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  • How accounting has changed with technology

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Feb 24, 2022

    Accounting has come a long way from counting on an abacus and recording sales on a stone tablet. Technology has played a big role in making an accountant’s life just that little bit easier. And modern accounting is benefitting from huge advancements in tech - carry on reading to find out more.

    Cloud computing

    You no longer have to cart around piles of paperwork, ledger books, or wait an age to share information. Cloud computing is a type of internet-based computing that provides shared computer processing resources, data to computers, and other devices on demand.

    This allows you to perform accounting tasks from any location, as well as the ability to deliver financial information and reports immediately, via the cloud. It’s a new way for you to work with your clients. There is more time to engage with the client and focus on business strategy instead of getting burdened with detailed processes.

    Mobile accounting

    We are never far from our mobile phones, and accountants are no exception to the rule. So it makes sense to be able to do accounting via our phone. There are now many mobile applications designed for accounting. You can now create and send invoices, capture receipts, create expense claims, get signatures, all on the go.

    This is all thanks to the cloud, as we mentioned before. Everything is in one place, in real time, and accessible wherever you are.

    AI and robotics

    More and more of the tedious tasks can now be done by computers. Artificial intelligence and robotics are automating complex and repetitive tasks and processes, with extreme accuracy, reducing operating costs and increasing efficiency.

    Of course, a skilled accountant won’t be replaced by a robot, but those everyday tasks that take up your time, could be given to a piece of software to work through, freeing you up for more client interaction and relationship building. This isn’t something you want to leave to a robot!

    Specialist software

    Abacus and a stone tablet?! Not for us. No, you can use all manner of software to make your life easier. There are more efficient processing tools and specialised accounting software that allow quicker input and computation of data.

    In fact there are some manual aspects of entering information into software that you no longer have to do, as scanning technology makes it possible to simply photograph a page and let the software complete the relevant fields for you.

    It’s important to make sure that you don’t make mistakes - we’re human. It happens. But with specialised software all your information is calculated by a computer. This dramatically improves accuracy and reduces the margin of error. Accounting software allows you to let the computer do the nitty gritty whilst you concentrate on your clients.

    Final thoughts

    With technological advances, accountants are no longer permanently attached to pen and paper, fastidiously jotting down every number. An accountant now needs a lot more communication and interpersonal skills to go with their accountancy skills.

    We also think that accounting is much more interesting than a lot of people initially think - so it’s a great career to go into, no matter what your background.

    Thinking about accounting as a career? Have a look at our AAT or ACCA pages for more information.

  • Kaplan Success Story: From Kaplan scholar, to dream job

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Feb 24, 2022

    We caught up with Magdalena Woźnikiewicz, two years after gaining a place on Kaplan’s AAT scholarship (2020) to find out what studying has meant for her career.

    Hi Magdalena! Tell us how you came to hear about Kaplan

    When I moved to the UK and started my job search I knew I wanted to continue working in finance, as that was my background in Poland. Very quickly, I discovered that UK job sites referred to certificates such as: AAT, CIMA, ACCA when it came to finance roles.

    After further investigation, I saw a Kaplan article that referred to an opportunity for a Kaplan Scholarship Place to study L2 AAT. So I signed up for this and a few weeks later I was told that I had been successful.

    I was so delighted because Kaplan has given me a chance to expand my knowledge and to start my professional career here. This was exactly the opportunity I needed at the time.

    How was your experience with us?

    In my drive towards professional growth and career goals, Kaplan clearly understood and responded to my needs. The company created an environment where I could quickly develop, by providing me with all materials and support that are necessary.

    Thanks to the "MyKaplan” study platform I was able to monitor my progression and keep track of all my mock exam results. I was also able to review the topics I had to work on and organise my study time effectively.

    Having both printed textbooks and videos allowed me to study effectively on my own, and in my spare time.
    A screenshot of 2 emails confirming Magdalena’s scholarship, above images of a Kaplan box filled with Kaplan study materials that she received

    What has taking part in this scholarship meant for your career?

    During my time studying I have also been working in my day job, and thanks to being given a Careers Coach as part of the scholarship programme, I was given the confidence to explore internal finance roles within my current company. The advice from my Careers Coach was great.

    I had been getting to know more about other departments, and luckily a very interesting job vacancy became available - because I had been speaking to colleagues in the department, they encouraged me to apply - so I did.

    A few days later I was notified that I was successful! I was very grateful that the management team, from the finance department, trusted me enough to offer it to me.

    So far, under my supervisor's outstanding leadership, I have been able to contribute strongly to our team.

    How do you intend to advance your career further?

    After the wonderful experience with Kaplan, I have decided to continue my studies and start CIMA - to further improve my skills and knowledge. This is something I also discussed with my Careers Coach - I have already received my materials, and I’m happy to continue this amazing and motivational journey with Kaplan.

    Although the scholarship has now ended, I was offered a final Careers Coaching session to talk about my longer term career goals which I am looking forward to.

    I believe studying CIMA will allow me to explore complex finance topics so I can be even more productive and efficient at work.

    Anything else you would like to share with us?

    I’m very grateful to Kaplan that they’ve given me an opportunity and have trusted me. I always believe that with effort and dedication, great things can happen. This was proven when I unexpectedly received Employee of the Year at my company at the end of last year!

    I wish everyone could have the same experience and support in their professional journey as I have received.

    To discover more about AAT and CIMA, and how they can boost your career prospects, please visit our course pages.

  • Completing CIMA in just 10 months

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Feb 16, 2022

    Sandil Mallikarachchi set a world record for time to complete the CIMA professional qualification. Find out how he managed it and what he’s looking to do next.

    What led you to study accountancy?

    Following my A-level results, I was offered a state sponsored scholarship into a Sri Lankan University, to study mathematics. However, because of the financial background of my family, I had to start working.

    I ended up working in the finance department of an engineering firm. This is the place that turned things around for me, because it was here that I discovered that I have an aptitude for accounting and finance. My supervisors were always very appreciative of my skills and analysis.

    As a result of that, in October 2020 I started looking at CIMA.

    Did you know from the beginning you wanted to complete it quickly?

    Yes. The main reason why I decided to drop the maths degree was because when you get a state sponsored scholarship in Sri Lanka, you only start your university education at the age of 21.

    If I started studying at 21 I'd be studying until 25 to get the bachelor's degree. So I believe my career prospects would not be as far reaching.

    I decided that I wanted to get through this as quickly as possible to save time. After that I’d do a master's and move up on the career ladder.

    How did you manage to complete it so quickly?

    For the objective specific exams I usually studied for one week. My strategy was to read the study text twice in the span of four days. Then for two days, I would complete the Kaplan exam kits. By the seventh day, I would book the exam and do it.

    I think it helped that I have an ability to take large quantities of information and make sense out of them. I usually break things into smaller parts and I deliberately don’t try to memorise anything, instead I just try to understand the content. And that works for me.

    For the case studies, I wasn't able to afford any extra books. So I looked at the core areas that were published by CIMA, and then analysed everything under those core areas in the Kaplan study text. I stuck precisely to that. I read the pre-scenes two, or three, times and then I tried to associate the content that I learned with the company.

    How did you balance working and studying?

    I don't think I ever thought about studying in terms of quantity, it was more the quality that was important to me. So if I was to say that I studied four to five hours a day that would be untrue.

    Instead, after coming home from work I would do one or two hours, but I would try to give it my full attention for maximum efficiency.

    So why did you only study with the textbooks?

    One reason for my choice of self learning is quite obvious, I was not able to afford the tuition. Apart from that, I also wanted to go at my own pace. I tried watching some free lectures that were available on the internet, but they weren't really up to the pace that I was looking for.

    I wanted to have something hands-on that I could refer to, and Kaplan’s materials were ideal. The study texts had everything. There wasn’t one exam where I sat and thought the Kaplan study resources were insufficient. This is the main reason why I'm so grateful to Kaplan.

    I believe the study texts were definitely the best form of education that I have encountered in my life, because everything was up to the point and very straightforward. Those books made what I achieved possible.

