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  • Do I need to be good at maths to study accountancy?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jul 08, 2021

    This could be the shortest blog in the world if we just said - no, you don’t need to be good at maths to study accountancy. But we thought you’d like to know why maths isn’t the be all and end all of being an accountant.

    There’s much more to accountancy than calculations, and you might already have the skills to make you great at it.

    What level of maths do I need then?

    To enrol on an entry level accounting course, such as AAT Level 2, you need a decent grasp of maths, preferably GCSE grade 9-4 (A*-C). So you don’t need to be a maths genius, or have a maths degree.

    What skills do I need to be an accountant?

    So we’ve established you don’t need incredibly sophisticated maths skills. But you will need to have good analytical skills, alongside an attention to detail. You’ll need to be able to spot anomalies and analyse why they could be there, and report to the business your findings.

    Good communication skills are also essential. You’ll have to be able to explain potentially complicated accounting in layman’s terms. The people you’ll be talking to might not completely understand the world of accountancy - it’s your job to make sure they comprehend what’s going on in their finances.

    Being organised is accountant 101. You’ll need to be able to keep track of multiple accounts, meet deadlines, and follow proper reporting procedures. You’ll need to be able to keep track of paperwork - one missing piece could cause massive delays for your business or client.

    Time management goes hand in hand with being organised. Financial reporting adheres to strict deadlines, so you can’t just put off something you don’t want to do, or take too long working on one issue. Hitting deadlines is something that will need to be second nature.

    Computer literacy and the ability to adapt to new software is very important too. When you study accounting you’ll learn about different software packages, but the business you go into may use something different. You’ll need to learn quickly and get to grips with their systems.

    Being proficient with spreadsheets is also a great skill to have - you might want to do a separate Excel course to make sure you’re comfortable with them.

    What can I earn as an accountant?

    Like any other career, it can depend on location and experience. But the average UK salary for an accountant is £42,500* per year. This can rise to well over £100,000 if you become a Chief Financial Officer - so a career in accounting can be rather lucrative.

    Interested in accounting?

    If you’re ready to find out more, have a look at AAT - it’s the start of a great accounting career.


  • WorldSkills National Qualifiers are almost here

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jul 08, 2021

    Apprentices across the UK will compete to secure a place in the WorldSkills UK LIVE finals.

    Kaplan values showcasing the talent of UK apprentices, as well as recognising their hard work. So we are extremely proud to be hosting the WorldSkills Accounting Technician competition this year.

    WorldSkills UK is an independent charity and a partnership between employers, education and governments who support young people across the world via competitions-based training, assessment and benchmarking.

    The Qualifiers for the National Accounting Technician competition are due to take place on Thursday 15th July and will be held via Zoom.

    The team competition is aimed at learners currently undertaking a Level 3 apprenticeship or higher, those with an equivalent qualification (e.g. HND in Accounting), or those who have completed one of these within the past 12 months.

    Designed by our industry expert Kaplan tutors, the competition looks to assess knowledge, practical skills and employability attributes of competitors. It also helps develop qualities valued by employers such as team work, problem solving, time management, judgment and working under pressure.

    A total of 16 made it through the initial stage and will be taking part in the Qualifiers in mid July.

    The qualifying teams are from Lloyds Banking Group, Oldham College, Lincoln College, Bridgend College, City of Glasgow College, and Riverside College.

    Each team will have two hours to complete a case study task and present it back to the three judges. The results will then be announced within a few weeks to see who will move forward to compete in the National Finals in November.

    We’ll be sharing further details following the results, so keep an eye out to see who will progress, and for the full details of the UK LIVE finals.

    For more information about the competitions check out the WorldSkills UK website.

  • Building confidence - from call centre to business owner

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jul 01, 2021

    Through his studies, former Kaplan student Jack Swallow overcame personal challenges and developed a confidence which led to his current success. Discover more about his journey.

    For me, my biggest challenge was not having enough confidence.

    I wasn’t particularly ‘bright’ at school. I was more interested in sports, and later I worked in a call centre.

    It took a long time to build up my confidence. Even just speaking in front of people was a struggle. I remember not being able to physically speak in front of the CEO in my first finance job. It wasn’t until I started studying CIMA that things started to change.

    Studying with a provider like Kaplan gave me the skills to get through the exams. I passed all 15 exams, as it was then, in just 22 months - and this was the catalyst for me.

    From here I started noticing that when I spoke - people listened. This led to me having the confidence to lead teams, present to senior stakeholders. I wouldn’t have dared make eye contact with them previously. But over time, my confidence grew and I started to really enjoy it.

    Launching a new business

    Following this I launched a new business - Lead the Disruption. The company specialises in the borrowing of business books. It was inspired by the executives I met, and my interest in how they got their C-Suite positions.

    Luckily, everyone I approached was very forthcoming and although I did not realise the significance of it at the time, they all gave me a list of books to read! It was later I realised the correlation between books and executives. Soon after, I spotted a potential gap in the market.

    Memories of Kaplan

    My favourite memory of Kaplan dates back to being in Neil Da Costa’s class, when he was teaching us deferred tax.

    The textbook had around 100 pages on deferred tax, the lecture notes had about 20 pages on it. Neil came in after lunch, ginger beer in hand, and told us not to worry about the lecture notes.

    He then drew a single mind map that we needed to learn. One proforma and one page later – that was it! Neil was also noticeably confident – never was I in any doubt that he had not taught me what I needed to learn for the exam – and his confidence gave me confidence.

    This was especially useful during the ‘nervy’ period heading into the exam. But after this I knew I was going to pass before going into the exam.

    Jack’s key take-aways for other students

    I used to run a lot, but I always trained better than I raced. This bemused the university enough to send me to a sports psychologist. We found out that I was scared of racing my best, in case my best was not good enough. In other words - being scared to fail.

    This was an eye opener, and it started a process where I began to work on not being scared to fail. By embracing failure and not running away from it can allow you to see things differently.

    When you are scared of failing, almost any sign that something will not work is enough to get you to stop. Self-doubt gets in the way. When you are not scared of failing, you stop paying attention to these minor things and you start seeing solutions instead of problems.

    Final tips

    So, four things you need to take away are:

    • Do not be afraid to fail (easier said than done).
    • Start with the end in mind. You need to know where you are going.
    • Build your network. By knowing people who can help you, you are more likely to be successful.
    • Read lots and read widely.

    Model the success of other successful people.

    Study CIMA

    CIMA opens doors for many, personally and professionally. To find out more please visit our CIMA course pages.

  • How to become a bookkeeper

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jul 01, 2021

    Bookkeeping isn’t just about bills and invoices, and tracking numbers in spreadsheets. It’s about the flow of money and helping businesses to thrive. Here’s some information on how to get started.

    All businesses need bookkeepers as it’s the law to keep a record of financial transactions, but a bookkeeper is essential to keep track of where cash flows in and out of the business. This is the only way to know if the business can continue operating and turn a profit.

    So how do you get into this interesting and essential career?

    What qualifications do I need to be a bookkeeper?

    You don’t need to have a degree or any prior knowledge to start learning about bookkeeping. The most common route for someone new to accountancy is to study the AAT Professional qualification. This gives you a solid overview of accounting principles, with modules dedicated to bookkeeping and preparing accounts.

