My social media feeds blew up on the 14th of February. To my supreme shock, the content was 0% secret admirers and 100% screen grabs of text messages saying the individual had passed the APC exam. These snippets were captioned with messages of thanks and gratitude to friends, family and every deity known to man (sometimes all of them at once).
Without taking anything away from the well earned efforts of those who passed, I couldn’t help but empathise with the 43% of people who didn’t pass this time around. I could almost feel the stabbing disappointment, despair and even embarrassment that each of these people must have felt; the wound growing deeper with every new celebratory, deity-thanking post from a friend.
For those who don’t know, the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) is probably the toughest exam anybody will write en route to qualifying as a Chartered Accountant in South Africa; an 8-hour test of competence, ethics, communication skills and performing under pressure. It is also the final hurdle that needs to be passed in order to qualify after what is typically a 7-8 year journey. Understandably, we in the profession get quite worked up about it.
So this post is a shout-out to everyone this year who didn’t quite make it, in the APC or any other exam recently. By now you will have had time to digest and will likely have experienced everyone awkwardly avoiding the topic when speaking to you, or will have heard, “shame, it’s not the end of the world,” or “there’s no shame in failing that exam” a thousand times over.
I’m not here to tell you how to feel. This achievement means so much to you and if you feel shame or embarrassment, that’s okay; it’s perfectly natural. It’s what you do from here on out that will define you and really test your character. I would just caution you to reign in the tendency to convince yourself that everyone else is mocking you or thinks anything less of you now that you’ve failed an exam. I can guarantee you that anyone who understands the challenges that this exam presents and the blood, sweat and tears that you put into preparing for it is purely saddened that you couldn’t join the hordes of celebratory posts on February 14th… not this year at least. Anyone who judges you by the outcome of one day of work – over years of excellent performance and commitment – is clearly disillusioned.
Where to from here?
Failing this exam only means you will try again next year, one year more experienced and with all the learnings from your previous attempt taken on board. Over the coming months, take the time to understand where you went wrong in last year’s test and put the steps in place to make sure you don’t make those same mistakes next time. The amount of time you need to commit to correcting this process is unique to you. Trust yourself as a young professional to learn from your mistakes and knock it out of the park next time.
Let’s acknowledge for a second that the APC was a bloody tough ask this year. Every second person didn’t pass, literally. Sure, you didn’t end up on the right side of the coin toss this time round, and that’s okay. Everyone has experienced failure of some sort in their lives, including the most respected and lauded entrepreneurs and sportsmen who have since become household names (Bill Gates, anyone?). It’s always what you do next that matters. Nobody will remember the fact that you failed an exam once.
Don’t let your entire career be defined by 8 hours in which you made one or two mistakes.
You’ve got this.
Credit where credit’s due
Do you have a great story of perseverance during your journey to qualification, or turning it around after failing an exam? Hit us up in the comments!
Otherwise, please share with those who you feel need to read this today.
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