That’s a joke, right? I’m willing to bet most of you giggle a little nervously at the picture at the top of this blog… it’s funny… because it’s true!

I get a LOT of UNISA CTA students asking me for advice on their studies. I can’t always help massively… obviously I have paying students I need to give most of my attention to… but I do try to give some guidance where I can.

We have a whole bunch of students on our Tabaldi online CTA courses  for UNISA CTA this year. We have two options: All the videos, lectures, course content and a lecturer on the forum (same as out u/grad courses)… AND… a Premium programme… our VIP students who get a whole bunch of additional support…70% of our VIP students quote MAC as their biggest fear. 59% of them say they have a mental block towards it.

So, you’re not alone if you’re struggling. Here’s some advice…

What’s your current status?

  • I’m willing to take some bets on where you are:
    You focussed on Financial Accounting and Tax up to now, because there’s SO much to go through there… 
  • You ‘set aside’ more time closer to the Test (especially if you have study leave) for Management Accounting (and Auditing) because then you’ll have WHOLE days to focus on it
  • You’ve done ‘some’ stuff on it, but somehow managed to shift back to Financial Accounting and Tax… because there’s SO much to do there, and the Management Accounting just felt SO hopeless… perhaps you’ll get more inspiration later
  • You didn’t do a lot of questions because there’s no point in ‘wasting’ them when you “don’t know anything anyway”… may as well keep them for when you’re “ready to attempt” questions
  • Of the questions you have attempted, you either ‘snuck a glance’ at the solution, or went to the solution after 5 minutes because there’s no point in wasting your time when you don’t know anything

Sound about right? Ah, you’ll argue that it’s not ‘quite’ as simple, and that things have been hectic, and UNISA CTA sucks, and you didn’t have the notes and the textbooks and work and not enough study leave… and family… and life… and… and… and… but regardless of the reasons… the consequences are the same.

How do I know all this? Yeah, this was me. I did my CTA through UNISA and Management Accounting wasn’t my friend… Check out my CTA Man Acc story

Think I must’ve had it easier, so I can ‘preach’ to you? Hehe… nope… You can check out my qualification story if you want more background..

Your brain does NOT know what’s best for you

Your brain WILL lie to you. It wants to protect you from feeling stupid and worrying that you’re going to fail. But in trying to protect you, it’s setting you up to fail. (You know those mothers who ‘over-protect’ their children so that when they grow up, they can’t deal with anything because they’ve never had to try anything themselves? That’s your brain)

What does your brain say?

  • “We (your brain and you) don’t have time to study Management Accounting right now”
  • “We can’t do questions until we ‘know’ what we’re doing, until we’re more comfortable with the work”
  • “We can’t try questions now, because we’ll fail them, and if we fail them, we’ll fail the tests… and the exam… and CTA… and life… and EVERYTHING… “
  • “We’re not going to NEVER study Management Accounting… we’re just going to do some more on Financial Accounting and Tax… because there’s SO much… we’ll get to Management Accounting when we have a WHOLE day to do it… and we’re in the ‘right’ head space”
  • “If we do a question now, we’re just going to waste a perfectly good question and our time”
  • “I don’t even know where to begin, so let’s just look at the solution first… just so we know where to start

Here’s why it’s all rubbish:

  • Life will NEVER make time for Management Accounting. Force it into your life… or fail. Your brain will tell you all sorts of trash to avoid something it doesn’t want to do (Eg: Dieting? Does it really HAVE to start on a Monday? Exercise? Do you HAVE to wait until you have the ‘right’ clothing, gear, machines, gym contract, time, job…?)
  • You can learn SOMETHING in half an hour… waiting until you have a whole day is a way to procrastinate and still make yourself feel ok about it
  • Failing questions means ‘learning’, not failing in tests. Avoiding the feeling of failure in questions is stupid and makes you think that you HAVE to pass everything first time around or you’ll never pass it. Somehow, we’re ok with failing at other stuff and still trying… (Eg: Riding a bike, riding a car, computer games) Your brain is procrastinating… again
  • Your brain wants to get back to Financial Accounting and Tax because it feels like it’s making progress. Yes, it’s complicated… but there’s FORMATS, and CALCULATIONS that make SENSE, and once you know them… you know where to USE them! It’s a formula… and it ALWAYS works… unlike stupid Management Accounting that changes every time you look at a question, and you never know what formula to use anyway! Your brain pushes you back to what it feels ok about… even though you’re still struggling with FAC and Tax, your brain likes the order and feeling of progress
  • You’ll NEVER spend a WHOLE day studying Management Accounting… please! You can’t focus on it for an hour without bursting into tears, going back to theory, summaries, reaching out on social media for comfort and consolation… by the time study leave comes… your brain tells you sleep is more important because you can’t absorb work without sleep. Then it will tell you food is important because you can’t study on an empty stomach… guess what? It’s procrastinating… again!
  • Course you don’t know where to begin… you’ve never tried on your own. Show your brain the solution first, and all you’re doing is teaching it that it’s ok to just sit back and wait for the answer to ‘magically’ appear… wanna bet how well that’s going to work in the exam?!