    AAT also has a shorter bookkeeping qualification which focuses on the core bookkeeping modules. This allows you to qualify in a shorter period, with the option to return to the full diploma at a later date.

    You could also do a three or five day ACA Practical Bookkeeping course. This provides the practical knowledge and experience of processing information and transactions.

    Can I start my own bookkeeping business?

    Absolutely. You can work in any business in-house, or you can set up on your own and be a sole trader, working for many different companies. You’ll need to make sure you have all the correct software in place to be able to do the job properly, and be able to explain clearly to potential clients what you can deliver.

    You’ll have to register your business with HMRC, manage your own taxes, and do all the usual tasks that anyone who is self-employed has to do.

    Do you need a license to be a bookkeeper in the UK?

    To be a bookkeeper you need to have a money laundering license, also known as AML - Anti Money Laundering. If you don’t have this you would be breaking the law if you start a bookkeeping business from home.

    License holders are offered a range of resources and guidance to help complying with your AML duties.

    You can apply for this at any time of year. Applications are processed within 28 days.

    How much can a bookkeeper earn?

    In-house bookkeepers earn between £27-30k a year*, whilst hourly rates are between £10-15 per hour**. But salaries and rates can depend on business, location and experience.

    Interested in bookkeeping?

    Bookkeeping is a rewarding career path and the field is constantly growing. Have a look at our bookkeeping courses for more information.


  • 5 reasons why the world needs accountants more than ever

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jun 25, 2021

    It’s pretty safe to assume that there’s a strong demand for healthcare providers and front line staff workers right now. Whilst this is very true, it’s also the case that we really need more accountants. Let us tell you why.

    1. They will help businesses recover

    It’s been a really tough time for businesses, and many have struggled to the point that they’ve had to close or really restructure their organisation. Accountants are vital to reassess their finances and see where and how they can rebuild.

    Clever accountancy is going to help the economy adapt and thrive - not just in the UK but around the world.

    2. They can help businesses become global

    Small businesses are no longer restricted to their immediate area, or country. They can now be global in a click of a few buttons. But they need accountants with a worldwide understanding of finance. With global expansion comes currency exchange, more suppliers, and new ways to pay and get paid.

    3. Accountants can combat climate change

    It sounds mad but it’s true. The current global GDP is roughly $87.55 trillion. A citi study* from August 2015 found that an increase of 4.5°C in global temperatures could shrink the GDP to $72 trillion.

    The Paris Agreement aims to create a global framework by limiting global temperature increase to less than 2°C. 189 countries have signed the agreement.

    Accountants are essential for mitigating climate change. They will have to step in by creating awareness of climate-smart policies and embracing renewable energy within their businesses and clients. By focusing money on the right areas, analysing how businesses deal with waste and industrial processes, accountants can combat climate change.

    Planet sustainability is inextricably linked to business and financial sustainability.

    4. Small businesses rely on good accountants

    All around the world, from car dealerships in the UK to leather bag makers in Cape Town, businesses need accountants to be successful. Business owners often regard their accountants as an irreplaceable part of their organisation.

    They rely on them for reporting, best practice advice, guidance for international sales, and all the financial aspects that they don’t want to get bogged down by. They want to focus on what they do best, and leave the numbers to their accountants.

    There’s never been a tougher time for small businesses, and it’s the accountant that they look to to ensure they can still buy, borrow, pay their staff, and function.

    5. They can bring joy and comfort

    Imagine you’ve found the solution to your business’ financial problems by sourcing a new eco-friendly supplier, that has a discount for repeat businesses and a pact to be greener?

    Win for you, win for your stakeholders and the business. There are many areas that accountants can contribute to, and reap the rewards. It’s not just number crunching - it’s finding exciting, new ways to grow and develop businesses, and keep them going for a profitable future.

    Interested in changing the world, and your career?

    You don’t need any experience in accounting to get started. Have a look at AAT if you’re just starting out, or if you’ve been working in accounting and want to boost your career, check out our ACCA and CIMA pages for more information.

    *citi - Energy Darwinism II

  • Tricky Topic - CIMA P1 study tips

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jun 10, 2021

    CIMA P1 is consistently regarded as one of the toughest areas of the Operational level, and the qualification as a whole. We spoke to a couple of our learners who gave an insight into their experience of passing it.

    How did you do in the exam?

    Niamh: Luckily, I passed it first time.

    Kat: I studied P1 about 2 years ago (not with Kaplan) and unfortunately failed the exam a few times. But the last time I studied with Kaplan I passed on the first try thanks to all the resources available and the great tutor support. I still found the exam tough though.

    How did you overcome the challenge of P1?

    Niamh: The thing I found most challenging was remembering all of the formulas for the various calculations. The sheer quantity of information that you needed to know, while working a full time job - in a world that’s opening up again - took some getting used to!

    It took me a good few weeks to get into the swing of things with this module. I was really struggling to switch my brain back into maths mode, having just completed E1 which was all theory.

    At the start of the module, I spent a couple of hours in the evenings copying up notes and trying to get my head round what I learnt in the lessons, and then practised questions at the weekend.

    This meant that when it came to revision time, I had a basic understanding of all of the chapters and could concentrate on answering the questions. During the last few weeks before my exam, I tried to do a couple of hours revising before work, and a couple of hours after and got myself into a daily routine of this.

    I concentrated on learning the calculations and being able to answer those types of questions, and then turned my concentration to learning the theory of the module as there is also a lot of this in the exam.

    Kat: Question practice, more practice and some more question practice. Especially timed question practice.

    It’s very challenging to stay focused and motivated if you’re getting low scores on the Mock and Test your understanding (TYU) questions, but just break it all down into bite size chunks and study the areas you feel stuck on.

    I would do the mock, write down the areas I would struggle with, and go over the chapters again to refresh my memory.

    I found it was useful to look at the chapters for the 4 syllabus areas together and build TYU modules for the areas.

    What advice would you give to someone studying P1?

    Niamh: My biggest advice to anyone doing P1 is to practice as many questions as possible. Kaplan provide a lot of practice questions.

    Make sure you also learn the theory of the module as I felt as if there was a lot more of this in the exam than I expected.

    Sticking post-it notes around the house was my trick – going to get a cup of tea in the morning and the break-even calculation being on my milk bottle, or the causes of sales variances being on my mirror. There were many little reminders in random places which helped me to picture them in my exam.

    Make sure you also reach out for help and support. Kaplan has a lot of resources to help you where you are struggling, it is what you are paying for - so use it!

    My final bit of advice is make sure you don’t overwork. Get some rest. I always found that when I was tired from a day of work or had spent hours reading the textbook, I was basically just looking into oblivion and nothing was going in.

    Manage your time so that you still have a social life, and if you get enough sleep you’ll find that your studying is actually more productive.

    Kat: I broke revision down into 2-3 hour sections at most, and over a weekend would do one first thing in the morning, then one in the afternoon.

    On the week we didn’t have tuition I made sure to recap notes on the same nights of the week to keep the momentum of studying and staying in a routine.

    Plan breaks and one day or night off – and take them. They are vital for your well-being and really beneficial, even if it’s a dog walk, food shopping or having a bit of a pamper session. I found it refreshed my mind and I could concentrate again afterwards.