    So what does the future hold for you?

    I want to continue to learn more about finance. I have already received a number of unconditional offers from top UK universities to study MSc in finance and accounting. Unfortunately, they're not in my reach right now due to the cost, so I am looking into scholarships and sponsorships.

    If I can study a masters, I would also like to look to pursue a PhD if the funding is available. Otherwise, I would like to re enter the finance sector in the capacity of an analyst. Because the economic situation in Sri Lanka is not very favourable right now. After my studies, I would be willing to work in the UK for at least a couple of years.

    What advice would you give to someone looking to study CIMA?

    Don’t be intimidated by the amount of pages in each book. The more realistic way to look at it is by taking one subject, breaking down the content, and understanding what they're actually trying to say.

    I also want to emphasise that having done CIMA, it’s definitely worth it. Although I do not have a bachelor’s degree, after speaking with Chancellors and Deans from top business schools, they are willing to recognise the potential as a result of my achievements.

    As a 21 year old Sri Lankan, the opportunities that I've been presented with are just priceless, and I'm grateful to everyone for that.

    Following his success, 21 year old, Sri Lankan based, Sandil has secured a position at EY as a senior associate. To find out more about the CIMA qualification, please visit our course page.

    For anyone interested in talking to Sandil about potential sponsorship or funding opportunities, to aid him on his journey, then please reach out to him via Linkedin.

  • There’s still a lack of diversity in accountancy, and we want to change that

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Feb 10, 2022

    Many areas of society are still underrepresented in the professional services sectors, and we want to use our privileged position to challenge this.

    Now is the time to act. Now is the time to listen.

    It’s been a tough couple of years and we’re proud of what we’ve achieved. But if we’re completely honest with ourselves it’s clear that our sector still mostly serves a specific demographic.

    After some reflection, we realise it's not enough to simply offer the same to every student. Some of our students come to us from more disadvantaged backgrounds: due to their home life, their education, or the discrimination they’ve faced.

    Our Equality, Diversity, and Inclusivity (EDI) steering group

    So in 2020 we put together a team, made up of people from all over the business who have the passion and influence to make real change. Many of these people can see first hand the issues some students face, and this gives us insight into what needs to change.

    Much of this insight comes directly from our apprenticeship EDI learner data .This allows us to understand the demographics of approx. 60% of our student population. This year, however, we are to launch a new data capture tool to get an understanding of all students.

    So far, our steering group has helped facilitate many internal changes. We now deliver inclusivity training to all managers and tutors in the company, and we have incorporated EDI learner training within our learning platform MyKaplan. We have also reviewed our company policies to ensure that learners are protected as students with us.

    Collaborating with other companies

    We are also focussed on helping people from underrepresented and diverse backgrounds get the career opportunities they deserve. So we’ve started work building relationships with organisations that share our concerns.

    Companies such as Career Ready, RefuAid, and Rareqol have partnered with us to help create internship programmes for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

    We have also initiated a period poverty pilot and awarded scholarships to those who are disadvantaged.

    But this is just the beginning

    We need to be sensitive to cultural differences internally too...

    From the way we design our apprenticeships and programmes, the way we teach, the way we support and provide services, EDI needs to remain at the forefront of all our thinking.

    And for lasting change to happen, our efforts must be shaped by those affected by discrimination. Feedback is vital.

    So through our annual survey we’re now discovering how inclusive our learners thought we were over the course of 2021, plus we hosted our first Kaplan-wide EDI summit in January this year. Through our EDI focus group meetings, conversations are ongoing so that this subject stays on the agenda.

    We’re listening

    We’re not trying to promote ourselves with this public call to action, we’re trying to hold our hands up and claim that we could do better. The first step towards change is accepting that change needs to happen.

    If you are working for an organisation that shares some of these concerns and you see an opportunity to collaborate then please reach out. Or if you’re a learner and have any thoughts around how we can work better and be more inclusive - get in touch.

  • Empowering apprentices to be the best they can be

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Feb 10, 2022

    We spoke to our client, HSBC UK, to find out the benefits of their Kaplan apprenticeship programme and how it helps them prepare for the future.

    What does HSBC UK’s landscape for learning and development look like in 2022?

    Our aim is to continue educating, inspiring, and empowering more people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and helping to make HSBC UK an inclusive employer of choice. We do this by spreading awareness of our early careers programmes and working collaboratively with wider areas of the bank.

    How does HSBC UK identify where apprenticeships add value?

    It starts with our Early Careers team speaking to senior managers and key stakeholders in various business areas. Their expertise and insight helps to highlight how apprenticeships would benefit the team, customers, and wider business.

    We then work together to ensure that the programme gives apprentices the opportunity to learn new skills and knowledge. It also helps them to network across the bank, establishing their own personal brand and expanding their future career opportunities.

    What impact do you hope to achieve both for the business and the apprentice?

    We value difference, with diverse ideas and perspectives helping us to innovate, manage risk, and grow our business in a sustainable way. In terms of business impact, we encourage apprentices to bring their true and authentic selves to work, in turn bringing new ideas and viewpoints into the bank.

    For the apprentices, we aim to help them be the best they can be through tailored, engaging, and relevant training delivered in a blended method by Kaplan that suits the individual.

    It is also an opportunity to join one of the world’s largest financial services organisations in a permanent role to start and grow their career, working across all business areas and functions, and developing their skills and knowledge.

    What skills gaps do you hope to fill?

    With many of our apprentices being part of a younger generation, they can bring insight into what Gen Z employees and customers want from HSBC UK.

    Soft skills such as curiosity, desire for new experiences, creativity, and resilience not only helps them as individuals to develop and adapt, but also helps HSBC UK grow and transform as new innovations develop.

    What are the business priorities for HSBC UK?

    We want to be a truly inclusive business – opening up a world of opportunity for our customers. We are bringing together the people, ideas and capital that nurture progress and growth, helping to create a better world – for our customers, our people, our investors, our communities and the planet we all share.

    Banks have a major role to play in the fight against climate change, and HSBC is committed to helping lead the transition to a global net zero economy. We’re helping our customers make a successful transition by providing world-class sustainable finance and advice, and are also working to achieve net zero in our own operations and supply chain by 2030 or sooner.

    The wellbeing of our employees has always been paramount, and continues to be a high priority in regard to the impact the pandemic has made on people’s wellbeing. We are making sure we continue to provide support, make relevant adjustments, and create a safe and flexible environment to work in.

    Apprenticeships help to achieve these priorities by offering an alternative pathway for individuals to join the organisation, whether they are school leavers, returning parents, or career changers. They help us attract a diverse demographic of talent, with different strengths and skills, that are essential for HSBC to be innovative, collaborative, and to become industry leaders, fit for the future.

    What EDI considerations do you make whilst recruiting?

    We are a disability-confident employer that supports candidates with disabilities and long term health conditions by making reasonable adjustments not just during the selection process, but throughout their career with HSBC.

    Also, prior to all campaigns, we run open events which allow candidates to hear from an apprentice regarding their journey, help them find out more about the opportunities and the role itself. We also have colleagues from disadvantaged backgrounds share their stories to help inspire others.

    From these events, we have seen an increase in applications from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as making a positive impact on social mobility.

    We also run briefing sessions at each stage of the selection process. These are open to all candidates to help them be the best they can be, and especially supports individuals who haven’t had any support and lack confidence due to their background or disadvantages.

    Quote from Mr Ian Stuart, Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, HSBC UK

    “Apprenticeships add enormous value to our business and provide people who may not have gone to university with another route into a challenging and rewarding career with HSBC.

    “Apprentices bring with them many skills and behaviours – innovative thinking and ideas, motivation and determination to name but a few. Their hard work and commitment not only to their apprenticeship programme, but to their colleagues, our customers and the wider organisation is very much valued.”

    For more information about how a Kaplan apprenticeship programme can support your organisation’s goals, visit our Apprenticeships for Employers page.

  • The importance of integrated thinking for finance professionals

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Feb 03, 2022

    Why do I need integrated thinking?

