As an apprentice, you will learn and gain valuable experiences in the workplace, but being on an apprenticeship you need to create a portfolio to evidence this in addition to just sitting your exams.
I have had many years in dealing with apprenticeships and seen all the changes that the government have implemented throughout. I have to say that the most recent change back in April 2017, was probably one of the best changes the government did for apprenticeship because it helps the apprentices, managers and training providers identify personal development within the apprentice.
The government now requires apprentices to obtain evidence of any new skills and behaviours they have developed throughout their apprenticeship. At First Intuition this evidence is gathered by the completion of development tasks which are reflected accounts of new skills and behaviours that have been developed whilst at work.
Once the apprentice has completed their apprentice journey, they are then required to go through to the End Point Assessment (EPA) to showcase their development of the knowledge, skills and behaviours, in accordance to the relevant apprenticeship standards.
The level 3 standard is called the Assistant Accounting Apprenticeship and you can find the standards that need to be developed through your apprenticeship by clicking on the link below.
At level 4 standard is called the Professional Accounting Technician Apprenticeship and the list of standards that need to be developed at this level can be found by clicking on the link below.
To qualify to go through to the EPA, you need to ensure the following has been achieved:
- Development tasks have been completed to cover each learning outcome given on the AAT mapping documents.
- Completed a minimum of 20% off the job training hours
- Passed all your professional exams
- Level 3 – AVBK, FAPR, MMAC & the ITAX exam
- Level 4 – FSLC, MABU, MDCL & your optional units.
Each apprentice will be allocated with a Skills and Development coach that will support you with your progress. Once all the above has been met, they will have a meeting with you and your manager to confirm you have completed your apprenticeship requirements and confirm you are eligible for the EPA registration.
So, you might be asking yourself…. “What is the End Point Assessment?”
Basically, in a nutshell, the EPA for both level 3 & level 4 is broken down into 2 assessments, an exam and a portfolio of evidence.
I bet you’re thinking right now…. ”how am I going to remember everything for my synoptic exam and my professional discussion?”… well this is where what you think will be a challenge is actually not as bad as you think.
Let’s talk about the exam first.
The synoptic exam
The synoptic exams are designed to allow apprentices to apply knowledge and skills gained across the mandatory units of the qualification in an integrated way, within a workplace context
The advanced level 3 synoptic assessment is split into 2 exams – ADSY and SPSH, which both forms part of the Advanced Diploma in Accounting.
The ADSY assessment is designed to cover the following units:
- Advanced Bookkeeping (AVBK)
- Final Accounts Preparation (FAPR)
- Management Accounting: Costing (MMAC)
- Ethics for Accountants (ETFA)
The SPSH assessment is designed to cover the following units:
- Advanced Bookkeeping (AVBK)
- Final Accounts Preparation (FAPR)
- Management Accounting: Costing (MMAC)
- Spreadsheet for Accounting (SPSH).
The ETFA and SPSH units are only assessed in the synoptic assessment. Both assessments assess the integration of core skills, knowledge and understanding of accounting technicians at this level in two contexts that are common to all: the necessity for ethical behaviour and the requirement for spreadsheet skills.
PDSY is the professional level synoptic assessment, which forms part of the AAT Professional Diploma in Accounting..
The assessment uses pre-release material, which is available to apprentices in the study support section of AAT’s website. The pre-release material includes a brief description of the business, recently published results, accountancy systems, staffing information and an insight into the business’s procedures and prospects. This information is used within the assessment tasks and it is recommended that apprentices familiarise themselves with the pre-release material before sitting the assessment.
This assessment is designed to cover the following units:
- Accounting Systems and Controls (ASYC)
- Financial Statements of Limited Companies (FSLC)
- Management Accounting: Decision and Control (MDCL)
- Management Accounting: Budgeting (MABU).
The assessment is centred on internal controls applied to other areas, such as decision-making, budgetary control, and the ability to meet statutory requirements. This means that learning outcomes specified in ASYC are assessed in-depth, whereas other unit learning outcomes are assessed in breadth.