    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.

  • 10 reasons why you should go into accounting

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jun 03, 2021

    Accounting. A word that is sometimes followed by “dry” or “maths” - but it’s so much more than just lines of numbers and calculations. Don’t believe us? Here are some reasons why accounting and accountancy are so much more than you might first think.

    1.It’s not just for the maths whizz

    Whilst numeracy is important, there’s so much more to accounting than numbers. Modern software does many of the calculations and number crunching for you anyway, so good communication, advisory, and guidance skills are much sought after.

    2. Everyone needs an accountant

    You can really choose any industry to work in - whether that’s film or football, science, fashion, entertainments or retail - every business needs a finance professional to help manage and advise them.

    3. Travel the world

    As an accountant the world really does open up. The skills you learn are needed everywhere, in every business. And if you’re a member of a globally recognised body such as ACCA, you’ll find that you can move to your dream city and work in a respected position in any company.

    4. No degree? Doesn’t matter!

    You will find accountants with degrees, but a lot don’t have them because they don’t need them. That’s right - accountants don’t need to have a degree to succeed. If you do have one, you might be able to skip a few exams, but often it doesn’t matter whether or not you have been to university.

    You can start AAT with absolutely no accounting knowledge, and work your way up to the advanced qualifications in due course.

    5. Demand a high salary

    Newly qualified accountants start at around £42,000* a year, a chartered accountant can earn around £55,000* a year, and a Chief Financial Officer can earn well over £100,000* a year. But salaries can vary, depending on where in the world you are, the sector you’re working in, and your experience.

    6. Be your own boss

    You don’t have to work for a company, you can work for yourself, picking and choosing your clients as you see fit.

    Your skills will be invaluable to any business - and you might find that being an accountant for lots of different small businesses may suit you better than being an in-house accountant. It can suit those who have busy home lives, or need a bit more variation in their working life.

    7. Job security

    Businesses will always need accountants, so accounting is a very stable industry to work in. While no field can guarantee anyone a job, the prospects in accounting are excellent and are likely to stay that way.

    8. Choose what you really want to do

    Accountants aren’t just there for looking at lines of numbers. If you are really interested in a particular area of finance, you can specialise. So if you really like tax or audit, you can follow that path.

    Or if you’re looking for something more investigative, try forensic accounting - remember - accountants took down Al Capone!

    9. Gain invaluable transferable skills

    The skills you learn and develop as an accountant are easily transferable to other roles and sectors. For example, accountants can go into teaching, trading or recruiting, so if you ever want a change of scenery you will have plenty of other options to choose from.

    10. Make a real difference

    Finance professionals do much more than just crunch numbers. Accountants are required to have technical abilities and commercial acumen so they can advise decision makers on strategy and business processes.

    A good accountant can steer a business or organisation in the best direction to make real differences. For example, you could be working for a charity and discover a way to make the absolute best use of every penny that comes in, changing the lives of those that the charity supports.

    Interested in accounting?

    If you’re just starting out, have a look at our AAT pages for more information about entry level qualifications. If you’re looking to advance your career with an advanced qualification, have a look at our ACCA and CIMA pages.


    Ready to get started?

    Browse our AAT courses

  • Important info for the upcoming Advanced Synoptic Assessment

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | May 06, 2021

    This information is for AAT students who have booked their AVSYs.

    If you have your Advanced Synoptic Assessment (AVSY) booked for next week's exam window, you’ll be aware that you have to upload your excel work into the AAT SecureAssess platform.

    For those who are sitting their exam at a Kaplan centre, you’ll have access to the exam guide document before you start the exam. However, we recommend that you familiarise yourself with the process prior to your exam.

    This can be accessed via MyKaplan - or directly: AAT AVSY Exam Guidance document.

    The AAT has both documents on their study support pages, so you can read through for some understanding and then use it as a guide in the exam itself.

    Please remember we are here to support you through your AAT qualification. If you need any help please get in touch with us and good luck with your exams.

    Our Student Services team are always happy to help you.

  • What are the AAT levels equivalent to?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | May 06, 2021

    AAT is a great place to start if you’re interested in accounting and finance. But what is it actually equivalent to compared to other qualifications? Here we explain the comparisons to give you a better idea.

    Please note, that this is just an approximate idea of the levels and not an exact equivalence.

    Firstly - what is AAT?

    AAT stands for Association of Accounting Technicians and is a leading accounting body for accounting professionals. The AAT qualification is the start of an accountancy career for anyone without any previous experience.

    It’s made up of three levels - Foundation, Advanced and Professional. Each level takes around a year to complete.

    Foundation - Level 2

    The Foundation Certificate in Accounting is equivalent to GCSE level of study. It covers the basic principles of accountancy, and is your starting point if you’ve never studied accountancy before.

    You’ll learn the basic principles of accountancy, such as double-entry bookkeeping, costing and preparing financial statements, as well as how to use accountancy software. Most people complete this level within six to 12 months.

    You don’t need any prior experience to study AAT Foundation - but you do need good maths, IT and English skills. AAT has a skillcheck test you can do to see which level of AAT to start at.

    Advanced - Level 3

    The Advanced Diploma in Accounting is roughly equivalent to A Level study. It builds on the knowledge gained in the Foundation level. If you work in accounts or have studied accountancy before, you may be able to start at this level, instead of doing Foundation first.

    You’ll learn about complex accounting techniques, and master a number of accounting disciplines. These will include financial processes, advanced bookkeeping, final accounts and ethical practices for accountants. Most people complete this level within six to 12 months.

    You will need to have passed AAT Foundation or you may be exempt from Foundation if you have relevant work experience, or A Levels. Again, you can take the AAT skillcheck test to see which level to start at.

    Professional - Level 4

    The Professional Diploma in Accounting is equivalent to an HNC level qualification, or the first year of a university degree. It is the final AAT level, teaching you more complex accounting theory, and lets you choose two specialist subjects.

    You’ll learn about budgeting, management accounting, preparing financial statements, accounting systems, and tax. Most people can complete this level in 12 to 18 months.

    You can only do Professional if you have passed the Advanced level. If you have a university degree in accountancy, or related, it may be more appropriate to try ACCA, CIMA, or ACA.

    Interested in AAT?

    If you think that AAT might be the qualification for you, check out our AAT pages for more information, including our range of different study methods to choose from.

    Relevant sources:

  • Kaplan launches ACA OnDemand courses

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Apr 22, 2021

    This year we are rolling out the OnDemand study method for our ACA courses.

    This means our ACA students and clients can now take full advantage of the enhanced flexibility that OnDemand courses provide.

    From June 2021, the Professional and Advanced Level courses will be live in advance of the September and November exam sittings. Our new Certificate Level courses will be live from the start of September, but you can book all courses now.

    Flexible Online courses continues to be available in the interim period

    The benefits of OnDemand learning

    At Kaplan we have much experience in the delivery of OnDemand learning. Our OnDemand courses are award winning, flexible, online courses that use a variety of learning formats.

    The courses are structured around bite-sized tutor-led videos, coupled with a range of activities to embed learning and engage our learners using device friendly HTML 5 format. They are rooted in learning science and designed by our learning experts.

