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  • Joint 1st in the world - secrets to success

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 26, 2020

    We’re so proud of our student, Krupa Nandha, for being joint 1st in the world for her CIMA Strategic Case Study results. We asked her how she managed the exam, her tips for students, and plans for the future.

    Hi Krupa - congratulations! Tell us about receiving your results. How was that?

    I simply got the news in an email, it was a complete surprise. It’s a pretty cool achievement, you never think that with exams, I just hoped to pass it.

    Where are you based? What do you do?

    I’m based in London and work as a commercial finance analyst at TUI, the travel company. They put me through the CIMA course as it’s a requirement for my role.

    Which study method did you choose?

    I did Classroom for most of it, and a few modules OnDemand. I really liked going into classrooms for case studies especially. They’re so subjective and often complex. It’s great to discuss ideas with other people on your course as it helps you understand everything better.

    Discussions really helped my ideas and were a part of why I was successful.

    CIMA is more focussed on business and how finance works in a business

    Why did you mix up the study methods?

    It just depended on availability of the courses, although Classroom is always my preferred choice. However I’m not missing waking up on a Sunday to go to class!

    I did all 3 levels with Kaplan, over 3 years. I did my first level in a year, but Management level took longer because I was based elsewhere due to things going on in my personal life. I did the Strategic level in 8 months, as I just wanted it to be over and done with.

    Why CIMA?

    Most companies offer a choice between CIMA or ACCA, but CIMA is more focussed on business and how finance works in a business, rather than lots of technicalities on how to put accounts together.

    The qualification is a great stepping stone onto the next stage of my career. I can’t progress far without having the CIMA qualification when it comes to management accounting.

    The course is very useful if you’re going to work in accountancy as it’s very important to understand the standards and principles. The analytical skills and problem solving skills that you develop on the course are really useful for the role. These skills will benefit you in the long run, even if you don’t think you’re using them right away.

    What are the secrets to your success?

    A good work/life balance. I’m working full time alongside my course, so it’s a challenge to fit my CIMA studies around my lifestyle. I expected CIMA to take up a lot of my time, but I wasn’t quite expecting the sacrifices that I’d have to make. When all of my friends were making exciting plans for the weekend, I had to go home and study!

    So that was hard. I couldn’t go out on a Friday night. In between exams I had to make even more of an effort. But I made sure to plan a holiday around the time of each exam as a reward.

    These skills will benefit you in the long run, even if you don’t think you’re using them right away.

    Any advice for future students?

    Discipline is really important. If you’re working like me, you often have to sacrifice your evenings and spare time. So it’s important to do little, and often, to make sure you’re not cramming. It’s so much easier to understand the course and perform to your best when you spread it out and give yourself enough time to study for a subject and break it all down.

    Lots of practice questions - that’s the key. It’s really important to become familiar with the type and style of questions if you want to do your best. So take advantage of all the practice questions and spend time perfecting your technique for answering them.

    And for the Case Study itself - any tips?

    Be really familiar with the case study itself. Think of it not as a techy thing but more like if you were running the business and how would you do it. Try not to segregate the bits because you will be required to draw on knowledge from Management and Operational levels too.

    Don’t solely focus on being too specific as you need to have a wider understanding. Do as many practise questions as you can - that's what made a difference. There are no ways to cut corners.

    This level is more focussed on the strategic, bigger picture, and more about the real world and how practical stuff is. At Strategic level the questions can be broader, so you need more initiative, and working knowledge, to pass it.

    What does the future look like for you now?

    I’ve finished CIMA now and I’m looking to progress to the next role in Accounting. It could be an internal or an external move, I’m just figuring it out.

    We wish Krupa the very best of luck in her accounting career, and congratulations again for the fantastic exam results.

    If you’ve been inspired by Krupa, and want to find out more about CIMA, we have plenty of information about it on our CIMA course pages.

  • Getting back on track - studying ACCA after a break

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 19, 2020

    ACCA Regional Head of Education, John Cunningham, and Kaplan tutor Grace Hodgetts delivered a webinar aimed at helping ACCA students get back on track after a break in their studies.

    Over 200 people listened in and took part in the question and answer session. Here we’ve summarised the main points for you.

    Motivation

    Think back to when you first started studying. What was your reason for doing the course? Has anything changed? And do you still feel the same now as you did back then.

    Grace took a poll and found:

    Webinar poll results - What motivated you to study ACCA?

    Career progression - 60.9%

    A desire to work in finance - 21.7%

    Job security and good salary - 40.6%

    Other - 1.4% - including: I wanted to get a degree, I need more security in my career

    So as you can see, most people decided to study ACCA to progress their career, for more job security and for a good salary.

    This is what you need to revisit. Your motivation will get you through it. Look back at why you wanted to do it in the first place. It’s easy to forget why you’re doing it. Just because it’s been a while since you last sat an exam, don’t give up now. Your goal is still possible if you just remind yourself of your initial motivation.

    Getting back on track

    Have a think about when you want to sit your next exam. It’s always better to do it sooner rather than later, whilst the information you’ve learnt is still fresh.

    Webinar poll - When are you likely to sit your next exam?

    0-3 months - 41.6%

    4-6 months - 45.5%

    7-12 months - 9.1%

    Over 12 months - 3.9%

    Most people wanted to sit their next exam in the next six months - which is great. Most people are keen to get back on track. If you’re delaying because you’re nervous or concerned that you don’t have the knowledge, the sooner you get back on it the better. Pull together a good study plan and all the resources needed for the exam.

    As long as you have planned there’s no reason you can’t take the exam within the next 6 months. Get it done - finish the qualification and reap the awards. Don’t be afraid to book your exam sooner rather than later. If you make a commitment, it’s harder to back out, and easier to focus on.

    What route should you take?

    Grace focused on those who have completed Applied Skills and are yet to do Strategic Professional.

    Strategic Professional is made up of 4 exams - 2 compulsory and 2 optional.

    The compulsory exams are Strategic Business Leader (SBL) and Strategic Business Reporting (SBR).

    The optional exams are Advanced Financial Management (AFM), Advanced Performance Management (APM), Advanced Taxation (ATX-UK), and Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA)

    Grace advises that you do SBR first, especially if you’re choosing to do tax or audit as an optional exam. You will learn the essentials in SBR first, to help boost your confidence and knowledge.

    And she says to do SBL last, as all the technical information you learn earlier on will be vital for this exam. But she also says you can do the exams in any order that you like - whatever suits you best.

    No matter what options you choose, you will need to do Ethics and Professional Skills, and it’s best to do this module first, as ACCA have discovered that students who do EPSM first are 25% more likely to pass SBL.

    It’s an online module delivered via your MyACCA portal and should take you around 20 hours to complete. There is some great content in there relating to the Strategic Professional subjects you will go on to study, so it really is the best introduction to this level.

    Which sittings should I do?

    So you can take your exams in four sittings, or less,each year, it’s up to you. However keep in mind your time restraints and how much you are able to study before an exam.

    If you do 4 sittings you’ll always be studying. There will be little time for a break and recovery between exams. But it does mean you’ll get to focus on 1 subject at a time.

    If you do 2 sittings you’ll get a break between them, but you may lose motivation between the exams. You will also probably want to do 2 subjects at the same time to get qualified quickly, which means careful planning to balance your studies over two syllabi.

    Did you know?

    According to ACCA’s most recent global survey, 96% of employers think ACCA is a respected qualification.

    Study plans and progress

    Grace set the next question to see why people have slowed down, and why they are in the position where they find themselves having to get back on track. As we know, accountants want everything to be perfect, but sometimes it doesn’t work like that.

    Webinar poll - If your progress has slowed, why do you think that is?

    Not having time to study - 66.2%

    Studying is too expensive - 16.9%

    The subject is too difficult - 29.9%

    Other - 19.5% - volume of information, I’m a perfectionist, lack of motivation

    Grace pointed out that accountants want everything to be 100% perfect - but you only need 50% to pass these exams!

    Focusing on “not having time to study” here are some tips:

    Make a study plan

    • Set goal and target dates for your study
      • Start with your exam date
      • List all the tasks
      • Block our times you can’t study
      • Slot the tasks into your plan
    • Online calendars - access your plan anytime/anywhere
    • Consider your exemptions - you may need more time to brush up on your assumed knowledge - extra revision might be needed. Check what knowledge you should have before you sit the exam.
    • Be honest and realistic with yourself - you’re less likely to go off track.

