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  • 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)

    What to expect with CIMA E3

    Question from Shamina, an E3 student: “What should I expect from the E3 objective test exam?”

    Iryna McDonald, lecturer at Kaplan: “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.

    Ready to book your CIMA exam?

    Book online

  • 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 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 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.

  • Accountancy around the world

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Nov 26, 2021

    We discuss how you can pursue your accountancy career abroad and the opportunities available when you gain a globally recognised accountancy qualification.

    This week our host Stuart Pedley Smith, Head of Learning here at Kaplan, explores accountancy around the world and how you can work abroad after qualifying in the UK.

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

    Alex Swift, Insurance Director at R5 and former Kaplan student, highlights the opportunities available abroad and shares his personal experience of being an accountant in a foreign country.

    As well as sharing his own journey to Columbia, Alex provides advice on what you need to think about before making the move and how to pursue a career once in another country.

    We have had luck, I have been open to the opportunity, and undoubtedly the ACA and the financial background has put me in the position to pursue those openings.

    - Alex Swift, Insurance Director at R5

    Key topics:

    Alex’s journey

    Alex details why he decided to move abroad and how what he thought was going to be 6-9 months living in Columbia, turned into five years. Now after setting up a new company he doesn’t see himself moving back to the UK anytime soon.

    Alex also provides insight into how he networked to find work opportunities, and how he was able to use his ACA qualification and knowledge to change a casual conversation into a job interview.

    Being open to opportunity and questioning the why?

    Alex mentions that being open to opportunity doesn't necessarily mean actively pursuing and looking for opportunities, but just having an open mind so that when something does arise you are ready to truly consider it.

    When you are ready to consider opportunities he suggests that you really need to find your “why?”. Why do you want to pursue this opportunity? If you don’t have passion for what you will be doing, there is no point pursuing that opportunity.

    Globally recognised qualifications

    In the podcast we also hear from other students as well as Alex, and a key theme that is noted is the flexibility you gain with an accountancy qualification. Having a globally recognised qualification gives you the ability to work abroad without the need to retrain as needed in other professions.

    An accounting qualification can be a stepping stone to wherever you want it to be.

    Interested in finding out more?

    Tune in now to listen to the full conversation on accountancy around the world, or discover more information on routes into accountancy and gaining a globally recognised qualification.

  • Catching up with an ACA Prize winner

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Nov 18, 2021

    We caught up with Nathan Webb, who won the ACA ICAEW Whinney Prize for getting first place in his Case Study Exam - quite a feat. We’re really proud of his hard work and wanted to find out how achieved such success.

    Hi Nathan - what’s your background and what got you into studying accounting?

    I grew up in Kinver and went to King Edwards VI college to study business, maths and accounting. This is where I found my passion for accounting and realised it’s something I’d like to do for a job. I quite like problem solving and I’d say accounting is primarily a problem-solving job rather than a mathematical one. I originally picked accounting to study due to my interest in business and finance.

    What was it like studying with Kaplan? And which study method did you choose?

    Studying with Kaplan has been a great experience, as there is a massive variety of learning resources available to you inside and outside of tuition. I did classroom study for AAT level 3, 4 and most of ACA until the final 6 ACA exams, when I switched to remote learning during COVID.

    Failing an exam shouldn’t be something to be feared.

    What were your challenges?

    Balancing time between study, work and having a social life is always the standard challenge - it’s the biggest. However, I’d say the mental burden of expectation you place on yourself during exams, particularly as you get towards the end, needs to be talked about more.

    Failing an exam shouldn’t be something to be feared, and I was lucky to be surrounded by amazing colleagues who never put any pressure on me and gave me the confidence I needed to pass the exams. That being said, it was extremely stressful towards the end given how much I wanted to pass.

    How did you feel going into this exam?

    I felt well prepared, but very nervous. I made sure to balance revision between the two pillars of case study; learning the advanced information like the back of your hand, and learning exam technique and easily examinable areas to properly prepare for.

