Stellenbosch top candidate achieves first place in chartered accounting exam
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Completing a degree during a pandemic has proved challenging, yet 21-year-old Hanne Mertens still managed to achieve first place in the 2021 Initial Test of Competence (ITC) for accountants across the country.
The Stellenbosch University alumnus completed her Honours degree in Accounting cum laude last year. Mertens wrote the first exam conducted by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) in April 2021.
The ITC is the first of two exams conducted by Saica that candidates who want to qualify as chartered accountants in South Africa have to pass.
The young academic said she was shocked to hear that she had achieved first place in South Africa in the exam.
“I just sat there looking at my laptop. I couldn’t believe it, but it was very exciting.”
Mertens said there was no “secret” to success, but that balance has got her far in her career so far.
“I always fall back on balance. Separate your work, family and social life. If you manage to balance each aspect, you can give each one your everything.
“My friends knew that when we were studying, I wouldn’t speak to anyone for two hours. When we took a study break, we wouldn’t speak about work.”
One of the biggest challenges for the top accounting graduate was being a student during the pandemic.
“I’m a very social person and would rely on studying around friends in the library. Having to go for months studying alone while being in lockdown was stressful,” she said.
“I’m grateful for my support structure. We kept motivating and helping each other and held one another accountable.”
While completing her Bachelor of Accounting degree, Mertens juggled all these aspects while still making time to tutor others.
“I loved tutoring. It was challenging because people needed it the most during exam time – which is when I needed to study.
“I found an appreciation for the work through teaching it to others. I also used tutoring to motivate me with my studying – this is why balance is helpful.”
Mertens’ advice to aspiring chartered accountants is to continue working hard and surround yourself with people who have similar goals as you do.
“Where do you see yourself? Doing well will get you in a position to get there,” she said. “Remind yourself of what you’re working towards and that it’s going to be worth it.
“Work consistently from day one. It’s a long journey, but it is very rewarding.”
The Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) native is currently working as a trainee auditor at Deloitte UK. Here she will complete her articles for the next three years.