Top Tips for exam success from ICB's Student of the Year

Emma (AKA Louise) Woodhouse MICB PM.Dip won the prestigious Luca Award for Student of the Year in recognition of her incredible exam success. Louise passed all of her core ICB bookkeeping exams with Distinctions within 8 months. Louise then went on to gain 98% in her tax exams and 100% in her payroll exam. We spoke to Louise to find out more about this exemplary student and get the inside scoop on the strategies she used to gain her qualifications.

This time last year I was studying towards my Self Assessment Tax exam and my boiler broke. When the boiler repair man came round we got chatting about his Limited Company tax return that was due at the end of March, and I thought, right! I'll pass this Self Assessment exam and go on to complete the FRS105 exam in time to get him as a client!

Since then I've completed 35 Tax Returns for clients. I love being able to provide a one-stop shop for my clients and I feel more confident with every new qualification I achieve. I really recommend that other members carry on taking ICB exams, not just to offer more services, but for the confidence boost you get from solidifying what you know and gaining a better understanding of the subject.

Don’t learn with just the exam in mind, learn for your future career.

Here are my top tips for passing your exams this year:

Make templates

Be it Profit and Loss accounts, Balance Sheets, income and expenditure accounts or partnership appropriation accounts; draw them up making sure that you include everything that you possibly can, you can ignore lines in the exam should it not come up. Make sure you include all the items that you find tricky to remember, for example the provision for bad debts in the P&L. The templates will help you learn and give you confidence in the real exam.

Do both mocks! ALWAYS!

Passing your exams is all about the preparation. Make a printout of the mock, strictly for your own use, to do the worked examples over and over again. You may find in your first mock you were short of time, learning the structure of the exam and working through the exam over and over will speed you up. Go back to your templates and check they're sufficient. 

Know your subject!

Don’t learn with just the exam in mind, learn for your future career. The templates and extra revision will stand you in good stead.  Don't be tempted to race through just to pass your exams, that's not why you're doing this.

Set yourself up for the exam

Pick a good time of day for you and be prepared. For me, I was always doing the exams during the day inbetween school runs. Check the computer is talking to the printer and that you have Google Chrome as your browser. Eat prior to the exam because blood sugar is important for concentration. Sometimes, if I feel my concentration flagging, I'll get up and jog on the spot!

Check your work properly!

When you take the exam, check your answers, then check them again and, if time allows, check them again. Read the questions aloud, it’s easy to misread questions or miss one word which changes the outcome of the answer entirely. I have found an error on my fourth check through by reading the questions aloud.

Never be afraid to fail!

This is the most important thing - do not be afraid to fail or get questions wrong, you won’t do it again and it's a great opportunity to learn.

Even when I'm not studying, every day continues to be a learning day because clients are all different. I get a real kick out of helping businesses grow and seeing the difference I can make. Sometimes when I get overwhelmed by the big picture, I just take it back to my training, break it down into debits and credits and I'm fine!

Good luck!

Louise Woodhouse MICB PM.Dip

Still have questions? You can hear more from Louise, and take part in the live Q&A in our free webinar later this month:

Student Success Webinar with Louise Woodhouse MICB PM.Dip

Tuesday 29th January

ICB's interactive online webinars can be up to an hour long. You can ask the host questions using the on-screen text box. You'll be able to watch the webinar on your computer and listen in either through your computer's speakers or by telephoning the webinar's dedicated line. Further instructions will be sent in the run-up to the event.