First Intuition will provide additional tuition to help you with your synoptic exam.
For level 3 the tutor will teach you how to work ethically in the finance role, how to use spreadsheets effectively at work and will also do a recap of the mandatory units. You will be provided with all the knowledge you need for this exam.
For level 4 the tutor will teach you how and why internal controls are needed in the workplace and how these are applied to other areas such as decision making, budgetary control, and the ability to meet statutory requirements.
The specification for the synoptic assessments is detailed in the qualification specification, which can be found in the study support search section of the AAT website.
Apprentices who have a good understanding of all learning outcomes included within the synoptic test specification should be able to answer any task set.
Portfolio of evidence
The Portfolio Reflective is the second component that forms part of EPA. It consists of a reflective element supported by a portfolio, which together allows the apprentice to demonstrate competence in the knowledge, skills and behaviours defined within the Apprenticeship Standard.
Evidence is gathered from the workplace during the on-programme learning and uploaded as development tasks to FI Learn.
This is your chance to shine, a chance to showcase all the new skills and behaviours you developed in the workplace throughout your apprentice journey, in line with the apprenticeship standard through a professional discussion with an independent assessor assigned by the AAT (level 3 & level 4) or a professional written statement (level 4 only).
Level 3 – Assistant Accountant
The apprentice must then reflect on their portfolio through a professional discussion of one-hour duration.
An Independent Assessor (IA) conducts the discussion.
The Portfolio Reflective component is graded at fail/pass/distinction and an apprentice must meet all fourteen skills and behaviour goals to be awarded a Pass.
Level 4 – Professional Accountant
For the reflective element, apprentices have a choice of being assessed by either a written statement (of between 2,000 and 3,000 words) or a professional discussion (of one-hour duration).
Two Independent Assessors (IA) are involved in assessing the Level 4 Portfolio Reflective:
The assessment is graded at fail/pass and an apprentice must meet all twelve skills and behaviour goals to be awarded a Pass.
At Level 4, which reflective option should I choose?
The majority of candidates opt for the Professional Discussion as their choice of reflective assessment, as it allows for them to add to the reflections and product evidence presented in their portfolio. The quality of these professional discussions is generally very high.
Many apprentices are extremely articulate in answering the IA’s questions and display confidence in their role, a real commitment to their job and clear progression in their role during their apprenticeship, including actively supporting their team members and contributing to the organisation. These candidates have made full use of the opportunities of their apprenticeship to develop not just their technical knowledge but also the skills and behaviours that will allow them to apply this technical knowledge successfully in the workplace and provide a foundation for their careers.
Where the written statement differs from the professional discussion is that there is no opportunity for an IA to ask follow-up questions of the content. It is therefore very important that apprentices make it clear where the goals and learning outcomes are being met and how. To do this, it is essential that the written statement is clearly cross referenced to all 12 of the learning outcomes. Failing to do so risks being awarded a Fail if the links to the learning outcomes are not clear.
Whilst attending the tuitions day for the synoptic exam, you will also need to attend 2 EPA days to help you pull your evidence together for your portfolio of evidence.
What are the EPA days?
The EPA days prepare you for your professional discussion/written statement. You have done the hard work already through your apprentice journey! By this stage you have completed your exams and gathered evidence required for your portfolio through the submission of the development task. All you are now doing is pulling everything together.
Prior to attending EPA day 1, you need to create a folder on your laptop and save copies of all your development task (inc. any supporting attachments) that you have submitted throughout your apprentice journey, this is so they can be accessed easily on the EPA days.
In the folder you have created you also need to ensure they have the following documents:
- Updated CV
- Job Description
- Redacted Organisational Chart
- Statement of Achievement (showing all passed results with the exception of the synoptic exam)
In the morning of EPA day 1, the tutor will ask you to select the strongest development task that meets the individual learning outcomes that you would like to use in your final portfolio. You will work with the tutor to identify any weaknesses.
For apprentices completing the professional discussion
On completion of your final mapping document, your tutor will ask you to write a personal statement about your apprenticeship journey. The personal statement is a detailed story from the day you started your apprenticeship to the day you completed your apprenticeship requirements.