    Set what date you want to sit the exam, and work backwards. List out all the tasks that you need to complete in the weeks you have between now and then. Make sure you have up to date materials, especially if you’re resitting. Just double check that you have the right syllabus for the exam you’re sitting.

    List out any assessments, mocks, and tests you want to complete and by when.

    Be honest in the times you can’t study. Block them out of your calendar straight away.

    Use your calendar like it’s your professional one. If you have a study slot, treat it as a business meeting - you have to attend.

    Timings

    Grace’s advice is to give yourself 12 weeks before an exam. 4-5 weeks to absorb the knowledge, 2-3 weeks to start on questions and how to apply your knowledge, and then 3-4 weeks for final practice timed questions, using the CBE software, marking answers, and understanding where you’ve gone wrong.


    Essentially the top advice is to just get started - the sooner the better!

    One participant posed a question during this section: How long should I study? It is very personal. Some people will work an hour or 2 a day, some will work 6 hours on a weekend day.

    It really depends on what works for you. Don’t overestimate what you can do in a day. And remember to take breaks to rejuvenate and give your brain time to absorb the new information.

    Exam confidence - technique and tips

    Understand the verbs used in the exam questions - what are they asking you to do? i.e: are they asking you to name something? Simply name it - and it will probably be worth half a mark. Do they want you to explain or describe? You need to identify a term, and then give more detail - this would probably be 1 or more marks. Make sure you understand what they want eg: Critically discuss = disadvantages of something, not the advantages.

    Read examiners’ reports and articles from the examining team - this will help you find out what they’re looking for, and what pitfalls other students have made.

    Practice, practice, practice - and read the instructions carefully. You don’t want to set off writing about something that isn’t relevant.

    Try marking your own answers - learn where the easy marks come from, and find out what sort of questions trip you up the most.

    Computer based exams - make sure you’ve practiced doing them on the software that is used. It’s very different doing exams on the computer than on paper. The ACCA student support section has all the guidance about computer based exams, and videos showing how to use the software and what to expect.

    Summary

    Remember the motivation you had at the beginning of your ACCA journey. There must have been a reason to do the qualification. Focus on that and get going. Don’t put it off any longer.

    If you’re ready to commit to an exam, book your ACCA exam now and get back on track. Best of luck.

  • How does CPD work for AAT?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 19, 2020

    Continuing Professional Development, or CPD for short, is an essential part of any career. You need to keep on learning and evolving as the world changes. And it’s vital in the fast changing world of finance.

    By doing AAT CPD it allows you to keep your skills and knowledge up to date with any relevant changes within the industry. It also shows clients and prospective employers that you’re up to date on all Accountancy practices, you are driven, you’re organised, and that you set high standards for yourself.

    Who needs to record CPD hours?

    Every full and fellow AAT member has to do CPD. The only people who are exempt are those who have retired and will not be returning to work.

    What qualifies as CPD?

    There are four different types of CPD for AAT. These are:

    • Work-based learning - including coaching or mentoring from colleagues or specialists, work shadowing, being a representative on a committee, or expanding your job role.
    • Professional activity - attending local AAT branch meetings, networking, career events, mentoring or conference and relevant events.
    • Formal/educational - taking a course, attending a seminar, undertaking an e-learning course, writing papers, or doing research.
    • Self-directed learning - webinars, listening to podcasts, volunteering, reading and research.


    How do I record CPD?

    It’s your responsibility to track and record all of your CPD activities, but AAT have made it simple with their online CPD record tool, accessible via your AAT account. You can also download free online templates if you don’t want to use the online tool.

    It doesn’t have to be complicated, just as long as you evidence the area for development, activities planned to meet this, date completed, and the hours that count towards CPD.

    Interested in AAT?

    If you’re interested in the AAT qualification, and want to learn more, check out our AAT pages for more information.

  • Resilience - good for success and coping with setbacks

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 17, 2020

    Throughout your life, you’ll face challenges, whether in your personal or professional life.

    Some challenges can lead to positive outcomes (like a promotion); others can be more difficult to overcome (like failure in exams or assignments). Resilience is an important life skill, which can help you handle adversity and thrive inside and outside the workplace.

    You may be naturally resilient and change may not affect you. On the other hand, if something unexpected happens, it could throw you off track. Building resilience and managing your response to change could be the answer.

    What is resilience?

    It’s being able to withstand stress and cope with problems and setbacks. This means having an ability to learn from experience and to come back stronger. Rather than letting negative problems get in their way, resilient people use their resolve to create a positive outcome.

    Psychologists have identified factors that form a resilient person, among them are: a positive attitude, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback.

    How to become more resilient

    To build your resilience you need to address all elements of your wellbeing, both physical and mental. We list 5 ways to do this.

    1. Mindset is key

    The worst way to manage change is to avoid it and bury your head in the sand. Recognise that you have a choice. You can choose how to react (in a positive or negative way) and whether you should accept this situation.

    Making no choice is a choice in itself, allowing other people or events to decide for you.

    Remind yourself of your strengths

    2. ‘Be’ resilient

    A key characteristic of resilience is an understanding that change and setbacks are a part of life.

    Resilient people view difficulty simply as a ‘challenge’. They look at their failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from, and as opportunities for growth.

    While we cannot avoid these, we can remain open, flexible and willing to adapt to change. Self-esteem plays an important role in recovering from difficult events. Remind yourself of your strengths and be confident in your ability to respond and deal with the setbacks you’ll encounter.

    3. Exercise

    Evidence shows that physical activity has a massive benefit on mental health.

    Making time for it 2 or 3 times per week will help you feel healthier and happier in yourself, and give you the energy to tackle issues head on. This is key to do it when you’re learning, as you’re managing your stress levels, and the expectations of others, while soaking up new information.

    If you’re feeling stressed and think nothing is going in, try 30 minutes of physical activity and then come back to your studies later. You may find this break improves your concentration,productivity and makes you feel calmer when you start again.

    Feeling well-rested improves energy levels

    4. Sleep

    Another aspect you can focus on when building resilience is your sleep pattern. Feeling well-rested improves energy levels, concentration and mood. If sleep is something you struggle with and don’t think you can do without, try creating an evening routine.

    You could cut out screen time an hour before bed, avoid heavy meals within 3 hours of going to sleep, reduce your alcohol intake or reduce caffeine consumption after 3pm.

    5. You are what you eat

    You can easily adapt your diet to increase resilience.

    It has been proven that some foods can reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress.

    For example, low levels of zinc are associated with anxiety (which you may experience during exam time). Eating more cashew nuts can address this, while magnesium, found in sweet potatoes, can help you relax.

    Making sure you get a minimum of your 5-a-day, reducing your caffeine intake and cutting down on alcohol will all help to improve your wellbeing.

    This blog is a joint collaboration between Kaplan and CABA, the charity supporting the wellbeing of chartered accountants and their families, drawing on their experience and expertise.

    For more information about how to ‘Boost your resilience’ visit the CABA site.

  • We’re looking for the best accountants in the UK

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 10, 2020

    We’re on the hunt for talented accountants to enter the Accountancy Technician Skills Competition in 2020.

    In conjunction with WordSkills UK, we’ve launched the first official National Accounting competition designed to reflect the role of an Accountant, and the standards that are expected in the world of finance.

    The competition will take the format of a set business case study with accompanying tasks and assessments to be done in the given time period.

    Competitors will have to demonstrate the following skills throughout the regional qualifying rounds and final competition:

    • Technical competence and commercial acumen
    • Ethics and professionalism
    • Professional scepticism
    • Analytical and critical thinking
    • Teamwork and communication

    We know that we have incredibly talented apprentices and students at Kaplan, so we want them to show off what they know to the rest of the country. There will be students from many different training providers, so it’s a great opportunity to meet others and share knowledge.

    If you’re successful and make it through the National Qualifiers, taking place between April and June 2020, you will then go on to the National Finals held at WorldSkills UK LIVE.

    WorldSkills UK LIVE is the UK’s largest skills, apprenticeships and careers event which takes place 19 to 21 November at the NEC, Birmingham.

    We'll be hosting heats in our Reading centre over 23-25 June. Other heat locations may be announced before the registration deadline of 2 April.

    We hope apprentices and students alike will see this as an opportunity to display their talents to the rest of the country and compete to be recognised as the best young accounting minds in the country.

