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  • Zak’s ambition knows no bounds

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Aug 27, 2020

    Zak Barwell is our recently award-winning AAT apprentice. Despite facing incredibly difficult circumstances, he progressed swiftly - receiving 95% in his End Point Assessment.

    Why did you choose the apprenticeship route, Zak?

    I wasn’t phased about going down a slightly different route into work.

    After consideration, I turned down a university offer as I felt the apprenticeship route could be more beneficial. All my friends were going off to uni, but I compared the two options and felt like this was a better route into the accountancy world.

    I felt that real world experience is really important and I like the idea of studying whilst learning. Maybe for other subjects uni is more appropriate, but an apprenticeship seemed right for me.

    Only for graduates

    At my company, however, they would usually hire graduates for roles like this, so I couldn’t apply. However I approached my boss and asked to do the competency test to get onto it.

    As the test was designed for graduates, and I wasn’t, I wasn’t expected to do well. And I was right, I didn’t. But by showing an eagerness and desire to improve myself, they gave me the opportunity anyway.

    Accountants tend to be money focused, and this is one way to get qualified without carrying loads of debt

    - Zak Barwell

    Company trailblazer

    I was the first apprentice they ever hired - as it was usually only ever reserved for high achieving graduates. So you need to know your stuff and it’s very competitive. I was having to prove myself every day.

    While on the course I learnt so much, and quickly got given more responsibilities. Now, just 18 months later I am starting to manage my own projects, I’m client facing and leading meetings. I’m really progressing my career.

    You studied for your Advanced Level (Level 3) whilst working full time. How did you find that?

    Yeah, the work/life balance took a bit of getting used to.

    Luckily I would have study days, where I could leave the office and focus solely on my education. It meant that when I came back, I would be able to put what I learnt into practice.

    OnDemand was also great for managing it all too. It would allow me to get into a study routine.

    I think OnDemand is great. It’s good for resources and the knowledge checks, which help you know where you’re up to. Plus you’re able to revisit any topics as many times as you want, in case you lack understanding.

    But my company have been great too. They’re really flexible with the days that I choose to take off for study. Factors behind my success have been the combination of my flexible company and the support offered by Kaplan, particularly the talent coaches, throughout my apprenticeship.

    What’s next for you?

    I want to continue my studies so that in 1-2 years I will have finished AAT Professional Level (Level 4). After that I want to study ACA and become chartered in 3-4 years. This should hopefully see me reach manager level at work.

    Worldwide ambition

    Hopefully in the next 5 years I will have my studies finished and then I can think about what to do next. I’ll have so many opportunities available - around the world - once I’m a chartered accountant.

    I’d say I am quite money motivated, so could potentially look at further qualifications. If I end up opening my own accountancy practice, I want to offer a wide range of services, so I better learn as much as I can!

    What would you say to someone who was thinking about doing an apprenticeship?

    I would say that if you are considering routes into accountancy and studying AAT then think about the apprenticeship option. Accountants tend to be money focused, and this is one way to get qualified without carrying loads of debt, so it’s financially very efficient!

    And as I was working at the same time, I progressed quickly in my job because I was using my new knowledge straight away.

    It’s like having your work experience all paid for and being fast tracked all at once. At the end of your qualification you come out totally prepared. I even feel like it’s prepared me for the world better than a degree.

    Final thoughts

    Ultimately though, it comes down to the individual.

    For some, the uni-life experience is huge. I missed out on that, as I was living at home and working. But, personally, I don’t regret it. I would not be where I am without the path I chose.

    I have nearly 4 years work experience at 21. Not a bad start.

  • At which level should I start studying AAT?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Aug 25, 2020

    The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) is one of the most popular accounting qualifications out there. But for people new to the qualification, it can be hard to work out which level to start at.

    AAT is made up of three levels: Foundation, Advanced, and Professional, as well as the AAT Bookkeeping Qualifications that can be taken separately.

    You don’t need any previous qualifications or accountancy experience to begin studying AAT. And anyone, from school leavers to career changers, can start the qualification.

    Here’s an overview of each level, and the experience required.