    Our ACA OnDemand programmes are self contained and provide comprehensive syllabus coverage, including a full exam preparation phase at Professional and Advanced Level. The courses are also eligible for inclusion as part of a Level 7 apprenticeship.

    Course content

    The introduction of ACA OnDemand means that you are truly in control of your learning. You can study whenever it is convenient. The accessible course structure and course navigation means that you’ll always have full oversight of where you are in your study journey.

    Our OnDemand courses are tutor led, via engaging video content which provide high quality tuition at a pace that works for you. You have the ability to pause, rewind, speed up and slow down the pace of the course resources, which means that course delivery can be tailored to your own preferred pace. The courses follow Kaplan’s integrated workbook in the same way that a scheduled course would.

    The course support mirrors that of a scheduled course and includes: marked progress tests and mock exams, full use of our Academic Support team, and a Progression Advisor to guide you through your studies.

    When you reach that all important exam preparation phase, our course will provide you with a diagnostic test highlighting the syllabus areas that you need to focus on most. Each syllabus area will be covered by:

    • A comprehensive range of video based topic recaps,
    • Question walkthroughs, where your tutors will guide you through a step by step approach to successfully navigate exam standard questions in each key topic area.
    • A full range of question debrief videos, which will help to pinpoint your study focus and exam technique.

    For more information about the courses please visit our ACA page.

  • Moving from ACCA or ACA to CTA

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Apr 22, 2021

    In this article our experienced tax tutor, Neil Da Costa, explains how to transition from ACCA or ACA to CTA.

    As a tutor who has lectured on ACCA, ACA and the CTA papers, I am often asked by learners who enjoy either the ‘Advanced Tax’ paper or the ‘Business Planning: Taxation’ paper what the CTA qualification is all about.

    In this article, I shed light on the subject and show the most popular pathway when progressing to the CTA qualification from the ACCA or ACA qualification.

    Please be advised that these are the rules currently applicable, and I recommend you confirm with the institute exactly what exemptions you are entitled to before commencing your studies.

    Becoming CTA qualified

    Upon completion of the Chartered Institute of Taxation exams, and the relevant work experience, you will gain the most prestigious chartered qualification in professional tax expertise. You will become a Chartered Tax Advisor and can use the letters after your name.

    There are three main pathways to the CTA qualification - Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT), Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ACA) and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)

    Here I will be looking at the pathway assuming you have completed your ACCA qualification having done Advanced Taxation or your ACA qualification having done Business Planning: Taxation.

    Computer Based Exams

    There are three CBEs which are one hour in length and contain objective test questions. The papers are ‘law’, ‘principles of accounting’ and ‘ethics’.

    If you have completed your ACCA or ACA exams, you should be entitled to exemptions from law and principles of accounting. Please confirm this with the Institute prior to commencing your studies.

    CTA Professional Exams

    The CTA professional exams consist of three stages: awareness, advanced technical and application and professional skills. All the exams have a 50% pass mark, and you are allowed to use the tax rates supplied by the Institute as well as the Tolley’s Tax Legislation. The exams take place twice a year during May and November.

    You can access the full details at

    Awareness Stage

    This consists of a single 3-hour exam with 12 short form questions on each tax which you should complete in 5 minutes. You spend 1 hour on each tax. Most students who have completed their other professional exams feel that the exam is similar to other professional exams they have done.

    You have to choose 3 taxes out of five from the following: individuals, inheritance tax and trusts, unincorporated businesses, VAT, and corporation tax.

    For students who do not have a particular preference, the most popular pathway is VAT, corporation tax and inheritance tax and trusts.

    If you have completed the ACCA Advanced Tax exam or the ACA Business Planning: Taxation exam, you should be able to get an exemption from the awareness stage. Please confirm this with the Institute prior to commencing your studies.

    Advanced Technical Stage

    This consists of 3-hour 30-minute exams that have a variety of long form questions ranging from 20 marks to 10 marks. Most students find these exams challenging as they require detailed technical knowledge.

    You must select two papers from the following: Individuals, Inheritance Tax and Trusts, Owner Managed Businesses, VAT Domestic, VAT cross border,  Taxation of Larger Companies and Groups, and Human Capital taxes.

    The papers you select should not be the same as the Awareness stage options.

    For students who do not have a particular preference, the most popular pathway is owner managed businesses and individuals.

    Application and Professional Skills Stage

    This consists of a single 3-hour 30-minute exam where the Institute simulate you receiving actual documentation from a client. The purpose here is to assess your ability to understand and interpret information and then communicate your recommendations to the client in a professional manner, such as in the form of a report with attached appendices.

    You are provided with some basic information on the client before the exam to help you appreciate the context. The exam is at the same level as the Advanced Technical Stage.

    You must select one paper from the following: Individuals, Inheritance Tax and Trusts, Owner Managed Businesses, VAT Domestic, VAT Cross Border, and Taxation of Larger Companies and Groups.

    The paper you select should be one that you chose for the advanced technical stage.

    ACCA or ACA to CTA, 19:43

    Kaplan CTA courses

    Kaplan is the market leader for CTA tax courses, we run CTA Awareness, Advanced Technical and Application and Professional Skills exams across the country. Please contact our helpful customer service team who will be able to advise you on the most suitable course to suit your requirements.

    We look forward to welcoming you back to Kaplan and helping you with your CTA aspirations. Kaplan is committed to lifelong learning and will be there to support you throughout your career.

    Neil Da Costa is the author of Advanced Tax Condensed, which consists of memory joggers that have been developed to be used in conjunction with the Kaplan study notes and exam kit.

    For further information please visit or connect with him on LinkedIn.

  • 9 strangest taxes in history

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Apr 15, 2021

    Despite the reputation it has for some, Tax is a deeply fascinating area of accountancy and has a rich and unusual history. Here we list some of our favourite examples of strange taxation throughout history…

    Urine tax

    This tax was introduced in Ancient Rome. Back then, human urine was viewed as a valuable commodity. It had many uses: tanning, laundering, and even teeth brushing.

    It started after entrepreneur types were discovered to be collecting the liquid waste. Both Emperors - Nero and Vespasian - noticed this and levied a tax on it’s purchase. It’s widely believed that this led to the popular Latin phrase Pecunia non olet, i.e. ‘money does not stink’.

    Being a coward tax

    From around 1100, English medieval knights could opt out of fighting a war by paying for the privilege. It’s official name was ‘Scutage’ but was commonly known as ‘cowardice tax’. It would enable one to be let out of military service to the King.

    After its inception the Scutage system evolved into a general tax on knights’ land - by the 13th century. By the 14th century, however, this tax became redundant and faded away.

    Beard tax

    In 1698 Emperor Peter I of Russia created the beard tax. It was thought to be a move that would help westernise the appearance of Russian society, as he deemed it an old-fashioned fashion choice.

    Those who wanted to keep their facial hair had to pay their way and were given a token to carry as proof of payment. Henry VIII had also brought out a similar tax for Tudor England. Given the costs associated, beards quickly became a symbol of stature and wealth.

    Window tax

    This tax was first introduced in England in 1696. It was intended to be quite a liberal tax as those with smaller houses would pay less or be exempt.