    How did you feel after your exam?

    I didn’t feel good coming out of it. I felt my calculations were incorrect. I had glossed over certain parts of the question and had to hurriedly make up for it when I realised, and my executive summary was lacking.

    On top of this, there were nationwide technical issues with the exams and I had concerns over whether my exam was saved. It goes to show that no matter how you’ve done, you’ll usually feel bad coming out of an exam.

    The short years of study and exams are definitely worth it to set you up for a good career and salary for the rest of your life.

    And you won the Whinney Prize! What did you do to make sure you’d ace the exam?

    I used every single resource available to me to prepare for the exam. I watched ACA webinars, followed case study tips pages, and completed the Kaplan mocks. I summarised the case study in my own words with calculations, breaking different areas of the advanced information up into categories.

    As I say, I tried to learn it as if it were my own business so I could answer any question about it. I then made sure to learn the marking scheme trends and common themes in order to pre-prepare potential answers for each question to maximise my chances of getting marks. This was invaluable as this was my first port of call during the exam.

    What advice do you have for people thinking about studying accounting?

    Accounting is a very vast and varied industry. There will be a niche that suits almost everyone so find the part of it that really interests you. I would say the short years of study and exams are definitely worth it to set you up for a good career and salary for the rest of your life.

    It’s completely doable for everyone who applies themselves. I never got an A* at college or school, yet won a prize at ACA. You will get out of accounting what you put in, so use your interest to drive you forwards and there’s no limit to what you can achieve.

    Interested in ACA ICAEW? Or want to start in accounting?

    If you’re inspired by Nathan’s success, have a look at our ACA ICAEW pages for more information about the qualification. If you’re just starting out, and have never studied accounting before, have a look at our AAT pages for an introduction to the field.

  • Is your organisation prepared for a green and sustainable future?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Nov 18, 2021
    If you want to save the world don’t join Extinction Rebellion, join a bank.

    - Simon Thompson, Chief Executive of the CBI

    On 13th October 2021, we hosted a Green Finance webinar with the ACCA and CBI to discuss the importance of ‘green’ education in the Finance and Banking sectors and how it can also support organisations in the Accountancy sector.

    As industry leading bodies, they are keen to witness and drive changes to educational content and programmes through new, fundamental principles.

    Emmeline Skelton, Head of Sustainability at the ACCA, shared that she felt that bankers and finance professionals need to develop their knowledge of ‘green’ and sustainable finance, so that best practice becomes the standard practice.

    Rather than being a deep environmental, social and governance specialist, she believes it’s about holding a sustainability lens over their skills and knowledge instead.

    Simon Thompson, Chief Executive of the Chartered Banker Institute (CBI), is the Course Leader for the Certificate in Green and Sustainable Finance - the global benchmark qualification. With this course, he hopes to help others to gain the knowledge and awareness that can help to make real changes.

    Additionally, to offer ways for those in the industry to become more environmentally conscious the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) has developed a new Certificate in Climate Risk and the Centre for Responsible Banking.

    However, experienced professionals are not the only ones who need to look at developing ‘green skills’. Apprenticeships can also look to integrate the learning of climate awareness and core foundations of sustainable finance for learners.

    This will help combat the need to create new and specific roles, and instead embed these skills into existing roles, giving employers more options to train their workforce, either by upskilling existing employees or hiring new talent.

    Steps your business and employees can take

    Simon suggested that there are 3 practical things you can do right now:

    1. Visit the Green Finance Education Charter site, hosted by the Green Finance Institute, and navigate the wide range of free resources available there from all 12 professional bodies.

    2. Visit the Green Finance Institute’s Centre for Responsible Banking, and take the free online “Foundations of Green Finance” e-learning modules.

    3. Watch the 40 minute WWF film “Too Big to Fail”.

    Beyond this, encouraging your teams and colleagues to get on board, get involved in the conversation, and challenge old ways of working will help drive change throughout the Accounting and Finance sectors.

