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  • 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.

    For more tips on how to tackle the Management Case Study, please watch our video below.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    How you can study and prepare for your next exam

    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


  • Andy is on top of the world!

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jan 14, 2020

    Our student, Andy Hall, has just placed first in the world for his ACCA Strategic Business Leader exam. We’re so proud of his hard work, and we’re looking forward to seeing what his future holds.

    Andy said that the 4 hour exam is, “...tough but achievable, so long as you get your head down and work hard. If you’re able to allow yourself enough time to study, then I’ve found that it'll give you the best chance of passing. 

    "Of course, this is always easier said than done when having to work full time. I also believe that practising exam style questions is key. It’s certainly less of a shock on the day if you have half an idea of what you will be faced with.” 

    As with any professional qualification, it took up a lot of his time, so we wanted to know how he managed a work-life balance. Andy said: “I think hitting the sweet spot between work, study and life is really important. Locking yourself away to study non-stop didn’t work for me. Allowing for a sensible amount of down-time helps lift your morale and reduces the risk of burning out.”

    Andy works in the London office of BDO LLP. He provides support to high growth SMEs with their monthly management reports, VAT compliance and year-end financial reporting as part of BDODrive.

    Locking yourself away to study non-stop didn’t work for me.

    His organisation allowed him to attend classes during weekdays, and he’s very grateful for that, but he did add, “You still have to find time to revise, and that means at the weekends or in the evenings after work. It can definitely be a test of stamina and willpower! However, I’m confident it’ll be worth it in the end.”

    And finally Andy thanks his Kaplan tutor, Iryna Macdonald, for all the help and guidance. He said that all the tutors were more than willing to help him whenever he needed it.

    Well done Andy - fantastic work. We look forward to hearing more about your successes in the future.

    If you’re interested in ACCA, check out our courses and study methods to see if it would suit you.

     
  • Changes to the Apprenticeship funding system, in England

    by User Not Found | Dec 17, 2019

    The Government has announced that from the 1st January 2020 there will be changes to the way smaller employers can organise and pay for Apprenticeships.

    Employers with a pay bill of less than £3m per year will now be able to use the online Apprenticeship Service (sometimes called the ‘DAS’ or ‘TAS’ system) to organise and pay for their Apprenticeships.

    This system gives employers access to a whole range of Digital services and will allow all employers to:

    • Select a training provider (such as Kaplan)
    • Advertise an Apprenticeship vacancy
    • Reserve funding for Apprenticeship training (up to 95% of the costs)

    You’ll need to set up an account on the online Apprenticeship Service and to do this will need to have a Government gateway ID or an Accounts Office ID.

    These are special passwords that HMRC issues when you register your business for online services.

    If you’d like support in setting up your account, or would like any further info, please call the National Apprenticeship Service helpline 08000 150 600 or speak to your Kaplan contact.

  • Winning awards for our Learning Technology

    by User Not Found | Dec 16, 2019

    On the 27th November we won 1st prize at the prestigious Learning Technology Awards for Best Online Learning (OnDemand).

    The glittering black tie ceremony was held at the Westminster Bridge Hotel in London, and honours the best and brightest in learning technology, for the UK and Internationally. 

    63 winners were announced - with Kaplan taking the first award of the night!

    The competition was fierce and impressive, as there were over 400 entries for just 22 categories. Large multinational brands were in contention, such as: L’Oreal, BBC, Oxbridge, RBS, Barclays, and countless others.

    This was a huge testament to the sophistication and innovation of our unique learning platform, OnDemand.

    Now available for the ACCA, CIMA and AAT qualifications, OnDemand is our intuitive online study platform. It’s flexible, yet structured, and uses a variety of learning formats such as bite-sized tutor-led lectures, and activities, to link topics together, helping our students stay motivated.

    And now we can say it’s multi-award winning.

  • How does CPD work for ACCA?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Dec 12, 2019

    In today’s dynamic business environment, continually improving your knowledge, skills and experience is essential for furthering your career and helping your clients.

    The CPD process is a way for you to document all the formal and informal professional development activities you do, and how you apply them in the workplace.

