ACCA Exam Countdown: Muscle memory

Every week in the run-up to the ACCA exams in December, Caron Betts will be guiding us through exam preparation from a tutor’s point of view.


Last month I took up martial arts again.  I hadn’t practiced for about 5 years and I realised I had lost my previous strength, flexibility and recollection of the self-defence techniques. My instructor assured me it would come back.

Last night I was asked to perform a set of techniques, and I was amazed that I got 13 out of 15 right first time. How could that be?  I hadn’t thought about them, let alone attempted them, for 5 years and yet I could perform them almost perfectly. My training partner was convinced it was muscle memory.

I agree the “muscle” memory would give me the strength to do the techniques, but that didn’t explain why I could remember “how” to do them.  That’s memory. It’s the “store and recall” function of the mind.

Consider, when a new song comes on the radio that we like. We turn it up and start singing along to the chorus. Afterwards we are often humming it throughout the day.  We may even look up the lyrics, because we have decided that we really want to learn this song. The next time we hear the song, we can remember it quite well.

The reason is that we stored the song effectively.  This happens by paying attention (turning it up), practising (singing along) and repetition (the chorus is played more than once). The next time we hear the opening bars, a trigger is sent to our memory and we can recall the tune and most of the chorus. By the end of the second listening, we have learned a bit more of the song.

It was this “store and recall” process that I used last night.  When I originally learned the techniques, I paid attention to the instructor, I practised the movements and I repeated it several times. When my training partner made his move last night, that was the trigger I needed and I could recall immediately how to respond.

The same principle applies to ACCA studies. Students need to set aside time when they are not going to be distracted by the television, social media or whatever, so they can pay attention to the topic.  Then apply the knowledge just gained by practising exam standard questions. Review the topic a few days later, and repeat this review process in the weeks leading up to the exam. The subject matter has been effectively placed in the memory “store”.

On the exam day, the question itself will be the trigger to “recall” the accountancy skill from the memory bank.




If you’re interested in studying any of our ACCA courses, give one of our Course Advisors a call on 020 7173 5664.

Caron Betts

Posted October 27, 2017