Studying AAT units – more than one at the same time
With the AAT exams currently not available, many of you studying AAT have probably been advised by your tutors to prepare for more than one unit at a time during this lockdown period. The idea behind this being that it will stop you falling too far behind with your individual learning plan and you can then take a couple of exams in close succession after the lockdown. It should also prevent boredom (not that this should ever be an issue when studying accounting 😊). However, when studying AAT, you have been used to focusing on one exam at a time, the idea of sitting two or more exams in close succession might be quite daunting! I hope that some of the tips that follow might help you to plan for this approach.
Firstly, it is worth noting that it is not all that long ago that it was quite normal to be studying AAT and sitting two or more AAT exams at the same time – there were only two sittings available for the exams each year! Also, if you plan to use AAT as a stepping stone to further accountancy qualifications such as ACCA or ACA then it is quite usual to prepare for two or more exam papers at the same time so this is a good study skill to learn.
When discussing studying AAT with my learners, I have been advising them to, as far as a possible group of their papers so they are studying similar topic areas together. So, for level 3 this might be AVBK and FAPR which complement each other nicely or for level 4 this would be MABU and MCDL or Personal and Business tax if these are your elective units. Studying AAT units that complement each other can help to reinforce understanding and knowledge and also enable you to see the bigger picture in terms of how all aspects of accounting fit together. For example, if you are preparing the tax return of a sole-trader then you will need to be able to calculate their taxable profit from the trade (covered in Business Tax) and then use this in their tax computation to be able to calculate their income tax and national insurance contributions (covered in Personal Tax).
My second tip to my learners for studying AAT, is to focus on one unit which you will expect to be ‘exam ready’ by the time the exams reopen. This means you feel confident in all aspects of the unit and have completed all the prep tests, progress tests, practice assessments and AAT sample assessments available. The other unit should be kept at a stage where you are feeling confident on the material but still need perhaps a week or two to ensure you are ‘exam ready’. The idea behind this is it should stop you putting too much pressure on yourself for when the exams are available. Instead of thinking I have to be ready to take two or more exams in the week the exams are available you can instead still be only focusing on one exam but with the comfort of having another simmering in the background almost ready to go!
Thirdly, set out a study plan and be realistic with what you can achieve each day. You can either focus on one unit on each day you plan to study or break up each day so that you spend half your time on one unit and a half on the other. This will depend on your individual preference and how easy you find it to move on from one topic to the other.
Finally, I know many learners studying AAT have been struggling without the pressure of an exam in the diary to motivate them. When I talk to my students who feel like this, I ask them to expand their lens a little and focus instead on the bigger picture – studying AAT with a view to completion of their qualification. All the ILP’s have a target completion date, if you do nothing during this period of lockdown then you get no closer to your end date; if you continue to study and use the gift of time you have been given then you move closer to achieving your qualification. If your dream is to add MAAT to your name and your CV or to use AAT as a stepping stone to ACA, ACCA or CIMA, then you are moving ever closer to that dream with the study you do now…….doing nothing, just because there was no exam to focus on just pushes your dream further into the distance.
P.S. Have you seen the latest guidance from the AAT about remote invigilation and calculated results for two qualifications? If not, you can read more about it here, and also our response to this here.
Written by Sally Antrobus