    If the role you do – or the role you’re aiming for – involves corporate reporting, you need to understand integrated thinking.

    In today’s volatile business landscape, there’s much more to appraising organisations than simply looking at their year-end numbers. Research shows 90% of an organisation’s value is in intangible assets such as reputation, human capital, and intellectual property. That’s 90% largely not recognised by traditional accounting standards.

    There’s a growing demand in all sectors to combine this non-financial information with standard financial data to create meaningful reports and support better decision making.

    It’s about providing shareholders and other stakeholders with the full picture. And that’s where integrated thinking comes in.

    How does integrated thinking link to integrated reporting?

    Integrated reporting, or “IR” as it’s known, offers a powerful lens through which to assess your organisation and its activities. To adopt an IR approach, you need to embrace integrated thinking.

    In a nutshell, integrated thinking is about considering how your organisation affects, and is affected by, economic, environmental and social values.

    For instance, how do activities in different parts of the business combine to create value? What compromises is the business making in the short term to maximise long-term rewards? How is the business limiting any detrimental impacts from these measures – between the environment and profit, for example?

    As an accountancy or finance professional, understanding how to harness the power of integrated thinking and use it to communicate a broader set of findings in your annual integrated report is an essential skill to have in your toolkit.

    Is integrated reporting covered by the ACCA and CIMA?

    Both the ACCA and CIMA have recognised the value to professionals of developing integrated reporting skills. You’ll find this career-enhancing subject in the Advanced Performance Management (APM) option for the ACCA Strategic Professional qualification, and in the course content of CIMA Management, the second level of the CIMA Professional qualification.

    And the good news is, this important area of study is nothing to fear.

    “The inclusion of integrated reporting in the ACCA APM syllabus should not cause major difficulties for students,” says the ACCA. “In many ways, it is corporate reporting catching up with the aspects of analysis and reporting which Management Accountants have already been performing for internal, organisational use.”

    Will integrated thinking skills be valued by future employers?

    In its report, Invisible Threads: Communicating Integrated Thinking, the ACCA answers that with a resounding yes. “Well-embedded integrated thinking can make organisations more resilient in the face of challenges, like those that arose from the Covid-19 pandemic,” it says.

    CIMA is in agreement. “Integrated reporting has rapidly gained prominence as one of the main management and accounting innovations of the recent decade,” CIMA says in its own report, Integrated Thinking. “And this trend is due to continue.”

    At Kaplan, we can help you keep pace with the trend.

    Next steps

    See how you can learn more about integrated thinking and reporting with our ACCA and CIMA courses.

  • CIMA E3 exam tips from an experienced tutor

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Feb 03, 2022

    Our experienced CIMA lecturer, Iryna McDonald, shares exam tips she’s given to students to help them pass the CIMA Strategic Management (E3) objective test.

    The CIMA E3 exam

    The CIMA E3 objective test is a 90-minute long, computer-based, and computer marked exam. Students receive a provisional result straight after completion followed by a confirmation within 48 hours. The latest pass rate from CIMA for the E3 objective test is 68% (covering exams between 01 June 2020 and 31 May 2021).

    Once at Strategic Level, students often have the completion date for their CIMA Professional Qualification firmly in sight. This creates the drive and motivation needed to fast-track themselves through these final exams. CIMA Strategic Management might be their first objective test, or they may have decided to leave it till just before they do the Strategic Case Study.

    Overview of CIMA E3 exam tips

    • Do lots of exam practice using Kaplan’s CIMA-approved study materials and online knowledge check tests in MyKaplan.
    • Create a study plan to help you balance your time between family and work commitments, studying the whole syllabus and sufficient exam practice.
    • Choose a study method that best fits your learning style and lifestyle. The OnDemand study method offers students possibly the most extensive level of support and flexibility.
    • Leverage academic and peer support to keep you motivated.

    The importance of exam practice and study plans

    At first sight, the E3 paper can appear deceptively straightforward as many models and theories would already be familiar to students from the preceding CIMA levels. However, that false sense of security quickly fades away once they start practising questions.

    Students are often startled by the number of options they need to consider, particularly in those dreaded “select all that apply” questions. Also, it is common for exam questions to combine several models, include unusual industry settings or introduce additional information that further muddles the picture.

    Lots of exam practice and good study skills are essential for CIMA students to pass E3. Kaplan’s CIMA Strategic Management exam practice kit, containing a huge bank of mock exam questions, is a CIMA-approved study resource.

    At this level in their career, many CIMA students have to combine challenging projects and tough deadlines at work with equally challenging and time-pressured exams. As an additional resource, a study plan would also help to prioritise these competing concerns and make the whole exam preparation process much less stressful.

    Common questions (Q&A)

    CIMA Gateway students with exemptions

    Question from Shamina, an E3 student: “Having come through the CIMA gateway route, I have received exemptions from all underlying objective test exams and thus E3 will be my first objective test exam. What should I expect?”

    Iryna McDonald, lecturer at Kaplan: “Students who did not have any previous experience of objective test exams, often find it difficult to adjust. E3 can be a subjective, descriptive exam, when examined through multiple choice questions with a right and wrong answer. Of course, there will be further opportunities within your CIMA qualification, in the strategic case study, to fully develop and justify your points of view.

    “However, E3 demands rigour and precision to fully grasp the details of the syllabus so that the correct answer option can be determined. These skills are built up over time, thus it is important to practice questions as you go along.

    “The Kaplan CIMA E3 study text includes short questions to test your understanding of each area so you can build up your knowledge base as you progress through the syllabus. In addition, there are knowledge check tests in MyKaplan, our students’ virtual learning environment (VLE), that focus on individual topics and help you to get used to the computer-based nature of the exam!”

    Using peer support and experience to bridge a study gap

    Question from Ibrahim, an E3 student: “Due to personal circumstances I had to take a long study break. I feel I have forgotten a lot of stuff I have previously studied and may at times struggle with motivation. Would attending a course help address these issues?”

    Iryna McDonald, lecturer at Kaplan: “Being in a class is a great way to build connections with other students. Some of your peers might be in similar circumstances and thus social support provided by the group, as well as your lecturer, is sure to keep you going.

    “When it comes to the knowledge brought forward, the E3 course would give you a refresher of the key concepts with a strong emphasis on how these apply to real-world circumstances. At the end of the day, this is what the E3 examiner is aiming to replicate by providing scenario-based questions for students to tackle.

    “Your practical experience would also come in very handy as many E3 questions require a common sense and business-minded approach. By reflecting on how your employer, or an organisation you are familiar with, have handled similar issues, you’d be able to better relate to the scenario set in the question. ”

    Retakes, time management and confusing scenarios

    Question from Nicolas, an E3 student: “I’ve attempted E3 before and it proved trickier than expected. The time was tight, so I didn’t have much left at the end to go over questions I wasn’t sure about. There were also bits of information in the question scenarios that seemed confusing. What shall I do so I’m better prepared next time?”

    Iryna McDonald, lecturer at Kaplan: “Time pressure is a common problem in the E3 exam. As the exam is wordy, those scenarios can take a while to read through and absorb. The trick is to start with skim-reading the question requirements. This will give you a hint about the direction the examiner is taking on the issue, thus it will be easier to pinpoint relevant facts in the scenario.

    “You’ve also done the right thing by flagging up difficult questions to return to at the end of the exam. Do remember there is no negative marking in the exam. So by selecting an option, even if it is initially just a guess, you might be able to score some marks. This way, if the time runs out, you’ve given yourself a chance to earn marks on each question.

    “In terms of confusing scenarios, the examiner does have a habit of building in a decoy – a fact that initially seems important, but is designed to lead you astray. By considering the scenario circumstances holistically and focusing on key priorities of the given organisation, you’ll be better positioned to spot these decoys.

    “Finally, to help ensure that your next attempt is successful, it is important to put question practice at the heart of the process. The E3 questions do have repeating patterns in the scenarios or in the way answer options are formulated. You will start to spot these more easily over time. As they say - practice makes perfect.”