    Richard Marsh, Apprenticeship Partnership Director, Kaplan

    Entry requirements

    If you’re interested in entering the competition you need to make sure you’re aware of the following criteria:

    • This is a team competition
    • There is a maximum of 3 people per team (minimum 2 people per team)
    • There is a limit of one team, per organisation that can be entered to each National Qualifier location
    • There is no age limit for this competition
    • This competition is intended for those studying, training and/or working in the accountancy sector. As such, you must be familiar with the core competencies listed above, and meet at least one of the following criteria: undertaking a Level 4 apprenticeship or higher; equivalent qualification (e.g. HND in Accounting); or have completed one these within the past 18 months.

    We’re really excited to see what our students can do, and we encourage everyone to take part. It’s a great way to find out just how much you’ve learnt, and show people the skills it takes to be an accountant.

    If you’d like to take part you’ll need to register on the WordSkills UK website. Registration closes on 2 April 2020. Good luck!

  • Across the board: Best in the world winners for ACCA and CIMA

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 10, 2020

    Following the recent results taken from the 2019 ACCA and CIMA exams, our students have achieved an unprecedented number of first in the worlds.

    Three of the students were prizewinners from the December 2019 ACCA sitting, and three more were from the November 2019 CIMA case study exams. The latter covering all three levels.

    This is a testament to the grit, determination, and ability shown by our students up and down the country. Also, we shouldn’t forget the contributions of our dedicated tutors, support services and study methods - in our centres and online.

    Our goal is to make a difference to every learner - whether that's helping students who struggle to get over the pass mark, or those high-performing students to be the best they can be

    Zoe Robinson, Director of Learning, Kaplan UK

    At Kaplan, we strive to deliver the best possible training and support to our students. There is no better proof of this than through the performance of our students in their exams.

  • Women in accountancy - Interview with Director of Learning

    by Kieron McDonnell | Mar 04, 2020

    There are many women in accountancy, at all levels - despite some lingering and out-dated perceptions. In this piece our Director of Learning shares her experience of gender equality within the sector, over the past couple of decades.

    Hi Zoe. Can you describe your role at Kaplan?

    After 17 years at Kaplan, my current role involves being responsible for our company’s strategy around teaching and learning. I also oversee all of our course design, how we support students through their learning, and our online learning platforms. So I’m pretty busy!

    The Instructional Design Team are part of my team and are responsible for making sure our learning content is as engaging and motivating as it can be. So, in a nutshell, my teams design the way we deliver the learning.

    What’s an average day or week for you?

    I’ll usually spend a couple of days in London, a couple of days working from home, and one day working from one of our training centres. It’s a good work-life balance, which is ideal as I have two teenage boys. I always wanted to work in London but this way I get the best of both worlds as I live ‘up North’!

    In my day to day, I spend quite a lot of time in meetings, also looking at trends and innovations in education. I often liaise with many teams across the business and outside of it.

    Back to the beginning….did you always want to go into accountancy?

    Yes, I always wanted to be an accountant (I know!). After studying Economics at Uni I trained to be a Chartered Accountant at PwC, where I worked for 8 years.

    While I was there, I started to get involved with the training side of things - external training, and exam training. At the time I worked alongside Kaplan to support the new PwC trainees so I saw all the training happening, but from the employer’s side.

    Though my official role was Audit Manager, I quickly found that I preferred the training side of things. With accountancy, you develop such a broad skill-set that you often find you can fall into different roles very easily.

    How was it as a woman working in the industry back then? Did it feel male dominated?

    I consider myself lucky as I’ve never felt that being a woman has professionally brought about any disadvantages.

    For me, quite thankfully, it’s never been an issue. I’ve had a good number of discussions with my step-mum about this, because back in the day when she was building her career in banking, as a woman she had to fight to be accepted.

    So I recognise that I have been lucky and I’m in no way looking to undermine other women’s experiences.

    However, I did experience the odd little quirk, that just seems old fashioned now. When I first started at PwC, women weren’t allowed to wear trousers. This was in 1995, but by ‘98 that all changed. We could rock the trousers from that point on!

    But at PwC, even back then, it was pretty mixed and well balanced between the sexes. There was a consistent promotion process, based on merit.

    And at Kaplan, we’re similarly progressive. The leadership team is very balanced, with complete transparency.

    I am very lucky that sexism hasn’t really affected my career.
    What was your career path at Kaplan?

    When I eventually made the jump to Kaplan I started as a tutor, and soon ended up looking after the PwC students from the other side. After around 5 years I moved onto the content side of things for a few years - writing the text books and course material for case study and financial management exams.

    Eventually I moved into product and became a product manager and then Head of Product Management - until the final move into the leadership team.

    Have you seen a change in landscape? Are there more or less women passing through our courses?

    I see little change with things at Kaplan. It’s always been quite balanced.

    Having said that, the evolution of flexible working here has - for our students and staff - been a massive positive and something I’ve taken full advantage of.

    I feel that the option to work from home has truly opened doors for many women at this company.

    When I moved into content it was a remote job, so I could work from home regularly. This was ideal as I had two small children at the time so it allowed me to effectively balance their needs with my work. It meant I didn’t have to drop my hours and work part time.

    I had flexibility, it was great. I could put the kids to bed and then resume work. At Kaplan we see more and more of that sort of arrangement. We have roles here that are suited to stay at home parents.

    This is also reflected with the study options we offer our students, as with something like OnDemand it allows people to effectively balance their study with their personal lives.

    With OnDemand, Distance Learning or Live Online, we’ve really opened the accountancy profession to many more people. It’s more accessible for those looking for a change. We’re always happy to help people find a route into a rewarding career.

  • Women in Accountancy - Former student, now Mazars Audit Director

    by Kieron McDonnell | Mar 04, 2020

    We catch up with Charlene Lancaster to find out how her career has progressed in a relatively short space of time, and to hear her thoughts on being a woman in accountancy.

    Hi Charlene, tell us about your current career.

    I’m a Director within the audit team at Mazars, Manchester.

    I joined Mazars as a graduate trainee, 9 and a half years ago, and now I’m coming up to the big 10. Mazars has always been the right cultural fit for me, with a firm full of good people. Auditing is fast paced and at times can be high-pressured, so having a great team is very important.

    I’m someone who thrives in an environment where there is plenty of variety and new challenges, so audit is perfect. I know it sounds a little cliché but in my job there are rarely 2 days the same.

    The accountancy profession attracts so many different types of people (and characters).

    I get the opportunity to travel with my job, which I love. The majority of my business travel is within the UK, however in the last 12 months I have travelled to China, Milan, Vienna and Barcelona for work and allowed myself some time for sightseeing.

    Reality vs expectation

    Before starting my career in audit and accountancy, my expectation mirrored how popular media portrays accountants: number crunchers and dare I say a bit boring (I think we have Monty Python to blame for this).

    But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The accountancy profession attracts so many different types of people (and characters). From my own experience at Mazars, the office has a real buzz about it; I think it helps that around 50% of the Mazars UK staff are under 30.

    Did you always want to go into accountancy?

    No. I grew up wanting to be a lawyer, with a brief stint of wanting to be a Dolphin trainer. During my time at University I took a law module and discovered it wasn’t for me. It was totally different to my perception, which admittedly was largely shaped by a childhood obsession with the film Legally Blonde. True story.

    I studied Geography at the University of Manchester. As many people studying Geography will tell you, many people would say, ‘Geography, what are you going to do with a Geography degree? Will you go in to teaching or... become a weather girl.’

    I am not knocking either of those as credible professions, but Geographers in my experience get such a diverse range of experiences that they crop up in all walks of life.

    I graduated from University in 2010, when the UK was recovering from a recession - it was not the best time to look for an entry level job. When I was weighing up what options were open to me, I saw that the top accountancy firms all had graduate opportunities open.

    My Dad is an accountant, so I quizzed him on it and thought, OK, this sounds like something I could do.

    So I applied for a graduate job at Mazars and was fortunate to get a place.

    The variety and pace that a career in audit brings means there is rarely a dull moment.
    What was your career path?

    I have spent my whole career in audit. This might sound a little dull and linear, but the variety and pace that a career in audit brings means there is rarely a dull moment.

    My training contract with Mazars saw me studying and working towards the ICAEW’s ACA qualification, which is typically completed as part of a three year training contract.

    Three years later, I started developing towards my next challenge of taking on a manager role. I progressed quickly within the firm and was promoted to Audit Director in 2018.

