Golden advice for students from TPE prize winners

Photo of people watching fireworks
By Alex Burden, Student Blog

22 February 2018

Are you looking for inspiration ahead of the TPE exam? Alex Burden speaks to our previous TPE prize winners on their awards, what it meant to them, and what it takes to achieve top accolades.

Chrissy Davison CA, winner of the Victor McDougall Prize

The executive with EY, described how she felt to win: "A mixture of pride and relief! The ICAS qualification is highly respected and not obtained easily; the exams are challenging and although I hoped I'd done well, receiving confirmation that I'd achieved the all-important pass in my TPE exam was a massive relief! I was also very proud, as the calibre of candidates who reach the final case study stage of the qualification is high so to do so well was a big achievement."

Advice for students: "Work hard and consistently. I have a good short-term memory and a less good long-term one, so at University often found cramming in the last week or so before an exam was an effective strategy. For professional exams, this doesn't work due to the volume of material and the nature of the exams - but knuckle down from day one, practice as many questions as you can get your hands on and you will be as prepared as you can be for the exams."

Try and be as relaxed as possible going into the final exam.

Oliver Gordon CA, winner of the Primrose Scott Prize

The Transaction Services Associate at KPMG, was initially surprised at his win: "Once it sunk in I was really proud of the achievement. It felt good that all the study and work I'd put into the exam paid off."

Advice for students: "Try and be as relaxed as possible going into the final exam. There's a lot of material to cover and practice questions to do, but after going over as much as I could, I took the last few days before the exam off. This really helped me de-stress and definitely improved my performance on the day."

James Rix CA, winner of the ICAS Gold Medal and ICAS Student Education Committee Prize

The Corporate Finance Executive at BDO LLP, had a similar reaction to Chrissy: "I think the overriding feeling was that of relief! Like all of my CA colleagues, I worked hard for these exams, often at the expense of friends, family and social events. Winning the ICAS Gold Medal made all of that worth it. I think the ceremony was when I truly realised how much of an achievement the award was, and it was a really special day to share with colleagues and family.

Finding somewhere to revise that wasn't the office or home was key.

James' advice for students starts at TPS level: "Firstly, questions, questions, questions! There's too much material to copy out and make fancy notes on, so concentrate on questions. Second, find a study buddy. Sometimes the questions just don't make any sense and you need that outside input to make sense of them.

"And lastly, [this is] quite a personal piece of advice, but finding somewhere to revise that wasn't the office or home was key. We spent the majority of time revising for TPS exams, for example, in the University of Edinburgh library."

Claire McHaffie CA, winner of the Alistair Pearce Prize

The Senior Associate in Risk Assurance for PwC, rose to the challenge of TPE: "I struggled a lot with TC and TPS and didn't come from an accounting or finance background, so when I got to the stage of TPE and could actually enjoy the classes and the work, it was such a relief. Although TPE was the best part of the ICAS experience for me, I never imagined I would actually do well enough to win a prize.

Keep going, keep practising, keep working, because in the end you will get there and it will be worth it!

"ICAS is such a prestigious organisation and the classes are filled with talented and hardworking people, that to come away with the Alastair Pearce Prize was not something I was expecting - in fact, one of my friends had to point out that I'd won a prize as I was too relieved about passing to notice!"

Advice for students: "Just keep going. It took time for things to click for me, so much so that I had some fails at TC and one at TPS and I'd never failed or really struggled with exams before. It is tough and it is frustrating at times, especially if it's new to you, but most things worth having don't come easy. You just have to keep going, keep practising, keep working, because in the end you will get there and it will be worth it!"

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