    I hope you found this Q&A session useful. If you feel you need more support during your study times don’t forget to reach out to our Academic support team, or view our other study tips blogs.

  • Why your company needs an accountancy training provider

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jan 27, 2022

    You probably know how important it is to give staff the training they need to grow professionally and become an essential part of your business. However, let us tell you why you need to add an accounting training provider to your list of resources.

    Close any skills gaps

    Ensuring that your employees have the right critical knowledge is a must. A modern-day accountant needs to know more than just numbers on spreadsheets. They need to know how data moves through automated systems, how to use analytical techniques, and deliver insights to solve problems.

    Develop and retain your staff

    With the right training, you can make sure your employees have the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. Offering training can increase staff retention by 30-50%*, by making your employees happier within their role and giving them a more positive view of the company as a whole.

    Employees that complete their training can potentially be eligible for promotions and more responsibilities. This can be a great way to formalise personal development within your company, which benefits both staff and the organisation.

    Build knowledgeable teams

    Create a solid knowledge base and there will be fewer business-damaging mistakes. When employees are trained properly, they have more confidence in their decision making, and can feel more empowered within their role. They’ll also share their knowledge with team members, making the whole team knowledgeable and more confident.

    Get the right people the right qualifications

    There are many different qualifications available, from beginner accountants to experienced investment specialists. If you have employees who are just starting out, then AAT is an excellent introduction to accounting, and covers the basics of most aspects of accountancy.

    For those with more experience, ACCA, ICAEW and CIMA are the next level up, building on a base knowledge, and moving into specialisms such as tax ATT, CTA  and auditing IAP.

    We also offer a range of qualifications outside accountancy which can be great for employees looking to expand their knowledge and develop outside their current role. We can support you every step of the way with all of these qualifications, and ensure they are delivered with a consistent approach.

    Choose the right training provider

    It’s important to get the right training provider for your business. Here at Kaplan we’ve been training accountants and banking and finance professionals for over 70 years, and train over 40,000 students every year. Eight out of ten of the top accountancy firms in the UK use us to train their employees and we have amazing exam pass rates - beating national averages by a mile!

    As well as professional qualifications, we also offer a range of Apprenticeships. Ranked 8th in Rate My Apprenticeships top 50 training providers, we work in collaboration with employers and line managers to help students to succeed.

    Apprenticeships are an innovative way to develop the relevant skills and behaviours through work-based learning, whether you’re starting your career, or looking to upskill.

    By choosing Kaplan as your company’s training provider, you’re choosing experience, expertise, and dedication to success. We only succeed when our students, your employees, succeed.

    Whether you are sending us 100 students or 1 student we will support you every step of the way. Each client gets a dedicated point of contact in our Client Solutions team. Your contact will ensure your programme is delivering as expected, regularly reviewing and making sure you are getting the information you need to monitor your students progression.

    You can trust us to keep you up to date with the latest developments and any government funding available to support your programme.

    Find out what we can offer your business when it comes to financial training solutions.


  • How to pass the CIMA E2 exam (Managing Performance)

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jan 20, 2022

    This blog has been developed to set you up for your CIMA E2 exam (Managing Performance), so you can be in the best possible position to pass.

    The exam topics

    Business models and value creation: The modern business environment is characterised by constant change and disruption that causes organisations to review their business models. The concept of digital ecosystem suggests that the organisations are interdependent and that collaboration with business partners could result in superior performance for all concerned.

    Managing people performance: People nowadays are the organisation’s key assets, thus managing their performance and improving relationships in the workplace is seen as the key to organisational success. It is a responsibility of the management team to set right policies when it comes to appraisals or communication. Skilful leadership will also enable staff to work better as a team.

    Managing projects: Projects are often initiated as part of the implementation phase of new strategies. Project management tools and techniques will help make sure that things are done on time, on budget and to a high quality standard.

    Key challenges of the exam

    In my opinion, generally, E2 is a lovely exam. Without doubt, it’s as good as it gets at the management level. With an average pass rate of over 80%, students tend to agree.

    My particular favourite is the topic of ‘ecosystems’. It helps students to raise their heads above the mundane forecasts or spreadsheets and start to understand how relationships between the organisation, its suppliers and customers are influenced by mutual understanding and trust.

    Particularly in the digital domain, the boundaries between the organisation and its partners become ever more blurred in an attempt to deliver the smooth, one-click experience for the customer. Therefore close collaboration is likely to deliver greater benefits to all involved.

    People performance

    To give you a balanced overview of the challenges ahead, I have to admit that there are also some tricky bits to E2, particularly in managing the people performance part of the syllabus. Initially you might find the quantity of the theories in that area overwhelming.

    However, mind-mapping and summaries provided by your tutor, as well as within the study materials, will help you to break down these theories into more logical and manageable chunks.

    What about the managing projects bit you’d like to ask? I’m sure everyone has a story to tell about how a project in their workplace has gone completely wrong. It’s always better to learn from someone else’s mistakes.

    This bit of the syllabus will equip you with a good understanding of the key terminology (heard of Project Initiation Document?) so you can sound like a pro. But I must warn you that there is a catch – dealing with numbers.

    Though the calculations you might be asked to undertake are mathematically straight forward (for example, when it comes to working out the duration of a project), many students are thrown by having to do numbers in a discursive exam.

    Links to other CIMA exams

    E2 builds on many of the issues from E1 (Managing Finance in a Digital World), such as understanding the macroeconomics environment (remember the PESTEL model?) and HR policies. However the issues are now seen in a broader context, with the focus moving away from internal functioning of the organisation towards managing relationships with a broader range of external stakeholders.

    The different technologies you might remember from E1 will be explored in further depth at E2 to help determine how these could provide an organisation with a competitive edge.

    There are also some overlaps with P2 (Advanced Management Accounting), particularly when it comes to risk management topic. Every new investment organisation can be seen as a project. It is important not only to use the correct capital appraisal techniques to determine the viability of that investment, but also to manage the emerging risks to enable expected returns to materialise.

    Looking ahead to the Management Case, E2 provides the mindset needed to succeed in the case study exam. As a Financial Manager in the case study, you are expected to develop a holistic perspective on how your organisation operates.

    E2 helps to link different aspects of organisational performance. For example, E2 helps build a connection between an organisation's competitive propositions and its performance results.

    Whether these results are presented in the shape of a forecast or an extract from the annual report, E2 helps to understand what stakeholder groups are affected by these results and how the organisations should engage with them.

    What should I do to pass?

    It’s a common misconception that objective test exams are easy. While it is fair to say that some questions may appear to be easier to tackle than others, it may not always be the case.

    On the positive side, the E2 exam is not time pressured, so there will be sufficient time to read each question carefully. This is to make sure you fully understand the key facts and therefore select the answer options that best fit the given circumstances.

    Finally, for some, E2 will be their first exam in a long while. Therefore it is important that you pace your studies in a way that fits around your work and personal commitments.

    Kaplan offers a variety of different study methods, including classroom, Live Online or distance learning to fit in with your time commitments. With expert guidance from our skilled tutors, you will find it easier to acquire both the knowledge and the exam techniques needed to succeed in the E2 exam.

  • How to pass CIMA E1 exam (Managing Finance in a Digital World)

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jan 20, 2022

    This blog has been developed to set you up for your CIMA E1 exam (Managing Finance in a Digital World), so you can be in the best possible position to pass.

    The level of the exam

    Whether you are progressing from the Certificate level, or are going straight into the Operational level as you’ve received exemptions from CIMA, E1 is a great exam to get you started.

    It will introduce you to the basic aspects of managing an organisation, and help you grasp how the finance function enables the organisation to create and preserve value.

    The exam topics

    1. The role of finance function: This topic explores how an organisation as a whole operates and will include some element already familiar to those who completed Certificate level, namely ethics and governance.

    2. Technology in the digital world: The topic of technology will be further explored all the way through the CIMA qualification, thus it makes sense to become fully familiar with concepts such as blockchain and Big Data analytics straight away.