    AAT Bookkeeping Qualifications

    There are three bookkeeping qualifications, Foundation Certificate in Bookkeeping (Level 2, CIB), Foundation Award in Accounting Software (Level 2, AIAS), and Advanced Certificate in Bookkeeping (Level 3, CIB). If you pass all three qualifications, you can gain AAT Professional Bookkeeper status.

    You don’t need any previous accounting experience to take a Bookkeeping course, just be willing to learn new skills.

    If you want to start AAT at the Advanced Diploma level, it’s advisable to take one of the bookkeeping courses as you will need a good knowledge of Double Entry Bookkeeping.

    AAT Foundation Certificate

    Foundation Certificate covers the basic principles of accountancy, and is your starting point if you’ve never studied accountancy before. You don’t need any prior experience to start at Foundation, but will need good maths, IT and English skills.

    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 in around six months to a year.

    If you’ve completed the AAT Foundation Certificate in Bookkeeping (FCIB) qualification, you’ll be exempt from completing the first two units of this level (Bookkeeping Transactions and Bookkeeping Controls).

    The Foundation Certificate includes the following subjects/assessments:

    • Bookkeeping Transactions (BTRN)
    • Bookkeeping Controls (BKCL)
    • Elements of Costing (ELCO)
    • Foundation Synoptic Assessment (FYSA)
    • Using Accountancy Software (UACS)

    Once you’ve passed this level, you could work in roles such as an accounts payable clerk, accounts officer, payroll administrator and a finance assistant, with salaries of up to £23,000*.

    AAT Advanced Diploma

    The Advanced Diploma builds on the knowledge gained in the Foundation Certificate level. If you work in accounts or have studied accountancy before, you may be able to start at this level.

    Ideally, to start at the Advanced level, you should have passed AAT Foundation (Level 2). You may be eligible for relevant exemptions if you’ve been working in an intermediate accounts role, or have achieved relevant A Levels.

    If you wanted to start at Advanced Level, there is an assumption that you have a good knowledge of Double Entry Bookkeeping, so taking an AAT Bookkeeping qualification is a good idea.

    At the Advanced Level, you’ll learn complex accounting techniques, and master a number of accounting disciplines including: financial processes, advanced bookkeeping, final accounts and ethical practices for accountants. Most people complete this level in around six months to a year.

    The Advanced Diploma includes the following subjects/assessments:

    • Advanced Bookkeeping (AVBK)
    • Final Accounts Preparation (FAPR)
    • Management Accounting: Costing (MMAC)
    • Indirect Tax (IDRX)
    • Advanced Synoptic Assessment (AVSY)

    After completing this level, you could become a finance officer, assistant accountant or an advanced bookkeeper, earning a salary of up to £25,000**.

    AAT Professional Diploma

    This is the final level, teaching you more complex accounting theory, and you can choose two specialist subjects to focus on. You will need to have completed the AAT Advanced Diploma to start at this level.

    At the Professional level you’ll learn about budgeting, management accounting, preparing financial statements, accounting systems, and tax.

    The Professional Diploma is made up of 4 compulsory subjects/assessments and then you can choose two optional subjects:

    Compulsory subjects/assessments:

    • Financial Statements of Limited Companies (FSLC)
    • Management Accounting: Budgeting (MABU)
    • Management Accounting: Decision and Control (MDCL)
    • Professional synoptic assessment (PDSY): Accounting Systems and Controls


    • Business Tax (BSTX)
    • Personal Tax (PLTX)
    • External Auditing (ETAU)
    • Cash and Treasury Management (CTRM)
    • Credit Management (CDMT)

    You could work in exciting jobs such as a forensic accountant, tax manager, accountancy consultant and finance analyst, earning salaries of up to £42,500*** as you advance and gain experience.

    Ready to start your AAT journey?

    We hope you have more of an idea where to start your AAT journey. If it sounds like the right qualification for you, have a look at our AAT pages for more information.


  • You said, we did

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Aug 20, 2020

    Despite this year’s challenges, our aim is to keep improving and listening to you. We receive student feedback throughout the year and try our best to implement a lot of your suggestions.

    This is what we’ve done:


    We’ve made an Activity Feed available to all of our students, so you can easily communicate with your tutor and other students on your course, and also start your own posts.

    We’ve also improved our course confirmation pages so you don’t have to call Student Services to find out when your course will be available in MyKaplan.