    This certainly proved to be the case when applied to the rural poor, but didn’t really help the urban poor. In more densely populated areas it was rare for the working classes to live in individual homes. They would often live in large tenement buildings, amongst many others, and under the terms of the tax this was considered to be one house so they’d be subjected to heavy window tax assessments.

    This incredibly unpopular tax led to the removal of windows and much natural light, to prevent paying the extra money. The negative effects of the lack of natural light and ventilation led to a growing movement which successfully stopped the tax in 1851.

    Knowledge tax

    In 1815 Britain started to tax newspaper purchases. This was initially designed to tax the wealthy. However, this did not work out that way.

    The tax quickly proved to be counterproductive, as it put a huge pressure on the press by reducing the circulation and made it less accessible. Plus it was a form of censorship for those too poor to afford it. The tax was abolished in 1855.

    Hat tax

    A hat tax was introduced in 1784 and was aimed at raising revenue for the government in a way that would mostly correspond to a person’s wealth.

    At this point in history it was the rich who could afford numerous hats, whereas the poor might have one cheap hat, or none at all.

    Heavy fines were doled out to those who failed to pay. This led to some hat-makers rename their creations. However, in response, a tax on any ‘headgear’ was introduced by 1804. The tax was repealed in 1811.

    Playing cards tax

    Yes, believe it or not people were taxed for playing cards!

    This was in force from as early as the 16th century. Furthermore, in 1710, the English government increased the tax on playing cards and dice. Inevitably, this led to mass forgeries of playing cards. The tax was not removed until 1960.

    Wallpaper tax

    Brought out in 1712, Britain taxed anyone who bought patterned, painted or printed wallpaper. This tax was introduced into Britain due to the fact that wallpaper provided a cheap alternative to tapestry or panelling, so the government saw a new opportunity to raise revenue.

    This led to people finding creative ways to avoid the tax, such as – using plain paper and then having painted after applying. The tax was abolished in 1836.

    Clock tax

    No doubt similar to the hat tax, the clock was introduced to tax the wealthy. In 1797, the British Clock Tax was applied to all timepieces, such as watches and clocks.

    The annual tax rate was two shillings and sixpence for a standard watch, and up to ten shillings for a gold watch. Clocks costing more than twenty shillings were rated at five shillings.

    And there we have it! This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the history of Tax. If you are interested in discovering more or starting a career in tax please visit our courses pages. 

  • Apprenticeships are for everyone

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Apr 15, 2021

    Haider Ali is a management accounting apprentice and won the Rising Star Award at the WorldSkills UK Diversity & Inclusion Heroes Awards 2020. He’s passionate about raising awareness of apprenticeships within his community, and this is his story.

    When I was in sixth form, I was an academic pupil achieving A*/As across the board so university seemed like the default option for me. It was just expected by my teachers, my peers and my parents.

    It was only when I went to a career’s fair in Year 12 that I realised there were other options out there like Apprenticeships. I was suddenly told “You can get qualifications whilst working and earning at the same time - debt free!”.

    This all seemed too good to be true at first and, if anything, I wondered why more people weren’t doing this. For me, it seemed like a no brainer and so really piqued my interest.

    So…. Apprenticeships are for everyone?

    After that, I looked into the Apprenticeship route further and decided I wanted to apply, using my 5 secured university offers as a safety net. I was keen to prove that I could make a success of it, despite it being a relatively new route.

    At first, I wasn’t successful with a lot of the initial applications I submitted due to a lack of experience, but I kept persevering. Rolls Royce was the last company I applied for and luckily, I secured the Apprenticeship in the end! That’s where I am now; I’m currently in my final year.

    Since I’ve started the programme I have been exposed to such a breadth of experience and knowledge. I have met so many fantastic people and built up my business acumen which has only added to what I’ve learnt through studying.

    The Apprenticeship programme itself is four and a half years long. So far, I’ve completed my Level 4 AAT and now I’m working on completing the Level 7 CIMA qualification to bring me to completion.

    Improving the lack of diversity

    As I was progressing through my Apprenticeship however, I realised there was a noticeable lack of diversity within the space. Prior to applying, I had never met or heard of any Asian apprentices, let alone an academic one who turned down university.

    From my experience, there seems to be a real misconception in my community as a South Asian, but also in the wider BAME community, that Apprenticeships are only for “blue collar” jobs such as construction. There's this idea that they are suited only to those who didn’t achieve “good grades” at school and are deemed as “inferior”, compared to a university degree when it comes to applying for a good job.

    I want to demystify this misconception, because it’s totally wrong. I want to inspire people to look at these opportunities differently and show that there are so many fantastic career options available through Apprenticeships, open to absolutely everyone.

    Luckily, Rolls Royce are very keen on this too. Every apprentice is automatically enrolled as a STEM ambassador allowing you to volunteer in schools in your local area. I was really keen to get involved, so I’ve done quite a few events over the years as an apprentice.

    I thought to myself:

    People in my community need to hear more from those belonging to underrepresented groups in the earlier stages of their career. I have more in common with them than a CEO, for example. They’ll hopefully see that they too can achieve whatever they put their mind to and I can act as the type of representation I wish I had seen when I was younger

    One of the highlights was going back to my primary school for an event, talking to some of my old teachers and even my younger brothers! I also went into my old secondary school (pre-lockdown) to help tutor GCSE Maths. I’m in a unique space to help and inspire others to look into working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) careers.

    Even if my interactions inspired one person to apply for an Apprenticeship, it would have been worth it. In fact, if it wasn’t for an assembly Rolls-Royce did at my sixth form on their apprenticeships, I probably wouldn’t be where I am now! Hopefully, I can do the same for someone else.

    Improving self esteem

    I have seen people from BAME backgrounds suffer from imposter syndrome, including myself. We can often feel like we aren’t as good as we actually are and that our success is down to luck rather than our hard work. It can feel especially tough when you are working in an industry that is dominated by people who don’t look like you. You begin to question your self-worth and whether ‘someone like me’ truly belongs in a space.

    However, many individuals have smashed through the glass ceiling and are swimming against the tide. And it’s those people who should be celebrated as they can inspire others to do the same. Role models are so important as I’m a firm believer you can only seek inspiration from what you can see in the world.

    My personal drive and ambition come from my first role models: my parents. They have instilled the importance of hard work in me from a young age. I’ve seen how much they’ve sacrificed moving to the UK from Pakistan and the new life they’ve built so that I can have access to a good education and even be writing this blog now. They’ve always made me feel like I can do anything I put my mind to and that’s exactly what I want for others.

    Wise words for a potential apprentice...

    Don’t let the world tell you what your version of success should look like. Follow your gut and do what makes you happy.

    Pursue what you’re passionate about and don’t get too influenced by what others are thinking or saying. Dream big and realise that you can break into any space you want to, even if you’re not represented there currently. You could be the next trailblazer.

    Long terms goals

    My long-term goal is to see more diversity within Apprenticeships.

    The stats around how many BAME apprentices there are in the UK still requires a lot of improvement. It just shows that for many, university is still seen as the only route to success.

    I think this reflects that many parents in these families (particularly those who have immigrated to the UK) don’t always have the latest information about Apprenticeships, given they are still quite new. I want to help change that.

