If you've failed an accounting exam and aren't sure how to tell those around you, our top tips will help you to manage these difficult conversations.
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Failing your accounting exams can affect your mental health and make it difficult to talk to the people around you. However, normalising conversations around failure is important because not speaking about it can take its toll on your wellbeing.
Following an exam failure, you may be able to resit the exam, or this could mean a change of career path. Regardless, there are practical steps you can take after failing an exam and we’re here to offer expert career advice as well as counselling to help you come to terms with it. Failure can also help us build our resilience and problem-solving skills.
ICAEW’s March 2023 statistics show that 25.7% of students who sat one exam failed.
When they sat two exams, that number dropped to 9.6%, and when they sat 3, it decreased further to 3.5%. Realising that you’re not alone if you’ve failed an accounting exam will help you come to terms with the situation and take some of the pressure off.
You may feel disappointed, angry, guilty, or a combination of these after exam failure. Accepting these feelings and not beating yourself up, will lessen some of the emotional load, making it easier for you to talk about it.
You may also have to share your results with those who knew you were taking the exam. This can lead to uncomfortable conversations, which is why we’ve put together these tips.
Telling someone that you’ve failed an exam can feel awkward. However, the longer you delay it, the worse you’ll feel and the more likely it is that the other person will be able to tell something is wrong.
The sooner you tell people about your exam failure, the less time you’ll spend worrying about the conversation. That will give you more energy for the conversation itself and help you to figure out what to do next.
Firstly, write down what you want to say and practise either in front of the mirror or with a friend. This way, You should keep your plan flexible so that you can adapt it when the conversation begins.
Find somewhere comfortable and free of distractions to hold the conversation
If you’re not comfortable face-to-face, you could tell them via phone, video or even a letter
"I've been struggling to cope with the pressure of exams"
"I would appreciate your understanding and support"
"I've got a plan for my next steps, here's what I'm going to do"
Creating an action plan after exam failure will keep you on track for whatever your next steps will be. Here's what you could include:
Try not to worry about your exam failure. Negative emotions can be addictive and challenging conversations can be even harder, making it more difficult to bounce back mentally.
Even though you didn’t get the results you wanted, you’re still one step closer to your goal. You’re also far from being alone in your failure, with over a quarter having failed at least one accountancy exam.
Your support network is a great place to find words of encouragement after failing an exam. They may also be able to help you formulate a plan of what to do next.
While it’s tempting, try to avoid comparing yourself to others. Everyone’s situation is unique; you never know someone’s full story, no matter how close you are.
Instead, practise self-compassion and do things to make you feel better, such as having warm bath, going on a dog walk or cooking your favourite healthy meal. These activities will help ease negative emotions and leave you in a better place to talk about your exam failure. We also recommend taking a break from social media as this can worsen negative feelings due to comparison with others.
The right support is an important step to success, whether that’s from loved ones, your workplace, or caba – we offer mental health advice as well as career development pointers.
If you find exams or revision challenging, what revision techniques could you use? Our webinars contain a plethora of helpful advice including exam revision tips, how to handle anxiety and deal with stressful situations.
To help you stay calm, try grounding techniques. This could be anything from listening to relaxing music to adjusting your breathing. These exercises can be used at any time when you’re feeling anxious and help to calm your nervous system and improve your concentration.
Check out our exam tips for the best ways to find your flow state when revising:
We support past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW), ACA students, ICAEW staff members, and the family and carers of members and students.
You can find out more about our available support both in the UK and around the world on our support we offer page.
If you need financial support, we carry out a means test where we consider income, expenditure, capital and assets.
*Please note none of our other services are means-tested.