    You said that you were struggling to find your learning resources, and you didn’t know which learning activities to do. So we’ve restructured all courses for AAT, ACCA, ACA and CIMA around the learning programme, which includes a homework folder for each day of the course.

    Some of you are finding the volume of information on MyKaplan courses overwhelming, especially at the beginning of the course.

    In response to this we’re developing a welcome area on MyKaplan with information that pertains to your qualification such as: your route to qualification, how to use MyKaplan, how we support you and important policies. This leaves the main course to focus purely on the content relating to that subject.

    You said that you weren’t sure when access to MyKaplan would end for your course. So, we’ve added information to the: online basket, the product pages on the website, and added it to the confirmation email once enrolled.

    You will also get an email four weeks before your access to MyKaplan ends. Finally, we are updating the My Account area in MyKaplan so that you can easily see the number of days you will continue to have access to your course.


    When considering different study methods, you said that you’d like to try out an OnDemand course before buying one, so we’ve created a free OnDemand demo that you can access for 5 days. This is available for AAT, ACCA and CIMA.

    You told us that when you need to resit an exam that you would like more support. We have now introduced online resit courses for all our qualifications to help you prepare and get back on track.

    CIMA students

    You told us that you didn’t always ‘have the depth of understanding to tackle the Objective Tests’ as they are written in a way you weren’t expecting. We’ve now included Application Modules across all learning channels to help better prepare you for OT exams.

    Past exam content for the Case Study seemed to be confusing, so we have reviewed all the content and guidance, streamlining and simplifying the information so it’s easier to understand.

    We discovered that you were confused about the changes to the CIMA syllabus, and how to navigate through the transition period. So, we provided clarity and support by hosting quarterly advice webinars and updating Student Services with syllabus information, as well as updating our websites with syllabus specific guidance.

    We provided transitional support content to students who needed to sit an exam under the 2019 syllabus, having initially studied under the 2015 syllabus. This support will remain in place for the whole of 2020.

    ACCA students

    ACCA Students, with exemptions or who’d taken a study break, told us they were finding ACCA Strategic Professional challenging. We’ve improved the pre-course work by adding diagnostic tests focusing on key underpinning knowledge, with adaptive content released to those who require extra support.

    ACA students

    ACA students told us they needed more clarification on ‘personalised days’. More information has been added to your MyKaplan courses and tutors have been equipped with additional slides to share in class and prepare you for them.

    When studying remotely, students want an indication of how long it will take them to study various pieces of their learning content. Within ACA courses, we’ve added timings to each Study Module to help students understand the time commitment required for each piece of content.

    ATT students

    Those who are studying ATT said that you have ‘inadvertently sat subjects in an order that made it harder’ for yourself i.e. studied an advanced subject before an introductory one. So, we’ve improved the sitting guidance on the website.

    We’ve added a pop-up, when purchasing, that offers advice on sittings and has added information to the course introduction slides. It makes sure that all staff are giving the best possible advice to ATT students.

    Tell us more

    We always want to hear what you think, so we can keep increasing your chance of success. We’re running our next satisfaction survey in October, so keep an eye out for that.

  • How to become a Management Accountant

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Aug 20, 2020

    If you’re great with numbers, ambitious, and have excellent communication skills, then Management Accounting might be the role for you. Here’s a quick guide to the role and what you need to qualify.

    What does a Management Accountant do?

    A Management Accountant is in charge of a company’s finances. They take overall responsibility for the accounts and look for ways to improve profitability.

    They work for one company, rather than other accountants that can work for numerous companies. And they head up a team of other financial professionals.

    So if you were a Management Accountant, your daily tasks could be:

    • Analysing performance
    • Identifying and managing risk
    • Tracking spending and setting budgets
    • Preparing accounts
    • Financial forecasting
    • Formulating business strategies

    Why choose this career path?

    This role can truly open doors for you. As a management accountant you are in demand, across the world.

    And as someone who is helping to make serious business and financial decisions for a company, you can truly make a difference. It’s a job where your input counts, and you get a detailed look at a company’s inner workings.

    The role can also be seen as a stepping stone. Many management accountants move on to become a finance director, management consultant or even CEO*.

    What qualifications do I need?

    It’s not essential to have a degree, but you will need to have a professional qualification such as ACA or ACCA. Even AAT can pave the way to a career as a Management Accountant.