    Three pieces of advice I would give someone looking to progress in their chosen career:

    • Find the right organisation for you. You can normally get a sense of this from the people you meet as part of the recruitment process, but don’t be afraid to move on if the culture isn’t right. I have been fortunate in this respect;
    • Say yes to the right opportunities. Often we turn down opportunities that would be fantastic for our own development, often stating that we are too busy or feel we are not ready for the challenge. Step outside your comfort zone;
    • Have a mentor, or even better, have an army of mentors. Mentors may change over time, but I find they have had a positive impact on my development.
    How did you study through Kaplan?

    The ACA requires you to sit 15 exams in total, all of my tuition was classroom based through Kaplan. I look back on my time fondly. The lecturers were excellent and some of them I’m sure were aspiring comedians. It made the learning experience, dare I say, fun - but kept you engaged.

    Of course it can be challenging when you’re having to study in the evenings and weekends, but I always liked the variety between classroom and on the job learning at Mazars.

    The classmates I studied with for my very first exam were from a number of different accountancy firms. This stayed the same through the duration of my studies. I found the peer to peer motivation and support incredibly important throughout my studies and I am still in touch with some of the class today.

    Have you seen a change in landscape? Are there more women in accountancy do you feel?

    The intake at the Graduate/School leaver level is well balanced, with a 50/50 split between males and females. However, the gender imbalance is more apparent across the accountancy and finance profession at the Director and Partner level. Mazars fortunately recognise the importance of having a diverse leadership team and are taking action to address it. For example, it has signed up to Her Majesty’s Treasury Women in Finance Charter, pledging to address the current imbalance of women in senior roles and setting diversity goals.

    3 years ago I was fortunate to be selected to attend a Mazars group run Women in Leadership seminar in Milan. There were attendees from across the global Mazars network and it was a fascinating experience to see how peoples’ experiences compared across different countries and cultures.

    Crucially, the idea of what makes a good leader is changing.

    Prior to the seminar a friend recommended the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, I would highly recommend.   Before attending the seminar and reading this book, I naively thought there was a lack of women in senior positions due to them focusing on family. However, there is so much more to it.

    There are of course external hurdles such as juggling a career and a family but, in some organisations, the leadership is just not recognising the importance of a diverse leadership team.

    I do believe the profession, and indeed the wider business community, recognises that gender imbalance in senior roles needs to be addressed, as well as diversity in the wider sense. The focus now needs to be on practical action. Some organisations and sectors are doing this better than others.

    Men and women in business

    I was once told that the business world was created by men, for men. I think to an extent that is true. In a business and political world, where the leadership is dominated by men, it makes sense that the interests of men are best served in such worlds.

    However, I believe that is changing. Workplaces are adapting and offering more flexible work patterns (which can benefit both men and women). Crucially, the idea of what makes a good leader is changing. For instance, humility and openness are positive traits which women tend to have a natural tendency towards.

    Ladies - bang the drum

    I have read and experienced how women tend to be more risk averse when it comes to taking opportunities and pushing their own careers. As women we also have a natural tendency of modesty and therefore can fear sticking our head above the parapet and shout about how great we are. We can often undersell ourselves and therefore become overlooked for a position.

    I have seen this first-hand when facilitating annual appraisals. I have seen very capable and talented ladies massively undersell their achievements, and I feel that this must represent a lot of women who then go on to be overlooked.

    To help address this, and following my experience on the Women in leadership seminar, I established a monthly ladies lunch in my local office. This has created an environment where women can help each other and push each other forward.

    We can often undersell ourselves and therefore become overlooked for a position.
    So how do we resolve this?

    It’s a huge question, but an interesting one. One thing, I think, is education. Yes, we are more educated on the matter but there’s still a long way to go in terms of learning about the differences between men and women, and appreciating the difference.

    This goes all the way back to childhood, where the expectations differ between boys and girls from a very young age. For example, ideas such as ‘big boys don’t cry’ , this can have a huge impact on an adult man’s ability in later life to open up which can have a huge impact on mental health.

    But the worst one for me is when a young girl is told she is ‘bossy’. What we should be saying is that girl has leadership potential.

  • Getting back into learning - Tasha’s story

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 04, 2020

    We love hearing from students who’ve found success after gaining their qualification. We wanted to see how busy mum Tasha Dolton balanced work, life, and study by using Live Online.

    Hi Tasha - why did you decide to study AAT?

    I fell into accounting roles while I was working, so I was already in that area.

    I then became pregnant and took a break from work. But a few years after having my little girl, I needed to go back. So I started looking at AAT.

    I enjoyed the Finance roles and I wanted to understand more about it. I’d kept my ear to the ground after having my little girl, and I had continued to attend events and short courses.

    I have an inquisitive mind, and I always want to know “Why?” which annoyed my parents when I was younger! I was going along to these courses and I realised I enjoyed it, but I didn’t understand it. I wanted to know the “Why” part so I could turn it into a career.

    And why choose Live Online?

    At first, I selected to do Distance Learning, but I put it off for a very veeerrrryyy long time! So then I decided to do LiveOnline. I thought the flexibility would suit me more, and it meant I could study whilst raising my daughter. At least if I did miss a class, I could watch it back later.

    I had to give myself a set time and routine to make sure I got through everything on the course. It’s hard to keep your discipline and it can be overwhelming at times, but I wanted to get into a routine and get through it all as quickly as I could.

    I ended up doing a bit of classroom study as well as LiveOnline. It was great because I got to study in a way that suited me, but I was also at home when I needed to be.

    I was finding that Level 2 (Foundation) was fairly easy as I’d had previous jobs in Finance. So I ended up doing Level 2 and 3 (Foundation and Advanced) together within a year, then I decided to go straight on to Level 4 (Professional) whilst I was in “learning mode”!

    I thought that I’d keep the momentum and finish off my Level 4 whilst I was on a roll. Passed all my exams first time, I’m really proud!

    I want to spend the next few years getting experience in a practice so that I’m able to do everything.

    Nicely done! You should be proud. What are you going to do with your AAT qualification?

    I’m self-employed at the moment - bookkeeping. I’m trying to build my experience up so that I can become fully licensed. I currently have a partial license.

    My daughter is 9 now, so I’m still having to do school runs and stuff alongside building my experience in the field. I want to spend the next few years getting experience in a practice so that I’m able to do everything, like finalising accounts.

    It’s busy doing all of this together, but when my daughter is older, I want to go back into full time work and it would be great to be fully licensed so I have more options. I’m not sure whether I’d like to be full time self-employed, or if I’d like to work for a company, but either way I’m going to build my experience so that I’m able to do everything.

    I recently got my MAAT status, so things are still moving in the right direction.

    You had some gaps in your learning - what were the challenges?

    It was a bit intimidating at first, going back in to learning after all that time off. I was thinking “How am I going to deal with learning again?”. There was definitely a bit of anxiety - but I’ve always enjoyed learning, I was ready to learn about this subject and turn it into a skill.

    Even when my daughter was very young, I kept my ear to the ground and went on courses and to events. So I already had a good idea about what was going on, but I just wanted to formalise it and turn it into something that was recognised so I could earn money.

    Just commit the time, and try your hardest. If you fail, it’s really not the end of the world

    How did you find Live Online?

    LiveOnline was weird at first. That method of studying didn’t exist when I was last learning. It was an alien concept and it took a little getting used to. I wasn’t sure how to behave or act, and it all felt strange and unnatural.

    In the end though, I found it all very helpful. It’s just like being in a classroom - there’s always great discussions going on, and if you didn’t want to contribute to the conversation you didn’t have to.

    I loved it though - there were always lots of people from different situations with different ideas. They would ask questions in the discussion, and it would spark off ideas in my own head. I think my own work got better just because I was part of these discussions, it’s always a chance to think about a new perspective.

    The tutors were so helpful. They were all so accommodating and knowledgeable, and great around exam time. One of my tutors even marked my written questions in his spare time. He really went above and beyond and things like this contributed to me passing all of my exams first time

    What advice would you give future students in your position?

    Practice, practice, practice!

    The online practice tests are such a useful resource - do all of them! It’s great for your understanding of the topic and it makes you feel so much more prepared for the exam. It means there hopefully won’t be any nasty surprises.

    The written parts of the exam are not marked by default, so I would make sure to arrange it with your tutor early on so they will mark some of your written answers to help you for the exam. The tutors will always help you where they can.

    Other than that, just get ready to commit the time and make sacrifices. You have to work hard and study in your spare time, so make sure you’re prepared to do that.

    It’s helpful having a set routine so you can get into the swing of studying. Just commit the time, and try your hardest. If you fail, it’s really not the end of the world…. Just take the exam again!

    In a similar position?

