Friday 2nd September was Case Study results day for the trainee class of 2008. The ICAEW takes around 6 weeks to mark a written paper. The results are released on a Friday at 5pm. A variety of ways are used: letter, email, text message and their website.
Text Message Waiting
The Friday afternoon wait for results strains the nerves. Most trainees will try to find an isolated hole to hide in. We were stood in a circle outside a bar in Canary Wharf. Others were enjoying a drink. We clutched our phones waiting for that message.
There are 5 unforgivable auditor pranks. Hopefully, you won’t experience the worse – having “ICAEW” replace a phone contact and being sent a deceitful text. As general guidance, do not send nervous trainees any text messages between 4:51pm and 5pm.
The ACA exams aren’t the most important exams in our lives. We wouldn’t have been to take the exams without good GCSEs, A Levels and a 2:1 university degree. The consequences of failure aren’t so dire. Once the Advance Stage (last three exams) is reached, there is no time bar and unlimited attempts (link).
However, this particular text does have greater significance and meaning. Three years of grinding stress could be over. There is the prospect of life without the threat of exam bird poop over you. The great unattainable becomes certain. Qualification.
Failure means retakes, but a retake doesn’t mean failure. Many successful partners have failed an ICAEW exam. However, the disappointment is crushing and good heart is needed to go through the same process again. Having unlimited attempts is of no comfort. More than three attempts results in begging for an attempt-limit as an act of mercy.
At 5pm, the texts came through. Gasps. Cheers. Hugs. Another check. Handshakes. A text message audit to make sure. Calls to family. A smile.
After your own position is secure comes the scramble to find out if friends have made it to the same happy place. The exam results are published publically on the ICAEW website. Inevitably, it crashes at 5pm. Fortunately, we live in the age of Facebook. The newsfeed is a crash-proof and reliable information source.
The website is eventually checked because it is an important source of gossip about who failed and what they failed. Confusingly, the results are published in two lists: a Pass List and a Credit List. The pass list is for those who have passed all three Advance Stage exams. The Credit List shows the exams that have been passed for those who have not passed all three. You hope to be on the Pass List, or at least on the Credit List. Being on neither is definitely bad. You may experience shock/elation depending on the permutations of number of sittings and number of exams taken.
Who says accountancy isn’t straightforward?
Qualification should be the perfect reason to party and acts of exuberant celebration, such as swimming in the Trafalgar Square fountains. However, results day is often an anti-climax. Relief, rather than joy, is the dominant emotion. The fear of failure means that nothing large is organised. The mood is dampened by friends who didn’t pass.
The day after qualification feels little different from the days before. There is a quiet satisfaction from the amazing achievement of passing all 15 exams. This grows over time and brings a joy that lasts longer than a boozy night out.