Avoid hitting the wall

March 2024

Nasheen Wuisman explains how setting out a study plan can save you from being overwhelmed by the size of the task ahead.

There may be times after you have made the commitment to register with CIMA and start studying that you may even wonder whether this step was the right step for you. The prospect of being CGMA qualified at this point may just be a dream. Study is a challenge, yet you still put yourself through it.

Why put yourself through it?

Because it gives you purpose – it gives you goals to work towards, and these goals are very important to us to feel fulfilled. The achievement will give you self-esteem and build your confidence, it creates opportunities and gives you prospects that you never had before. It allows you to dream and so… you work hard for it!

Does it come easy?

For some people yes, study comes quite easy, for others not so much – either way, everyone faces the monumental challenge of trying to get the balance right. Life, work, family, hobbies, holidays – and now study. To achieve what you have set out to it is important to be self-aware and make sure you focus on your emotional health. Your emotions can impact the way you learn and how efficient your study time is. We all face lack of motivation and find ourselves procrastinating and these create hurdles.

Do not cloud your head

When studying for an exam, the scale of the task can end up clouding your thoughts, and it can start to feel insurmountable – an understandable emotional response. Being too focused on the end goal is what is overwhelming, and it is hard to see your progression in the meantime. Break your big goal down into smaller goals. Set yourself frequent, shorter study sessions. Ones which are more realistic to fit into busy lives. Decide on what to focus on in each study session.

These sub-goals come round often, and witnessing your progression will give you the motivation you need to keep going when you find moving forward difficult.

Keep this plan updated as you progress. Make a list of topics and questions you would like to revisit. This list isn’t just a reminder, it’s a way of breaking down the tasks that would weigh on you mind, giving you the confidence to tackle them. Make sure this plan includes some down time. Expecting every waking moment to be spent studying will de-motivate you, is completely unrealistic, unhealthy and unnecessary. The occasional night off built into your plan is a necessity and try to savour them, to keep you in the right frame of mind to study.

Coping with negative emotions

A common challenge that any professional qualification will bring is that at some point you will come up against a topic that you really struggle with. That is no reflection on your ability, in fact it’s to be expected. After all, if becoming CGMA qualified was easy it wouldn’t be as valuable. Every CGMA student and qualified CGMA member has experienced this at some point – you are not alone! These difficult topics can often trigger negative emotions. You find yourself thinking you don’t get it and will never be able to get it.

This can put you off persevering and disrupt your progress. These emotional barriers are unavoidable, so let’s learn to deal with them. Understand that your response is normal – because it is. Then work on overcoming it. Some candidates become ultra determined – “I will get this, if it the last thing I do”. Others try to tackle the problem from a different angle, maybe by exploring a tricky topic resource or a YouTube video which could explain the topic in a different way.

Always remind yourself that in getting this far in your educational career you have found topics hard, and you have overcome them, mastered some even. And you will carry on doing that until you are CGMA qualified and beyond.

Overcoming the brick wall

You may well find (I certainly did!) that as you get closer to an exam, everything becomes that much more real and that much more daunting. It is all too easy for the feeling of “there is so much left to do” to become “I can’t do all of this”. Veer away from that. Always keep in mind how far you have come, and how close you are to where you want to be.

Remember, every topic you revisit takes you one step closer to exam success. A single step may feel small, but it doesn’t mean it’s insignificant. Now is the time to focus on the big goal, and how it’s going to change your life. Think about what being CGMA qualified will mean to you and use that to power through this period and achieve what you set out to do.

  • Nasheen Wuisman, Senior Manager of Global Academic Progression at AICPA & CIMA, together as the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants