No. 18 – The Academic Part of My Life During the Final Three Years Working in Glasgow

The three subjects I had to master during the fourth year of The Institute’s Training were Advanced Accounting for Public Companies, Taxation, and the final part of the three-part auditing subject, which was entitled something like, “The Fundamental Principals of Auditing”. We all had to buy a big thick book full of obscure words that seemed like a million miles away from the upside-down green ticks I had been putting in clients’ records for three of the last four years. I read and re-read that incomprehensible book for what seemed like a hundred times, and sat through boring lecture after boring lecture every weekend for nine months. When it came to the end of the exam in May I hadn’t even started the final question when “time” was called, and I wasn’t surprised when the results were announced a few weeks later. I had failed. I passed the accounting and tax exams but failed the advanced auditing exam. It was the first really important exam I had ever failed in my life.

Throughout the three months that passed between the May exam and the re-sit in August I read the big incomprehensible book several more times and poured over the screed of notes I had taken during the past nine months of lectures. To make matters worse there had been a lot of changes made to the British tax system that spring so the re-sit exam was based on the new rules, and so there were a lot of new tax rules I had to learn. In August, I again failed to complete the auditing exam and although I again passed tax and accounting, I was forced to repeat the entire year. That’s why this blog post, together with the previous one covers a total of six years, when, as I have explained before, the Institute’s course was a five-year course.

At some time during the following year, I received a letter from the Institute, saying that they knew about the difficulty I had with writing and, to compensate, they offered me an extra half hour to complete the exams in the future. I foolishly wrote back, rejecting their offer. The following May, despite sitting through another nine months of boring lectures, the same thing happened for a third time. I passed Tax and Accountancy, which I was getting very proficient at, but failed the Auditing exam because I didn’t have time to complete the final question.

I got those results on a Friday and over that weekend, I did four things:

  1. I wrote to the Institute to ask if I could reverse my decision not to accept extra time, but only for the Auditing exam, not the other two.
  2. I bought a fairly large up-to-date dictionary
  3. I burned the copious amount of auditing notes I had taken over the previous two years, and…
  4. I went out with some friends from my school days and got drunk.

I didn’t go on vacation during the following three months. Instead, in the first instance, I went over the big book for the umpteenth time, but on this occasion, when I came across a big word that I didn’t fully understand, instead of glossing over it, as I had always done before, I would look it up in my new dictionary, and re-write the sentence in a notebook in words that I could understand, and then cross-referenced it to a number that I wrote in the book.

After I completed that mammoth task, I read the book yet again but this time, I substituted my re-written sentences for the original complicated ones. Before the dreaded dates in August arrived for the three exams, I had received permission to receive an extra 30 minutes to complete each of the three exams. I did not take advantage of the extra time for the Taxation and Accountancy exams, both of which I had sat and passed three times before. However I did take advantage of the additional 30 minutes on offer at the end of the Auditing exam, and for the first time in 4 attempts I managed to complete all of the required answers to the questions that were asked. In addition, because of the strategy I had followed over the summer, I felt that I had answered all of the questions much better than I had answered any of the questions that had been asked in my previous three attempts.

Three weeks later, the dreaded envelope arrived in the office and, with trembling hands, I opened it. I had no idea what I would do if I failed again. Would I try again and spend another year of my life, studying a subject I obviously wasn’t good at, would I just stay in the office as an unqualified clerk with no chance of being promoted, or would I give up and try something new from scratch? Computer programming perhaps. I just didn’t know. I finally pulled the slip of paper free from the envelope and heaved the greatest sigh of relief I had ever uttered. At the fourth attempt, I had finally PASSED part 4 of the Institute’s training scheme. A huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

I can’t honestly remember what subjects comprised part 5 of the scheme. One of them would have been an advanced Accountancy subject, something like International Standards for example, and probably more tax, which was always changing and there would have been a third. Whatever it was, it wasn’t Auditing. Now that I had broken an inner-vow that I had up to then always kept to, that was to never accept special treatment because of my disabilities, I thought “What the heck”, and accepted the Institute’s offer of 30 extra minutes for each of my final three exams. I used those extra minutes in all of the exams the following May and was hopeful of success.

On the Thursday evening before the Friday, the results would be available in our Glasgow office. Anna called me on the ‘phone at home. She had been working in Edinburgh, home of the Institute’s head office, and was able to personally collect her results before they were put in the mail. She had passed, which I was very pleased about, but I was surprised at what else she had to say. She told me that, for the first time, all the pass notifications were in yellow envelopes and those that notified a failure were in plain white envelopes.

I was very nervous the next morning, and before I left the house I told my mother that if I passed I would call her before 9:30, but if I had failed, I’d call after 9:30, so she would know the result before I started speaking. There were 6 of us who had sat the final exams that year, and as Anna had intercepted her envelope in Edinburgh the previous day, that meant if I was first to arrive, which I was, there would be 5 envelopes laid out on the communal table in the office. As I walked towards the table, I could see that there were 4 white envelopes and only one yellow one. “Check the white ones first,” I told myself as I neared the table, but, of course, I didn’t. My eyes went straight to the yellow one, which was addressed to …. Philip Ramage. I excitedly tore open the envelope to check that Anna was right, and she was. I had passed and would soon become a qualified Chartered Accountant, the equivalent of being a C.P.A. in America.

The mixed emotions that flowed through my body for the next twenty minutes were immense. I was delirious that I had passed, but it was agonizing to watch 4 of my mates arrive to open their results with anticipation. The different colored envelopes had never been used before, and so, before they opened them and read the slip inside, my 4 friends did not know if they had passed or failed. But I did, I knew that they had all failed. It was a heart-breaking experience for me, but I never told any of the four that I knew their disappointing result before they did.

So, all you budding Internet Marketers, I think that today’s lesson to be learned from my last three years working in Glasgow is pretty clear. NEVER GIVE UP. If you run into difficulties, as you WILL, try every avenue that is open to you to get around, over, or even under, if necessary, all of the roadblocks that you WILL encounter. I think that you will agree that putting a match to two years’ worth of painstakingly hand-written notes only three months before my fourth attempt at the same exam was a pretty drastic measure to take, but it proved to be well worth it. So, if you find yourself stuck on anything for a prolonged period, don’t just give up, try a different approach. Perhaps you could get another training course on the same subject, or change your mentor. Sometimes, drastic measures are necessary. However, whatever you do make sure that you have given your all to make your initial choice of action work before you abandon it altogether.

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