    What is ACCA CPD?

    Continuing professional development, or CPD, is an essential part of your ACCA membership. It provides you with the skills needed for your job, and to help your career prospects.

    CPD also increases your productivity, confidence and credibility in the eyes of employers.

    Who needs to record CPD hours?

    Every active ACCA member needs to do CPD each year. New members must start recording their verifiable and non-verifiable CPD from 1 January after becoming a member. Those on the retired register don’t need to complete CPD.

    What qualifies as CPD?

    There are so many activities that you can do to gain CPD for ACCA. You can attend networking events, conferences, seminars, webinars, undergo face-to-face learning, do an online course, or read technical articles. They all have different amounts of CPD units assigned to them. You can find events and online CPD resources via the ACCA website.


    How do I go about doing my CPD?

    There are four different routes you can follow to complete your CPD, so you can choose the one that suits you best.

    1. Unit route

      This route is for if you want to plan and organise your own CPD. You’ll need to complete 40 relevant units of CPD every year, made up of at least 21 verifiable units and up to 19 non-verifiable units. One unit is one hour of CPD.

      A verifiable CPD unit for ACCA means that it is relevant to your career in accountancy, and you can explain how you use what you've learnt in the workplace. You will also have to provide evidence that you completed the activity. For example, if you went to a relevant conference, you would need to show proof that you attended, such as a course certificates or invoices, confirmation of a CPD task by colleagues or managers or notes taken at a meeting.

      A non-verifiable CPD unit can consist of reading or research - something that isn’t related to a specific outcome. You don’t need to prove that you’ve done this.

      If you complete more than 21 verifiable units in any year, you can carry forward up to 21 units to your next CPD year. This might happen if you’ve been studying intensely for an MBA or another qualification. Unfortunately, non-verifiable units can’t be carried forward. Please note that you cannot carry forward CPD units in your first year of CPD.

    2. Unit route if you’re part-time or semi-retired

      If you’re working less than 770 hours a year, so around 17.5 hours a week, then you can do the part-time or semi-retired route.

      This means you will only need to do 19 hours of non-verifiable CPD. You can set your own level of verifiable CPD units, but you need to make sure that it’s enough for your role, and you’re continuing to learn.

      There are some conditions that apply to this route:

      1. You need to follow the full unit route if you’re not eligible for this one.
      2. You can only follow this route if you’re not responsible for audit or other regulated report work.
      3. You will need to show that you have technical support when carrying out your duties.
      4. You should not follow this route if you are involved in the preparation or presentation of accounts that investors rely on.
      5. You should not follow this route if you are a non-executive director of a listed company.
    3. ACCA Approved Employer route

      If your employer holds an Approved Employer professional development approval then you can complete your CPD via their employee development programme. You’ll follow it by taking part in their appraisal process and completing your personal development plan with them.

      You will need to submit your annual CPD declaration to ACCA to confirm that you’ve done this route. Before choosing your route it’s always best to check with your employer to see if they have approved status.

    4. IFAC body route.

      If you’re part of another professional accountancy body, you may have a choice of CPD programmes. You can follow another CPD programme if:

      1. You’re a full member of the other accountancy body
      2. They are a member of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC)
      3. Their CPD policy complies with IFAC's International Education Standard (IES 7).

      You will still need to submit your annual CPD declaration to ACCA to confirm you’ve followed this route.

      Submitting your annual CPD declaration

      Every ACCA member needs to submit their annual CPD declaration by 1 January of the following year. If you’re a new member you will start your CPD year on 1 January, so you won’t need to submit anything.

      It’s very simple to submit your CPD units - you log into myACCA or you can return a printed form version that can be downloaded from the ACCA website.

      You’ll need to confirm: which of the four CPD routes you followed, whether you’ve met the CPD requirement, if you're an engagement partner responsible for audits of financial statements, and if you’ve kept your professional ethics up to date.

      What if I haven’t met the required CPD units?

      Don’t worry, ACCA can help you out. Just let them know as soon as you can and they can see if you’re eligible for a different route, or even a waiver. You still have to make your annual CPD declaration, but you will just state that you haven’t managed to complete them.

