top of page

How to fail an exam in 5 steps

Here’s a great guide to failing an exam in 5 easy steps!

  1. Purchase the relevant study text, sign for the delivery and shove it in your wardrobe unopened. Promptly forget all about it. Weeks later, notice the exam date is looming, fetch the study text from your wardrobe, wipe off the layer of dust and open the package.

  2. Sit down at your desk to study, making sure you have all that you need: the study text, good lighting, pen and paper for making notes, laptop switched on for looking up unfamiliar terms, comfortable chair, music switched to classical for optimal focus and concentration, trusty highlighter. Flick through the study text briefly, hear a notification on your laptop, go to check email, check out what’s happening on Facebook and tweet something witty about studying for your financial services exam #mindnumbing #WouldRatherBeGolfing. Notice that time has passed and it’s time to hit the sack. Close study text and promise yourself to study more tomorrow.

  3. Four days later, panic that you haven’t done any study yet. Remember that your friend, Joe, bought mock papers and said that he passed his exams recently. Order mock papers online and download them. Feel satisfied that you have made steps towards studying for your exams. Go golfing.

  4. Three days later, notice again that exam date is looming, open up purchased learning resources on laptop while watching The Million Pound Drop. Get lost in what’s happening with Davina McColl and forget to do any actual studying.

  5. The night before the exam, stay up all night cramming. Turn up at the examination centre bleary-eyed and jacked up on coffee. Sit the exam.

And there you have it – a surefire recipe for a fail.


It does sound ridiculous, but you’d be surprised how many people try this option, fail, and then realise that perhaps some hard study is required.

To be fair, not many people like taking exams.  And I do understand the preference of doing the minimum amount possible to pass.  A pass is a pass, right?  What is sometimes not understood is that the R0, J and AF exams are generally pretty tough and the only surefire (if there is such a thing) way to pass is to know and understand the subject area inside and out.  That invariably means studying the study text, reading up on the subject area, practising mock papers and using other learning resources as and when needed.  It does not mean memorising the questions from previous papers in the hope that the same thing comes up in your exam, that you recognise it, and you can simply select or write out the ‘memorised’ answer.  That may have worked in the past (remember the FPC?) but it doesn’t work now.

Here’s how to pass an exam (as close to surefire as you’ll get) in 5 not-so-easy steps

  1. Purchase the study text

  2. Read and study the study text (it may be boring and tedious but you have to start somewhere)

  3. Sit a mock paper to see how you’re doing. Pinpoint those areas you are struggling with.

  4. Re-visit the areas that you are struggling with both in the study text and by using other resources.  For example:

  5. Try googling it. Some useful information may come up that just makes the whole area “click” for you.

  6. Use other texts, study notes, MP3s and videos to learn the topic.

  7. Find information on blogs.

  8. Struggling with calculations? Then get a resource relating to how to do them.

  9. Go to step 3 – rinse and repeat until your knowledge and understanding is up to scratch….

I know, I know – it really doesn’t sound exciting.  Unfortunately there’s not many people who love to take exams, but either way the best way forward is to get it right first time. If your knowledge and understanding is up to scratch, then regardless of whether you recognise the questions that come up in your particular exam and can conjure up the answer from memory, you should be able to apply your knowledge and answer them correctly.

So it’s not an easy route – but it’s as close as you’re ever going to get to a surefire pass.

Do you have any particular revision and study techniques that have helped you?  Do you prefer to write notes, draw mindmaps, listen to MP3s?  Is there a specific way you’d like to learn but you just can’t find resources that support that method?  I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts.

bottom of page