    To become a Chartered Management Accountant you will need to take the CIMA qualification.

    What skills do I need?

    You will need to have a high level of numeracy amongst other vital skills, such as:

    • Commercial awareness and an interest in business
    • Excellent oral communication skills to explain complex financial information in a clear manner
    • Excellent written communication skills for reporting and analysis
    • Strong interpersonal skills and the ability to work as, and lead, a team
    • Logical thinking, as well as analytical and problem solving skills
    • Ability to work under pressure and to very tight deadlines

    This list isn’t exhaustive but gives you a good idea of what you need to be able to do to become a successful Management Accountant.

    What could I earn as a Management Accountant?

    Starting out you could earn around £28,000**, rising to around £33,000 after passing professional exams. The average salary in the UK is around £40-£45,000 but this can change depending on location, size of the company, experience and qualifications. As a senior Management Accountant you could be earning around £65,000.


    Check out our CIMA page for information about becoming a Chartered Management Accountant, and what you’ll need to do to become qualified.



  • Launching the Kaplan school leaver scholarship

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Aug 13, 2020

    This month, school leavers get their calculated A Level and GCSE exam results. But due to COVID-19, this year will pose unique challenges for students.

    If this reflects your situation, it may prompt many questions...

    Do you move on to college or university? And what are the prospects of getting a job and/or doing an apprenticeship when so many businesses are making staff redundant or pausing recruitment?

    We’re happy to announce that we’ve created a scholarship to help give ten young people from disadvantaged backgrounds a kick start to their careers.

    What is the Accounting Foundation Scholarship?

    Our ten 12-month scholarships allow any student to study the AAT Foundation Certificate online. This is via our Brighter Future partners, Career Ready, LTSB and NewGen Accountants, and with Kaplan directly.

    Each scholarship is worth just over £1,900 and covers the cost* of the full AAT Foundation Certificate OnDemand course, including hard copy study materials, exam fees, and full AAT Membership for the first 12 months.

    The AAT Foundation Certificate is ideal for those who are new to accountancy and finance. You don’t need any experience or prior knowledge, and it’s a great way to start a career in accounting.

    Interested? Apply now!

    For more information and to apply please visit our Kaplan Accounting Foundation Scholarship page.

    Applications close on 27th August, so don’t miss this great opportunity!

    * 12 month access to a full AAT Foundation Level OnDemand course £1316, AAT 12 month membership fee £147 and x5 first attempt exam and admin fees £440 when sat at a Kaplan exam centre.

  • Motivation, concentration and confidence - reignite your studies

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jul 30, 2020

    We teamed up with CIMA to offer some thoughts and tips around kick starting your studies, after the impact of the lockdown.

    After conducting a recent student survey, we recognised that many of you are struggling with motivation. This is understandable given the current circumstances, so let’s begin by addressing this.


    To build motivation it is good to reflect on it. Think about what initially motivated you to study your particular qualification. Was it for example - to progress your career? Or get a better job? Chances are these are still your motives, you just need to rediscover them.

    In the context of setting objectives, which is an important element in motivation, you may want to consider these points:

    1. State what you want, not what you don’t want.
    2. What will you accept as proof that you have achieved your targets?
    3. Is achieving this objective within your control?
    4. What will you gain and lose as a result?
    5. Write the above down!

    Framing your objectives in a positive way can really help. For example, stating what you want, rather than don't want, works on the basis that the brain struggles to deal with negatives. Try it for yourself, “don't think of a purple tree”.

    “I don't want to fail” is not as good as saying “I want to pass”. Combine this with point 3, passing is not in your control but working harder and practicing exam questions is, and you have a very powerful tool to improve your motivation.

    ‘It’s not the right time’

    When we explore our motivation one of the things we see often is people putting things off. I hear students say ‘I am motivated, it’s just not the right time’. When you say that, you’re mentally giving yourself a break. You’re allowing yourself to defer your study.

    If you find yourself doing this, then I would challenge you to question it. Run through the following questions:

    1. Why is it not the right time?
    2. Is this real or made up?
    3. What are you waiting for to change?
    4. Can you change it? Is it within your control?

    For instance if you are saying to yourself about the current circumstances ‘I’m not resuming my studies until classrooms are open again’ then you’re dependent on factors outside your control. This ultimately might lead you to pause your studies indefinitely.

    If you come to this realisation and it's not what you want, then it might cause you to think about alternative ways to study - the most obvious being online.

    So the challenging questions above are just designed to try and avoid making the wrong decisions.


    Very often, when we talk about ‘concentration’ in relation to our studies we really mean ‘attention’. Are you always paying attention? Are you fully engaged with your studies?

    When we multitask, for instance, we give only brief attention to one thing and then to another. What it does is effectively tire us out, because attention is a limited resource.

    If we follow the logic that ‘attention is limited’ we can be mindful of needing to be fully invested, mentally, in one thing at a time to get the fullest out of it.

    Tips for improving concentration:

    1. Reduce distractions - don’t have your mobile phone out while studying
    2. Have clearly defined targets
    3. Relax and stay calm
    4. Avoid too much stimulation, for example coffee or playing video games before study


    Confidence is a feeling of self-assurance, arising from an appreciation of your own abilities. It’s a belief in your ability to succeed, It doesn’t mean that you will or you won’t.

    One of the features of classroom based learning is that it is scheduled. So students don't have the chance to think about whether they are ready. It is predetermined. But when it is all down to you, you have to find ways to build your confidence.

    The reason for doing a mock, for instance, is to give you the experience of sitting the exam.The mark you receive is secondary. By simulating the process the uncertainty as to what the exam will be like is reduced. It's about building your confidence.

    Confidence is not something we are gifted at birth. It is something to be developed and is incredibly important in helping you perform to the best of your abilities.

    Tips for thinking about confidence:

    1. Accept you will never be 100% confident - and if you think you are, maybe you’re being over confident.
    2. Have you completed a solid period of studying?
    3. Complete a mock exam - but remember it's confidence building as much as a test of ability.
    4. Avoid exam rescheduling.
    Confidence is the most important single factor in this game, and no matter how great your natural talent, there is only one way to obtain and sustain it…..Work.

    - Jack Nicklaus, American Professional Golfer

    This piece is a summary of some of the main points raised on a webinar by Kaplan’s Head of Learning, Stuart Pedley Smith, and Mark Foley from CIMA.  Watch the full recording online.

  • How we’ve adapted to Covid-19

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jul 23, 2020

    This year has been challenging for us all, for individuals and businesses.

    As a business ourselves we’ve had to adapt and make huge decisions to ensure not only our survival, but the ongoing success of our students and the businesses we work for.

    Here’s a short clip from our Apprenticeship Partnerships Director, who explains how we’ve changed, and used already existing methods, to support our clients.

    We’ve seen students more engaged with their learning than ever before.
  • ACCA prize winner, through online study

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jul 23, 2020

    We found out how adapting to Live Online resulted in Jinder Toor becoming a global prizewinner for his ACCA Strategic Business Leader exam.

    Tell us about your initial journey with Kaplan

    I booked onto a Live Online course because my role involves a lot of travel, so I needed the flexibility. Even between audit trips, I often found myself travelling for other commitments. It wasn’t feasible to study in the classroom due to the amount of travelling involved with my role.

    This was my first post-graduate Accountancy exam - so it’s hard to say why I did so well. But I’m currently studying Strategic Business Reporting (SBR), and I plan on continuing my studies with the same level of motivation.

    How have you found studying online compared with the classroom?

    At first, I thought it would take some time adapting to this new way of learning. But once you begin, you realise it is not too dissimilar to studying in a classroom.

    You still need to create time and space for yourself to study, and you still have to read up on the course and work to understand topics yourself. If there was something I didn’t understand, I would read up about it until I did. It’s the same approach I used when I was at uni, when I was studying in a classroom.

    Once you get accustomed to working online, I found it easier.

    It’s really important to create a routine and structure, so that you progress through the course and still understand all of the material. It’s not a good approach to cram at the end, as you then may not understand the full syllabus. So, early on I baked study time into my overall schedule to make sure I stayed on track with my course.

    What really works for you with Live Online?

    Once you get accustomed to working online and submitting work that way, I found it easier. It offers visual aids so you understand where you’re up to on the course, and the format of the mock exams is brilliant for understanding exactly where you can improve.