      Interested in ACCA?

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

  • What job can I do whilst studying a CIMA qualification?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Dec 10, 2019

    If you are studying the CIMA qualification, you’re able to get a really good job even if you haven’t completed all 16 of the exams.

    You can also study while you work, which is a definite benefit. Here are a few roles you can do while studying the different levels of the qualification.

    Certificate in Business Accounting level jobs

    This is the first level of the CIMA qualification and upon completion you will receive the Certificate. These papers are BA1, BA2, BA3 and BA4. Below are a few jobs that you could expect to be eligible for whilst studying.

    Sales Ledger Clerk - responsible for processing invoices and making sure that every penny owed to a company is accounted for and invoiced. You could expect to earn around £22,000† per year.

    Accounts Assistant - providing administrative support to accountants, undertaking clerical tasks such as typing, filing, making phone calls, handling mail and basic bookkeeping. You could expect to earn around £21,000* per year.

    If you choose to study the Professional qualification at each level there are three objective test subjects - Performance, Financial and Enterprise. These subjects are then consolidated at each level with a case study exam.

    Professional Operational level jobs

    Financial analyst - work in banks, pension funds, insurance companies, and other businesses. Financial analysts provide guidance to businesses and individuals making investment decisions. You would have to be able to assess the performance of stocks, bonds, and other types of investments. You could expect to earn around £36,000* a year in this role.

    Junior Financial Analyst - responsible for assisting senior analysts in various accounting and financial management duties. Depending on the structure of the organisation, a junior financial analyst may be part of the accounting or finance department. You could expect to earn around £23,000* per year.

    Professional Management level jobs

    Fund Accountant - responsible for keeping all aspects of fund accounts in order for the business. Work includes creating financial reports, controlling transactions and tracking yields and interest. You could expect to earn around £45,000* a year in this role.

    Financial Accountant - responsible for budgeting, performing internal audits and managing tax payments, amongst lots of other duties. You would be a point of contact and authority for managers. You could expect to earn around £38,000* per year in this role.

    Management Accountant - interpreting financial data, and making informed strategic decisions that benefit the business. You might be working on monthly management accounts, year-end accounts, profit and loss reports, analysing balance sheets, budgets and forecasting. You could expect to earn around £40,000* a year in this role.

    Strategic Professional level jobs

    Financial Controller - responsible for overseeing the preparation of financial statements and ensuring insightful data from the reports. Must also verify the authenticity of financial reports, regulatory compliance and analysis of financial data. You could expect to earn around £55,000* per year in this role.

    Financial Manager - a varied role, depending on the organisation you work for. If the business is larger, then the role could be more about strategic analysis, but in a smaller organisation a finance manager might be more involved in the collection and preparation of accounts.

    Other responsibilities could be management and development of junior staff, being the point of contact for audits, both internal and external, and reporting actuals to management. You could expect to earn around £49,000** a year in this role.

    Do any jobs offer CIMA study support?

    Many companies offer their employees funding support and mentorship whilst they are studying towards a CIMA qualification. Support is available for a range of roles from graduate trainee accountant to part-qualified and assistant management accountant.

    If you’re taking the employer-funded route, you can typically invoice your employer for your course or apply for an apprenticeships programme.

    Want to start your CIMA journey, or thinking about your next steps? Find out more.

    †Totaljobs.com salary checker 2019

    *Indeed.com average salary checker 2019

    **Reed.co.uk average salary checker Nov 2019

  • What is a Commercial Accountant?

    by Sharon Cooper | Nov 07, 2019

     

    Our video focuses on Rohit Thapa, one of our ACCA students. He is currently working in the finance department of an automotive company as a commercial accountant. He also has one eye on becoming a fully Chartered Accountant. 

    We thought we’d look into commercial accountancy and tell you a little bit more about the role.

    What is a Commercial Accountant?

    A Commercial Accountant is responsible for the efficient running of an organisation’s accounts, including everyday duties such as general entries, balance sheets, ledgers, reporting and advice management on tax issues, budgets and forecast and planning. 