    3. Data and information in the digital world: The finance department is expected to use data better to improve information provision and thus contribute towards more effective decision-making.

    4. Shape and structure of the finance function: As the overall make-up of the organisation is changing in the digital age, the finance function will need to adopt a diamond rather than the traditional hierarchical shape.

    5. Finance interacting with the organisation: The finance function works closely with marketing, operations, HR and IT departments and therefore needs to understand how these department operate to provide them with useful insights that help the organisation perform better.

    The exam structure

    The exam is 90 minutes long and all 60 questions are compulsory. It covers all areas of the syllabus and each question is awarded the same quantity of marks. Overall, you need to get around 70% of questions correct to pass, however when CIMA releases results they use a scaled score, which means that you need to get at least 100 out of 150 marks.

    The exam questions may be set out in different ways, including:

    • choosing one or more correct responses
    • matching definitions or descriptions to the words or phrases that they represent
    • dragging and dropping the correct response into a graph or a diagram
    • clicking on the right spot in a graph or a diagram
    • selecting the correct words or phrases from a drop-down list.

    The pass rate for the E1 exam has been consistently high, at just above 80%. There is a free exam tutorial on the CIMA Pearson site to help you get used to exam screen layout and functionality.

    Key challenges of the exam

    Students tend to perform well on questions related to HR as it is very practical. You can easily relate the topic to your experience of going through a job interview or an appraisal. Some of the technologies, such as cloud computing or the use of mobile devices, are also very easy to grasp.

    Topic areas which pose the greatest difficulty include the activities performed at different levels of finance and data modelling. This is mainly due to the technical terminology used. However, with a bit of practice these will quickly become more accessible.

    Overall, E1 is probably the best exam to start the Operational level with as it lays foundations for many topics that will be further explored in the P (performance) pillar. It also helps to build up the big picture of how an organisation operates and to understand how issues covered in the F (financial) pillar impact on an organisation’s future prospects.

    A good grasp of E1 will also come handy once you progress to the Operational Case Study. E1 introduces the context in which the case is set and lays out the key challenges you will be expected to address in your role.

    What should I do to pass?

    It’s a common misconception that objective test exams are easy. While it is fair to say that some questions may appear to be easier to tackle than others, it may not always be the case.

    On the positive side, the E1 exam is not time pressured, so there will be sufficient time to read questions carefully. This is to make sure you fully understand the key facts and therefore select the answer options that best fit the given circumstances.


    Finally, for some, E1 might be their first exam in a long while. Therefore it is important that you pace your studies in a way that fits around your work and personal commitments.

    Kaplan offers a variety of different study methods, including classroom, Live Online or distance learning to fit in with your time commitments. With expert guidance from our skilled tutors, you will find it easier to acquire both the knowledge and the exam techniques needed to succeed in the E1 exam.

  • Kaplan receive highest rating after Quality Assurance Agency review

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jan 13, 2022

    Every year we take part in a quality assurance visit led by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), and in our latest Annual Monitoring Review we received a ‘commendable’ rating. This is the highest judgement we could have received.

    The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) is responsible for maintaining standards and improving quality in UK Higher Education (at L4 and above). The UK Quality Code is a key reference point for UK Higher Education, and is a strong indication that Kaplan continues to develop and maintain effective quality assurance practices.

    We took part in a series of meetings with the QAA inspection team in November, including a student forum and a staff forum. This allowed the inspection team to really probe into the evidence that we provided them with back in September.

    We're absolutely delighted that QAA continues to recognise the high quality standards that we are constantly striving towards maintaining.

    - Sarah Powell, QAA Lead

    Our students were keen to share their thoughts with the team, reflecting what they found to be positive aspects of our provision:

    • They praised MyKaplan for its ease of use and comprehensive content. Students particularly liked its flexibility, the ‘chat with tutors’ function, videos and recap materials.

    • They valued the availability and responsiveness of teaching staff, citing examples of the quick responses and support provided in the evenings and at weekends.

    • We have an active Apprenticeship Advisory Panel, which was recommended as a useful means of communication for students and staff to secure improvements to the programme and student experience. Student members felt that their voice was always heard in the panel meetings.

    • Students confirmed that Kaplan followed up with surveys, sometimes communicating personally and then implementing clear improvements. They also confirmed that there was clear guidance on identifying and accessing additional support.

    Other recognition

    Our last full Higher Education Review (HER) from QAA took place in November 2020 and we were deemed to ‘meet expectations’ for both maintaining academic standards and the quality of student learning opportunities.

    This was the highest achievement level, and we received no recommendations or affirmations of actions being taken. They identified the following as an area of best practice:

    • The comprehensive and interactive virtual learning environment, MyKaplan. Rapidly developed and enhanced during COVID-19, it provides a highly effective resource for student learning and makes a particularly positive contribution to student achievement and satisfaction.

    We are proud of the work we do for our learners, and tirelessly work on enhancing their learning experience, whether that be in the classroom or learning remotely. So it’s fantastic to see one of our key regulators giving us such positive and objective feedback.

    Here’s to a successful year for all our learners!

  • Top accounting trends to look forward to in 2022

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jan 06, 2022

    2022 has arrived, and we’re excited to see what might be happening this year in accounting. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here’s a quick overview of some things to look out for.

    Increased presence of AI

    Artificial Intelligence can allow Businesses and accountants to work with more clients at once by automating their processes. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Survey discovered that 50% of complex and technical activities are expected to be automated by 2025 (up 40% since 2020).

    2022 holds further advances in software that will allow mundane, repetitive tasks to be completed with minimal human assistance. So from filing invoices, to scheduling meetings, the computer can take over for you, and let you get on with other tasks.


    When it comes to technical accounting and knowledge the landscape is changing, due to the rise of technology and the emergence of data analytics. As mentioned before, many complex technical activities will become automated, so refocusing your skills may pay dividends. You may find that you need new skills over and above just technical and data management.

    Soft skills are becoming increasingly important too, for example: problem solving, communication, and people skills. Adding as many skills to your CV as possible can only be a good thing for your employability.

    Agile working

    The past couple of years have been tough, but what it has shown is that we don’t have to be in a physical office to be productive. We predict that there will be an increase in agile working, or at least not the massive rush back into the office.

    Working and studying flexibly means that businesses can hire the best, no matter where they are in the country, or even the world. It also means that busy work/life schedules are easier to manage, and staff feel trusted to get on with their work, or upskill, without having to be in one place for a set amount of time.

    Rise in Blockchain

    If you’ve not heard the term before, Blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions that are distributed across an entire network of computer systems. Each block on the chain contains a number of transactions that can be viewed and verified by everyone on the network. Whenever a new transaction is added to a block, every participant gets a record of that transaction.

    It’s an incredibly transparent way of working, as there’s nowhere to hide. You can’t ignore an unpaid invoice when it’s sitting there for everyone to see. It’s also great for record keeping (essential for accountants) because records can’t be tampered with. And transactions can be verified by a number of people on the same blockchain.

    And as an added bonus, Blockchain technologies are also really secure. Multiple verifications keep things in order, and each transaction is also recorded with a unique and unchangeable cryptographic signature.

    Want a new challenge in 2022?

    Keep up to speed with the latest changes in the sector. How about gaining new skills in Data Analytics? We have a range of new courses that will give your CV a boost.

    Check out our Data Analytics courses for more information. Or if you’d like to learn about cybersecurity or new technologies then we’ve got you covered.

  • Why should I work in audit?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jan 06, 2022

    If you have the confidence to ask tough questions, a career in auditing might be the right choice for you. Here we break down why you might consider a career in that area.

    Should I become an auditor? What does an auditor do?

    Auditors inspect the accounts, processes and procedures of a business to ensure they’re correct and comply with the law. The Financial Reporting Council – the UK’s audit regulator – says “professional scepticism” is vital to a high-quality audit. So you’ll need to challenge the numbers, and question things that don’t look right to you.

    You can also act in an advisory capacity to recommend risk-aversion measures and cost savings. All of which is a far cry from the misconception that auditing is ‘dull’.