    If Tasha’s story is familiar, and you’re needing a study method that works for you, Live Online combines the best elements of a classroom learning experience, with the flexibility of learning from home.

  • Our single-use plastic campaign wins PQ Editor’s Award

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 03, 2020

    Last year we decided to stop using single-use plastic in our UK training centres, and got all our students, tutors and staff on board.

    We encouraged everyone to bring in reusable water bottles, and highlighted our refill facilities, to help people avoid relying on single use plastic. 

    In November 2019 we ran with the campaign across social media, to share this story, and it was received really well.

    Alongside this we also asked people to show us how green and environmentally friendly they were being, and if they told us, we sent them their own Kaplan bottle, packed in eco-friendly jiffy bags.

    And it was noticed!

    PQ Magazine awarded us their Editor’s Special Award for our single use plastic campaign. This is a wonderful award to win, as it really shows that innovative ideas and great engagement really pays off.

    Here’s to being greener in the future, and to more eco-friendly ideas.


  • Figuring out Accountancy Apprenticeships

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 03, 2020

    If university doesn’t appeal, or you fancy a career change, then an apprenticeship could be the right path for you.

    You may think that Accountancy is focused entirely on numbers and figures, and whilst enjoying working with numbers is essential, there is much more to consider when thinking about Accountancy as a career.

    As Accountancy evolves it is becoming ultra-fast and computerised, allowing Accountants to focus on the overall Management of Finances.

    Accountants are great communicators often acting as the go-between for different groups of people/business and Authorities. They are critical in securing business deals and ensuring staff and suppliers are paid on time. Accountants are vital for any business.

    Accountancy could be a good career choice if you:

    • Are passionate about working with people and communication
    • Have a good eye for detail
    • Enjoy working with numbers
    • Consider yourself to be 'analytical' or 'strategic'
    • Enjoy working in a methodical and organised manner.

    Apprenticeship benefits

    There are clear benefits of considering an Apprenticeship if you choose to pursue Accountancy.

    Benefits such as:

    • Avoiding student debt and earning whilst you learn (on average saving £27,500)
    • Gaining practical work experience on the job
    • Working with an affiliated membership such as ACCA/ICAEW/CIMA/AAT from the beginning of your career
    • Being part of an institution from the beginning of your apprenticeship and beyond, encouraging Continuous Professional Development and Support
    • Growing good networking links, and developing a professional portfolio.
    • Support from Kaplan Talent Coaches and Tutors throughout your course

    Entry levels

    There are different entry levels for students, if you are a School Leaver and have just completed your GCSEs or A-Levels, we would potentially look at an Assistant Accountant Level 3 apprenticeship with a pathway in AAT. This is the very beginning of your accounting career, with a range of progression routes available.

    If you are part way through a degree or have completed a degree we could look at higher level Apprenticeships such as an Accounting and Taxation Professional Level 7 with professional pathways in ACCA/ICAEW/CIMA. These need a little more experience and knowledge to start with.

    Kaplan can help

    Kaplan offers a recruitment service to help people go into accountancy apprenticeships, working with reputable employers around the country. We pride ourselves on working with employers who provide a great working environment and are dedicated to fair pay and progression for their apprentices.

    For a full list of Kaplan Apprenticeships with industry-leading employers visit our jobs board. We can help you prepare for applications by supporting you to build your CV, tailoring it for accountancy Apprenticeships and help with interview preparation and guidance.

    Regardless of sector and industry, all apprenticeship vacancies are advertised on Get My First Job and The National Apprenticeship Service, this includes vacancies in other roles in areas such as Insurance, Risk and Compliance or Financial Services.

    Top Tips

    Finally, our three top tips for starting your career in Accountancy through an apprenticeship would be:

    1. Be proactive with your apprenticeship search, if you are still studying and sitting exams in the summer start your apprenticeship search around May alongside your revision.
    2. Ensure your CV is tailored towards Accountancy and your desire to pursue this area is clear
    3. Seek work experience in an office or a financial environment so you can get a feel for the type of environment you will be working in.

    For more information on anything mentioned here you can register your interest with our recruitment team.

  • 7 soft skills needed for accounting in 2020 and beyond

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Feb 27, 2020

    Do accountants need soft skills or are the technical (hard) skills enough?

    If you want to future-proof your career in accounting and progress to more senior roles in top accounting firms, soft skills are becoming a necessity. As the use of automation grows, employers are looking for top talent that can do what the robots can’t.

    Soft skills are personality traits and behaviours that shape how you work on your own and with others. Hard skills, on the other hand, refer to technical knowledge or training you acquire through education, work and life experience.

    We’ve done some digging into what some of the soft skills employers are looking for so you stand the best chance at getting your dream job.

    1. Communication

    It’s all well and good to be able to understand numbers and spreadsheets, but you also need to be able to explain them to people who aren’t necessarily up on financial terminology. You need to be able to tell the story behind the numbers, and not use overwhelming jargon. If you can explain your work to a layperson, then your employability goes up.

    2. Listening and empathy

    Not only should you be able to speak, you must be able to listen. You can’t always assume you know what a client or customer wants and needs. Listen to their problem or concern, and fully understand what they need. Then you can come up with the right solution for them.

    3. Good technical knowledge

    You’ll need to quickly get to grips with new accounting software so if you’ve worked with different platforms you’ll always be a more attractive candidate. If you understand cloud computing, the latest database applications, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) programs you’ll be sought after.

    4. Customer service

    Solid customer service skills are essential - you need to be able to ask “how can I help you?” to new and existing clients and customers. If you’re seen as approachable and interested in them, you’re more likely to build a relationship and retain them long term.

    Did you know?

    According to a report from Development Economics, being able to demonstrate soft skills could boost your lifetime earnings by as much as 15%.

    5. Collaboration and leadership

    The old stereotype of an accountant locked away in their office by themselves for hours on end is on its way out. In larger businesses you will need to be able to work with others, either within your own team, or across the company. Shared work and planning are integral to most teams today so you need to be able to work well with others.

    6. Creativity

    It's great being efficient and doing tasks as assigned, but more and more employers are looking for creative people who can come up with innovative solutions to problems. Creativity goes hand in hand with communication as you need to be able to describe your solution and persuade someone that it's the right direction to take.

    7. An enthusiasm for continued learning

    As with the Continue Professional Development (CPD) that is applied to many of our qualifications, many employees are attracted to those who demonstrate a keen interest in continuing to challenge themselves and ‘push the envelope’.

    An adaptable mind is an essential tool for navigating today’s ever-changing world, as yesterday’s solutions won’t solve tomorrow’s problems.

    Some other things to consider

    Employers will also look to see if you:

    • Have business knowledge and acumen
    • Can plan and organise your work. Prioritisation is key.
    • Can multitask
    • Have good analytical skills
    • Can solve problems on your own, or ask for appropriate help
    • Cope under pressure, and ask for help when needed
    • Work well by yourself, and within a team

    The importance of soft skills for accountants of the future

    There’s hard data that supports the idea behind investing time in strengthening soft skills. Recent research from accountancy recruiter Randstad Financial & Professional revealed that 76% of accountancy jobs advertised demand candidates who can demonstrate strong soft skills.

    Another recent study suggested soft skills are worth £88bn to the UK economy, with this figure expected to rise to £127 billion by 2025. So there’s likely to be more and more employers actively investing in its employees’ development of soft skills in the same way many do for accounting qualifications.

    Hopefully this has helped you think about the other skills you may need, on top of your accountancy qualifications.

    If you are looking to start your accountancy career, visit our AAT, ACCA, CIMA and ACA pages for more information about our courses.

  • What the data tells us: when to start your ACCA course

    by Sharon Cooper | Feb 20, 2020

    When juggling busy work and social lives many factors can affect when you book a course or exam.

    So we’ve done some digging for you. We’ve used the latest data findings to give you an extra steer on when to book.

    Image of tablet with a coffee cup and text that says Studying independently: when to start your ACCA course

    Overall findings

    Giving yourself at least 12 weeks before the exam to study will improve your chances of passing, so make sure you book your course with this in mind.

    Of students who booked their course at least 12 weeks before the exam, 70% passed first time, compared to only 55% who booked with 8 weeks or less!

    Data based on Dec 2018 pass rates for ACCA Distance Learning

    Mountain range with trees

    Pass rates for each subject:

    The overall findings are based on average results across all subjects, but in some cases the data is even more compelling.

    For example 81% of Tax and 84% of SBR students booking more than 12 weeks in advance passed first time.