    Interested in finding out more?

    Check out our sustainability podcast episode where we discuss the strengthening link between sustainability, the environment, and the accountancy profession.

  • Will A.I change the role of accountants?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Nov 11, 2021

    If you’re studying or working in accounting, you’ve no doubt heard predictions that Artificial Intelligence (AI) could change the face of the accounting profession.

    Naysayers seem to take great pleasure in depicting future scenarios where human accountants have been replaced by machines and software. And trainee accountants could be forgiven for asking the question: Will I have a job in 10 years’ time?

    But while AI will undoubtedly affect the finance industry – just as it will impact most other industries – you can prepare for the new digital landscape.

    How to future-proof your accountancy career

    The key is to keep pace with forthcoming technologies. You can help to future-proof your career by broadening your knowledge base. If you invest in your own development, you can equip yourself with the skills to work alongside AI, rather than fear it.

    Kaplan’s range of accounting courses offer you the chance to add digital knowhow to your traditional accountancy skills. The key is not to skip the ‘nuts and bolts’ of accountancy, but to also learn how to work with new software, to interpret data, and to provide more meaningful insights to your presentations and reports.

    With the right qualifications, you’ll be in a better position to safeguard your current position and take advantage of future opportunities.

    So how will AI affect different accountancy roles? And what skills do accountants need to survive – and thrive?

    AI and Auditors

    Not so long ago, human and machine collaboration on an audit meant an accountant using a calculator. Now, AI can be used to carry out the time consuming, lower judgment, repeatable elements of the audit. Machines can zip through the data extraction that used to take weeks.

    But while AI will make quick work of high volumes of financial information, only the human auditor can bring their creativity and experience to interpreting that data. Businesses need qualified audit professionals to provide considered, constructive reports for their stakeholders.

    And it’s the human element that will allow firms to take advantage of machine learning, as these new insights can be fed back to the machines, meaning the AI-led analysis will be even stronger next time.

    However, many accountants feel they currently lack the required data knowledge and need to develop their data analytics skills if they’re to perform their role effectively in the next few years.

    Fortunately, accounting courses have evolved to help fill this skills gap. The ACCA, AAT and CIMA have all embedded digital learning in their courses. In fact, the AAT will be updating its Q2022 syllabus to put a greater emphasis on technology. The Level 3 qualification, for instance, will include block chain, AI machine learning, data analytics, cloud accounting and real-time data.

    As an auditor, to succeed in the age of AI you don’t need to be a data scientist, but you should be comfortable with data and be able to analyse it.

    AI and Management Accountants

    AI and cloud computing software reduces the time spent on day-to-day finance tasks, which allows accountants to switch their focus from compliance to advisory. As a result, accountants are increasingly taking on a business partner role.

    Findings by CIMA reflect that accountants will need tech knowledge and a digital mindset to affect and influence their own decisions, actions and behaviours, and those of their colleagues within the wider organisation.

    CIMA Operational, the first level of the CIMA Professional qualification, includes sessions on data usage, as well as a deep dive into the technology landscape and its impact on organisations and the finance function.

    It’s this knowledge that will help give management accountants the confidence to provide a more comprehensive business advisory service.

    Adding business value

    And it’s not just chartered and management accountants who are moving towards an advisory role. The industry is seeing this trend across a range of accounting functions. From bookkeeping and tax compliance to month-end work, automation and AI gives accountants more time to add value through advisory work.

    The ability to add context to figures, and to raise and resolve issues, is a useful asset. The ACCA Diploma in Accounting and Business (Level 4) reflects this key strand of accountancy. It’s Business and Technology element shines a light on how businesses are structured and how the role of accounting helps with the efficient management and improvement of a company, its people, and its systems.

    New skills for the AI age

    The best way to prepare for the advance of AI in accountancy is to arm yourself with a digital-ready skillset. Market yourself to your clients and employees as someone who has mastered the new technology, rather than someone who stands to be eclipsed by it.

