Repeating Professional Exams – A Blurred History of Failure

Notes from the rambler:

I’m trying to keep this blog writing thing up but honestly being consistently exhausted makes it so physically hard sometimes – bear with me! I do my best to be positive but some days I just get so frustrated. I am a person who wants to do a lot of things trapped in a body that wants to sleep 24/7.

I thought long and hard about what way to present this next part. I wasn’t sure whether to tell the story as it was or to jazz it up a bit with a few jokes in there. In the end, I decided to tell it exactly as it was. In this current climate, there will be a number of people now feeling how I felt then. All I can say is that it will get better, you will survive this and come out stronger. Yes it sounds cheesy, but if there is a next time that you hit such lows, you have a ladder in the form of coping mechanisms to be able to get out again. It also sort of gives you a superpower – your biggest fear has already been presented itself to you so next time you will be fearless. World Pandemic come at me – you needn’t think you are going to break my spirit.  

Present Day News

  • I was on an Instagram Live last week with the lovely @girlscantthrow who has began the ‘Covid-19 Diaries’. We chatted about how we are feeling and coping during lockdown and it was so lovely to also hear from @stayopenyoga and @mumtoakoolkid who chatted about their experiences.
  • I was on a Podcast called the Wild Expansion chatting about Narcolepsy and Sleep and everything in between. It was definitely something that was outside my comfort zone but I was so happy with the result.  Give it a listen on Spotify and let me know what you think!

The next part of the story

We had got to the 3rd sitting of my CAP2 exams in the last blog.  The reason this one has been described as a blurred history of failure is because my memory of that time is just that, a blur. My mind couldn’t really handle thinking about all the disappointment so it just chose to forget it instead.

It wasn’t long until May rolled around and it was time again to go on study leave. In terms of receiving treatment for my sleepy problems I was still on a list to get a CPAP. Or so I thought.

I was still trying desperately to get some sort of update on how long it would be. Even the firm I worked for wrote to them asking for an update, it was all hands to the pump to try and get treatment before the next set of exams. Two things happened:

  • They said that I had somehow been dropped off the list because I failed to turn up to appointments – que meltdown, I was already on the waiting list for a few years at this point. I had received an out of date appointment letter and had rang them to say that I had only received it and trusted that I was still on the list
  • By some miracle, the CPAP machine arrived about 2-3 weeks before I sat my exams.

I remember the day that I went to collect the CPAP machine. Finally, I thought, the miracle treatment I have been waiting for, the cure to all my sleep problems. With the cute little grey case tucked under my arm, I strutted away from the hospital buzzing that I had finally got the treatment I desperately needed.


I was just blown away by it…literally. You know those centres that mimic the conditions in space and there’s no centre of gravity? That’s how I felt putting a CPAP on. Imagine putting your Henry hoover in your mouth… I honestly felt like the air was coming out of my ears and I was going to lift off the bed like it was a jetpack. After a few weeks of trying different pressure settings I just couldn’t get used to it at all. I also hate anything being on my face, I felt so claustrophobic wearing it. I kept trying to use it but I ended up pulling it off my face in the middle of the night. It just wasn’t working.

I was so disappointed. I had waited so long to get this treatment and had put all my hopes on it. I never actually considered that it might not work, I was so focused on the scenario where I would get this treatment and start feeling better and that just didn’t happen.

I went into my exams with no treatment and just 15minutes of extra time.

Again, my memory of this time is so patchy; I don’t remember where I was when I got the exam results. I had passed the first two exams but I had failed the last two and so that was it, my chances had run out. Again my marks had dropped significantly as the days went on and my exhaustion became worse to the point of delirium. 

I think I travelled home and when I arrived just moved through the house until I found the sofa and lay down.

What do you say to someone who feels like they have lost everything they have worked for? How do you comfort them when all they want is what they have lost?