    A rubber ink stamp in the shape of a star and 5 stars stamped on a piece of paper

    It's all about
    the timing

    Committing to your studies is important, but with busy lives it’s essential to give yourself sufficient time. Our research shows, this should be at least 12 weeks.

    A stopwatch

    We hope our findings help reinforce how much time you need to give yourself to increase your chance of passing.

  • Hard work and common sense - 1st in the world for CIMA

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Feb 13, 2020

    Dog lover, Michael Morton, passed his Management case study in 2019 with flying colours. We picked his brain to see how he succeeded in his exam.

    The Management Case Study tests your knowledge of the objective test at the Management level: E2, P2, and F2. Using the skills developed during the level, you’ll tackle things a management accountant may come across at work.

    Best in the world

    Going into this exam, I was seriously lacking confidence. I convinced myself I wouldn’t pass. And when it finished I wasn’t sure how I’d done, but amazingly I finished with the highest score in the world!

    I discovered this news whilst sitting in the office at work. When the email came through, I genuinely thought it was someone playing a joke on me. Much later, however, I received a certificate and it appears that I might get invited to an achiever dinner, so I think I believe it now.

    Operational vs Management

    I received exemptions from the Operational objective tests, due to my degree, so started with the Operational case study.

    There are obvious similarities but the Operational level was more technical. It was about drawing on what you’d learnt, and applying it directly.

    Management level was more about putting yourself actually into the business, the pre-seen. It was less technical and more of an application of skills. It was about giving advice to the company

    With the Management case study exam, I would say don’t worry so much about the technical side; you’re answering from a different perspective.

    Management level was more about putting yourself actually into the business.

    Use your common sense

    I really felt that the case study was my kind of exam. I prefer the common sense aspect of it: apply your learnings to the exam.

    This result has given me more confidence going into the final exams. So, fingers crossed for the next level.

    Michael’s top tips for passing the CIMA Management case study exam:

    • Writing technique. A good, clear, writing style is very important. Short, digestible, paragraphs. Make it easy for the examiner to read. Make it easier for them to give you marks.
    • Plan. Understandably, you might panic because you want to get writing, but if you plan your answer a little, at the start, it gives you a great basis to work from. That way, you know where you’re heading.

    Building for the future

    I work as a Management Accountant, for a company called Tetrosyl, based in Rochdale. With career progression, our pay is linked to our exams. So all of my studies are covered by the company.

    I’m currently working hard to balance my work and study life, as I’m doing E3 and P3 together. Hopefully I will be CIMA qualified later this year. Eventually though, I’d love to work abroad, which CIMA could potentially help with.

    Are you ready to top the CIMA MCS leaderboard in 2020?

    OK, so we can’t all be best in the world but you have a good chance of passing with Kaplan, which is all you really need to do.

    We’re here to support and inspire you to pass this case study.

    For support you can contact Student Services on 0161 259 7400. Or check out our range of study methods and funding options. We have something to suit all preferences.

    Our material is approved by the CIMA faculty and our tutors are award winning.

    Wishing you all the best in your exams.

  • The ACCA CBE exam changes

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Feb 11, 2020

    If you’re about to sit one of ACCA’s final level exams you’ll have heard about the change from paper to computer based exams (CBEs). This is to be rolled out in selected locations from March 2020.

    The ACCA is making the change as part of their long term plan to digitally transform their exams. They want to prepare the modern professional accountant for an increasingly digital world and help produce work-ready students.

    At Kaplan, we’ve taken a similar approach, with our OnDemand study method.

    What is an ACCA Computer Based Exam?

    There are two types of computer based exams - Session and On-demand. Session CBEs take place during the four annual ACCA exam sittings and need to be booked via ACCA’s online booking system, whereas on-demand CBEs can be booked anytime.

    You get your results for On-demand CBEs as soon as you finish the exam, and for session CBEs around 6 weeks after the exam as these still have an element of human marking.

    The Strategic Professional exams will be Session CBEs.

    What will the Strategic Professional CBE (except SBL) be like?

    The Strategic Professional CBE exam will be 3 hours and 15 minutes long, with an additional 10 minutes to read instructions.

    The exam carries 100 marks and is made up of two sections, A and B. You’ll be expected to answer questions using a word processor and spreadsheet tools.

    Watch ACCA’s video below, created to explain how the ACCA CBE Software works, and what to expect in Strategic Professional CBEs.

     What will the Strategic Business Leader CBE be like?

    The Strategic Business Leader CBE exam will be 4 hours, with an additional 10 minutes to read instructions.

    The exam carries 100 marks and has one case study scenario with multiple tasks. You’ll be expected to answer questions using a word processor, spreadsheet tools and possibly slides.

    Watch ACCA’s video below, created to explain how the ACCA CBE Software works for the Strategic Business Leader exam.

     When will the changes to CBEs be rolled out?

    Strategic Professional subjects will start being examined in computer format in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, Ireland and the Czech Republic in March 2020.

    From June 2020, London and all other UK locations will use CBEs for ACCA Strategic Professional level. From September 2020 it will be rolled out worldwide. You can check the international rollout schedule on the ACCA website.

    Once CBEs are offered in a location, you will no longer have the option to sit the paper version of these exams.

    Don’t worry, the ACCA CBEs aren’t difficult

    While a change to the exam format can sound scary, you’re likely to find it very beneficial. The content is the same as the paper-based exam.

    ACCA has been using CBEs for Applied Knowledge and Applied Skills exams for some time now, so students progressing to Strategic Professional exams will enjoy a smooth transition.

    ACCA CBE software gets you work-ready

    For those of you who haven’t experienced the CBE format yet, it really is a great piece of software. ACCA has worked hard to create an environment that produces work-ready students.

    With it you’ll be able to use formulae in calculations, and copy and paste technical information from scenarios to help plan your answers, just like you would at work (as per the image).

    Close up of computer screen

     How to prepare for Strategic Professional ACCA CBEs

    Your usual exam question practice is key. Also, Kaplan students benefit from our virtual learning environment (MyKaplan) which offers a personalised online study space.

    • Learn about how to use the exam software to get as much experience as possible. Word and Excel have more functionality than the exam software, so we advise you stick to the exam software to replicate the real exam experience.
    • Watch exam preparation videos and read articles from ACCA’s wealth of online resources. Many of them are linked to from your MyKaplan course environment.
    • Practice your revision mock and question-based mock in the software we’ve designed to give you the look and feel of the CBE within your MyKaplan courses.
    • Use ACCA’s specimen exams and past papers to build your confidence using the software for each subject. You’ll find these within a practice platform you can access via your MyACCA portal.

    If you have any questions about the changes, why not give our Student Services team a call? They’ll be happy to reassure you and help you find the resources you need to prepare for CBEs.

    Learn how Kaplan is also supporting the more digital accountant of tomorrow with our award-winning ACCA On-Demand study option which blends self-study with a tutor-led course.

    Good luck!

  • AAT support - now in a Facebook group

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Feb 06, 2020

    We’ve launched a group on Facebook to give you extra support with AAT. It’s a place to share thoughts, experiences and concerns, as well as celebrate success and motivate each other.

    The group won’t be monitored by Kaplan tutors, so you’re free to chat about anything you want - but contact us if you have any questions about your course or any technical issues.

    We hope this group will help you feel a part of the AAT community, and that you’ll be able to connect with other students who are going through the same experience.

    And as an extra bonus, we’ll be running exclusive offers and deals, just for AAT Facebook group members.

    To find us on Facebook click Kaplan AAT Facebook group launch.

  • Words of wisdom from world number 1

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Feb 04, 2020

    Kaplan Apprentice, Marc Dolan, came 1st in the world in the May 2019 CIMA Management Case Study exam, and we wanted to find out a little bit more about the man behind the achievement.

    Marc was born and raised in Manchester, but now lives with his daughter in Bingley, near Bradford, and works at Provident Financial.

    We asked him a few questions about his journey, his motivations, and what he found hard about studying CIMA.

    Why are you studying to be an accountant?

    Because it is such a solid career path. Accountancy roles can be very varied and the qualification can lead you down a number of different routes. It also gives me a chance to work in a business and actually make a difference to the overall running of the company, as well as being involved in a varied and interesting day to day work life.

    How did you find the exams?

    The exams in general are difficult and require a huge amount of work to pass. More specifically the case study exam in question. I got lucky in a way as the company in the case study was a cruise company. I’m really into travel and have been on a few cruises. So I found it helped answering questions on an industry that I have a genuine interest in.