    So audit isn’t boring?

    Many think the profession is about ticking boxes and crunching numbers. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Audit is a people business. You’ll work in a collaborative team environment and often with people from other departments.

    As an external auditor, you’ll get to meet new people all the time and work with companies from lots of different industries.

    Which also means opportunities to travel. Auditors are often out and about, meeting clients across the country or even the world, so your working environment could be constantly changing.

    What’s the salary and career path?

    Auditing is a stable career with high earning potential. The average salary ranges from a starting point of £23,000 and can rise to £65,000 and beyond for an experienced auditor (according to the National Careers Service, December 2021).

    As an experienced external auditor, you could move into management and then become a partner or finance director. You could also set up your own accountancy practice.

    As an experienced internal auditor – where you’ll work in a large business conducting audits on the company’s own accounts – the management route is also open to you. Alternatively, you could become a chartered internal auditor, or a self-employed consultant.

    How do I get into a career in auditing?

    To become an auditor, you’ll first need to gain a chartered accountancy qualification. Find out how in our article - Your guide to starting out in Auditing.

    Ways to answer the “Why audit?” interview question

    Don’t be tempted to wing it in an interview. “What attracts you to auditing?” or “Why do you want to be an auditor?” is almost certainly going to come your way in an audit job interview. You need a solid – and genuine ­­– response. This is not your cue to draw on generic responses such as “I have a passion for numbers”. Instead, focus on your personal skills; show how they can fit into the wider context of the role; and talk about the team environment.

    For instance, you could highlight how your keen eye for detail and diligence in fact-checking is a good match for the most important elements of an auditor’s role – making sure there are no errors, and weeding out inconsistencies.

    Then touch on your emotional intelligence and ability to communicate effectively. Being able to build trust and develop strong relationships with your team and your clients is a big part of the job. So talk about how you enjoy collaborating with other people. And if you’re going for an external auditor job, let them know you’re interested in seeing how other businesses operate.

    Next steps

    If auditing sounds like the career for you, Kaplan can help you get started. You can study audit as part of the ACCA or ACA (ICAEW) qualification, or as part of the Level 4 Internal Audit Practitioner Apprenticeship (to gain the IIA and CIA qualification).

  • AI in Accountancy

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Dec 10, 2021

    Find out how the accountancy profession embracing AI technology could benefit society and give employees in the sector an instant promotion.

    In the final episode of the Learn Better Podcast first series, our host Stuart Pedley Smith, Head of Learning at Kaplan, talks about AI in Accountancy and its implication on jobs in the sector.

    Kaplan’s Learn Better podcast covers topical subjects to support our past, present, and future learners to succeed in both their studies and careers.

    Guest Ben Grubert, CEO at Inevitable, helps break down the technological jargon that surrounds AI, and explains the benefits it can bring to the working world. Putting simply what AI is and how it works, Ben shares examples of how it can take over monotonous, repetitive tasks, and free up time for people to create value in their profession.

    Together Stuart and Ben explore how AI can provide a competitive advantage to businesses and in turn open accountancy services to the masses.

    I would argue that there is more room for accountancy to grow if it embraces the technology rather than runs away from it.

    - Ben Gruber, CEO at Inevitable

    Key topics:

    What is AI and how does it work?

    Ben details how AI is the process of emulating human-like decision making in processes. This is done through algorithms which are a linear series of processes put in order to achieve an effect. In its simplest form it is a logic based, artificial way of making decisions.

    The way that a knight moves in chess, two moves forward and one to the side - that’s an algorithm.

    Examples of similar sectors using AI

    Ben also shares how an insurance company is utilising AI to help in multiple aspects of their business, from onboarding customers using a chatbot, to a claims analysing video system helping them to automate all but the most complicated cases.

    That has allowed the team to focus on creating value rather than doing the monotonous things that they repeat everyday.

    What are AI's implications on jobs?

    A clear theme throughout this episode is how AI can take on repetitive and monotonous tasks, but Stuart questions how this will impact jobs. Ben explains that introducing AI into Accountancy should be no different than the introduction of the calculator into banking.

    AI will free up time and allow employees to focus more on other more complex tasks that need a human touch. In essence giving employees the opportunity to step up into the roles where they are spending more time on valuable tasks than repetitive tasks.

    AI will give everyone a promotion into the role they should be doing, not the one they are doing right now.

    Interested in finding out more?

    Tune in now to hear more about AI and how it can change the Accountancy sector for the better. Keep an eye out for series 2 coming out in Spring 2022.

  • How to pass the ACCA Strategic Business Leader exam

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Dec 08, 2021

    Many students take the ACCA Strategic Business Leader (SBL) paper as one of their first exams at the Strategic professional level. So, what are they to expect?

    SBL has quite a reputation, the first thing students often say is:

    “Oh, my God! The exam is 4 hours long?!”.

    Its reputation precedes it, and many expect that the exam is going to be rather different from what they experienced before and thus will require a new set of skills and techniques.

    For example, at previous levels, the exams emphasise applying the knowledge of the accounting or reporting practices to short scenarios, whereas the SBL exam is expecting students to look at the big picture. Students will now have to handle a whole case study.

    What is a case study?

    A case study is a story about an organisation.

    Due to its length, it will be broken down into a number of exhibits to make it more digestible. The organisation, on which the case is based, could be in any industry or sector, so you can equally expect to deal with issues arising in a charity or in a commercial environment.

    Therefore, practical business awareness helps a lot when it comes to quickly grasping the situation. On the positive side, many of the organisations featured in the exam are similar to those you would encounter in everyday life.

    I’ve also heard that SBL requires students to demonstrate professional skills.

    You’re absolutely correct, 20% of the available marks are for professional skills. As SBL aims to reflect the issues finance professionals deal with in the course of the work, there are marks for professional skills, such as analysis, scepticism and communication.

    For example, finance professionals often deliver presentations to communicate information to parties within and outside of their organisation, therefore an examiner would expect you to be able to prepare slides and supporting notes in the exam too.

    In addition, scepticism is something finance professionals often rely on in determining whether the information they are provided with is of good quality and can be used in decision-making. So in the exam you might need to demonstrate scepticism when reviewing assumptions made in calculations.

    What support does ACCA provide to students to help them acquire these professional skills?

    You might have heard of the Ethics and Professional skills module (EPSM) that was introduced by ACCA. It’s a great way to start practicing these professional skills, even before you commence your SBL course.

    EPSM is done entirely online so you can work through it at your own pace, it uses practical mini-scenarios and real-life examples to demonstrate how professional skills apply to work context and beyond.

    Coming back to SBL, how hard is the exam?

    The average pass rate is about 50%, but with expert tutor support, you are much more likely to pass.

    When attending a course, your tutor will draw attention to the key syllabus aspects that are likely to feature in the exam. For instance, finance professionals are famous for having to deal with lots of numbers and the SBL exam will be no exception. You might be asked to analyse the performance of your organisation over time, compare it to competitors or use figures to identify the causes of underperformance.

    Based on analysis of past papers, the topic of risk and control also features frequently. As a finance professional, you often find yourself checking whether the appropriate procedures are in place to help safeguard a company’s assets, to minimise error or fraud.

    This meticulous attention to practicalities will come very handy in the exam as you could be asked to identify and address risk in any aspect of an organisation’s functioning – this might even include procurements or health and safety. As you know, accountants are supermen and superwomen, they can fix any problem!

    We want you to pass your exams and succeed in the next steps of your career. If you don’t get the results you were expecting and have enrolled on an eligible course, you can take advantage of our ACCA Pass Guarantee.

    It seems like the SBL exam requires some thorough preparation. Where would you advise a student to start?

    It’s best to start at the beginning – with the study plan. At this stage in your, you’re likely to already have to balance significant work and personal commitments. Consider what time you’ve got available for studying. Kaplan has a range of study methods available to fit around students’ busy lives.

    You can also give yourself a boost by starting to develop your commercial awareness from early on. For example, even if just a few minutes of your daily commute could be spent on reading business articles from BBC News, Financial Times or Economist, over time you will acquire significant commercial awareness that will come in very handy in the exam.