    You can do this at the start of your accountancy career – the AAT Level 2 AQ2022, for instance, will test your knowledge of digital bookkeeping systems when it launches next year.

    And then continue to adapt by adding the extra levels of competence you need to be effective in your role as an accountant today… and tomorrow.

    Ready to gain the qualifications to help future-proof your accountancy career?

    Kaplan can support you with the course that’s right for you.

  • What steps do I need to take to become a self-employed accountant?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Nov 11, 2021

    Self-employed accountants typically earn £52,000. Perhaps more importantly, 90% are satisfied with their jobs and work/life balance. These findings from the AAT Salary Survey 2021 show that becoming a freelance accountant has the potential to be a very rewarding move.

    But whether you’re an experienced accountant ready to go it alone, or considering retraining as an accountant to launch a new freelance career, where do you start? We’ve gathered some answers to help you on your way.

    Want to change career to freelance accountancy? Get the right qualifications

    If you’re not already in the profession, you’ll need to get qualified. Kickstarting your freelance accountancy career is easier than you may think.

    Kaplan has been helping people train for success for over 70 years, and we can offer you a choice of routes into accountancy. We provide training for all levels, and have four study methods to suit your lifestyle: OnDemand, Classroom, Live Online, and Distance Learning.

    The minimum recognised qualification in the UK is AAT. You don’t need any previous qualifications or accountancy experience to begin. Once you’ve gained your AAT Level 4 you’ll be able to offer your services as an accountant.

    Already have some accounting skills? The more you learn, the more you can earn

    From this stage, it’s worth developing your skills further. With Kaplan, you can progress through the qualification levels with ACCA, CIMA, or ACA ICAEW. That way, you can provide a broader range of accountancy services from bookkeeping through to payroll, tax and audits, as well as advising clients how to improve their business’s finances.

    You’ll need practical experience

    Alongside your qualifications, you’ll need relevant on-the-job experience. Prospective clients will want to know you can deliver what you’re promising, so it’s essential to have practical skills to back up your knowledge.

    If you can highlight your hands-on accountancy credentials from a previous role, great! But if you’re just starting your journey, it can be hard to get paid work before you’re qualified. Look into part-time roles, internships or volunteer work in a finance department to gain a practical understanding of accountancy systems and methods.

    Or how about an accounting apprenticeship? Apprenticeships aren’t just for school leavers. You can have a degree or been working for years and still start an apprenticeship. Whether you’re brand new to accounting or have some experience, an apprenticeship lets you gain on-the-job knowhow, while simultaneously studying for your professional qualification. If you’re aged 16 or over, live in England, and not already in full time education, it’s a great way to gain more accounting experience.

    Don’t overlook the legal side

    When you start working for yourself, you’ll need to set up as self-employed. You’ll also need to comply with industry standard guidelines and legal requirements before you can offer accountancy services.

    These include anti-money laundering regulations, registering with HMRC for your agent services account, and being registered with and monitored by a recognised supervisory authority such as AAT, ACCA, CIMA or ICAEW.

    You must notify the Information Commissioner’s Office as you’ll be holding personal data on your clients. And as even the most established firms can make mistakes, you’ll need Professional Indemnity Insurance to protect you against claims for professional negligence.

    Attract more clients

    When it comes to freelancing, the internet is your best friend. You’ve probably created a website, but is it working hard enough for you? As well as your contact details and information on the services you offer, include testimonials from clients and former colleagues.

    Join accountancy forums to raise your profile and connect with fellow professionals – they’ll be a source of advice and might pass on clients they’re too busy to handle.

    Above all, start networking with other firms in your area. Local business owners often support each other and use each other’s services. Find out about business groups near you. Or join a co-working space where you’ll meet others who might need your services.

    Then sell them more services

    It’s often easier to increase the revenue from existing clients than to find new ones. Once you’ve proven your worth by doing a good job in one area, offer to bring your expertise to something else.