    For the case study exam itself, I had no idea I’d done so well. I was surprised to hear the news that I came joint 1st in the world! I felt I’d answered some questions really well in the exam, but there were a couple of areas I actually thought I could have done better on. So straight after the exam I was more frustrated about that.

    Another difficult aspect of the exam was the time pressure. Despite it being 3 hours long, the time management was crucial.

    To keep myself going, I usually make sure that I’ve got something to look forward to directly after the exam.

    What’s your study method and how did you keep yourself going?

    My study method for the case study was to make sure I had a good mix of questions to practice and making sure I knew the technical content. This made me able to tackle any question that came up. I went through all my old notes and basically summarised them in a notepad, to include all the key technical areas across all topics covered. I found it helped to have all of the information for the different modules in one place.

    In terms of timing, I try and do most of my studying before work, so it meant lots of very early starts.

    To keep myself going, I usually make sure that I’ve got something to look forward to directly after the exam. It motivates me, knowing that I’d need to put in a lot of work until that point, but then having something nice to look forward to. It’s a light at the end of the tunnel! For the case study I had a holiday to Bulgaria with my daughter, soon after the exam.

    Do you have any hobbies that kept you sane during your studying? What do you do to unwind?

    I find that studying and work takes up a lot of time so there isn’t too much time for hobbies. However I like to keep active and find the gym helps me unwind after a day working and studying. I tend to try and get there 4/5 times a week. Also, I go on trips and days out with my daughter.

    What advice would you give to someone starting out?

    The best bit of advice I could give for a new starter would be to book your exams in the early stages of your studies. It gives you a target to work towards, enabling you to push yourself more.

    In the earlier days of studying, I would usually cover the content first and then book the exam. This method meant I took a lot more time to get through them.

    I also find it helps to get yourself into a routine, so you know when you are studying and can get a rhythm going.

    Finally for any CIMA exam, I feel question practice is crucial. The more question practice you get, the better.

    How do you find studying with Kaplan?

    I’ve found college sessions at Kaplan very helpful. When I started studying CIMA I used self study for the first 8 exams, and found this method much harder as it took me longer to get through the exams.

    The sessions in college were very useful as it gave me a full day to focus on the content. I had 2 tutors for the case study and the sessions with both definitely helped. The tutors worked through a lot of possible questions and model answers and basically taught the technique to answer the questions successfully.

    The tutors also help keep you motivated by setting you deadlines to complete mock exams and questions.

    Do you find mixing work and study challenging?

    I find mixing work and study very challenging, mainly because it takes up so much time. It has meant a lot of early mornings and late nights, to try and fit the study in around work.

    I do get day release for college sessions though, which is a huge help. In addition to juggling work and study. I also have single parenting duties to balance, so all of this makes me even prouder to have achieved first place!

    We’re incredibly proud of Marc’s achievement as an apprentice and for his amazing exam results.

    If Marc’s story has inspired you, have a look at our apprenticeships and CIMA pages for more information.

  • CIMA Operational Case Study Exam Tips

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jan 29, 2020

    As you may already know, Operational Case Study (OCS) is the first case study under the CIMA professional qualification and is designed to test your ability to apply the technical knowledge you’ve learnt from E1, P1 and F1.

    Firstly, this blog will take you through some of the changes that come into effect from the February 2020 exam.

    CIMA case study changes

    The Operational case study (OCS) exams are now being designed around six core activities:

    • Prepare costing information for different purposes, to meet the needs of management
    • Prepare budget information and assess its use, for planning and control purposes
    • Analyse performance, using financial and non-financial information
    • Apply relevant financial reporting standards and corporate governance, ethical and tax principles
    • Prepare information to support short-term decision making
    • Prepare information to manage working capital

    These core activities are linked to assessment outcomes, which tells you exactly what could be expected of you in the exam.

    Of course if you enrol on one of our courses we will give you transitional guidance of how the content maps to these key activities. If you studied the Objective Tests under the 2015 syllabus you can use this guidance to highlight any knowledge gaps, and get up to speed on any content changes.

    Did you know?

    Kaplan Publishing is the only supplier of CIMA-approved material, meaning that all of our books have been CIMA-reviewed and are the only ones to benefit from examiner insight and past questions.

    What’s included in the Case Study Exam tasks?

    When it comes to the tasks in the exam, they can involve: giving advice or making recommendations on different budgeting techniques, variance analysis and costing techniques, and other relevant areas. They can also include accounting standards in practice, and thinking about the digital features in an organisation. Of course this list is not exhaustive of what could come up in your exam.

    The case study exam is designed to reflect tasks that you could be asked to do in a normal day at work as a finance officer, the level that this case study is designed to test. Unlike the Objective test papers, the case study exam mostly involves a written answer, usually 4 tasks lasting 45 minutes each.

    Once those 45 minutes are up the timer will stop and you’ll be pushed onto the next question. You can’t go back to the task after the 45 minutes if you don’t finish it. Time management is crucial, so when it comes to it practice really does make perfect.

    In the past, case studies have been written on fictitious companies, including a chocolate manufacturer, (such as Hotel Chocolate, yum!) and a 24-hour gym (think Buzz Gym, Pure Gym). The exam will use this company and ask you to provide advice to the finance manager/director and the board on specific areas.

    A student’s perspective

    Jemma Mead is a Kaplan student who completed, and passed, the Operational Case Study exam in November 2019. She offers some thoughts and tips:

    The Operational case study was pretty hard, but on a par with what I expected. I was particularly nervous as before starting CIMA I hadn’t studied for 15 years!

    In the exam you don’t have to do many calculations, because you’re being tested on whether you’ve actually understood the concepts and can apply the technical knowledge you learnt at P1 / E1 and F1.

    We had a chocolate company, which was nice, as you have to learn a lot about the company and industry. It really allows you to get into the role of finance officer at your pre-seen company and understand how it works.

    Here are my tips on passing the CIMA Operational case study exam:

    • Be ready to think on your feet, and be reactive to what the tasks ask you to do.
    • Familiarise yourself with the pre-seen material - really understand the new material you are given in the tasks in the exam. I don’t think the examiners are looking for generic answers. It’s about tailoring it to the specific company in question.
    • Take advice from your Kaplan tutors. They gave me fantastic insight into what may come up, so do listen to them and use the material.
    • Brush up on any gaps in your technical knowledge. With the Kaplan courses they try to cover everything, but you’ll never know the tasks you will get on the day. So if there are weaknesses in your technical knowledge, you will need to brush up before exam day.
    • Really read and understand the question and pick out the key elements.
    • Allocate time effectively to answer the question.
    • Don’t waffle, use your time effectively and use it as best as you can.
    • Use the Kaplan student community. I used Live Online, and having other people in the class was really helpful. Being able to interact with them on a live chat can help you learn in a different way. Take advantage of that.
    • Stay calm!

    Passing OCS with top marks

    For more student tips, watch our video from a student who came first in the world for the Operational case study exam. Jade gives us the inside info on what she did to get there. Tips, tricks and approach to study for E1, P1 and F1 objective tests.


    Upcoming CIMA Operational case study dates 2020

    DateMilestone
    12-14 Feb 2020Exam dates
    26 Mar 2020Publish results
    28 Jul 2020Exam entry closing
    12-14 Aug 2020Exam dates
    24 Sept 2020Publish results
    11-13 Nov 2020Exam dates
    20 Dec 2020Publish results

    Kaplan is here to support you and inspire you to pass your case study. We have a wide range of study methods to choose from, based on your preferences.

    We are the only approved publisher of CIMA materials, which is essential for your success, and our mock exams are designed to give you the look and feel of the real case study exam. We will also give you tailored feedback on the answers to your mocks if you submit them to us by the marking deadlines.

    Keep going, you can do it - we’re with you every step of the way!

    If you've not done it already, you can book your exam online.

  • How ACCA OnDemand can work for you

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jan 28, 2020

    OnDemand is our most flexible study method because you choose how you want to learn. We’ve talked about what you get with OnDemand before, but now we want to tell you how it can benefit you, and why it can help with exam success.

    A tutor, with you at home

    We've designed OnDemand to be like having a tutor in your room. It allows trusted expert tutors to teach you in the comfort of your own home. 

    Video has been shown to help with the retention of knowledge, and we make sure we create video in small chunks, so it's easy for you to digest the material and apply it going forwards. 

    With it we’ve created different types of video - some include tutors onscreen and others have a tutor who annotates and works through a calculation with you to ensure you really know how to do it. We make sure video is used appropriately in the design of our products to best help you. 

