 breaks, I have to start early (about 6-7am) as I don’t like to study in the evening. I use this time to read text books and practice questions.

Do you think that your working experience (what you do in your work) will be help you in term of answer the exam question e.q study case question?
My work has certainly helped me to organise myself which is essential in the exam hall and during the preparation. My actual work experience has helped me to understand certain areas within the subjects however the majority of the scenarios are completely new to me.

What is your criteria for learning? is it rote learning or understanding the topic by taking an overview?
I initially read through the text books to get a basic overview of the subject then through tuition and revision I gain a far deeper understanding of all areas. Rote learning was useful for the F papers however the P papers require you to show a deeper understanding and an ability to adapt what you know to different areas.

Can you tell us from all your experience through out till now that how do you attempt your papers, what had been your strategy that you pass every paper with distinction, how do you impress examiners through your papers?

I put in a lot of hours and do a lot of hard work. I aim to have a balanced understanding of the subject as any area can come up I then do a lot of practice papers. I find technical articles are very useful as areas covered in these have regularly come up in the exams. If I ever struggle with an area, I aim to speak with a tutor, visit open tuition or go through text book examples until I am happy with it, if you are struggling with something during practice then it will be even harder in the exam. I wouldn’t try to question spot as I think the examiners set the papers so randomly that this is impossible, and also especially with the P papers all areas of the subject seem to pop up in one way or another. Everyone always says it is really important to be calm on the exam day but I am always stressed out and doing last minute revision.

What had been driving you towards achieving such a success?
I didn’t think it would be as hard when I started and I just wanted a way to progress in a professional career. Once I realised how hard it was and how many hours it required I was driven by getting to the end!!! I do believe that my future has far more possibilities now that I have finished my exams.

How much time you spent in studies daily?
On a normal weekday only about 1 hour. On a weekend about 7 while I’m at college, but when it’s about a month to the exams I spend 8-9 hours on revision during each session. I only plan for my revision, During tuition I just read the text books as often as I can and I use the weekends to do interim and final assessments and other college homework. This was my last study timetable.


  1. Profile photo of Vera says

    Congrats Lauren, on your outstanding achievements. At the beginning of a new paper I complete a overview of the entire syllabus (flow chart) but have never read the entire text.
    Sounds useful though and was wondering whether you take the time to understand all of the concepts in that 2-4 days or concentrate on getting a holistic view of the paper?

  2. avatar says

    huge huge congrats to lauren…i’m giving 3 f papers in june 2012…if there’s any reason that i’ll pass this xm,dan it will b one n only ur inspiration..m inspired by u…n best of luck for ur future..

  3. Profile photo of tariqkath says

    First of all i would like to congrates u on ur(LAUREN) achievement..And secondly i will say this i learnt alot from u . Thnx to LAUREN and thnx to opentuition for helping us(students) in our studies.

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