What does passing your last exam feel like?

Passing your last exam?

The blogs on this site are mostly about what I think given the events that take place in the world of education and learning.

So I thought for a change you might like to hear what other people think, specifically students who have just found out they have passed what they believe will be their last exam ever.

I sent out a simple questionnaire to a few students who had just passed their accountancy finals. What I was particularly interested in was, were there any strategies these successful students used or words of wisdom they may have that we could all learn from.

The answers below are not from any one individual and I have amended and interpreted their comments to provide some generic learnings. And just as way of background, most of the final level accountancy students in this straw poll were aged between 23 and 33, are in full time employment with jobs that carry responsibilities that have to be balanced with the demands of studying.

1. Do you think all of the hard work you put in was worth it?

Yes, It was worth it because of the understanding I gained of how business works. I have genuinely learned skills and new ways of thinking from studying at this level and I know that it has played a part in my ability to successfully take on a management role at work.

Definitely worth it, when looking for my last job I’d hit that glass ceiling because I was missing the qualification. I found it hard to get interviews for the level of job I was after. Also if it had been simple to pass without putting in the work, would I have really valued it, so I do feel a sense of achievement and euphoria.

2. What was it that motivated you?

I knew that if I wanted to progress further in accountancy and in my career having a professional qualification would be invaluable. When looking for jobs I had seen how my colleagues and others had progressed into better jobs with higher pay and I thought, if I want this then I would need to qualify. There were many times I felt like just throwing in the towel (let’s just say my record for passing exams is not that great!) but I knew that perseverance would pay off, that each exam I would pass would take me nearer to my goal and eventually I would see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I just kept saying to myself this time I can do it, and one day I will have no more exams, I have come this far and to quit now would be mad.

I always knew I wanted to work with numbers and my dad used to be an FD, so I suppose part of me did it to prove something to him, but I also wanted to expand my knowledge and further improve my CV. I witnessed people having the opportunity to learn and not taking it, I felt sorry for those people that were happy not to grow. I just knew I didn’t want to fall into that category.

I continued because I found I was quite good at it actually! And I like a challenge! I couldn’t start and not finish – I need closure!

3. Did you ever think you would not pass?

I didn’t ever think I would not pass as I don’t see myself as a quitter, quite the opposite, I take things as a challenge, it gives me an even greater hunger to want something more when I know it is difficult for me to achieve. I knew eventually I would pass, but it would just take me longer and would be harder for me to achieve than other students.

I was getting to that point where I did wonder if I’d ever get there, but knew that I needed to get it done, otherwise I’d always be thinking ‘what if?’ I know I would have regretted giving up.

No – is that big-headed of me?! I’m confident and have always been quite good at learning.

4. Did you think you had passed?

I really did not know, I did a self assessment and I knew that I would be on the border and boy was I, it could have gone either way.

I’m still shocked that I passed it this time, as I still believe that I had produced much better pieces of work before, just not what the examiner was after obviously.

5. Describe how you feel just now?

Relief, no more studying ever again, proud finished at last

Proud, thankful, relieved, however a little deflated (fireworks didn’t go off in my honour).

Relieved and a little lost!

What does this tell us about passing exams?

What I found most interesting about the responses, was how important motivation is when it comes to exam success. Firstly, you have to be motivated, you have to want something. This might be a desire to learn, to give yourself opportunities and further your career or to prove something to yourself or others. Secondly you need to stay motivated. You need to find ways of maintaining that motivation for long periods of time, several years in fact. This motivation was maintained in many different ways.

Having Powerful beliefs

• Beliefs that you will pass….eventually
• Beliefs that you are good at something
• Beliefs that if something is difficult it means it is worthwhile

Talking to yourself. Tell yourself that you can do it and that to quit would be mad

Enjoying the challenge, think of exams as being a challenge that you will overcome

Not wanting to have regrets, when you look back, not wishing that you had taken those opportunities

Motivation by fear
As for how they felt, about passing. Relief was the word used most, and relief is a word that suggests that students are motivated more by the fear of failing than the rewards of success.

You thought it was all over – well not yet
And finally a thank you to all of the students who responded and some good news. In 2005 Bernard Herzberg, who lives in east Finchley, north London, started his second masters degree in African economics and literature at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. The good news is that at the time he was Britain’s oldest student, he was 96, so never say it’s your last exam….

5 thoughts on “What does passing your last exam feel like?

    • Age is no barrier Neil it’s just the other “stuff” I.e. Work, family, responsibilities that have to be juggled to make space for the studying. Stick with it and good luck.


  1. I always find it refreshing when I read or hear of people who return to formal education at a ripe old age. I am currently 43 and hope to complete my ACCA program soon. I enjoy the learning experience and the environment of the tuition houses.


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