    We need to make sure that schools are communicating the right types of messages to their pupils. From a young age, children should be made aware that you can be an academic apprentice and the wide range of industries Apprenticeships exist in, for example.

    Some of my teachers wanted me to go to Oxford or Cambridge, but I wanted practical business experience and a debt-free education! I want to smash the stigma that Apprenticeships are somehow the ‘wrong’ choice for those from BAME backgrounds. They’re absolutely not and everyone should have a fair chance to decide whether or not to pursue one.

    I try to do everything I can to facilitate change in the Diversity & inclusion/Apprenticeship space and have seen many other inspiring individuals doing some great things. Whilst there is still a lot of work to do, I’ve begun to see some of the barriers I personally faced weaken and I’m optimistic that one day they will be eliminated entirely.

  • What can I do after CIMA?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Apr 08, 2021

    Near the end of your CIMA course? Finished and wondering what to do next? Don’t worry, we can help you navigate your next steps.

    CIMA is a globally recognised qualification, meaning that you can work in many areas of the world, and in any sector you choose. And the more experience you gain, the more doors open.

    Here are some options to think about when you finish the course...

    Work experience

    As well as obtaining the CIMA qualification, you need at least three years of relevant accounting work experience to join CIMA and become a chartered management accountant. Most people manage to gain the relevant work experience at their current job whilst studying, so this shouldn’t be too hard to achieve.

    For further details on this, please visit the CIMA website.

    Choose a sector or industry

    Once you’re a chartered global management accountant you can work in a huge number of sectors and industries. As mentioned before, CIMA is recognised around the world, so there’s really no limit to what you can do.

    So you could choose one of the following, but this is no way a final list of opportunities.

    Retail: You could be the driving force behind retail organisations generating impressive earnings. By giving senior figures and stakeholders a clear idea of the business’s financial activities and their implications, you can help to reduce losses and increase profits, adding value to the organisation.

    Banking: You could be involved in cost management, risk management, and other forms of financial management that help well-known banking organisations thrive. Financial institutions are constantly in need of innovative ways to gain a competitive advantage, something that you could excel in with a CIMA qualification.

    Public sector: Like commercial businesses, public sector organisations have to meet budgets and generate funds. You could be pivotal in reducing government spending and saving taxpayers’ money. CGMA’s work in the NHS, Universities, schools and other public sector organisations.

    Choose a role

    Within different sectors and industries there are so many different roles to choose from when you have a CIMA qualification. So here’s a quick run down.

    Management accountant: seems like the obvious choice as you’ve just qualified as a management accountant. This role is at the heart of the finance function, focusing on producing management accounts, closing down month end/year end and other duties such as managing the fixed asset register, preparing prepayment and accruals.

    Approximate UK salary: £34,000* per year depending on experience

    Financial analyst: in this role you’d need to be more commercial and you would focus on how the business makes money – getting into the heart of the business. You will play an integral part in the budgeting/forecasting process, provide ongoing support to departments in the business, and provide commentary on variances and other analysis to support the decision making processes.

    Approximate UK salary: £40,000* per year depending on experience

    Financial controller: you would perform reporting duties like preparing financial statements, drawing up balance sheets, giving cash flow reports, creating budgets. You would also have to carry out financial analysis and offer your professional opinions and advice around the organisation.

    Approximate UK salary: £67,000* per year depending on experience

    Finance director: this is a very senior position in any company, the highest finance role you could get. You would have to provide strategic and financial guidance to ensure that the company's financial commitments and strategy are met. You would also be in charge of developing all necessary policies and procedures to ensure the sound financial management and control of the company’s business.

    Approximate UK salary: £100,000* per year depending on experience

    Continue your studies

    Not only could you choose a new role, you could continue studying to make sure you have all the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in whatever area you decide on.

    Many professionals choose of the following in addition to CIMA:

    Masters of Business Administration (MBA): Whilst studying for an MBA, you will learn about business management, administration, finance, HR and operations management. CIMA helps to gain core subject skills and an MBA helps to gain leadership skills.

    Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA): If you’re interested in specialising in financial analysis, CFA is a great addition to CIMA. You’ll learn more about analytics and give you a thorough understanding of financial markets, and high levels of professionalism and ethics.

    Chartered Tax Advisor (CTA): Ideal if you’re wanting to specialise in tax. With CTA you’ll develop an overall understanding of tax whilst being able to specialise in a particular tax area.

    Or you could choose from many different banking and finance qualifications:

    Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI)

    Financial Risk Manager (FRM) 

    Investment Management Certificate (IMC)

    Any further qualification after CIMA will only add to your skill set and give you more opportunities in your career.

    Considering further study?

    If you’re thinking about another qualification to add to CIMA, have a look at our accountancy courses, and our banking and finance courses. You can find lots more information about the qualifications and see what they could add to your already impressive CV.

    * (2021)

  • Is accountancy a good career choice?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 29, 2021

    According to the many students we talked to: yes it is. We created a survey to find out what current and former accountancy students like about their chosen profession. Here’s a summary.

    Accountancy is a broad area of study and employment, and there are numerous reasons why people are attracted to it. After receiving hundreds of responses to the question ‘What do you love about accountancy?’ we discovered some patterns.

    Most of the responses fit into one of the 4 categories: making a difference, intellectually satisfying, variety and financially rewarding.

    Making a difference

    Many of our respondents showed a desire to help people, across a range of sectors and circumstances. One pointed out that they like ‘enabling people to understand a daunting subject and plan their future projects’.

    Be it a small firm or large, many enjoy the ‘relationship building’ and ‘helping [companies] understand their numbers and achieve their financial goals’.

    The feedback reinforced the point that working in accountancy can give you a certain amount of leverage in a company. Your opinion is valued. One refers to their enjoyment of ‘Being a guardian of the books and records of a firm, providing information that can be trusted and providing additional value to clients’.

    Working in accountancy in the NHS involves helping patients and the public, behind the scenes. I enjoy the fact that my work helps to ensure public value for money and great patient care.

    - Leanne, former student.

    And it’s not just providing a snapshot of the current financial position that appeals to many: ‘What I enjoy the most about accountancy is the fact that it’s a precise science that can help you understand what happened in the past...but also it can be a great support for predictions and forecasts’.

    The real satisfaction for many seems to be this very powerful ‘ability to provide clarity’.

    Intellectually satisfying

    For most people, they stop any form of intense study once they leave school, college or university. But for many of our respondents, there was much pleasure gained by delving back into the world of education and intellectual stimulation.

    One response said they were simply happy ‘Just to be learning again’ and another took some joy from the fact that ‘There is always a right answer!’.

    Undoubtedly, numbers have a recurring presence in their field of work and many responses were appreciative of that ‘I just love the numbers, I know it sounds boring, but for me it’s a pleasure’.

    We often saw passionate responses in relation to the problem solving areas of accountancy: ‘It's really just a massive 3D jigsaw puzzle of numbers - everything has its place and when you do it right, the last piece always fits in perfectly in the last open slot’.

    The accountancy calculations and concepts appealed to many of our respondents’ desire for order and logic: ‘It always balances (hopefully) and everything ties together. The awesome beauty in its relative simplicity - the amazing way you can summarise hundreds, thousands, even millions of data points into a comprehensible analysis that is universally understood’.