The personal statement needs to be written in a format that covers the mandatory questions that the independent assessor from the AAT will ask you in the professional discussion.
Below is a guidance of the format:
- Start your personal statement by introducing yourself, why they decided to do an apprenticeship and why you choose the employer they are working for
- Then talk about their employer and give detail about what the employer does and its stakeholders.
- The next 4 sections of the written statement are then based on the following questions.
- What’s your role within the organisation?
- How do you think your role has benefited the organisation?
- Is there an achievement/product/activity you’re particularly proud of?
- What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered during your apprenticeship?
Throughout writing your personal statement, you need to give comprehensive details of the training you received whilst developing your skills and behaviours, and where possible link any development task they have selected to use in your final portfolio, state the learning outcome you have covered, and also link any AAT courses you have attended at First Intuition that has given you the knowledge to help you understand the role and training that you have undertaken at work. In addition, where weaknesses have been identified, additional evidence can be written in your personal statement to strengthen the relevant learning outcome.
Here is an example of a personal statement:
For apprentices completing the written statement (Level 4 only)
If the apprentice chooses to do a professional written statement, then the apprentices will then begin to write their professional written statement on EPA day 1 but the questions they need to cover are different from those in the professional discussion.
In order to think and write well reflectively, an apprentice must carefully consider what they’ve learned during their apprenticeship. Reflective writing involves a process of self-assessment that is effective when it’s supported by your development tasks within the portfolio.
The reflective statement is a piece of writing of between 2,000 and 3,000 words.
Listed below are some prompts for apprentices to consider. Over time, apprentices will become more aware of how they learn best, what types of tasks and methods they enjoy and do well in and which ones are more challenging.
Apprentices should cover these questions in their reflections:
- Briefly describe the project/assignment you have accomplished.
- What were you thinking and feeling at the time?
- List points or tell the story about what was good and what was bad about the experience
- What goals does the experience address and how is it related to/supported by specific evidence in the portfolio?
- What sense can you make out of the situation? What does it mean?
- What are the facts of this experience? Who was involved? What happened?
- How did the project connect to your understanding of the larger theme/learning objective/competency?
- What did you learn that surprised you?
- What else could you have done? What should you perhaps not have done?
- In a similar situation, what would you do differently?
- What challenged you? How did you meet the challenge?
Here are some more optional questions that could also be considered:
- What would you do differently if you had a chance to do this project again? Why?
- What have you discovered about yourself as an apprentice?
- How did this learning relate to your goals (personal, academic, or professional)?
- How have you grown as an apprentice during this apprenticeship?
Here is an example of a written statement:
The important thing to know about your written evidence
When the apprentices are answering the questions, whether they are doing a personal statement or a professional written statement they need to explain using comprehensive details, by linking the development task they have selected to use within and also linking courses they have attended to help them understand the work they have undertaken. During EPA day 1, the tutor will assist with this.
At the end of EPA day 1, the tutor will set a deadline for a draft version of the personal/written statement to be submitted. The tutor will review the written work and give detailed feedback, to which the apprentices must complete before attending day 2. The apprentices only get 1 draft, so they must take on board the feedback given by the tutor.
On EPA day 2, there is a Q&A session for the first hour about their written work. This gives the apprentices 1 final opportunity to make any final tweaks if needed and ensure that they have all the evidence ready for submission.
Once you and the tutor are happy, the full portfolio with all the supporting evidence is uploaded to the EPA platform, and a date for your professional discussion is then booked.
For apprentices completing the professional discussion, mock interviews are held in groups and on a 1-2-1 basis to discuss the questions asked so that you can feel more confident when completing your actual professional discussion with the independent assessor.
Results will be available up to 6 weeks after the professional discussion or submission of your written statement.
Once you have successfully received your results from both your synoptic exam and your portfolio of evidence, you have then completed your apprenticeship and your overall grade will be released.
by Lianne Kilbride – Tutor – FI Leeds