How do I study?

April 2023

Karen Groves outlines the best way to approach your studies.

One of the first questions you probably ask yourself, is where to begin, and how to approach your studies.

Many of my students over the years will have heard me discussing how you can use a SWOT analysis to help as a starting point, and then getting them to draw this out.

A SWOT analysis will help you identify:

  • Strengths – what are you good at?
  • Weaknesses – what are you not so good at?
  • Opportunities – what career opportunities will further study provide you?
  • Threats – what may stop you achieving your goal?

A ‘strength’ might be that you are really good at double entry bookkeeping, which will help you with any bookkeeping units.

A ‘weakness’ might be that you find certain topics challenging, so to overcome this you will need to allow yourself more time to study these units.

An ‘opportunity’ could be that you are looking at changing job roles, and by completing the course, will put you in a stronger position to secure that dream job.

A ‘threat’ might be family commitments you have, that could prevent you having the time to study. By preparing a SWOT analysis you would address this and look at possible solutions, for example, having a set time each day/week to study when you aren’t disturbed.

Preparing a SWOT analysis will help you to come up with a plan of action. If you are unable to attend an onsite college course, then distance learning would be a great option for you, as this is flexible and fits around your other commitments.

Your study goals will be both short, medium, and long term and each should have a specific target, for example, this year you want to complete the AAT Level 2 qualification. As part of your goals, you will need to have effective time management in place to enable you to complete the required study hours.

It is important to re-evaluate your SWOT analysis at every level of your studies. By taking this approach, you are identifying factors that may hinder your studies, and potentially stop you achieving what you have set out to achieve.

I also find it reduces stress levels, as you are identifying these factors before you commence your studies, so you must address these early on, rather than realising six months into your study course, and then wishing you had drawn up a study plan timetable to ensure you had ‘study time’ scheduled.

Once you have carried out your SWOT analysis, then it is time to actually start studying!
So, where do you start … This will depend on several factors, for example, the training provider or college you are studying with, or you might be purely distance learning with no tutor support.

Irrelevant of what subject or level you are studying, the approach will be very similar. Once you have completed the first exam or two, you will soon get into the swing of what works well for you, as we are all different in what suits us.

I will base my ‘how to study’, on AAT courses.

My advice to our students at e-Careers is to use a mix of the resources you have access to, for example, in the tuition stage, work through our online study content, join live sessions, or watch the recordings, refer to the Kaplan study texts, including all questions and Question Banks. When you come to the revision stage, you should be completing online assignments, joining or watching back live exam preparation sessions, and working through the AAT practice assessments. This will ensure you are exam ready, and you will know the format of your AAT assessment to be taken at the exam centre.

Regardless of how you are studying, you will be able to apply the above, as you will have access to study books and the AAT Lifelong Learning portal.

For revision, I always used to make an A4 page of notes for every chapter during my ACCA studies, as I found the sheer volume of content could be very overwhelming. By condensing it right down, helped me to also establish areas I needed to re-visit. The very last thing I looked at before going to take the exam, would be the Kaplan pocket notes. You can create your own study cards, or if you do have a set of pocket notes for the course you are studying, make extra notes on these as that can also help.

I think my final word of advice would be that you must want to achieve and do well. If you are not in the right frame of mind to study, you will find excuses as to why you can’t study, which in turn will lead to not achieving. I found the ACCA FM unit very difficult, as I worked in practice at the time. I would convince myself that rather than studying, I should clean the oven, iron, garden, or anything else that would seem a reasonable excuse for not doing what I should be doing, i.e., getting my head down and studying.

Needless to say, the exam took a few attempts, so lesson learnt!

View studying as a positive factor, whilst it will be very time consuming, once completed, you can then secure the job you have always wanted.

  • Karen Groves is an AAT tutor and Faculty Director of Accounting at e-Careers