    They would have responsibilities such as:

    • Investigating accounting and financial anomalies
    • Analysing financial information and preparing reports
    • Variance analysis and WIP reporting
    • Completing tasks and reporting within financial deadlines
    • Supporting contract negotiations

    How much can a Commercial Accountant earn?

    A Commercial Accountant salary ranges from around £27,000 to £52,000, depending on experience. Average salary is roughly £35,000*.

    What skills do Commercial Accountants need to have?

    You’ll need to have good communication skills to be able to explain financial reports to those who might not have the same level of knowledge as you do.

    You’ll need to be adaptable as the world of finance is always changing - whether it’s regulations, compliance, the stock market, or local markets.

    IT literacy is a must have. You’ll be using niche software, and will need to be able to embrace technology to improve systems, processes and result delivery.

    Be confident. You’ll need to be able to talk to heads of departments, company leaders, and decision makers to convince them to make the right call.

    What qualifications do I need to be a Commercial Accountant?

    You’ll need to either do ACCA, CIMA or ACA to become a qualified accountant, and then you can go into the commercial side of accountancy.

    More information about ACCA, CIMA or ACA.

    *Source: www.payscale.com March 2020

  • Meet Rohit - ACCA online learning

    by Sharon Cooper | Oct 29, 2019

    Rohit works for an automotive company in Cardiff - and is studying ACCA OnDemand.

    Watch his video to see how OnDemand helps him with time management, flexible study, and his career progress. Rohit highlights the reason why he prefers this study method to others.

    With University, you can’t rewind the lectures - but you can with OnDemand.

    - Rohit

    OnDemand is our award-winning, flexible study method, that allows you to study when you want, where you want.

    Expert tuition on your terms. Find out more about OnDemand.

  • What salary can I earn with an ACCA qualification?

    by User Not Found | Oct 23, 2019

    (Updated in Dec 2021)

    Though these are uncertain times, one thing that remains constant is the high demand for accountancy and finance professionals - worldwide.

    An ACCA qualified salary

    The ACCA offer one of the leading accountancy qualifications out there. Not only does it open doors to careers in chartered accounting, but ACCA-qualified students can work in many other areas of finance.

    Some of these are: banking, auditing, financial consulting, taxation and law, as well as other general areas of business management.

    Right now its a candidates market, so you may be able to search around for the best salaries

    ACCA Global*

    Undoubtedly there is money to be made, but take everything into consideration when deciding on a new role. You must always be mindful of what's important beyond the pay cheque.

    Here is an overview of potential salaries that ACCA members typically earn.

    Trainee accountants

    Many trainee accountants study ACCA while on the job.

    The salaries and packages on offer, to trainee accountants, can vary by region, and tend to reflect the cost of living. It's also worth considering that there are quite a few countries that offer exceptional salary packages due to their tax benefits.

    As an example, the top 100 accountancy firms tend to offer salary packages that are reflective of the country in which an employee is working, in line with factors such as living expenses.

    Ellis King, Morgan McKinley*

    Countries such as Gibraltar and Dubai, for instance, are keen to attract new accountancy talent and the large tax benefits on offer mean they can be attractive to accountants seeking their first role.

    Typical UK trainee accountant salary: £19,000 - £27,000 (Source: Total jobs)

    Certified chartered accountant

    Many who complete the full ACCA qualification go on to become Certified Chartered Accountants.

    The starting salary can vary, depending on the location and size of the company, the sector, and any other qualifications.

    Once qualified, salaries can start at £25,000 and can increase to £45,000 (senior accountant roles).

    Once you've built up significant experience, however, your salary can rise to in excess of £100,000 (for director level role).***

    Starting salaries for the corporate sector and public practice are usually higher than in the public sector. Salaries are also generally higher for chartered certified accountants working in banks and insurance companies.

    Some organisations offer additional benefits, such as profit-sharing schemes, private health insurance, pensions, car allowances and bonuses.

    prospects.ac.uk

    For bonuses, they vary due to the company but tend to be more common in financial services and the corporate sector.

