ACCA Exam retakes – You never plan to fail an exam… But what if it actually happens?

Need to do some ACCA retakes?

Failing one of your professional exams can feel like the end of the world, but is it really that bad? And more importantly… what do you do now?

Firstly, failing an exam doesn’t make you a failure. Professional exams are designed to test you and as I tell my students if they were easy we wouldn’t get paid so much for being a qualified accountant! The other thing I tell my students is that I failed an exam too. Yes, I failed a professional accounting exam when I was a student. And yet I still qualified (completing all my exams within two years while working full time), had a successful accountancy career and I am now am Head of ACCA Programmes at BPP Professional Education – not bad eh? How did I do it? Well I learnt from what went wrong, and used that knowledge to become better. The most important thing is to learn from the experience. I want to show you how you can do that too.

What happened?

The first thing you need to understand is where you went wrong, why did you fail? It’s important to be honest with yourself.

  • You didn’t answer all the questions, but feel you could have done if only you’d had another 1/2/10 hours – this means you struggled with time management and exam technique
  • You felt you wrote lots on your script, and answered all the questions in the paper but still didn’t pass – this means it is likely you didn’t answer the requirement
  • You couldn’t answer all the questions on the paper because it was a topic you hadn’t revised – this means you lacked the right knowledge to answer questions

These are some of the most common reasons students fail exams, but it could be something else.

Look at some ACCA exam reviews

If you don’t know why you failed then you can have a look at the exam reviews that have been done by BPP tutors, which can be found at which may help you identify what happened.

But you must be honest, blaming the work commitments / weather / Aunty Ethel / the examiner won’t get you very far. But once you’ve identified the problem, you can then take a big step forward and start preparing for success the next time.

Poor exam technique

Most students will run out of time in the exam. The exams are designed to be time pressured in order to test not just your technical ability but also your skills such as prioritisation. But what is important is that you are spending the time you have on the right areas. The use of exam focussed materials and the advice of a tutor will help you here. The use of mock exams will allow you to practice time management, and attending a BPP Question Day will also give you the opportunity for feedback on things like presentation and format of your answers.

Unable to apply knowledge

The examiners always comment that students often struggle with applying their knowledge. With the Skills and Professional level papers we can’t simply regurgitate facts, you need to apply them to a scenario. The key to this is understanding the requirement. The best way to do that is with question practice. You also need to ensure you are giving yourself time to review the answers too so you can see where you are potentially going off on a tangent and not answering what the examiner has asked! Revision courses are specifically designed to help you develop the skills you need to pass an exam, including understanding the requirement and applying your knowledge to the scenario, both of which are key.

Insuffient ACCA knowledge

Question spotting should always be avoided as it is a very risky strategy. You need to have a good core knowledge of the whole syllabus. Looking through the syllabus guide or a text book can feel very daunting, so consider attending a course where an experienced tutor can direct you to the key topics. The examiner does not expect you to know all of the detail, but you do need to know the core principles and be able to apply them.

Maybe your study approach didn’t work for you? BPP offer Pass Assurance if you’ve met certain criteria. If you struggled to motivate yourself to study alone consider a face to face classroom course. If you found it tough studying after work in the office or there isn’t a centre near you why not consider an Online Classroom Live course so you still get the structure, set study times and interactivity you’d associate with a face to face classroom, but the comfort of studying wherever you have an Internet connection (including in your pyjamas on the sofa!)

ACCA Retakes

So overall, sit back, reflect, and then get back on track. I know from experience it can feel horrible, but I definitely learnt from it and I think it helped me in my future exams as I really thought about my approach rather than taking it for granted. And getting back on track need not be expensive. BPP have a retake specific course for papers available for all papers F4-P7, from just £69 and if you have Pass Assurance, you can get it for free.

If you want more information please have a look at our website

Failing is only a failure if you don’t learn from your mistakes.

By Davinia McGann


  1. 24.05.2015

    It is an enormously inspiring post. It is really very informative. Thanks for sharing.

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