    As you progress through the course and get feedback, you understand what you need to improve and this gives you more confidence.

    The Kaplan schedule is really well paced. It makes sure you get to your exam well prepared, without having to cram anything at the end. So use the online tools to your advantage and spend time completing your work each week.

    It feels just like studying in a classroom

    Did you miss out on connecting with other students?

    It’s been fine actually. During the lectures there’s an online chat panel, which is really useful. At first, I was sceptical about it as I thought it might be a distraction having it there through the class. But as soon as the tutor mentioned it, people started asking questions in the chat. There’s a really good Q&A flow from the start.

    So it feels just like studying in a classroom - take advantage of this if you study online!

    How have you found the tutor support?

    The tutors were great throughout the course, I always felt supported. I didn’t notice any difference in this regard between online and studying in a classroom.

    As well as the live chat function, my tutors were great at providing personal feedback. This was especially important during mock exams. They always gave timely, constructive feedback that gave me confidence ahead of the exam.

    It was important to get this level of feedback for SBL. As it’s mostly a written exam, it was vital to understand where and how my answers could be improved.

    Finally, many of our students are struggling with motivation. How did you find that?

    It takes commitment to balance full-time work with your studies, so it is important to stay motivated by keeping the end goal in mind. Another key point for motivation is to continue hobbies you enjoy, as these can be used as breaks or rewards between studying,

    Time management - When you’re studying online (especially alongside work) it’s really important to set a routine and structure your studies. It’s a sacrifice as you’re often giving up evenings and weekends, but you’ve got to keep the end goal in mind. You need to be self-reliant if you’re going to study online.

    Bite-sized learning - Break your studies down into chunks. Reach out to the great tutors if you need support. I know it’s easier said than done but stay motivated and keep working hard!

    Jinder Toor was a global prizewinner for March 2020’s SBL ACCA exam, he used the Live Online study method.

  • How to restart your career plans

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jul 16, 2020

    Due to current world events, it’s unlikely that the economic climate will be ‘back to normal’ very soon.

    And this has left many students, learners, and newly qualified accountants insecure about their career prospects.

    So in collaboration with CABA, the charity which supports the wellbeing of the chartered accountant community, we’ve come up with a list of ways to help make the most of the current circumstances.

    Review your plans

    The timescales on your career plan might simply need adjusting. Like a business, you need to be adaptable and open to revising your plans, to fit the current environment. Economic cycles take time, but history proves that there are always peaks and troughs. Your time will come.

    A zig zagged progression

    Your original plan may have been to progress from role A to role B. But be open to progressing in a less conventional manner. There could be a few extra steps to take in order to reach your final destination. You never know, being flexible could open up other opportunities you never anticipated.

    Use the time to upskill

    With the extra time you may have, keep honing your technical skills. Consider what skills and experience will make you stand out, in a new role or even at your current company. Be ready for when those opportunities become more commonplace.

    During lockdown online courses have never been more popular, so see what’s out there.

    Build your experience

    There might be some limitations with this, but keep an eye out for opportunities to gain experience in fields you may want to move in to. At work, offer to help out, maybe seize opportunities to shadow a team as they work. Gaining tangible experiences is another way to make yourself aware of opportunities and develop yourself.

    Build your brand

    In a competitive job market, it can take quite a lot of effort to stand out. Learn how to build your own ‘personal brand’ to promote your skills and develop a unique identity so you can be at the front of recruiters’ minds.

    There are all sorts of things you can do. You could start a blog, build a new professional network, or contribute expert opinion to discussions and forums on LinkedIn.

    Invest in yourself

    The restrictions that have been implemented during the pandemic have forced people to slow down and re-evaluate how they were spending time. Maybe this is the time to reset your work-life balance in a more permanent way. Connect with family and friends. Develop your hobbies and interests, enrich your personal life.

    Talk it over

    You don’t have to find all the answers yourself. Talk over your ambitions and objectives, as well as your frustrations and disappointments with a colleague, manager or mentor. They may offer a fresh perspective or have helpful experience they can share. Your friends and family can offer a balanced viewpoint that includes your personal life and goals too.

    It’s always helpful to have a soundboard and someone to offer you an alternative perspective on your thoughts.