    Typical ACCA qualified careers in the UK (average salaries):

    • Banking - 25-30k
    • Auditing - 23-35k
    • Financial consultant - 45-50k
    • Taxation - 25-40k
    • Business management - 29-60k

    (Source: Glassdoor.co.uk & totaljobs.co.uk)

    Average UK ACCA salary overall is £35k-58k (Source: Totaljobs)

    For a full breakdown, by region, see the Robert Walters 2020 Global Salary Survey.

    The world is open to you

    In addition to a healthy salary and a wide range of career options, ACCA students can: use the ACCA letters after their name, receive accounting and finance knowledge, and gain valuable skills in management and strategy.

    The flexibility of the course and the wide range of skills gained also means that ACCA careers have the potential to take you to many levels of seniority, over time.

    We hope this gives you an idea of the potential career you can have, and the salary you may expect, after becoming ACCA qualified.

    *https://www.accaglobal.com/an/en/student/sa/features/2019-trends.html
    **https://www.accaglobal.com/an/en/student/sa/features/what-salary-should-you-be-earning-.html
    ***https://www.prospects.ac.uk/job-profiles/chartered-certified-accountant

  • How to pass CIMA’s case study exams

    by User Not Found | Oct 08, 2019

    Experienced Kaplan tutor, Andrew Mower, gives expert advice on how to pass your case study exams.


    Plan your answer

    When you read your tasks, summarise what you’re actually being asked. Jot them down on your whiteboard, or as headings in your answer box. More often than not, tasks are split into multiple parts, so if you plan your answer you’re less likely to miss something.

    Timing is vital

    When planning your answer, give each requirement a time scale. Unless one requirement is bigger than the rest, it’s a good idea to split your time equally. Remember - once the time stops on a task, you can’t go back.

    For example:

    If the exam starts at 10am, and there are three tasks within the exam, a suggestion of timings could be as follows:

    • 10.00am - 10.10am - reading and planning (10 mins)
    • 10.10am - 10.35am - requirement 1 (25 mins)
    • 10.35am - 11.00am - requirement 2 (25 mins)

    If you’re strict with your timings you shouldn’t write more for one requirement than the other, and then run out of time.

    Start strong

    Whilst tasks are in a set order, the requirements of each task aren’t. This means you can tackle them in any order - but it’s best to submit them in the order they’re asked.

    But this means you can focus first on the requirements you’re more confident about - the easy marks. This will also boost your confidence, and you may be more prepared to tackle the harder one afterwards.

    Structure your answer

    Don’t just blurt everything out. You need to make it coherent, so it’s best to structure your answer with headings, subheadings, short concise paragraphs and a neat conclusion. It’ll make your answer easier to understand, but will also help you write it.

    Know the pre-seen information and apply it

    This is key. Going into the exam you should know the company really well and know the key facts and figures like the back of your hand. This really helps to apply your knowledge to the company and get the marks.

    Did you know?

    We are the official publisher of CIMA study materials and the only training provider to work with CIMA directly. All our materials are examined by CIMA before we publish.

    Markers don’t want generic answers - they want answers that tie back to the company. Referring to the company, and specific people’s names in your answer, is a good way to ensure you are applying it to your case study. As well as demonstrating you have picked up information from the pre-seen.

    Keep typing

    The more you write, the better chance you’ll have of scoring well. So just keep writing, you can’t lose marks, but watch your timings and stick to what you have worked on.

    Practice makes perfect

    It’s vital to practice applying the knowledge you have learnt at the Objective Test papers into structured reports. If you are doing the Operational Case Study this will be your first time writing reports for a CIMA exam. I would suggest you look at past exam questions or see if you can find some resources on your live pre-seen.

    I strongly encourage you to submit answers to your Kaplan tutor. By doing this they can give you guidance as well as giving you advice on style, structure and generally answering the question.

    Final words

    My last message to you is to say ‘good luck’ in your exams. If you work hard, and are confident you've done the best you can, then I'm sure you'll get the results you need.

  • Maria’s story: success in the 21st century classroom

    by User Not Found | Oct 03, 2019

    There are various ways to study, and with evolving technology it’s easy to forget the impact a live classroom can have.

