How to study for difficult exams!

The Financial Statements unit is known to be one of the most difficult exams to pass at AAT level 4. However we have had some exceptional passes for this unit recently, and we thought it would be useful to hear some of our student’s study tips when studying challenging units.

MSc Professional Accountancy

How to study for difficult exams!

The Financial Statements unit is known to be one of the most difficult exams to pass at AAT level 4. However we have had some exceptional passes for this unit recently, and we thought it would be useful to hear some of our student’s study tips when studying challenging units.

Meet Sarah Carter, one of our AAT distance learning students who achieved 100% in her Financial Statements exam! Sarah has kindly shared her background into accountancy and her top 3 study tips for exam success.

“After hitting 31, I decided I wanted a change in career. So I decided to go for it and return to learning after 15 years, with the aim of bettering myself. I had procrastinated for several years beforehand, self-doubt and fear of failure had stopped me from trying.

I am so happy I finally plucked up the courage to enroll onto an accountancy course with First Intuition. It has given me the confidence boost I needed and I have proven to myself that I can achieve whatever I put my mind to!

The beauty of studying my accountancy course online is that I am able to study in my own time at home whilst working full time.  I didn’t have to tell anyone either, just in case I failed! Whilst studying level 2 with no practical experience, I revamped my CV and started applying for a new job. It took months and countless applications before a small business was willing to give me a chance. I have now been with them for 20 months and couldn’t be happier.

The AAT qualification has opened up so many opportunities and done wonders for my self-confidence. I have a whole new enthusiasm for work! I enjoy my job and putting my new found knowledge into good use. You can gain wonderful things from this an AAT course, it takes a lot of dedication and hard work but you get out of it what you put in to it!

Sarah’s personal top 3 study tips are:

1. Lay the foundations:

“I take my time reading through the unit, I am wanting to learn and use this knowledge in my career – not just pass an exam and forget it! I am a strong believer in if you understand the why and learn the how, then it will be much easier to remember. It will also help your overall knowledge and understanding.

If I am struggling on a particular area, I will watch the pre-recorded lectures on MyFi. This is especially important at level 2, as you are laying down the foundations to progress onto further studies. I make sure I exhaust all of First Intuition’s invaluable materials and take full advantage of the AAT study support.”

2. Make it stick:

“After reading and practicing the whole unit, I will make additional notes on the areas I found more challenging. I write them as if I am trying to explain it to myself in my own words, focusing on the most important areas.

I have found you have to be disciplined and not leave long gaps between studying. This way you keep the new information fresh in your mind, which makes studying easier. I struggled to get back into the habit of studying after taking a 3 month gap between levels 3&4. This advice is particularly important at level 4, as there is so much to remember for each unit. The only way to keep all the information fresh in your mind is to keep going over it all.

Once I have booked the exam, I create index cards of the key information and read them in bed each night. Apparently you retain information better straight before you go to sleep!”

3. Passing the exam:

“I take my time to understand the material and never book the exam until I am confident I will pass, it’s not a race. In the week leading up to the exam I up my study time to weekday evenings in addition to the weekend days I normally study. I will have already reviewed the mapping document, qualification specification and examiner’s report to help focus on key areas. These are all available on the AAT website, use them! I always compare my written answers to the suggested answers and try and pick out the key points they are looking for and use them next time. Asking for your tutor’s feedback on these questions is also very useful.

On exam day I like to have the day off work and book in the afternoon so I am not rushing round and leave plenty of time to get there. I review my notes but don’t do any mocks as I don’t want to knock my confidence by getting something wrong, or use up too much brain power! If there is a lot to remember, like ratios, I spill them onto the blank paper before I start the exam. I also take an energy drink in to avoid a dip, especially as the exams get longer throughout the qualification. I try to take a little sit back and deep breath between questions to stay calm and focused. Afterwards don’t forget to reward your achievements after all your hard work!”

If you are interested in studying AAT online, please visit our distance learning page for more information.

For more information on our study options, please click here.

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