    So if you’ve balanced their books by keeping track of revenue and expenses, offer to advise them on strategic business decisions. You could project profit margin increases and investment returns. Or pitch them on tax planning.

    There are a lot of options. And the more qualifications you gain, the more services you’ll be able to offer. So keep progressing through your qualification levels to expand your earning potential.

    Take your first steps to freelance accounting

    Becoming a self-employed accountant has a lot going for it. As well as the flexibility and freedom, you could enjoy more variety in your work. It’s a choice that could suit you if you’re seeking a new direction, or simply want to use your skills to be your own boss.

    Your qualifications, portfolio of work and your reputation will be your calling card. Concentrate on building them and you’ll be on the path to a successful freelance accountancy career.

    Ready to take your first steps to being a freelance accountant?

    Explore the popular accounting qualifications to get started or progress to the next level.

  • Well-being in your studies

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Nov 11, 2021

    We discuss why awareness of your own well-being is key to success, and how it can impact your performance.

    This week our host Stuart Pedley Smith, Head of learning here at Kaplan, explores the topic of well-being and it’s impact on your studies and working life.

    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 expert mental health speaker, Ross McWilliam of Mindset Pro, talks through the importance of acknowledging well-being and how to optimise our productivity through taking care of our wellness. He asks “Does being the best come at the expense of mental health?”, as well as sharing the 5 pillars to help you perform at your maximum.

    If you disregard well-being or don’t give it enough respect, it will come knocking on your door.

    - Ross McWilliam, Mindset Pro

    Key Topics:

    What is wellness?

    Wellness is being in a position to enjoy life and reach our potential whilst also being about to know when we are being compromised and know how to improve it when it happens.

    Being aware of your own wellness and well-being is key.

    The 5 pillars of wellbeing

    • Sleep:
      With sleep it is important to find what works for you and not worry about it too much as this itself can cause you stress.

    • Diet:
      People generally know what they should eat to maintain a healthy balanced diet. But making sure this is a priority can really help to support your wellbeing.

    • Exercise:
      Going outside, getting vitamin D and moving is a great way to improve your wellness. Exercise doesn't have to be going for a run or a 2 hour gym session. A great way to keep moving, without thinking about exercise specifically, is through activities like gardening. It keeps you moving and distracts your mind.

    • Being connected:
      We all know that being connected to other people is important to our wellness.
      Being connected to other people, doing something together where we don’t feel judged is essential for our wellbeing.

    • Self esteem and purpose:
      Self esteem and purpose is at the core of who we are. Learn, grow and enjoy life, don’t be too critical on where you are or compare yourself to others. Accept where you are in the world, or challenge it if you need to.

    Failing fantastically

    Often people talk themselves out of things to avoid failure. However, some of the best achievements in history have come from great people failing fantastically. So much can be learned from mistakes and we shouldn’t be scared to fail, as otherwise you can end up missing out on what you could have achieved.

    So, fail fantastically - like the greats.

    It’s not always who gets there first, it’s as long as you get there.

    Working at 85%

    People often believe you should always work at 100%, but that can leave little room for you to step up when needed. Instead you should think about working at 85% as this gives you the flexibility to take on extra work when it is needed but without causing yourself to burn out.

    Interested in finding out more? Tune in now.

  • In the top 10: Ben Springall provides his advice

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Feb 13, 2024

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

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

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

    Can you tell me about your career?

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

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

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

    How would you compare university to your apprenticeship?

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

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

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

    Have you encountered any challenges during your studies?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Achieving 10th in the world with CIMA

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

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

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

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

    How have you found the support from Kaplan?

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

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

    How’s the support been from your employer?

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

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

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

    Do you have any advice for anyone who is studying?

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

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

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

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

    What does the future look like for you?

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

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

    Feeling inspired?

    We offer the CGMA’s CIMA full qualification across all study methods. Find out more.

    If you’re interested in an apprenticeship, browse our current vacancies or read more about how to talk to your employer about starting you on an apprenticeship.

    Ready to start your studies?

    Find out more

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