I am completing my account certification with ACCA. ACCA certification requires passing up to 14 professional examinations (called 'papers').

I am interviewing for positions that ask whether I have passed the papers on the first attempt (which is important for some employers), and while I had to retake some of the papers, other potential candidates I am competing with completed everything on their first attempt.

Answering the question directly has no upside for me as it only highlights failure. Is there any way to express retaking a failed professional examination in an interview that may be viewed in a more positive light?

  • 2
    Hey Farooq, thanks for the clarification. I have made an aggressive edit to this question in the hopes that it will be clearer to answerers and get better questions. If you think I missed the point or didn't express your question correctly, please feel free to edit it yourself. Thanks in advance!
    – jmac
    May 20, 2014 at 3:56
  • Would they have a way of verifying your answer?
    – d'alar'cop
    May 20, 2014 at 4:15
  • Yes they verify it by our transcripts if we say we aced the papers (i.e. didn't fail any).
    – user19562
    May 20, 2014 at 4:18
  • But I mean, can they verify whether you succeeded on the first try or not?
    – d'alar'cop
    May 20, 2014 at 4:31
  • If they only see that it was passed... but not how many attempts - and they have no way to verify... then I think game-theoretically, the answer is clear
    – d'alar'cop
    May 20, 2014 at 4:33

1 Answer 1


You answer it by considering what lessons did you gain by having to do some of those exams in multiple attempts. You may say that this shows you have persistence to keep at something to overcome setbacks as one example though you'd have to do your own soul searching to see what upsides you have from your experiences.

Those that did well on every exam may not know how to handle the case where they are told, "Not good enough. Please try again," would be something to consider. Look at your resilience and ability to adapt here that could be part of a useful answer. Granted that you want to be careful that this doesn't seem like you enjoy making mistakes but rather you may have an attitude that, "If at first I don't succeed, I will try try again."


You must log in to answer this question.