    As you progress with your learning, you need to achieve a balance between having the knowledge of underlying theories and being confident with putting forward practical common sense ideas. By practicing past exam papers, particularly when using the ACCA CBE platform, you will give yourself the best chance of getting to know the examiner’s style as well as familiarising yourself with the exam software functionality.

    That seems like a great plan! When can I start?

    SBL exam can be set four times a year in March, June, September, and December. Lots of luck and do get in touch if you need support with your learning.

  • How to pass the ACCA Business and Technology exam (FBT)

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Dec 08, 2021

    This blog has been developed to set you up for your ACCA Business and Technology (FBT) exam, so you can be in the best possible position to pass.

    The level of the exam

    Whether you are starting with the Foundation level qualification or going straight into full ACCA qualification, Business and Technology (FBT) will be one of the first papers you encounter.

    The paper will introduce you to the universal language of business and help you grasp the key concepts and principles according to which any organisation is managed.

    The exam topics

    1. The business organisation, its stakeholders and the external environment. This topic explores the differences between commercial and non-for profit organisations, the importance of managing stakeholder relationships as well as providing a general overview of the wider macro-environment in which the organisation operates.

    2. Business organisation structure, functions and governance. This topic explores the best practice in structuring and running the organisation.

    3. Accounting and reporting systems, technology, compliance and controls. This topic introduces the key concepts in financial, management accounting as well as audit that will be further explored in subsequent papers.

    4. Leading and managing individuals and teams. As a finance professional, you not only need to understand the organisation but also manage its staff. This topic introduces the key ideas on how to create a successful workforce.

    5. Personal effectiveness and communication in business. Being a finance professional involves managing your time and dealing with conflicting priorities. This topic demonstrates how effective communication and use of personal effectiveness tools help you to get things done.

    6. Professional ethics in accounting and business. The topics of ethics and professionalism will be prominent throughout the whole of your qualification.

    The exam structure

    The exam is two hours long and all questions are compulsory.

    Part A of the exam consists of 46 objective test questions, drawn from across the syllabus topics. These are worth either 1 or 2 marks. Questions worth 1 mark have only 1 correct answer from 3 choices, while questions worth 2 marks have 1 correct answer from 4 choices. Section A questions test your knowledge or basic application of the knowledge.

    Part B of the exam is made up of 6 multi-task questions, each worth 4 marks. There is 1 multi-task question on each of the areas of the exam. Some, but not all, of these questions are based on short scenarios.

    Part B requirements may be set out in different ways, including:

    • choosing more than 1 correct response, such as selecting 2 correct answers from up to 6 options.
    • matching definitions or descriptions to the words or phrases that they represent.
    • clicking on the correct response in a graph or diagram.
    • selecting the correct words or phrases from a drop-down list.

    The pass rate for the Business and Technology (FBT) exam has been consistently high, at around 80%.

    Key challenges of the exam

    Students tend to perform well on questions related to the topics of accounting and reporting as well as managing teams and personal effectiveness. This could be due to the fact that accounting and reporting overlaps with other exams at this level, such as financial and management accounting - therefore questions touch upon subject matter already studied.

    Managing teams and personal effectiveness are very practical topics, which makes it easier to relate them to the workplace circumstances you might already be familiar with.

    Topic areas which pose the greatest difficulty include theories of management as well as economics, corporate governance and ethics.

    Initially you might find the quantity of the theories overwhelming. However, mind-mapping and summaries provided by your tutor, as well as within the study materials, will help you to break down these theories into more logical and manageable chunks.

    With the topic of economics, it’s important to remember that only a general grasp of the subject matter is being examined. There is absolutely no need to go deeper into it than prescribed by the syllabus. The topics of governance and ethics will be very useful all the way through your subsequent studies, so by knuckling down now you will save yourself a lot of effort in the future.

    What should I do to pass?

    It’s a common misconception that objective test exams are easy. While it is fair to say that some questions may appear to be easier to tackle than others, it may not always be the case, particularly when it comes to scenario-based questions.

    On the positive side, the Business and Technology (FBT) exam is not time pressured, so there will be sufficient time to read question scenarios carefully. This is to make sure you fully understand the key facts and therefore select the answer options that best fit the given circumstances.

    Finally, for some, Business and Technology (FBT) might be their first exam in a long while. Therefore it is important that you pace your studies in a way that fits around your work and personal commitments.

    For more information and guidance on the topic, please see my short video:

    Kaplan offers a variety of different study options, including classroom, Live Online or distance learning to fit in with your time commitments. With expert guidance from our skilled tutors, you will find it easier to acquire both the knowledge and the exam techniques needed to succeed in the Business and Technology (FBT) exam.

  • Kaplan receives Chartered status

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Dec 01, 2021

    We are pleased to announce that Kaplan has now been awarded Chartered status by the Chartered Institution of Further Education (CIFE).

    The CIFE was set up in 2013 by the then Minister of Skills John Hayes to recognise the important role that Further and Technical education plays in the economy and in developing the skills of our future workforce. It’s a very prestigious honour and only 18 organisations currently hold this accolade.

    We know from our experience what a difference achieving Chartered status means to learners in sectors such as Accounting. So it’s something that we have great pride in now we’ve achieved it for ourselves.

    Our application was particularly welcomed as it demonstrated expertise in our sector, but it also recognises the valuable work we do across the wider industry.

    It also reflected the commitment of the employers that we work with to provide a first class training and employment experience.

    One provider, many masters?

    As a regulated Further Education provider, an Inspected Independent Training provider, and a commercial business, it can be difficult to know where to focus most effort.

    What your clients, board, and regulators want can seem to be very different and if you aren’t careful you can lose your direction.

    As we went through the Chartered application process, we had to look for our true north and work out whose requirements held the trump card.

    The only answer to this was an unremitting focus upon the learner. If we got things right for them, then it meant that we could satisfy the needs of all other stakeholders, or at least explain to them why we are doing what we do.

    As well as regular satisfaction surveys and feedback, we have introduced learner feedback forums to explore the learner experience in greater detail and depth.

    An example

    A good example of this has been a recent workshop on communications to learners. Like many businesses, we have often relied on email to communicate information: it’s fast, reliable and leaves a permanent record.

    However, with our learner base being mostly aged 18-24, the feedback was that email is not something that they have grown to rely on in the same way as some of us older workers have over the past twenty years.

    They find it confusing to store and interpret, and often don’t even read the carefully constructed messages that we send out to them! Thus, we need to find a smarter, more modern way to communicate with them. This is not just limited to Social Media either, but finding meaningful points of contact.

    This is a fairly common example of the kind of issue that an application for Chartered Status helped us to focus on and improve.

    We’re delighted that our continuous drive towards improving what we do has resulted in such prestigious recognition, and this achievement should also be credited to our clients and learners too.

  • Kaplan Success Story: from school leaver to finance director

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Dec 01, 2021

    We caught up with Kelly Atley to find out how she went from leaving school with poor grades, to becoming a finance director. We’re amazed at her ambition and drive, and hope you’re inspired by her story.

    Hi Kelly! Tell us about your education and early career.

    I left school at fifteen with poor grades and no intention of continuing my education. I started work as soon as I left school but quickly realised if I was going to land a decent job, I needed to re-sit my exams and enhance my CV. I returned to college and resat my English and Maths exams.

    I was working in London for a small financial software company when their Financial Controller left, and I stepped in to assist the owner with the finance functions. The owner of the Company offered to fund my AAT studies and I knew this was an opportunity I’d be silly to reject.

    What did you do after studying AAT?

    A few years after completing my AAT studies at Kaplan I started a new role as a regional Finance Manager for a PLC. As part of my package, I requested support to continue my accounting studies, and chose to study ACCA. The role was demanding and my ACCA progress was slow. I was working long hours and studying on an evening or weekend.

    What was your next career move?

    In 2009 I joined a start-up company - again very demanding - but a great opportunity with very good exposure.