    Workbooks and video work hand in hand

    OnDemand is designed hand in hand with the Integrated Workbook. As you work through your modules, we will signpost to you where you are in the workbook, so that you can use them side by side. 

    You'll find the exercises in the workbook and online modules complement, support and extend each other. We understand that there is no right method of learning and students really require a mixture and range to appeal to their learning style and keep them engaged through the process. 

    Practice makes perfect

    We’ve a range of practice questions which allow you to apply your knowledge. After most online modules you’ll be given a knowledge check. These are short assessments which test you on what you have just learnt, making sure that your knowledge in short term memory is being transferred into your long term memory. 

    We also make sure you have a range of practice assessments to help you practice before your end point assessment. Practice questions might be past exam questions or ones that are very similar to those used by the examining board previously. We also supply video debriefs which allow you to check your workings and step by step through the process.

    No need to sacrifice your personal life

    The whole OnDemand study method has been made to make learning as easy and as flexible as it possibly can be. We have found that students need to be able to work around their lives - be it work or family commitments, or just busy schedules. 

    By taking the pressure off, and allowing you to study when you have time, it should allow you to really connect with the materials, absorb the information, and pass your exams.

    All Kaplan products are designed with three stages in mind:

    The knowledge phase is where you are first introduced to new knowledge through information and examples related to the lesson objective. The information includes vocabulary, facts, concepts, and principles related to the objective. 

    The application phase gives you an opportunity to apply what you have learnt through additional activities, simulations, or questions.  Learning science has shown that reinforcing knowledge with practice cements the concepts. This second phase allows you to practice solving problems using the information that you have already learnt in the knowledge phase.

    In the exam preparation phase you demonstrate your knowledge by answering questions and solving problems. These problems are similar in difficulty to those seen previously, but may be past exam questions, or exam style questions designed specifically for the you to practice on. 

    Free Trial, now available

    If you think studying ACCA via the OnDemand study method could work for you, then sign up to a free 5 day ACCA OnDemand trial.

     


  • CIMA Case Study 2019 - what’s staying the same, and what’s changing?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jan 16, 2020

    From February 2020 all first time attempts at a case study exam will be under the 2019 syllabus. CIMA have also used this as a chance to make some subtle changes to the case study exam. 

    So what’s staying the same? 

    Pre-seen information

    Firstly, you will still be given pre-seen information around seven weeks before your exam date. This will still be based on a fictitious company and will provide an opportunity for you to consider your previous studies in the context of the workplace. 

    The style and length of the exam

    The exam will still be the same style and format as it was under the 2015 syllabus. It will be three hours long with three or four tasks, and a number of subtasks.

    The exam level

    At Operational level it is expected that you are an entry level finance professional, at Management you are a finance manager, and at Strategic you are a senior finance manager. The tasks you are asked to complete during the exam will reflect the work expected at the relevant level. 

    And what is changing? 

    The syllabus 

    Please be aware that this is a change in the syllabus, so you will need to identify any knowledge gaps before you take the exam. 

    We will be providing the underpinning texts under the 2019 syllabus as electronic copies on MyKaplan, together with mapping to the core activities by the page number in the relevant text. Remember, if there is anything you are ever unsure of you will have the support of our Academic Support team.

    Use of the pre-seen

    The same pre-seen will be used for two sittings from May 2020, meaning that there will be two exam sittings with the same pre-seen information. 

    From May 2020 the sittings will be May and August and then November and February. 

    In February 2020 there is an exception to this in that there is one pre-seen valid only for the February 2020 exam sitting. 

    Replacing the competencies with core activities

    The exam will no longer be marked using the four competencies - Technical, People, Business and Leadership. Instead CIMA will be assessing you based on core activities, which represent the tasks that are most important to the professional role at the relevant level. 

    Changes to the exam days

    From February 2020 all exams for the sitting will be on a Wednesday to Friday, rather than the Tuesday to Saturday under the 2015 syllabus.

    Please note that any exams in February sat on the Monday and Tuesday will be resit exams under the old syllabus, for which specific criteria need to be met. 

    For more information on whether you are eligible for this please contact our student services team on 0161 259 7400.

    Breakdown of exam time

    In the new exams, the expected time per sub-task will be provided, so you will know exactly how long to spend and how the marks will be allocated. 

    Exam feedback

    The results from the future exam sittings will be structured around the core activities, with detailed feedback. This means you will be able to see the areas you performed well in and those not so well in. 

    Kaplan are here to support you every step of the way. If you need any help or guidance please don’t hesitate to contact us. All our courses are now available to purchase so for details please view our website or contact our student services team. 

    These courses have been carefully designed to support students sitting case study exams.

    If you need any technical guidance at any point please get in touch with our academic support team via the contact a tutor icon in MyKaplan


  • Joint 1st in the world - secrets to success

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 26, 2020

    We’re so proud of our student, Krupa Nandha, for being joint 1st in the world for her CIMA Strategic Case Study results. We asked her how she managed the exam, her tips for students, and plans for the future.

    Hi Krupa - congratulations! Tell us about receiving your results. How was that?

    I simply got the news in an email, it was a complete surprise. It’s a pretty cool achievement, you never think that with exams, I just hoped to pass it.

    Where are you based? What do you do?

    I’m based in London and work as a commercial finance analyst at TUI, the travel company. They put me through the CIMA course as it’s a requirement for my role.

    Which study method did you choose?

    I did Classroom for most of it, and a few modules OnDemand. I really liked going into classrooms for case studies especially. They’re so subjective and often complex. It’s great to discuss ideas with other people on your course as it helps you understand everything better.

    Discussions really helped my ideas and were a part of why I was successful.

    CIMA is more focussed on business and how finance works in a business

    Why did you mix up the study methods?

    It just depended on availability of the courses, although Classroom is always my preferred choice. However I’m not missing waking up on a Sunday to go to class!

    I did all 3 levels with Kaplan, over 3 years. I did my first level in a year, but Management level took longer because I was based elsewhere due to things going on in my personal life. I did the Strategic level in 8 months, as I just wanted it to be over and done with.

    Why CIMA?

    Most companies offer a choice between CIMA or ACCA, but CIMA is more focussed on business and how finance works in a business, rather than lots of technicalities on how to put accounts together.

    The qualification is a great stepping stone onto the next stage of my career. I can’t progress far without having the CIMA qualification when it comes to management accounting.

    The course is very useful if you’re going to work in accountancy as it’s very important to understand the standards and principles. The analytical skills and problem solving skills that you develop on the course are really useful for the role. These skills will benefit you in the long run, even if you don’t think you’re using them right away.

    What are the secrets to your success?

    A good work/life balance. I’m working full time alongside my course, so it’s a challenge to fit my CIMA studies around my lifestyle. I expected CIMA to take up a lot of my time, but I wasn’t quite expecting the sacrifices that I’d have to make. When all of my friends were making exciting plans for the weekend, I had to go home and study!

    So that was hard. I couldn’t go out on a Friday night. In between exams I had to make even more of an effort. But I made sure to plan a holiday around the time of each exam as a reward.

    These skills will benefit you in the long run, even if you don’t think you’re using them right away.

    Any advice for future students?

    Discipline is really important. If you’re working like me, you often have to sacrifice your evenings and spare time. So it’s important to do little, and often, to make sure you’re not cramming. It’s so much easier to understand the course and perform to your best when you spread it out and give yourself enough time to study for a subject and break it all down.

    Lots of practice questions - that’s the key. It’s really important to become familiar with the type and style of questions if you want to do your best. So take advantage of all the practice questions and spend time perfecting your technique for answering them.

    And for the Case Study itself - any tips?

    Be really familiar with the case study itself. Think of it not as a techy thing but more like if you were running the business and how would you do it. Try not to segregate the bits because you will be required to draw on knowledge from Management and Operational levels too.

    Don’t solely focus on being too specific as you need to have a wider understanding. Do as many practise questions as you can - that's what made a difference. There are no ways to cut corners.

    This level is more focussed on the strategic, bigger picture, and more about the real world and how practical stuff is. At Strategic level the questions can be broader, so you need more initiative, and working knowledge, to pass it.

    What does the future look like for you now?

    I’ve finished CIMA now and I’m looking to progress to the next role in Accounting. It could be an internal or an external move, I’m just figuring it out.

    We wish Krupa the very best of luck in her accounting career, and congratulations again for the fantastic exam results.

    If you’ve been inspired by Krupa, and want to find out more about CIMA, we have plenty of information about it on our CIMA course pages.

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