    This blog is a joint collaboration between Kaplan and CABA. CABA is the charity which supports the wellbeing of the chartered accountant community. They provide lifelong support to ACA students, past and present ICAEW members, and their close families across the globe.

    For more information on how CABA can support you at this time visit

  • How to become a financial analyst

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jul 15, 2020

    The world is a strange place at the moment, and it’s making a lot of us think about changing things up and moving in a new direction. If that’s you, then you might want to consider becoming a financial analyst.

    Here we break down the role for you.

    What is a financial analyst?

    Financial analysts track stocks, bonds, equities, and other financial instruments, then make recommendations based on their research. They often work for investment houses, stock brokerages, banks, insurance agencies, and similar organisations.

    What do they do?

    The work that financial analysts undertake falls under two broad categories: sell-side analysts and buy-side analysts.

    Buy-side analysts work for hedge funds or insurance companies to help businesses with their investment strategies.

    Sell-side analysts advise financial service sales agents who issue, sell or trade stocks, bonds, and other investments.

    The job description for a financial analyst can vary depending on the employer - an insurance company would have different needs to an investment bank for example. Some financial analysts make recommendations for private, in-house funds, whilst others work for publications and businesses that make public recommendations.

    What qualifications do I need?

    You will need to have a bachelor’s degree as a minimum, in a finance-related subject such as economics, statistics or accounting. You would have a much broader range of opportunities available if you had a master’s degree in finance or a Master's of Business Administration (MBA).

    You may also need to get certified if you want to advance your career. Many employers will require you to get the CFA charter for senior level positions. The CFA charter is the most prestigious designation a financial analyst can achieve. It comprises three tough exams and four years of relevant experience. It’s not to be taken lightly - it’s recommended that you study at least 300 hours for each exam.

    What skills do I need?

    You’ll need a wide range of skills, and they do vary depending on the role you’re in. But they could include:

    • Data analysis
    • Financial analysis
    • Financial modelling
    • Strategic thinking
    • Decision making
    • Marketing skills
    • Math skills
    • Attention to detail
    • Communication

    What could I earn as a financial analyst?

    The average Financial Analyst salary in the UK ranges from £44,000 to £75,000*, depending on your skill set, location and level of experience. This doesn’t include any bonuses that might be available.

    Gaining more experience and knowledge will always allow you to aim for the higher end of the salary band.


    Want to become a financial analyst? Check out our CFA page for more information about the qualification, and what is involved to become qualified.

    *Sourced from Robert Half.

  • CIMA Management case study exam explained

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jul 09, 2020

    (Updated April 2022)

    With the next set of exams coming up we thought it would be great to give you an overview of the management case study. This is also the Gateway route for those of you using this approach for CIMA.

    The aim of the management case study exam is to apply the knowledge you have learnt across the whole management level.

    In the objective test exams you show what you know and how to answer questions quickly, but a case study exam is when you show how to apply what you know and how to give advice to management. It builds on everything you’ve studied in the underlying OT syllabi and combines it all together.

    The case study examines everything that can’t be assessed in an objective test exam. It’s meant to simulate what a management accountant would do in the workplace - answering tasks - and what your boss could expect from your role as a finance manager.

    Core activities

    Your case study will be structured around core activities. There are 5 at management level:

    • Evaluate opportunities to add value
    • Implement senior management decisions
    • Manage performance and costs to aid value creation
    • Measure performance
    • Manage internal and external stakeholders.

    Each task will be made up of sub-tasks that cover one or more core activities. Every core activity will be tested in each exam. Make sure you read the questions carefully and work out what you’re actually being asked to do. You need to thoroughly answer the question and not miss anything out.

    Top tips for passing the case study exam

    1. Know the role of the Finance Manager inside and out.

      Familiarising yourself with the pre-seen material is key. Approximately seven weeks before the exam you’ll be provided with around 20-25 pages of information on a fictitious company. You will, for this exam, assume the role of a Financial Manager.

      You’ll need to read everything carefully, making sure you know the ins and outs of the company within the pre-seen information you’re issued with before the exam. During it you could be asked about almost anything from the underlying OT subjects. In the past, companies have been in the toy manufacturing industry (think Lego) and the hotel industry (think the Hilton).