    The experience I gained from this role was huge. I was working with the most amazing talented individuals and I was dedicated to making this role a success. A year and half later I had my first boy and two years later was blessed with a second son.

    From this point I was determined to be a success, both as a mum, partner, and in my career. I was determined to pass my ACCA qualification!! And I had to prove to myself I was capable.

    How did you feel after you passed your ACCA exams?

    I finally passed all my exams in March 2016 and will never forget the feeling of pure triumph. At times I wanted to give up, leaving two young children to go to work and studying most weekends to complete the ACCA qualification was tough. I recall crying a lot.

    I constantly felt torn between my kids and career. I felt guilty for wanting a career (still do). But I was driven to qualify and be a success, as much as I felt guilty for leaving them to study, they were also my drive to succeed.

    When did you become a Finance Director?

    In March 2018 I was made Finance Director of the company which was a massive accomplishment and made all my hard work and commitment worthwhile. In 2020, I left the company after eleven years to join a manufacturing company where I now oversee the accounting activities for the UK, German, and Romanian Companies.

    How did you meet Neil Da Costa, Kaplan’s Senior Tax lecturer?

    I met Neil Da Costa while studying Advanced Tax at Kaplan and enjoyed his interactive lectures. Neil became a mentor to me and always helped me feel confident. He would often remind me why I was studying and encouraged me to use my boys as a focus to help pass my exams.

    Neil made me believe in my own abilities and also assisted me with my Practical Experience Record after qualifying to obtain my ACCA Membership. I will always be grateful for his support.

    What advice do you have for other students?

    My key takeaway to other students attempting to become qualified accountants is - never quit. Keep pushing. True character consists of what you do at the second or third attempt. My journey was challenging, but I had worked too hard and sacrificed too much to give up.

    Interested in AAT or ACCA?

    If Kelly’s story has inspired you, check out our AAT pages if you’re just starting out in accounting, or ACCA pages if you’re looking for your next qualification.

    Kaplan Success Stories

    Kaplan Success Stories is a social media feature created by Neil Da Costa, a Senior Tax Lecturer within Kaplan. At Kaplan, we build success and here you will hear about an individual’s journey and how they became successful.

  • WorldSkills UK National Champions winners are revealed

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Dec 01, 2021

    On 15th November our 4 finalist teams battled it out in the Accounting Technician WorldSkills UK Final. Find out which team managed to secure first place.

    During the Qualifiers, Riverside College, Lloyds Team 2, City of Glasgow College, and LIFO the Party (Bridgend College), all gained a place in the Accounting Technician Final. To prepare them ahead of time, a development day was run in October where the teams were given the knowledge and tools to help them succeed.

    On 15th November, at MediaCity in Manchester, each team arrived ready to work hard and tackle the challenge ahead of them. They were given four hours to complete a case study and tasks, set at a level slightly higher than what they are currently studying. This required them to demonstrate their talent, knowledge, and skills within the set time.

    The tasks didn’t just focus on ‘number-crunching’ and core principles like the previous stages, but instead looked at where the role of accountancy is going. They had to be more strategically minded and provide business consultancy.

    It was fantastic to see all the teams come together to compete face to face. There was a great atmosphere and it was inspiring to see each team thrive under the competitive pressure. Every one of our finalists can be extremely proud to have made it to the first ever final of the Accountancy Technician competition.

    The results were revealed via a virtual awards ceremony on Friday 26th November, with the apprentices watching remotely to find out which team had won.

    The results

    1st place - Lloyds Team 2

    2nd - LIFO the Party (Bridgend College)

    3rd - Riverside College

    City of Glasgow College fell just short of a medal place, but can still be very proud of themselves.

    All of the teams competed brilliantly and it was great to see the effort put into their final presentations which were very impressive. This year’s top 3 teams will receive their medals to commemorate their fantastic achievements.

    A very big congratulations again to the winners Lloyds Team 2 who may even get the chance to compete internationally at the 47th WorldSkills Competition, due to take place in Lyon 2024.

    You can watch the virtual results ceremony now, or to find out more about the competition check out the WorldSwkills UK website.

  • Kaplan wins at the Learning Tech Awards for Best Learning Game

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Nov 26, 2021

    We have been awarded the Gold prize at the Learning Technologies 2021 Awards for a business game, which helped onboard ‘new to bank’ apprentices.

    This recognition is for our work with Lloyds Banking Group, and education tech company Interpretive, in our development and execution of an apprenticeship support game.

    Given the challenges that our learners were presented with last year (starting in the workplace during a lockdown) LBG’s latest cohort would not receive traditional face to face inductions, nor classroom skills training - so an online induction was necessary.

    Our business game was borne out of a need to keep apprentices engaged, connected, and make their first few weeks enjoyable, whilst being aligned with LBG’s values

    The game

    We designed an extension of one of Interpretive’s online commercial challenge games to help develop the skills and behaviours of the relevant apprenticeship standards.

    Within the game, apprentices competed for: the highest customer satisfaction, the highest profit, creativity and innovation, and best presentation, at a final awards session. Each team’s decisions affected other teams e.g. price, promotion, and their position within their market.

    This had a positive effect on the apprentices’ engagement, skills and development, and retention.

    The Award

    The impact and effectiveness of this new game clearly resonated with the Learning Technology Award panel. They commented:

    The judges felt that this entry provided a holistic solution with the use of numerous modalities, putting a serious game at the heart of a programme that clearly engaged and enabled the learners.

    - Learning Technology Awards website 

    The game offered up a simulation that facilitated meaningful opportunities to build the real-life relationships we were looking for.

    It created a genuine buzz amongst the apprentices and had a positive impact on their confidence, skills and creativity, resulting in measurable benefits for the business.

    We are delighted to be recognised for adapting to the changes our learners faced, and hopefully this reflects that they are at the heart of everything we do.

    For more information about the awards please visit the Learning Technologies website.

  • The benefits of ACCA to employers

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Aug 04, 2022

    We often talk about the merits of studying ACCA from the perspective of potential learners, but why, and how, could it benefit employers and organisations as a whole? Read on to find out more.

    Firstly, what is ACCA?

    ACCA stands for Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. It’s a globally recognised qualification and is ideal for those wanting to become a chartered accountant, or work in accountancy, tax or audit.

    Why should your employees do ACCA?

    By completing the ACCA qualification your employees will gain essential skills and knowledge needed to add value to your organisation. They will have extensive finance and business skills, adding knowledge to their teams. They will be able to take on higher level roles and responsibilities, and communicate effectively with important internal and external stakeholders on key business and financial matters.

    Is it just an accounting qualification?

    Not at all - there’s a lot more to ACCA than first meets the eye. It’s not just an accountancy qualification as it focuses a lot more on business as a whole. For example during Applied Skills the subjects include Corporate and Business Law in England and globally.

    Learners also study Performance Management, discovering techniques for planning, decision-making, performance evaluation and control. It’s not just spreadsheets and numbers.

    And at the Strategic Professional level, your employees will study ethics and professional skills, as well as business leadership, and advanced financial and performance management. They’ll get a lot more out of this, as will you, than if they did a low level accounting course.

    What is the ACCA approved employer programme?

    The ACCA Approved Employer Programme recognises employers’ high standards of staff training and development. The ACCA recognise and reward organisations that support the ACCA qualification, and set the highest standards of employee support. By becoming an approved employer your organisation will receive a number of benefits via ACCA, including free recruitment services, quality assurance, research and industry insights, discounts on courses, and support from ACCA themselves.

    How do I get my employees ACCA qualified?

    Have a look at our ACCA pages and see what the qualification involves. Most people can start Applied Knowledge with three GSCEs and an A-Level (or equivalent qualifications) - you can check on the ACCA website to see the various entry requirements.

    If any of your employees have already completed the AAT qualification, they can start at Applied Skills. They would have to apply for an ACCA exemption - more information can be found on the ACCA website.

    Need more information?

    If you’d like to speak to one of our team about getting your employees ACCA qualified, or any other qualification, get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.

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