    This is why we wanted to share Maria’s story. Her course success - which came via the classroom - reminds us why the live learning experience continues to have a strong presence with future accountancy professionals.


    I mostly studied in the classroom, sometimes used Live Online. But I loved the lectures at Kaplan, they were amazing.

    As I live in Coventry, I’d have to get the train or drive to the Birmingham centre, every Saturday and Sunday 9:00am to 5.30pm. And then I’d work - full time - in the week! So yeah, it was pretty hardcore.

    Many of the lecturers went above and beyond. They’d give you your lecture and then stay after it to answer any questions, after their allotted time. They cared, it was impressive.

    I’ve met some great people on the course

    My company paid for my course – they put me on Classroom at first but then I had the option to choose a different study method, like online or Distance Learning. But I stuck with Classroom as I liked it. It worked for me anyway.

    I like the interaction you get with the lecturers.

    The main strength is the way they are with the students. When they’re there, in front of you, they build your confidence and motivate you. ACCA exams are really hard so you need it! I think the course is even harder than uni!

    Our tutor was inspiring

    It makes a difference, having that personal connection.

    You can build relationships with the teachers. With me I would actually ring up and seek out my favourites: ‘Which room are they in, what are they teaching?!’ - I was like a stalker! Joking.

    One tutor, one of my favourites, was great. He was always on time and made sure we learnt in exam conditions. His pass rate was something mad like 100%! He was constantly testing you, but we didn’t mind as he had a big personality.

    He was really engaging and spoke to every single one of us. He knew all our names and was always making jokes. He was pretty inspiring too, he’d go running on his lunch break! Not a long jog, but still. Pretty inspiring. Everyone in the room felt the same – you felt like it was OK to fail.

    I’m working as a commercial analyst now and I’m just waiting for my results, but it’s all finished.

    I had a great last lecture though, very entertaining – the tutor started by getting up pictures from famous movies and we had to decide which film it was from. And from there she went straight into advanced audit. Crazy transition, but I liked it.

    I’ve met some great people on the course. After one of the classes we all built a WhatsApp group and are still in touch. We use it to help each other sometimes. I don’t do that after every class, and we only met each other once, but the atmosphere was so positive in that class we wanted to keep it going.

    It’s worked, because we still go to lunch together and socialise. We’ll be telling each other our results that’s for sure.



    Choose your way to study

    We offer a range of ways to study. Each has its own unique quality, but they’re all a blend of face to face, support and online materials.

    We have classrooms available in 25 UK based locations.

  • Luke’s story: AAT to ACCA, a worthy commitment

    by User Not Found | Oct 01, 2019

    Meet Luke. He’s 23, from Hull, a former welder, and due to become fully chartered. A trainee accountant, his company are funding his education, which will propel him towards a more senior role.

    Here’s how he found moving from AAT Foundation to ACCA.


    Moving from one to the other was always the plan, and the AAT qualifications laid the foundations and prepared me for the next stage.

    Studying ACCA has already opened doors for me in my job, and will continue to when I‘m fully qualified. I found that it goes into a lot of detail. Module by module, you learn things you can apply to the workplace, daily.

    If you follow your tutor’s advice, you’ll be set

    At first the transition seemed really daunting. I was dreading it. I thought ‘I’m not going to have much of a life!’. But I quickly realised it wasn’t too scary, and that was partly down to Kaplan.

    By attending the tuition, revision, and QBD sessions I massively boosted my chance of success with the exams. I could see that straight away.

    And if you follow the tutor’s advice then you’ll be set. By completing the home study tasks, and putting enough revision time in, you’ll increase your chance of passing even more.

    Balancing work and life has been a challenge though. When studying for my ACCA exams it was hard finding the time to study, work and have a social life. I’ve gotten a lot of grief from my mates. They pressure me to go out a lot as I’m still young, but when I’ve got 6 weeks to go until an exam I know I need to knuckle down.

    Sometimes they’re not happy, but it’s necessary. You’ve got to take the hit if you want to pass.  Ultimately, having a really flexible revision schedule made things much more manageable though.

