Expert tips on how to pass your FAEs

Niamh Collins 19.08.2017

With the FAE exams coming up soon, we noticed stress levels rising amongst those preparing. With that in mind, we asked some of Ireland's leading experts: "What's your advice for people sitting the FAEs?"

"My key advice would be to read the questions carefully and take time to think about what is required. Don't rely on past questions you may have studied to give a prepared answer, no two cases are the same. And overall, remain calm!"

Ronan Nolan, President of Chartered Accountants Ireland and Senior Partner, Deloitte

 

The key is to focus your preparation on your weaker subjects and getting them up to an acceptable level. Try to remember, both when studying and on the day of the exam, that the FAE’s are looking for you to be “competent” across the board. They don’t require you to be, nor do they really reward you for being, a technical expert in one or two areas.

Be particularly rigid with timing in the exam. Don’t spend extra time on questions to get the “perfect answer” at the expense of leaving other questions unfinished. Unlike the exams you are used to, getting the equivalent of 90% on one indicator won’t offset against getting 30% on another if they relate to different competencies.

Scale back your hours in the days leading up to the exam. As tempting as it is to cram, any small amount of information you can memorise in that time won’t make up for going into the exam wrecked. Particularly with this type of exam having a fresh mind on the day is far more beneficial.

Whatever materials/notes you plan to use on the day of the exam you should be using when practicing. Personally I’d recommend any materials/notes be kept as short as possible as there is no time on the day to blindly look up information.

Niall Goulding, Manager, Tax, KPMG
Awarded first place in Ireland in FAEs, 2011

 

Make sure you understand the assessment methodology and why it may be different to what you have previously experienced. Focus on strengthening your weaker areas, rather than making your strong areas stronger. 

Set up your folders early and practice doing the cases under exam conditions: give yourself the amount of time you would have in the exam for a question and use only the materials you plan to bring to the exam. This way, you'll find out if what you plan to bring in is what you actually need (and more importantly, whether you can find it under time pressure)

Accept that you will be asked something you don't expect or haven't prepared for on exam day - and don't panic if it happens. If you haven't expected it or prepared for it, its likely most other people are in the same boat.

Think about the issues raised from real life perspective as much as possible. What would you do if you owned this company? What would you do if were an employee? What would you do your client came to you with this issue? What would you think if you were a customer of this business?

Deirdre Hatch, Global Service Line Manager, Forensic and Investigation Services, Grant Thornton
Awarded first place in Ireland in FAEs, 2012

 

Key questions to keep in mind when tackling questions and the final exam:

  • Keep positive and focused on your objective: it is a marathon but you can finish it!
  • What would a competent chartered accountant/tax advisor/ financial advisor do in this situation to have impact and add value to my client?
  • What other things would I like to know before answering this question? 
  • What assumptions have I made or need to state?

Ronan O'Loughlin, Director of Education & Training, Chartered Accountants Ireland

Hopefully these tips will prove useful. If you are looking to get expert advice on your career then feel free to contact any of the Morgan McKinley Accounting & Finance team.

 

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Niamh Collins's picture
Associate Director | Accounting & Finance
ncollins@morganmckinley.com

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