    It is a language, and a unique way of communication and viewing the world.

    - Jiho, former student.


    As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life, and that is certainly the case with accountancy roles. There are a vast range of roles to choose from and each one provides numerous challenges. This has been consistently commented on and lauded, as many have shown a desire for variety in their careers.

    One comment states: ‘There are vastly different areas of work where our skills are required, from personal experience I focus on manufacturing but I have worked both in beauty cosmetics and more recently seafood!’.

    And the variety comes in many forms, with some referring to the travel opportunities that accountancy jobs open up: ‘I love the freedom of movement that accountancy gives you. I hope to travel and work once qualified. Accountancy provides a unique global standard to allow one to explore the globe!’.

    The word "Bookkeeping" is the only English word to contain three sets of double letters back-to-back-to-back!

    - William, former student.

    Financially rewarding and job security

    It’s no secret that a career as an accountant is often very financially rewarding and can offer great stability. Many Chartered Accountants earning upwards of £80,000*.

    So unsurprisingly some of our respondents referred to this as a big driving force behind their decision to work in this field. One simply stated that they were attracted to ‘the money’ while another pragmatically said it offered ‘prospects for the future and a firm base for supporting my family life’.

    Ultimately what we do can help shape the course of someone's life in terms of their business and I think that's a pretty cool thing to be part of.

    - Jaspreet, former student.

    If you are considering a career in accountancy either visit our other blog pages for more information on career options or visit our accountancy qualification pages to start your journey.


  • Top scores for AAT Foundation student - while pregnant and in lockdown

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 11, 2021

    Hannah Blakeway had just started a new job, was adapting to the lockdown, and heavily pregnant - but this didn’t stop her! Here she reveals how she persevered and completed the AAT qualification with Kaplan.

    I started a new role last year as a Property Compliance Support Officer at Progress Housing Group. The role was within a newly-formed compliance team at the Group and I was keen to learn and progress.

    Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the majority of our team meetings took place over Zoom which meant that, as a brand-new team, we all had to put in extra effort to get to know each other.

    My organisation was very supportive. They proactively provided equipment, delivered training and they have always had a great focus on employee wellbeing. It didn't take long for us all to adapt to this way of working.

    Why study AAT Foundation?

    I wanted to study for the AAT Foundation Certificate as I thought it was important to have an awareness of accountancy to allow me to progress within the organisation.

    I chose Kaplan as my training provider because of the range and quality of study materials they offer.

    Studying for AAT has given me a good understanding of bookkeeping and budgeting. I don’t necessarily want to be an accountant, but I recognise that I need to understand these concepts to be an effective all-round manager.

    Within the next five years, I am keen to build on the foundations which the AAT certificate has given me.

    High stakes: finish AAT before giving birth

    I had been thinking about studying the AAT Foundation course for a while. Despite being pregnant, starting a new job and the world being in the midst of a global pandemic, I was determined to start and finish before the baby arrived! I won’t lie, it was a challenge to juggle everything and find a work/life balance but I knew it would be worth it in the end.

    On a typical day I was working from home, as well as studying and looking after my toddler because the nurseries were shut! Thankfully though, my husband and I shared the childcare and my company were very supportive.

    Adapting to flexible study

    Due to the pandemic, I picked the ‘OnDemand’ study method as I needed the flexibility to study remotely at a time which suited me. It was great in that it prevented any Covid disruption and with the nurseries closed. It allowed me to accommodate childcare too. You can’t dedicate a fixed hour to anything with a toddler!

    To keep up with the pace of study, I tried to make time each day to work through the materials, sometimes for an hour or even 20 minutes. One of the benefits of OnDemand study was that I could pause the class and return to it when I had time.

    At the weekends, I would read through the textbooks and work through practice questions to make sure I was confident on the concepts I’d covered during the week.

    Also, booking my exam five or six weeks in advance really kept me motivated. This self imposed deadline allowed me to keep on track with studying.

    Growing in confidence

    Studying with Kaplan was really good because a learning support tutor would contact me from time to time to see if I needed any additional support, including mental health support with the ongoing pandemic.

    Once the exam centres opened it was easy to book my exams online. I had a deadline (end of 2020) that I really wanted to stick to, so I ended up taking two exams in one month once the centre re-opened. Luckily, due to all my prep, I felt ready!

    I felt confident going in as I was consistently getting 80% on mock exams. The Kaplan mocks are very useful because the layout of the questions is the same as the actual exam and you get an exact mark.

    My advice for other AAT students

    • Dedicate a little bit of time each day to study. It all adds up. You might have loads going on at home or at work but if you can just find 15 or 20 minutes each day then it will make a huge difference.
    • Book an exam and work towards a deadline. You can always push it back if you need to, but it’s really motivating knowing that you’re working towards a date.
    • Use the pocket notes! They are really helpful, I can’t recommend them enough.

    Progress your career with AAT

    If you’re interested in the AAT qualification then please do visit our course pages.

  • Be your own boss with MAAT

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Mar 11, 2021

    Once you’ve completed the AAT Professional Diploma in Accounting you can apply to become a full member of AAT (or MAAT). But what exactly is it, and how can it benefit you and your career?

    What is MAAT?

    MAAT is full membership of AAT. It’s an internationally recognised professional status in accounting and finance. It shows that you have a high standard of education and experience, and a commitment to developing your skills and keeping them up to date.

    Who can apply for MAAT?

    You’re eligible to apply for MAAT if you have one of the following:

    • Completed the AAT Professional Diploma in Accounting
    • A full or part-qualification with ACCA, CIMA, CIPFA or ICAEW
    • A full qualification with AIA, CAI, IFA, NIAT, ATSA (formerly AATSA) or NZICA
    • A professional membership with any of the above bodies or SCAAK
    • An accounting or finance degree from one of AAT’s partner universities

    What are the benefits of MAAT?

    MAAT is internationally recognised as a badge of excellence, and organisations that are looking for the best staff often look for MAAT status.

    But not only that, once you’re a full AAT member, you can apply to become an AAT Licensed Accountant or Bookkeeper. You’ll then be able to be your own boss. AAT will give you all the support and guidance you need to set up and run a successful business.

    MAAT will also give you access to a range of CPD resources, free support helplines, the AAT member community, and you’ll be able to use AAT rewards to save money on everyday purchases, holidays, insurance and much more.

    Once you have had full membership for five years, you can apply for FMAAT status. This is a fellow membership and shows your senior experience, expertise and professionalism.

    Interested in AAT?

    If you think AAT is the qualification for you, have a look at our AAT pages for more information and get your accountancy career started.

  • How KAAP is benefitting our apprentices

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jan 28, 2021

    In December 2020 we held our latest Kaplan Apprenticeship Advisory Panel, which is an open forum that explores ways to refine and improve our apprenticeship programmes.

    The panel is made up of apprentices and senior apprenticeship staff members at Kaplan, and the discussion is honest, open and informal. December’s meeting was held online and was clearly structured to enable us to cover a lot of ground.

    Here’s a breakdown of each section.

    Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) update

    Our Quality and Equality Manager, Sarah Powell, revealed what Kaplan is doing for EDI. She detailed the feedback taken onboard after the last KAAP meeting and actions taken in response.