    You’re never feel left to fend for yourself

    Kaplan can be really flexible for your study path.

    Did you know?

    96% of employers think ACCA is a respected qualification.

    Source: ACCA’s 2019 employer survey

    You can pick and choose (to some extent) the order you’d like to sit the modules. You can also choose to sit one or two modules per sitting. This was really helpful, as you can tailor your studies around busy times at work, or in your social life. The module timetables are set up to suit various approaches.

    It was also the support that went above and beyond. The knowledge and support from the Kaplan tutors is great. Not only are they hands on, you feel like you’re being prepared to sit an exam, at the highest standard.

    When you ask them a question the answer doesn’t feel generic; it feels like the industry answer.

    The support is always available too, so you never feel left to fend for yourself if you need help.  The tutors genuinely want you to succeed.



    There are many routes into accountancy, with our various study methods and qualifications, we’re bound to have the right option for you.

  • In the top 10: Ben Springall provides his advice

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Feb 13, 2024

    When results were released for the August 2023 sitting of CIMA’s CGMA Case Study exams, we found that over one-third of the top 33 placings across all three levels studied with us at Kaplan.

    We recently caught up with one of these high achievers, Ben Springall. After completing his CGMA studies, he discovered that he received a commendation as the tenth in the world for his Strategic Case Study paper.

    He provided some of his tips, insight and career background so far…

    Can you tell me about your career?

    I initially studied at a university in London, and I graduated with a first-class degree from there and went straight on to the Lloyds Banking Group Finance graduate scheme.

    While I was studying, I worked as an intern there for six weeks in Commercial Banking Finance, so I joined their three-year finance graduate scheme straight out of university, which ended in September. And as part of this, I also studied towards CIMA’s CGMA Professional Qualification with Kaplan.

    After finishing my A-levels, I wasn’t too sure where I wanted to go, or what I wanted to do. I went to a career fair with my school, and I spoke to a lot of different universities and looked at different courses. But I’ve always been interested in either banking or finance so it progressed from there.

    How would you compare university to your apprenticeship?

    It’s very different, especially because I started studying my CGMA studies during COVID so I was studying virtually. It was quite a big shift in terms of how I was learning as I was used to face-to-face tuition and support.

    It’s definitely more independent studying CIMA’s CGMA with Kaplan as you’re trusted to do a bit more of it on your own. And especially as there’s more flexibility with when you sit your exams, you need to be more self-driven. Whereas, at university, you’ll have strict deadlines and people pushing you along.

    At university, my course was quite broad in what I would learn so we would touch on a lot of different subjects. But with the CGMA qualification, especially while working at the same time, I noticed that a lot of the theory was directly relevant to my work so, in a way, it was a lot more practical.

    Have you encountered any challenges during your studies?

    I think the first big challenge was COVID, as coming straight out of university and studying online was difficult. And then I had to get used to working during the pandemic virtually as well, so the challenges were changing all the time.

    None of CIMA’s exams are easy, so there are obvious difficulties there. I failed the CGMA P2 paper, and it was the first exam that I’d failed. I do think it is one of the hardest ones. But at that time, I was already finding it quite tough in terms of motivation, so after I failed I wasn't sure what I wanted to do - so don’t worry if you ever get those thoughts, it’s quite normal and you have to remind yourself of why you’re doing all of this.

    In the graduate scheme, we also have competency meetings if you fail an exam, so I think that also added to the pressure a little bit.

    But overall, I definitely think the biggest challenge during the apprenticeship was to motivate myself to get up and redo the P2 paper, and passing that exam was a pivotal moment in establishing my own belief that I could complete the course and see ‘the light at the end of the tunnel.’

    We heard that you completed your apprenticeship project report a lot earlier than expected - do you always try to go above and beyond?

    I definitely always try to. My project report during the apprenticeship was a unique situation as I had to do it for my apprenticeship at the same time as studying for my exam, but I was also looking to roll off the graduate scheme so I didn’t want to leave it to the last minute. So getting it completed as soon as possible avoided any delays but definitely did involve some tight prioritisation and time management.

