Studying an accountancy course at home can be challenging. For some students, it means they have no divide between their home life and studies and it can be difficult to motivate yourself and plan your time. We talked to our team to get their advice on setting up, planning and retaining the knowledge gained whilst studying at home.
How to set up to study an accountancy course at home.
If you’re studying for an accountancy course at home, it’s crucial that you plan your time. You can help make your study sessions more effective by building routines and habits.
- Study at the same time each day and each week. Building a predictable habit helps train your brain to know when it is ‘learning time’. It is also a good way to structure your time while you are in lock-down.
- Study in the same place, ideally a tidy desk in a quiet part of your house or flat.
- Wear the same clothing when you study, like a comfortable jumper and leggings.
- Ensure you focus whilst studying by putting devices out of reach (except your calculator!). This way, social media won’t distract you. Also, ask others in your household to leave you alone for an hour or two.
- Study for manageable chunks for time, no more than 90 minutes at a time, taking a few minutes break every half-an-hour.
- Use post-it notes to note down the key elements of a topic, or a key calculation, equation or ratio and stick them up around your study area.
- Some students find using mind-maps a very handy way to organize their knowledge into a visual representation (Mind Maps)
- Once you are finished each study session reward yourself with a treat.
The Three Stages of Learning
There are three distinct phases to preparing for exams. To tackle an accountancy paper, you’ll need to go through all three stages. This does not necessarily need to be at the same time and the different phases can be worked on in different weeks or months:
1. Learning Phase
The initial period of working through the content of a new syllabus to familiarise yourself with the various topics covered. This could involve:
- Reading course notes and textbooks.
- Attending Virtual Classroom courses.
- Writing out ‘cheat sheet’ summary cards.
- Memorising any formula or equations needed.
- If you have a tutor to support you make sure you are asking them if you need help with any topics.
- Discussing areas with a ‘study buddy’ or try to answer other students questions on online forums.
- Most importantly, attempting plenty of lecture examples and practice questions to start getting used to the calculations and other approaches required.
For most papers, the Learning Phase will take students 4 to 6 weeks.
For some papers, the Learning Phase might require a refresher of ‘assumed knowledge’ from prior studies. For example, Financial Reporting papers normally assume that you have covered the material from more basic Bookkeeping and Financial Accounting papers. It can be worthwhile digging out old notes and texts and spending a week or two reminding yourself of what you have already seen before getting stuck into the new unit.
2. Revision Phase
Once you have finished covering the content of the syllabus it’s time to ensure that you are comfortable with it and that you can apply all that new-found syllabus knowledge to the sort of questions you can expect to see in the real exam. This would involve:
- Going back to each technical topic in the paper and reviewing your summary notes and ‘cheat sheets’. You can even summarise your summaries!
- Attempting more challenging practice questions in the style of what you might see in the real exam.
- Submit work to be looked at by a training provider, particularly in any more narrative discursive requirements where it can be harder to judge how good your answer is. Feedback from an experienced tutor can be extremely valuable in building your confidence.
- Reading examiner’s reports that are available as these can guide you to the areas that you need to be careful of.
The Revision Phase will probably take 2 to 4 weeks before moving to the final:
3. Rehearsal Phase
This would happen in the last week or two before sitting the real assessment, and would involve:
- Practising several full mock assessments rather than just individual questions on separate topics.
- Giving yourself the same amount of time that you will have in the real thing, no more and no less.
- Not looking at the model solutions until you have finished your entire paper.
- Once your time is up making sure that you debrief each part of the paper to fully understand any areas you found difficult. Have another go at any questions you struggled with.
We would suggest that students don’t start their Rehearsal Phase until the last 2 or 3 weeks before the real exam as you don’t want to peak too early and use up all of the available mock exams. However, in the meantime, they can do a great job over the coming weeks of covering the Learning and Rehearsal phases. If you’d like to, you could cover more than one paper by blending these three stages to prepare for 2 or 3 exams in September. If you’re thinking of sitting more than one paper, you’ll find useful advice here.
A few Top Tips for improving your memory
- Make sure that you get plenty of rest, sleep and relaxation.
- Make sure that you take regular exercise.
- Hydration is critical so drink plenty of water each day.
- Make sure that you fuel your brain effectively with a balanced diet including plenty of fresh fruit and veg.
- Nuts and dried fruit are a great study snack.
Many of our students continue to work whilst studying and may be based solely at home for the first time in their career. To help, we’ve put together some Top Tips for Working at Home.
Find out more about the accountancy paper we offer for these qualifications: