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info_outline Classroom courses and CBEs are running from our centres and will gradually return to full capacity with additional measures to minimise the spread of the virus. See our COVID pages for details.

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  • Moving on from AAT to CIMA

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | May 07, 2020

    If you are coming to the end of your AAT qualification or have already finished, now might be a good time to think about what your next step could be. Could it be CIMA?

    If you have an interest in management accounting, adding value to businesses and looking at strategic level decisions then that is a great start.

    Here’s a few things to think about to help you decide if CIMA is the right direction for you.

    What is the difference between AAT and CIMA?

    The AAT is a Level 4 assessment and CIMA is a Level 7 assessment. This means that it is examined at a higher level and you will need to study at a higher level with more complex studies and questions.

    On gaining a Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation, after finishing your exams and submitting professional work experience, you will be given Chartered status. This means you’ll be a fully qualified management accountant.

    AAT is deemed technician level, so on gaining your CIMA qualification you will be more qualified and hopefully able to earn more money while getting more enjoyment out of your work.

    CIMA is significantly harder than AAT because you need to know a lot more, and have more experience. AAT is great for the basics, but if you want to go further in an accounting career, then CIMA is the way forward.

    With CIMA, you delve deeper into some of the topics you studied in AAT. You explore new studies and skills including: financial analysis, negotiation, project management, and leadership.

    If I’ve done AAT, are there any exemptions going on to CIMA?

    If you have completed AAT Professional Diploma in Accounting (Level 4) you are exempt from the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting, and can start the CIMA Professional Qualification straight away.

    If you haven’t completed AAT but hold the AAT Level 2 (Foundation) or Level 3 (Advanced) diploma you can still study for CIMA. You will begin with the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting, this is four exams aimed at testing the fundamentals of accounting and business.

    When you have completed the certificate level, you then go on to the CIMA Professional Qualification, this is broken down into three levels - Operational, Management and Strategic.

    At each level you have three Objective Tests and then a case study exam.

    CIMA award the exemptions so if you have any queries on these you should get in touch with them directly.

    Need a student’s thoughts on it?

    One of our previous students, Tom Kelly, is a Project Accountant and is fully exam qualified with CIMA. He started out as an AAT apprentice with Kaplan, but the last two years have seen him progress to the CIMA qualification and move on in his career.

    We spoke to him about doing AAT and then CIMA, and how studying with Kaplan helped him get to where he is now.

    What can I do with CIMA?

    CIMA is a globally recognised qualification so the world’s your oyster once qualified. As long as you have the professional experience to back up your exams you should be able to command a higher salary, and work in a field that interests you. CIMA students and members work in the NHS, Biffa and John Lewis to name a few.

    The CIMA qualification is designed to bring together management accounting (the P pillar of your exams), financial accounting (the F pillar), and studies on businesses and the environment in which they operate (E pillar).

    You will study and develop practical skills all employers need. You should be able to work in a wide range of roles from finance to consultancy, business partnering and ultimately Finance Director level.

    Interested in CIMA?

    If you want to find out more about CIMA, we have plenty of information about it on our CIMA course pages. And don’t forget to check out our study methods, so you can choose the right one for you.

    We look forward to supporting you in your next steps and onto your next qualification.

    Remember, we are here to support you whenever you need us.

  • How to access your positive psychology

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | May 05, 2020

    Lucy Whitehall is the Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association's (CABA) expert in positive psychology and well-being, with over 10 years' experience. Drawing on science-based techniques she describes how we can live our best life.

    With positive psychology principles we look at: resilience, mindset, emotional intelligence, hope and optimism. It’s a very useful subject that is largely about performance, productivity and living your best life in any circumstance.

    Human beings have a range of emotions - some of them are positive, some are negative and some of them are neutral. All are valid.

    Positive psychology isn’t positive thinking

    The two often get confused. Positive psychology is based on research and tells us how we can improve our lives through simple methodology. It’s not just about ‘looking on the bright side’.

    Positive thinking, on the other hand, you will often see talked about on social media. Sentiments such as ‘Be positive’ , ‘Think nice thoughts’. But if we are experiencing difficult times with our mental health, being told to ‘think positively’ is not very helpful.

    It’s not only extremely difficult to do that, it also fails to appreciate that human beings have a range of emotions - some of them are positive, some are negative and some of them are neutral. All are valid.

    Positive thinking has no evidence based science behind it. You should not be thinking there is an issue if you have negative thoughts. It’s an unavoidable part of being human. So that approach doesn’t stick and doesn’t last.

    Applying positive psychology to home study and work

    At the best of times it’s hard to juggle study and work, speaking not only as a psychologist but as someone who works and studies often.

    We now have the added pressure of having to struggle with this crisis, and dealing with our lives which have been turned upside down.

    The brain can only concentrate fully for up to 90 minutes. So don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

    What we can take from positive psychology is the concept of resilience - for productivity and performance. To tap into our resilience we should be harnessing our brain’s ability to think about one thing at a time.

    We are getting lots of pressure to juggle lots of things at the same time but this can be distracting. Resist the temptation to multi-task, as it’s proven that the brain can only focus on one thing at a time. Working for short periods of time, but very deeply, is the way forward.

    Turn off those distractions to have undisturbed time. That time might be as little as 10 minutes, and that’s fine. The amount of time the brain can concentrate on fully for is 90 minutes. So don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

    Building resilience

    There are lots of ways to build resilience. Some techniques help prevent us feeling overwhelmed when things get too much. One simple technique is called ‘box breathing’.

    Box breathing is used by the US navy seals, so if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us. It’s a natural way to relax the body and engages the parasympathetic nervous system.

    It involves doing 4 things, to the count of 4:

    Inhaling

    Then holding it

    Exhaling

    Then holding it

    And repeat. Ideally try and do this for between 2 and 5 minutes.

    This is a repetitive way to lower your blood pressure, cortisol and adrenaline. A natural way to calm the body down and useful for when you feel anxiety or stress in your body, or you’re overwhelmed with negative thoughts.

    Celebrate your successes

    Another important thing I want to recommend is self compassion. In the current climate, we may feel extra pressure to be productive, but caving in to this can have a negative impact.

    Many of us will think ‘Well, I’m at home, I’m not commuting anymore, I have all this time, so why am I not more motivated? Why am I not packing more into the day?’.

    But remind yourself that we are actually in a world wide pandemic right now. It’s a very stressful time. Even if we don’t feel like we are on the frontline, there will still be an underlying anxiety.

    So be realistic, within these circumstances.

    Maybe break your study session down into smaller study periods and focus on what is possible.

    With positive psychology we celebrate our successes and achievements. It’s very easy for our brains to focus on what we have not done rather than celebrating the little wins we have had.

    And this is not just a pat on the back or a ‘nice to have’. Once we keep reinforcing the positives it actually starts to rewire the brain. We have seen this happen in the brain. In itself, this is hugely motivating.

    Keep reflecting on your daily achievements

    In the morning, establish what it is you want to achieve for that day, then keep checking in with yourself to see where you are. By the end of that day, celebrate your successes. Maybe even write down the things you want to achieve. Lists are good.

    In fact, it’s proven that we are 7 times more likely to commit to a task if it’s written down. We are even more likely to stick to it if we have an accountability buddy - someone we told we were going to do this task.

    Access your positive psychology

    There are lots of things we can be doing to motivate and unlock your positive psychology in these trying times.

    But in summary, be kind to yourself.

    The world is putting enough pressure on itself right, to get back to normal. But if you show yourself more compassion then you’re more likely to achieve what you want.

    CABA support past and present ICAEW members, ICAEW staff, ACA students and their close families from across the globe.

    To watch the full interview with Lucy Whitehall watch the live recording.

  • What is online proctoring?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | May 01, 2020

    Firstly we’ll answer the question: what is proctoring? It basically means the same as invigilating. To watch people take an exam and make sure that they don’t cheat.

    So how does that work online? With social distancing, many exams are going to be taken at home, online. If there isn’t someone physically there to watch you take the exam, how is it going to work?

    Sitting an exam at home

    If you are sitting an exam at home, you still need to be monitored to make sure you don’t have any outside help. Before you sit an exam on your own computer, you’ll need to download monitoring software that will be used to track you via your camera as you answer the questions.

    It is worth checking with your professional body if they have any checks you need to perform.

    Different types of proctoring

    During online proctoring, software is used to allow you to sit the exam wherever you like. To keep the exam secure and 100% reliable, software is used to track you and monitor you through video, so the exam goes fraud-free.

    Subsequent Proctoring

    Images and logs are captured as you do the exam, and are recorded on video. Later on, a proctor (aka an invigilator) will be able to see if you engaged in any form of cheating.

    The decision is based on the evidence from the captured images. Because everything is recorded, you can sit the exam at any time you feel like - just log in and begin an exam without prior scheduling, unless your qualification institute tells you otherwise.

    Live Proctoring

    This is more like a real exam setting. An online proctor actually watches you as you do the exam, via webcam. They can intervene if they notice anything unusual, just like in a real classroom setting. You would need to book the exam in advance to see if there's a proctor available to invigilate you.

    Automated Proctoring

    In automated proctored online exams, computer software is used to detect any instances of possible cheating or outside help. It can detect whenever different software is opened, or even if there's another person in the room. The remote proctor is alerted to any such events, and they are then in a position to review them.

    Exam setup at home

    You will need to make sure that where you are taking the exam is suitable and that the technology you have is reliable.

    So with that in mind, you will need to have:

    • A quiet private place to take the exam, where you won’t be disturbed
    • A computer with a webcam that is reliable and clear
    • An internet connection that is strong and won’t go down during your exam. Check with your institute if they have minimum requirements, or an internet connection test, just to make sure it’s going to be okay for your exam.

    Will my next exam be online?

    Each individual institute will be reviewing how they are doing their exams in the near future. Some institutes have cancelled them for the foreseeable future, and some are going to move to online as soon as they can, with at least one proposed to start exams this month.

    We will keep you as up to date as we can, but it’s best to check with your qualification provider for more information.

  • The Furloughed Student

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Apr 23, 2020

    AAT student, Emily, is like many of our learners - adapting to change at short notice. She’s now re-prioritising work, life and study. We share her story.

    When the government restrictions were announced, I was sent home the next day and given full pay until the end of March. It was a little bit unnerving as it didn’t look like it was going to be as simple as the government first said.

    Our company told us a few things: that we were probably going to be put on furlough, that there might be redundancies, and that we should be ready to go back to work at any point! So there was a lot to consider.

    I work as a manager of a wig shop, mostly for people with cancer or alopecia. We are part subsidised by the NHS, so many of our patients get prescriptions for their wigs.

    Given the face to face nature of our company though, we obviously couldn’t work under the current circumstances. Working from home just wasn’t an option.

    More time to study?

    So being at home I thought ‘Maybe there’s an opportunity here. Maybe I can get through loads of my course stuff - when my son isn’t driving me mad’. I live with my young son you see. He’s at the high maintenance age.

    So I tried it. I tried working through my AAT Foundation work, but I just couldn’t concentrate. Whenever I would sit down to study my head was somewhere else. Work, son, money furlough, the world, there were too many things to think about.

    I realised I had to give myself time off to adjust. A week off. A break. So I did that and then went back into it a week later. It seemed to make the difference - I felt better. I think it’s because I allowed myself to establish an order and routine.

    Back into the swing of things

    When I managed to get back into it, I picked up where I left off. I carried on using the work books,and using some of the exercises to refresh. I went back over old ground and did some practise exercises based on the things I was familiar with.

    So now I’m in a routine of doing a little bit every day, after I’ve put my son to bed.

    To keep myself motivated I’m pretty much acting like my exams haven’t been cancelled, so I’m working towards my first exam and progressing as normal. But when the time comes, I’ll be ready. I’m at the start of my AAT ‘journey’, on the Bookkeeping controls exam - AAT Foundation Level.

    A work in progress

    I know it’s easier said than done as it’s hard balancing life, stress and study. The first week was ok for my son, but after that he started to get restless. Now he’s wanting to go to peoples’ houses or the park, so needs a lot of my attention.

    This situation is very weird, you just have to roll with it, although it can hit you all at once sometimes. I’ll be fine one moment and then I’ll suddenly pause and reflect on it all. At that point it can be hard to motivate yourself. My Mum and friends help to bring me back down to earth though.

    I’m also working on not taking time for granted. With this situation there is so much time, it makes it easy to keep putting things off and procrastinating. I’m getting there though.

    We know there are many of you in similar circumstances to Emily, so if you need any support during these times do visit our Covid19 page or contact our student services team.

  • Reducing stress through Live Online - a student story

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Apr 23, 2020

    We love to hear from our students, and Peter Criddle is one of our Live Online advocates. He tells us why it worked for him, and how it can work for you.

    Hi Peter, how did you end up choosing Kaplan?

    I started my studies at BPP, but moved to Kaplan during my Professional level.

    I heard great things about Kaplan. Whenever I turned up to exams, I’d see all the students holding “Kaplan pocket revision guides”, so I started asking around and people had very positive things to say. When I went on the website and saw how much easier it was to book a course through them, my mind was made up.

    And what do you think of Live Online?

    Kaplan’s Live Online platform is reliable, everything works, and everything is useful. Really, that’s all the students need.

    I was working full time whilst studying. Fortunately, my company gave me time off for exams, and a couple of study days for each module I took. However, we had our second child in the middle of my course, so there were a lot of sacrifices that had to be made!

    Studying through LiveOnline was so much better for me than having to go to a classroom. It meant that I could stay in the office, or go home and study, and it meant I could spend less time commuting and more time with my family. It also meant that when I did get home, I could just enjoy the time that I had with my family.

    As I have been working and studying for so long, I've had to sacrifice a lot of time with my family. People should be prepared for that because it’s never easy, but it will all be worth it in the end.

    Thanks to ACCA, I'm now able to interview for a new role, and that will bring with it more money and added flexibility in terms of working hours. This will mean that I get to enjoy more time with my family in the long run.

    Any tips for those considering Live Online?

    Find somewhere to study that works for you

    I found that the best thing for me was to use my office as a place to study.

    It’s best to find somewhere where you can regularly go and get work done, whilst spreading it out over your course (rather than cramming at the end).This is really important during the key revision dates at the end of your course. You can’t afford to get distracted at that stage.

    Use the online resources

    There’s a wealth of really useful online study materials and you should definitely take advantage of these. I didn’t use them at first, but once I discovered them, I pretty much stopped using the textbook. It’s so easy to find the information.

    My Tax textbook is 1200 pages long, so it’s really hard to find information. Kaplan’s online materials saved me so much time, and they were so useful for my exam.

    What’s next for you?

    I’m considering a new role and have a lot to learn. I think I’m going to specialise in tax or treasury. Whatever I end up doing, I’m glad to have done Live Online with Kaplan - it made my life a lot easier and a lot less stressful.

    Considering Live Online?

    If Peter’s experience has inspired you, check out Live Online and our other study methods to find out which one will work best for you.

  • Online learning - don't forget VideoBank!

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Apr 17, 2020

    In the wake of Covid19 many of you will have moved your classroom lessons to online, and you’ll be getting to grips with the learning tools at your disposal.

    Some of you may already have been using Live Online, but with the extra time might be looking to use other study resources you’ve previously taken for granted.

    Which is why we want to remind our learners not to forget about the benefits of VideoBank.

    VideoBank?

    VideoBank offers hundreds of bite-sized expert tutor-led videos, ideal for furthering your learning. They provide hints, tips, and practical advice on how to get through your exams and are useful for a whole range of accountancy topics.

    The videos are short and informal, not overwhelming, and don’t take up too much of your time.

    Why would I use it?

    Yes there are great benefits to using Live Online, or any of our other online study options, but adding to that with VideoBank could be helpful. It’s an alternative and visual way to break down information. This could be a great way to embed concepts you might be struggling with or only have a basic understanding of.

    VideoBank is accessible to all our students and is held within the MyKaplan platform. You simply click on ‘course content’ select ‘VideoBank’ and then search for whatever topic you want.

    For more of an overview watch our video:

    So make the most of the extra time you may have, with VideoBank - the alternative way to supplement your learning.

    Feedback to us

    If you can’t find what you’re looking for, email our team and tell us what you think should be on there. We are always looking to add valuable content to our library.

  • Moving on from AAT to ACCA

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Apr 09, 2020

    If you were nearing the end of your AAT qualification, before recent events, or if you finished it a little while ago, it might be time to start thinking about a move to ACCA.

    Here are some things to consider before making any decision.

    What is the difference between AAT and ACCA?

    AAT is your first step into accounting, and all you need to begin the course is enthusiasm. The Foundation level Certificate in Accounting will give you the basic accounting skills and knowledge, from costing and double-entry bookkeeping, to computerised accounting.

    ACCA is aimed at those with some previous qualifications. To start the Applied Knowledge level, you will need to have at least two A levels and three GCSEs or the Level 3 (Advanced) AAT qualification. If you have a Level 2 (Foundation) AAT qualification and don’t meet the A level and GCSE requirements, you can register for the ACCA Foundations in Accountancy qualification.

    The Applied Knowledge and Applied Skills levels of ACCA start at a more advanced level than AAT Level 2 and 3 (Foundation and Advanced).

    Its coverage is both broad and deep, focusing in detail on topics including Financial Accounting, Corporate and Business Law, and Performance Management.

    Progressing to ACCA after AAT Professional (Level 4)

    Once you’ve completed AAT Professional Diploma (level 4) you can go on to do the full ACCA qualification and become a chartered accountant, but you will also be able to apply for some exam exemptions (see below). ACCA is considered a much harder qualification to achieve, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

    The AAT fast track route to ACCA chartered status

    ACCA is one of several UK chartered accountancy bodies that offer AAT full members (MAAT) and fellow members (FMAAT) exemptions that allow them to complete a chartered qualification faster.

    ACCA to AAT Exemptions

    You will be eligible for ACCA exam exemptions once AAT qualified. You won’t need to sit Accountant in Business (AB - previously known as F1), Management Accounting (MA - previously F2), or Financial Accounting (FA - previously F3).

    How long will it take to get ACCA qualified?

    Thanks to the exemptions you get from being AAT qualified, you could complete your ACCA qualification in two years instead of three.

    How much does it cost to move to ACCA?

    In addition to course materials and exams, you will need to pay an initial one-off registration fee of £79, plus an additional annual subscription fee of £112 to the ACCA. This pricing is subject to change.

    Can I get my employer to pay for my qualification?

    Yes, especially in public practice. There are an increasing number of employers offering training contracts for chartered status. This opens up training opportunities in major commercial companies, such as those in the manufacturing, retail and telecoms industries.

    How hard are ACCA exams?

    The ACCA exams are demanding, and increase in difficulty as you go through the syllabus. If you start ACCA once AAT qualified, therefore exempt from the first three exams, the standard of the first ACCA exam is set at the level of a UK Bachelors degree. The Professional Level exams are set at a Masters degree level.

    But don’t worry - because you’ve completed the AAT qualification, you will have a really strong base to build on, and to develop through the ACCA qualification.

    Could I earn more with an ACCA qualification?

    The other thing to consider is where you want your career, and salary, to go. If you’re wanting a large salary with most doors open to you, then ACCA is the way forward. You could be looking at a salary of over £100,000* once qualified and a few years’ experience. With AAT you’re looking at roughly around £30,000.

    So should I do ACCA?

    In the end, it’s entirely up to you, but there are some things to consider. ACCA will take up a lot of your free time, so you’ll need to consider if you can really commit to it.

    You will also need to do 3 years’ work experience - this will be easy if you’re already in a relevant accounting or finance role, but worth considering if you’re not quite in the right position.

    Need more help to decide?

    Have a look at our ACCA pages for more information about the qualification, what’s involved, and how it might work for you. Also our student services team are always on hand for any additional questions.

    *https://kaplan.co.uk/insights/article-detail/insights/2019/10/23/what-salary-can-i-earn-with-an-acca-qualification

  • Are you new to Live Online?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Apr 02, 2020

    It looks like attending face to face lectures is not going to be possible at least for the next few months given COVID-19. But the good news is this doesn’t mean you’ll need to put your career and financial education on hold.

    Because, as a result of not going out you will have more time to study and new technologies make it easier than ever to learn remotely.

    Using Live Online

    The online method that classroom students will probably be most familiar with is Live Online. This is where you are invited to a scheduled webcast, normally on a WebEx or Zoom platform with the lesson delivered live by a tutor.

    It’s not too different to the classroom experience, however, the classes are recorded. Attending live is really important though as it means you’ll have a fixed commitment, a date and time in the diary set aside for study.

    In addition, attending live will increase your levels of engagement. Even if you don’t contribute directly, concentration levels are higher and as a result learning is more effective.

    Here are some things to consider when using Live Online for the first time.

    Before class

    Check out any messages that might be sent in advance of the lecture. Tutors will often post a comment on the activity feed (forum), prior to class, reminding students what will be covered and or highlighting what you should be thinking about.

    Get ready for class

    In the same way that you prepare for a face to face lecture, you need to do the same for Live Online. Have the materials for that session ready in front of you, give yourself plenty of desk space, pens, coffee, calculator all at the ready.

    There is also some degree of mental preparation. Think of the session as a one-off event that you must make the most of. You shouldn’t need to watch the recording, no more than you would sit in a classroom lecture twice. It’s there to reinforce your learning, not act as a backup because you weren’t concentrating the first time.

    Follow closely and work the questions

    When the tutor starts, be ready to take notes - exactly as you would in a classroom. Make sure your sound quality and visuals are good and follow the tutor, annotating the notes as they do. If you are asked to perform a calculation or answer a question, give it your best shot. It doesn’t matter if you get it wrong, it’s having a go that’s important.

    Waiting for the tutor to put the answer on the screen is certainly easier but copying the answer is nowhere near as effective as working the problem. There is a term in learning called ‘desirable difficulty’, which states that although challenges slow down the speed of consumption, the effort made increases the level of retention. To put it simply - ‘No pain No gain’.

    Contribute to the chat panel

    Just because you aren’t contributing to the chat panel doesn’t mean you are not engaged, but it will make the session more enjoyable and go a whole lot faster.

    From a tutor’s perspective it’s really helpful to see comments in the panel. It gives an insight as to what students understand, or what might need further explanation. Without a student’s body language, the tutor finds it hard to judge their own performance with regard to pace, levels of detail and clarity of explanation.

    The one caveat about this is - not everyone wants to chat in the same way and not everyone wants to ask questions in class. So make sure it works for you - chatting should help, not be a distraction.

    After class, there’s more to do

    The session will of course be available to watch again and if you have the time by all means do so. However it’s a good idea to narrow down what you want to see to one or two areas rather than watching the whole lecture again.

    It’s far more important that you spend your time studying the areas not covered. These can be found together with any homework on MyKaplan. Alternatively, your tutor will highlight them.

    What you study online is a significant part of what you need to know, but not everything, so please make sure you put time aside to complete the additional work required before the next session.

    You might not have chosen to study remotely but Live Online is an excellent way of learning. It’s true that you need to be disciplined and you may miss being with your colleagues and friends, but as with many things post Covid-19, it will be interesting to see what permanent changes will result.

    More students learning online might be one of them.

    This blog is written by Stuart Pedley-Smith, Kaplan’s Head of Learning.

  • Joint 1st in the world - secrets to success

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 26, 2020

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

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

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

    Where are you based? What do you do?

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

    Which study method did you choose?

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

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

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

    Why did you mix up the study methods?

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

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

    Why CIMA?

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

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

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

    What are the secrets to your success?

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

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

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

    Any advice for future students?

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

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

    And for the Case Study itself - any tips?

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

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

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

    What does the future look like for you now?

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

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

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

  • Getting back on track - studying ACCA after a break

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 19, 2020

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

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

    Motivation

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

    Grace took a poll and found:

    Webinar poll results - What motivated you to study ACCA?

    Career progression - 60.9%

    A desire to work in finance - 21.7%

    Job security and good salary - 40.6%

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

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

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

    Getting back on track

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

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

    0-3 months - 41.6%

    4-6 months - 45.5%

    7-12 months - 9.1%

    Over 12 months - 3.9%

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

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

    What route should you take?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Which sittings should I do?

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

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

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

    Did you know?

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

    Study plans and progress

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

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

    Not having time to study - 66.2%

    Studying is too expensive - 16.9%

    The subject is too difficult - 29.9%

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

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

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

    Make a study plan

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

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

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

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

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

    Timings

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


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

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

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

    Exam confidence - technique and tips

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

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

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

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

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

    Summary

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

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

  • How does CPD work for AAT?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 19, 2020

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

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

    Who needs to record CPD hours?

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

    What qualifies as CPD?

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

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


    How do I record CPD?

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

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

    Interested in AAT?

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

  • Resilience - good for success and coping with setbacks

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 17, 2020

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

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

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

    What is resilience?

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

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

    How to become more resilient

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

    1. Mindset is key

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

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

    Remind yourself of your strengths

    2. ‘Be’ resilient

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

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

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

    3. Exercise

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

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

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

    Feeling well-rested improves energy levels

    4. Sleep

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

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

    5. You are what you eat

    You can easily adapt your diet to increase resilience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 10, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Richard Marsh, Apprenticeship Partnership Director, Kaplan

    Entry requirements

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

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

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

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

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

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 10, 2020

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

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

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

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

    Zoe Robinson, Director of Learning, Kaplan UK

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

  • Women in accountancy - Interview with Director of Learning

    by User Not Found | Mar 04, 2020

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

    Hi Zoe. Can you describe your role at Kaplan?

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

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

    What’s an average day or week for you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    by User Not Found | Mar 04, 2020

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

    Hi Charlene, tell us about your current career.

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

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

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

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

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

    Reality vs expectation

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

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

    Did you always want to go into accountancy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Men and women in business

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

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

    Ladies - bang the drum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Getting back into learning - Tasha’s story

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 04, 2020

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

    Hi Tasha - why did you decide to study AAT?

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

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

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

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

    And why choose Live Online?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    How did you find Live Online?

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

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

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

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

    What advice would you give future students in your position?

    Practice, practice, practice!

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

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

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

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

    In a similar position?

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

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

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 03, 2020

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

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

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

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

    And it was noticed!

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

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


  • Figuring out Accountancy Apprenticeships

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 03, 2020

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

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

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

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

    Accountancy could be a good career choice if you:

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

    Apprenticeship benefits

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

    Benefits such as:

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

    Entry levels

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

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

    Kaplan can help

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

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

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

    Top Tips

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

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

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

  • 7 soft skills needed for accounting in 2020 and beyond

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Feb 27, 2020

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

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

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

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

    1. Communication

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

    2. Listening and empathy

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

    3. Good technical knowledge

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

    4. Customer service

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

    Did you know?

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

    5. Collaboration and leadership

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

    6. Creativity

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

    7. An enthusiasm for continued learning

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

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

    Some other things to consider

    Employers will also look to see if you:

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

    The importance of soft skills for accountants of the future

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

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

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

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

  • Sleep and study

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Oct 14, 2021

    We discuss why sleep can impact how we learn and why it is fundamental to our mental health.

    This week our host Stuart Pedley Smith, Head of learning here at Kaplan, explores the topic of sleep, how it affects how we learn and our mental health.

    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 Dr Nishi Bhopal, Psychiatrist and Sleep Specialist, explains how fundamental sleep is to your mental health and how we learn. Focusing on consolidation, one of the three primary aspects to learning, she helps to provide understanding as to why sleep deprivation can affect your recall of information.

    Sharing top tips on how to get the best night's sleep, Dr Bhopal points out how obsessing over the amount of sleep you get can actually have a further negative impact on your mental health and your amount of sleep. She explains that although sleep should be a priority, you need to listen to your body rather than focusing on a specific time.

    Key topics

    What is sleep?

    Sleep is a state of being where your awareness of your environment and environmental stimuli is reduced. Similar to hibernation and being in a coma, the main difference is sleep can be rapidly reversed.

    The three primary aspects of learning

    There are three primary aspects of learning: acquisition, consolidation and recall. Sleep is most important to the consolidation aspect. This is when we file away the information into the correct places to help us when it comes to recalling it at a later date. During this phase we also get rid of any extraneous information that we don't need to know. Sleep deprivation can cause consolidation of information to be impacted.

    I visualize the brain almost like an office, where you’ve got multiple filing cabinets, and with sleep deprivation you can imagine you have an office with papers everywhere. Nothing is filed in the right places.

    Top tips for a good night's sleep

    • Get into bed and get up at the same time each day - Having a routine can really help you to sleep better as well as combat the symptoms of “social jetlag”.

    • Don’t get into bed until you are sleepy - Although this sounds counter intuitive, we need to make sure that you associate being in bed with sleep. Lying in bed for hours on your phone will cause your body to instead associate being in bed with being awake, causing you to struggle to sleep well.

    • Find something to help you unwind and relax - Lots of people struggle to fall asleep as their mind is active and thinking about different things and trying to solve problems. This can make it hard to fall asleep, and so doing something that helps distract your mind and relax you before going to bed can be really beneficial in helping you get to sleep.

    Sleep deprivation and the impact on mental health

    Sleep and mental health are directly related, in fact they have a bidirectional relationship. This means that when you aren’t sleeping well it affects your mental health and when you are experiencing issues with mental health it causes issues with sleep. However, there are several different things you can do to help you have a good night's sleep.

    It’s really hard to improve your depression and anxiety, reduce stress levels and of course optimise learning without adequate sleep.

    The economic issue of sleep

    Sleep deprivation can impact the economy financially. In the US it has been noted that workers lose an average of about 11 days of productivity each year due to sleep issues*.

    Some large companies have even implemented nap rooms into their offices to help their workers get the sleep they need to increase their productivity.

    Tune in now to find out more.

    *Sourced from the Washington Post.

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