There are two things to remember if you did not get the FAE exam results you were hoping for:
- Even though it may seem like it, this is not the end of the world, and there are plenty of options; and
- Many highly intelligent and successful people have found themselves in the same situation.
Working with Barden and having the chance to collaborate with some of the most successful accounting professionals in Ireland, I know of at least five CFOs of incredible companies who did not pass their FAEs on their initial attempt, and some of them attribute not passing as pivotal moments in their career.
Not passing your exams is a cloud, for sure, but with many silver linings.
Figuring Out Your Employment Options
After the results have sunk in and you have had time to chat with family and friends, the first step to take is to speak with your employer. Arrange to have an initial chat with your manager or partner. Make sure it is someone who has worked with you and with whom you have a good rapport – they are likely the person who will support you when putting a case forward to HR to repeat the exam. Ask if your employer is willing to support you in resitting the exam, both financially and with study leave or time off in lieu. In the best-case scenario, they would be supportive of this.
If, however, staying with your current employer isn’t an option, you could use this time off to focus on preparing for the repeat exam.Understandably, this might not be a financially viable option for everyone, but if you are in a position to put your head down, focus on passing the repeat and look for a role once you have completed the exam, this can take some pressure off. If this is feasible, the January exam sitting could be the most achievable.
If taking time out is not an option, there will be plenty of companies that hire at this level and are happy to support you on this journey. We would suggest looking at “finalist” level accounting roles, which are generally tailored towards people close to qualification but not yet fully qualified. In most cases, companies will offer exam support and salary increases or even promotions once you have passed the exam.
Taking A Break
You can also use this as a defining time in your career to consider your long-term options and career goals. This will be different for every individual; some people will be more comfortable going into another practice firm, and others will use this opportunity to pivot their career towards industry.
Whether it’s a move to a smaller practice where you can gain accounts preparation experience or a move into a finalist accountant role in industry, you can use the situation to develop your skillset and experience further, providing you with more employment opportunities in the future.
Prepping for the repeat
Take some time to reassess your plan for success in the repeat exam. There may have been other personal factors contributing to the exam result, but be honest with yourself: do you feel you could have done more?
As noted by Edel Walsh, focus on creating a realistic study plan and exam techniques, timings on questions, organising your notes and folders, speaking to friends or colleagues for advice or considering signing up for some additional revision courses as a refresher.
It may also be worth considering if you have selected the right elective or if you could potentially be more interested in another one.
Approaching A Repeat During An Interview
A question we are frequently asked is how to approach the question about not passing an exam in an interview and what employers’ opinions on it are.
We would always advise focusing on the positives from the situation and showcasing what you have learned from the experience and your plan to ensure success going forward.
Answers such as, “It was the first exam I had ever failed and was actually a very important learning opportunity for me. I think I am more resolved and resilient as a result” might be useful. Most employers realise that failure is inevitably a part of life, and it is how you deal with and overcome it that counts.
No matter your circumstances, there are plenty of options available to you. Do not let one exam define you. Instead, use it as a motivation to become even more driven and successful.
Remember, you learn more from failure than success.
If you do find yourself in this situation… and would like some personalised advice, feel free to reach out to us in Barden and we’d be happy to have a chat about your options.
Credit: Accountancy Ireland