    Here are some of the actions mentioned:

    We plan to promote EDI through…

    • Being more transparent with data and what we are doing to improve
    • Increasing our presence at EDI events (i.e. BAME apprenticeship awards)
    • Having an EDI social calendar
    • Speaking to clients about what is important to them in relation to this.
    • Gaining more insight from our students.

    Website improvements workshop

    Following this we had an interactive session with our website team. Using the latest in online collaborative tech our web team conducted a live feedback exercise to get a stronger insight into the apprentices’ user journey on our site.

    For context, the team created a story of a fictional apprentice ‘Claire’, and how she decided to embark on her apprenticeship. It explored: where she might look for information, how she was feeling throughout the application, how she was feeling during her apprenticeship.

    The aim of this session was to ensure that our site can become more intuitive at every stage of our learners’ development with Kaplan. This is an ongoing project and we should see the fruits of this labour very soon.

    End Point Assessments feedback

    At the end of the session Apprenticeships Partnerships Director, Jenny Pelling, facilitated questions and feedback directly from a few of our current apprentices. This mainly centred around EPAs.

    Jenny invited feedback by posing the question ‘What would you like to see throughout your EPA journey?’.

    The apprentices discussed areas they felt they could use more support around, in relation to their EPAs, such as portfolios.

    Although they appreciated that they received much information about the EPAs, in the early stages of their programmes, they felt they didn’t absorb all of it at the time as their focus was elsewhere.

    Then there was a discussion around possible solutions, such as more support in the form of phonecall at a relevant time to help them feel better prepared, and improving the timing of feedback so that they have enough time to action it.

    National Apprenticeship week 2021

    Finally, and to wrap up, the panel acknowledged the forthcoming NAW in February 2021. We offered up potential ideas around what we could do to make the next KAAP relevant to it.

    Some thoughts were suggested around hosting a webinar with polls and questions, a Q&A panel, and ensuring it would be relevant to school and college leavers considering an apprenticeship. Following this we have decided to host an event during National Apprenticeship Week.

    Register for Kaplan Introduces: Kaplan Apprenticeship Advisory Panel - Build the Future

    If you are passionate about Apprenticeships and how they can make a difference in the professions, visit our advisory panel web page for more information. 

  • The lockdown global prizewinner for ACCA APM

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jan 28, 2021

    Global prizewinner, Katie Scott, is a Management Accountant for St George’s Hospital. A passionate accountant and NHS worker, she shares her story.

    I always knew I wanted to work in the public or charity sector, which is why I applied to work for the NHS. They have been great, offering loads of support and they put me through my studies. It’s a really interesting place to be and that’s why I have stayed.

    Now I’m working in the Children’s, Women’s and Outpatients area, as a Finance Manager. I love it.

    I also enjoy Management Accounts. I like the mixture of finance related work and the relationships you develop outside of Finance. It’s a more people-focused role, and I’m surrounded by positive people who want to make a difference.

    NHS Finance is a small world with lots of great opportunities and colleagues so I will probably stay here for a while!

    Changing study method

    With my ACCA studies last year, I started out in the classroom, but of course I had to move online because of Covid.

    When I made the transition, these were my initial observations:

    • Not being around other students was a challenge - I found this tricky at first, in terms of motivation and having peers to talk to.
    • I was worried about live online study for APM as it’s very wordy and which can make it harder to follow. I overcame that with question practice.
    • The tutor was also great at keeping everyone engaged via online chat. She did a brilliant job keeping everyone motivated and engaged, which must be really hard without face-to-face contact.
    • Despite the change I still felt quite confident going into the exam. I just had the usual exam nerves.

    Dealing with disruption

    It’s lucky that we have all of these digital platforms to share information and get things done or I would definitely be stuck!

    At first, motivation was an issue. I was meant to be sitting an exam last June but that got cancelled when the first wave of Covid hit. This meant there was a sizable gap in my studies and that made it harder to pick back up again.

    I was also starting a new job at the time, so there was a lot on my plate.

    Counting blessings

    Despite all of the disruption, the pandemic gave me more time to take a step back and focus.

    I was lucky that it was my last exam. That made it easier to stay motivated as there was light at the end of the tunnel. I couldn’t let myself get all this way and then stop.

    Luckily I have some really good peers too. We motivate each other, ask questions and keep each other on track. This has been vital during the pandemic. And I’ve had really supportive managers at work, which has given me one less thing to stress about.

  • Student excels at the BPT exam during the pandemic

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jan 21, 2021

    Mariliss Timma, an Audit Assistant at Accountancy firm Smith Cooper recently scored 97% in ACA’s BPT exam. By many, this is regarded as the hardest exam on the course. Here she tells us how she managed such a feat in these challenging times.

    To be honest, when I was doing the exam (BPT) I thought I’d ran out of time, so I was really surprised by my result!

    It’s such a hard exam. It requires practical examples, not just an understanding of theory. So you always worry that there’s little details you’ve missed. You always think you can say more.

    I thought I’d spent too long on the first question because of the way they weigh the marks. Looking back though I think my second answers were more focused, so I must have said enough.

    Overcoming low confidence

    As you can probably tell, I was not confident at the time.

    It must have been a case of quality over quantity because I felt I had missed a few small points. However, I did manage to recommend several courses of action and develop the arguments within the wider context.

    With everything going on in the world, writing my targets down helped me stay focused!

    Motivation in strange times

    We had 5 months from the start of lockdown until my next exam. At first it felt like it was ages away and I had loads of time, so I didn’t give it too much thought. I put it to the side for a few weeks while I was busy dealing with being furloughed. You know, busy life stuff!

    But I knew I shouldn’t put it off too long.

    So after a couple of weeks, to stay motivated, I created a timetable for myself. This mainly focused the study times around the weekends and in the mornings (this is when I’m most productive).

    I set regular time aside to learn, and broke it down by module. I was pretty strict with myself, setting the aim of doing a mock exam every weekend and I made sure I had enough time for the exam.

    I know time management and being organised is one of my strengths so I had to make the most of that to succeed in these circumstances. And with everything going on in the world, writing my targets down helped me stay focused!

    I’m now getting a sense of what’s best for me when learning from home.

    Moving from classroom to online

    I was supposed to be in college for everything, but that all changed with covid. Everything shifted to online and for me it was a huge change! I went to college for the technical phase in the first couple of weeks, but the final two phases were run from home.

    I’ve had some teething problems with the online classroom interactions. With asking questions, I had been a little hesitant at first as I have been unsure how to word them in this format. But I’ve kept in touch with some of course mates through Whatsapp, and that has worked for me.

    To adapt, I’ve had to change some of my habits. I’m now getting a sense of what’s best for me when learning from home.

    The new normal

    I am now at the point where, in my job, around 80% of the audits that I am working on are performed remotely. I could see this continuing for at least a few more months.

    Despite missing the office environment, and being able to speak to colleagues and clients face to face, I have felt the benefits of home-working. It has allowed me to have a better work-life balance and discover more efficient ways of working.

    The future

    I’ve just under a year of study left and then I will be qualified!

    I plan to stay in audit though. I love this role and really enjoy being at Smith Cooper. If I did move away from this role one day I would be interested in forensic accounting as I have a good eye for detail and like to ask questions.

  • 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?

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