Finding the right work, life and study balance helped new ACCA member Jason Lynch achieve exceptional results in his exams. He also credits the ACCA’s Accelerate programme with setting him on the path to success with the ACCA Qualification.
Studying for ACCA is about making a commitment to the future, recognising that the Qualification opens up a huge range of opportunities in practice and business, nationally and internationally. The study period is also a journey in itself, one that requires careful planning and commitment, as well as the support of others. Since it was launched in Ireland in 2015, ACCA’s Accelerate programme has become significant among those supports. Offered in partnership with a number of Irish colleges and universities, Accelerate means that elements of an ACCA-accredited degree count towards the Qualification, putting students on a clear path to membership once they graduate. Accelerate also brings some welcome financial benefits for students in transition from college to working life, including reduced registration fees, discounted exemptions, and access to free study resources as well as the ACCA Careers Job Board.
‘Hit the ground running’
Jason Lynch first recalls learning about Accelerate whilst studying Law and Accounting at the University of Limerick. ‘One of our lecturers pitched the programme to us as a fast track option to becoming an ACCA member. For me, the appeal was the fact that, once college was completed, you could hit the ground running in terms of your career. I did some research into the exemptions on offer and the financial benefits. Overall, it sounded like a good offer to me.’
The value of clarity in the post-graduation period is, Jason says, hard to overstress. ‘It’s easy to leave college without knowing what your next step is. Figuring that out can take time. However, once you commit to the Accelerate programme, you have a clear sense of what you’ll be doing next.’
While the path is clear, there’s also a sense of autonomy in the study process that appealed to him. ‘From the beginning, the structure of the exams was a strong selling point. You can do them at your own pace. So, if you want to take time out after college before you begin study, you have that option.’
Jason joined FDC Accountants as a trainee immediately after graduating, having previously gained work experience with the firm as part of the University of Limerick Co-op programme ‘FDC is focused on serving the needs of SMEs and sole traders, an area I’m very interested in. Thanks to my prior experience I found I was very quickly advancing in my role – finalising accounts and going out to meet clients.’
A key element of preparing for the ACCA Qualification is the three-year practical experience requirement (PER). PER requires finding both a suitable working environment and, within it, a practical experience supervisor (PES). For Jason, the process proved relatively straightforward and he links that to good two-way communications with his employer from the beginning. This began with discussions to ensure the firm understood his learning needs and were on board with them. Ensuring your daily work remains relevant to the Qualification is also important, he adds. ‘You have to be prepared to put your hand up and ask if you’re not getting the experience you need,’ he reflects. ‘Don’t leave it up to someone else to guide your training, be sure you’re guiding it yourself.’
Jason’s direct manager, who was also ACCA, served as his PES. ‘Having gone through the ACCA exams herself, she was aware of the qualification structure and understood what was needed in the PES role. As well as giving me advice on exams and work flexibility, I gained lots of practical experience from her in the areas of accounting and taxation.’
Jason studied for ACCA with City Colleges Dublin and believes the flexibility in the exam structure is something every student should factor into their plans. ‘If you think it might be a struggle to do an exam in March, then you should consider holding off until June. You have to complete the PER over three years anyway so there is plenty of time.’ He also firmly believes that the focus on the study is first and foremost about knowledge acquisition. ‘You are gaining a professional qualification, so it’s important that you really understand what you are studying because you are going to be taking that with you in your professional career.’
Jason initially studied for two exams simultaneously, but thereafter recognised that an exam-by-exam approach worked better for him. ‘It meant I could really focus on the material and build up my experience at the same time.’ This brought mutually beneficial results: ‘What I was doing in terms of accounts preparation for clients would prove insightful when I was doing my Taxation exam. Studying for the Taxation exam also meant that I could link what I was learning to the needs of my clients.’
Jason’s study strategy yielded impressive results. He came sixth in Audit and Assurance in Ireland, and fifth in Ireland in the Governance Risk and Ethics exam. However, even better was to come, and in March 2018 he came first in the world in Business Analysis ahead of over 14,000 students.
‘I was increasingly confident in terms of how I was organising my work/life balance and study leave heading into the final exams,’ he recalls. For those searching for tips for study success, Jason’s advice is to study smarter and not harder: ‘The volume of material can be daunting so it’s important to find study techniques that work for you. Tutors helped me condense the information into manageable study blocks and my employer gave me generous study leave and ongoing support.’
After completing his final exam in June 2018, Jason became an ACCA Member in October 2018. The goal of hitting the ground running has undoubtedly paid off, and Jason credits the Accelerate programme with providing the framework for this. His immediate plans are to stay in practice and become further specialised in tax, ultimately moving into a management role. The global nature of ACCA adds further to the possibilities ahead. ‘If I want to work abroad, the ACCA Qualification allows me that option. This gives me peace of mind as I plan for the future.’
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