    But I always try to do everything to the best of my ability. It plays into the industry too as in finance you need to be very specific a lot of the time. So I try to get things done right the first time.

    Achieving 10th in the world with CIMA

    When I was told I achieved tenth in the world for the final exam within CIMA’s CGMA Professional Qualification, I definitely didn’t expect it. I think when I go into an exam, I struggle with thinking quite negatively after it about how it could’ve gone much better, etc. With CIMA’s Objective Test exams, it’s great that you find out your results straight away. But with the Case Study papers, I could spend the next two months or so worrying that I had failed and would have to resit. Of course, this gets worse and worse the closer to results day you get.

    So I definitely wasn’t expecting to get such a high grade.

    I would say that I do go into an exam trying to get the best I can - you’re always aiming to get 100% anyway, and not just a pass. I’ve always aimed to give myself the best chance of passing, but I didn’t go into it expecting a commendation. I can’t imagine too many people go into the exam aiming for a prize, because it’s just a relief when you pass, especially when you’re fully qualified at the end of it all.

    I thought it was a mistake at first, and I was waiting for an email to come through to say that there had been a mix-up and I didn’t get the commendation, but it’s a nice feeling. You’re happy to know you’ve passed the exam, but then finding out I did so well a week or so later was just an extra boost.

    How have you found the support from Kaplan?

    I think the Talent Coaches are really incredible and their support is amazing. Anytime my Talent Coach, Jo, was working she was quick to respond. She was supportive throughout my studies, but would also reassure and talk to me about work-related stuff, so she was always there to listen and give advice. I found it invaluable to have an outside voice I could lean on as I made my way through the graduate journey.

    More than being a Kaplan Talent Coach, she was supportive throughout my whole graduate scheme. All of the lecturers were also great, but my Talent Coach was amazing. It’s like they’re a Talent Coach and a therapist all at the same time.

    How’s the support been from your employer?

    Lloyds Banking Group has been running apprenticeships and doing these qualifications for a long time, so the support is always there from your peers and managers. Whether it’s off-the-job training, graduate events or study leave. But especially when you work in finance, a lot of people have gone through it themselves so they know what it’s like and are very sympathetic and try to help wherever they can.

    It can be quite daunting at times, but that’s just part of being in a competitive environment. They’re investing in us and the support that comes with that is very good.

    If you just need a quick chat with anyone at work, they’re all happy to do it. That investment in time and energy is really important. I also value the trust that they give, as you’re given the space to get things right or wrong on your own, which is really important in an employer and is a very powerful enabler for development.

    Do you have any advice for anyone who is studying?

    I think for anyone looking to study or do an apprenticeship, I’d say you have to stay disciplined and gain the ability to motivate yourself. You need to be OK with failing the odd exam, as it’s possible that you won’t get through it without any challenges. But also try to learn from people who have been there and done it is very useful. Just a quick conversation with someone who’s also been through it can be super, super useful.

    But remember that it’s all possible. It’s not impossible to pass CIMA’s exams and work at the same time, and it’s not impossible to pick yourself up if you fall down along the way. If you’re struggling, just look back on what you’ve already achieved in your life and take inspiration from the fact that you’ve already worked hard to get to where you are and you deserve to see it through to the end.

    Use that motivation to keep going, even if it feels like you’ve had enough. Think about even tougher challenges that you’ve already overcome and take motivation from that.

    Also, part of it for me is that I was the first person in my family to go to university or anything like that - so I always wanted to keep going so that I wasn’t letting other people down. It does depend on every individual’s circumstances but always look back on why you’re doing it in the first place and the people in your personal life that have supported you and want to see you succeed.

    What does the future look like for you?

    I think I’ll take a while off of doing any exams, as there’s been a lot in the past few years. I’d like to continue to grow and develop at Lloyds Banking Group, and I can now spend more time expanding and deepening my understanding of my job role as I don’t have to take any time off for studying.

    I can spend time developing my relationships across the bank too, as well as look into any other areas that I find interesting. But I do think I’ll end up learning something new eventually, whether it’s finance-related or not. I think I’m too used to learning and developing academically to completely give it up.

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