I know some of you might say ah.. but it’s only exams, life is more than exams! Of course it is. For me though, at that time, the studying and the exams and the repeat exams were a huge investment of my time. I lived and breathed my lever arch files and past papers. I put everything I had into them and it still didn’t work. My best wasn’t enough anymore and that was a hard pill to swallow.

I don’t remember going back into work, it was like an out of body experience where I don’t remember anything. From May 2017- August 2017 I have no memory of that space in time. Until I got a rude awakening…

When I got the results that I had failed, I was informed that I would have to leave the firm and my training contract would be terminated. I was assured that I could take my time until I got a new job, there would be no rush for me to leave the firm.

Until HQ got involved.

It was apparently a condition of the appeal that if I failed again, my employment would be terminated effective immediately. That meant I was out on my ear at the end of the month.

The assurance that I had been given on that first day back to work post exam results rang hollow as the individuals who advised it retreated to the shadows. Instead, they passed the buck to my closest senior colleague. To this day I will never forget the look on their face delivering the news that I had to leave the firm by the end of the month. I wasn’t angry with them though, it was the senior officials behind the decision that I was angry with. I found myself comforting the messenger rather than shooting them because I knew that it was news they didn’t even want to deliver. If they had their way it wouldn’t even have happened.

I remember the day I left clearly, I went out for lunch with a few close friends and strangely I had to register for resits that day too. I was going to try and repeat the remaining two CAP2 exams again. I know that sounds absolutely bonkers but when you get your results you have a week to submit resit forms, it isn’t much time in the grand scheme of the things to make a life changing decision.

I looked around the office.

I had come into this office a new graduate, full of hopes and dreams and confident I wasn’t going to leave without being partner. Honestly, that’s how ambitious I used to be and now I felt like the stuffing had been knocked out of me.

I looked at the first desk bay that I was seated, a flustered graduate who hadn’t a clue what they were getting themselves into. I could barely work the internal phone system never mind Tolley’s or navigating HMRC notices. To this day I hate answering the phone, but it was a place I had definitely grown. I had made friends in our other regional offices and enjoyed ringing particular people to discuss a client. I even had favourite clients who discussed their upcoming holidays with me and had a nice chat with them before getting down to the details. I had pored over legislation and sat in meetings, printed more emails and VAT returns than I could count and updated many projects after manager review, covered in red pen (and tried not to take it TOO personally).

Aside from the professional side, I had made friends for life. The trainee accountant path is one where strong bonds are forged. Collectively, you are all trying to navigate the trenches of balancing complex professional exams with a busy work life. This all takes place as you try to give off the impression that you are adulting and living your best life oh AND maintaining a strong social life. The reality is so very different to what you would have expected as a new graduate. It wasn’t the high flyer, awesome and shiny lifestyle you expected. It was exhaustion, both mentally and physically as your university persona grappled with the real world and what it really means. It’s the horrendous hangovers coupled with the guilt that you should be studying. It’s the laugh or you would cry moments as you retell you weekend antics until you have to shutup and get on with serious client matters. There are big highs and big lows and everything in between. You won’t see this on social media though and you definitely won’t see it in any recruitment videos!

I think the worst thing about it all was that I didn’t want to leave. I wasn’t ready to leave this work bubble that had become familiar and comfortable. At the end of the day though, no matter how much emotional and professional investment I had poured into the firm, I was only a number at the end of it all. What had the point of it all been? What was the lesson? Regardless of all my efforts, I had been cast aside. Someone would sit in my seat the next week and dial into my phone. 

As I reflect on what happened, I still can’t believe that happened to me.  If I had known what I know now maybe it would have made a difference, maybe it wouldn’t have. I have learned to accept what happened but it will always remain a painful part of my life.

After my desk was clear of client files and all the paperwork I had managed to build up over the years, I said my goodbyes, rinsed my cup and put my pass on the desk, my hopeful first day picture facing upwards. I walked out of there with no clear idea of where I was going. I had booked a holiday to Ibiza (as you do when you have just been sacked) and for the first time in my whole life, I had no idea what would come next.





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