My advice for Test 1

If you’ve started off the year a little wobbly and haven’t focussed on Management Accounting properly… you may very well fail Test 1. There… I said it. Your worst nightmare. Grieve now. Have a little cry… face it, and get over it. We’ve all been there… but the question is… are you going to STAY there! No one has time to join your pity party… and your brain will use it to make you feel worse about changing your study habits and it will tell you “I TOLD you so! You should have studied more theory! Next time… I’ll take over… and we’ll study theory until we KNOW what we’re doing” And then you’re back to square one.


All I can say is this: Now, MORE than ever… you have to take my advice. Theory is NOT going to get you anywhere right now. You’re going to have to start with a question. Take it from the Tut letter, and do it. Spend a little time letting your brain make some kind of attempt. Tears are fine… it’s natural, but don’t allow your brain to play scenarios of “See? This is going to make you fail”… Shut it up, and tell it to make some kind of effort to solve the problem. Oh yes… the questions are nasty if you’re behind on theory. You’ve forgotten LOTS, I’ll bet. However… your brain will tell you that you’ve forgotten EVERYTHING and have to start again if you let it. It hates being uncomfortable. So… best thing is to PROVE that you have to go back and study theory by getting your brain to work a little first. Let’s see what it really knows when it’s put on the spot.

This is also good because right from the start, you know how the theory is asked. Too many students do the theory, summarise etc, and then don’t know what to do with it when a question comes.

Once you’ve GENUINELY made an effort to do SOMETHING… even if it’s hopelessly wrong… then go to the solution and see how it connects to the question… look at the formulae and WHY they used it, and where the EASY marks are. Look at the connection between the case study and the answer. Then do another question. DON’T go to theory, because your brain will trick you into staying on the theory until the day before the exam. Do the next question in the tut letter, on the same topic, the same way.

Now listen carefully… you HAVE to attempt SOMETHING on that paper. I don’t care how wrong it is. Without that push, your brain is going to sit back and say “I’ll just wait for the answer”, it’s not going to let you know what it really knows. When you see the answer, it will tell you… “Oh, OK, I’ll remember that for the next time”… but it’s just flat memory… it’s not actual learning.

Get your pen in your hand and force your brain to do SOMETHING. No one else is going to see it, so it doesn’t matter if you’ve managed one word and a terrible formula. I’ll bet you my cat that your brain is going to argue with you about much of a waste of time it is, and how it doesn’t know anything, and how you must ‘spoon-feed’ it before it can do anything for you… If you don’t show that you’re stronger than your naturally lazy brain… you’ve got problems! Go get it… fail a few questions… but I guarantee you’ll start gathering a few marks here and there, and seeing the connections between the info and the case study. NOT learning it off by heart, but by asking… WHY did they do that… WHAT was the trigger to use that formula?

Who cares if you get 5% for a question.. that means you only have 45% to get before you pass… if you get another 5% everytime you do a question… you only need another 9 questions and you’re there! You won’t get to 9 questions if you’re studying theory! Sure, you’ve made a mess of Test 1 then… but hey, there are three more to redeem yourself! Many others have managed… so can you!

Tears are fine… but study through them… you don’t have time to wait for them to go away!!! 

There’s a BIG difference between Active learning and Passive learning. Your brain likes passive learning. Picture your brain sitting back on the couch saying “Ok… show me what to do for next time”. That’s passive learning. Active learning is telling your brain… “No no… YOU show ME what you can do first… THEN we’ll talk about how to fix what you’re doing”

Put a note on your wall… “My brain likes to be comfortable… it will tell me ANYTHING to stay comfortable”

Want to change the way you think about CTA MAC a little… Read this... it will help you change the way you think about what you’re learning, and why you struggle with it so much.



If you can relate, or have a query...


  1. Feeling excited 🙂 … focusing on all my modules equally .. coz if i fail one, i fail them all .. heheheh 😀 … studying is fun

  2. OMG Yvonne live that you tell it as it is… Struggle with moving on from theory yet will teach my brain to suck it up

  3. I am so grateful for your advise, I am studying with the ACCA and a friend introduced me to your work and how helpful it was in his preparation for exams…I feel like you know me and what I am going through…and of course the lies I have been telling myself!

    • It’s such a pleasure!
      It’s amazing how alone we think we are… and yet our journeys are so similar!

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Yvonne Starkey CA(SA)

Yvonne Starkey CA(SA)

I coach accounting students who are struggling with their study habits and mindset, and want their studies to be as effective as they used to be. See more on my about page

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