      On the exam day you’ll be given more information to consider and then you’ll be asked questions about the company you’ve been looking at. You could be asked questions on: NPV, Project Management, or around financial standards and how to treat items in the financial statements.

      If you feel rusty on these topics, or unsure as to how they will be applied to a case study exam, then book onto one of our courses.

    2. Brush up on E2, P2, and F2 - Managing Performance, Advanced Management Accounting and Advanced Financial Reporting

      You need to have a good grasp of key theories, models, frameworks, and calculations and other knowledge from the Management Level Objective Test papers, then apply these to the fictitious company within the pre-seen information.

      You’ll be required to show how your knowledge can be applied to a real scenario. If you don’t brush up on your knowledge you might miss a critical concept that could be applied for the issue that has been given to you.

    3. Prepare with mocks and practice questions

      Kaplan Publishing is the only official publisher of CIMA approved material, meaning that all of our books and materials have been reviewed and approved by CIMA faculty. For our case study courses we will give you mock exams for you to try.

      We’d suggest you attempt your mocks under exam conditions so you get used to the time frame in which you have to work. The case study timer is always ticking down and if you don’t complete a task in the time available the system will automatically move you on to the next task without you being able to finish.

      These mocks will be marked by us at Kaplan, so make sure you fully explain everything. Writing out notes or bullet points might prove to you that you know what you would put in your real exam, but it won’t show someone else that you know what you’re talking about and will not score you as many marks as a fully developed answer.

      Treat your mocks like the real thing, develop your exam technique and make sure you get your point across.

      Our MCS study text will walk you through what you need to prepare for the case study exam, providing you with proven study techniques. It covers the building blocks of successful learning and exam techniques, with advice on how to read the pre-seen material.

      You’ll be given handy hints and tips, to make it easy for you to apply what you’ve learned to your exam, you’ll also find a chapter on how to approach the more technical questions. This is invaluable advice to help you pass your case study exam.

    4. Plan your answers

      Starting from the February 2020 sitting, CIMA gives you an indication of how much time to spend per task, so you can plan your exam time accordingly. There is generally 45 minutes per task, but as the tasks are broken down into sub-tasks, make sure you look at the mark allocation for the sub-task to work out how much time to spend on it. For instance, while a full task takes 45 minutes, a sub-task that scores 40% of the marks should only take 18 minutes

      Understandably, you might panic and want to start writing your answer immediately because of the short time available, but if you plan your answer a little, at the start, it gives you a great basis to work from. That way, you know where you’re heading. It can also help you structure your writing and answer.

    5. Hone your writing technique

      As part of the Management case study exam, you’ll have 30 to 60 minutes to write a financial report or response to a colleague, manager, or senior executive via email. In the exam you can expect 4 tasks to answer.

      A good, clear, writing style is very important. Use short, digestible, paragraphs to make it easy for the marker to read, and give you those vital marks.

    6. Take a look at the new exam blueprints

      CIMA has published examination blueprints, based on the syllabus. They provide information about the format, structure and weightings of the assessments. You can view the Management Level blueprint on the CIMA website.

      You may find that some of the content has changed, especially at E2 because of the change in the syllabus in 2019. Don’t worry. If you enroll on a course with us we will guide you through this and help you progress through your exam.

    7. What are the pass rates for the CIMA Management Case Study?

      CIMA case studies are in 4 exam sittings over 3 days at the end 4 months in the year.

      Pass rates for the 2021 exam sittings were:

      February sitting - 71%

      May sitting - 69%

      August sitting - 68%

      November sitting - 73%

      Results for CIMA case study take four to five weeks to come through as they are human-marked. It’s a notoriously difficult exam, but we’re proud that Kaplan’s CIMA pass rates consistently exceed the national average. In November 2021 we had the highest achievers at all three levels of case study.

      Ready to do your CIMA Management Case Study exam?

      If you’re ready you can book your exam now, but make sure you have read everything you can about it so you are well prepared and confident going in.

      If you’re just considering CIMA, or are thinking about moving from Operational to Management, check out our CIMA pages for more information. We also have plenty of study methods and funding options to choose from to make your studies go as smoothly as possible.

  • Financial Services Professional Apprenticeship in Treasury

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jul 09, 2020

    We are delighted to announce a new treasury pathway for our Financial Services Professional Level 6 apprenticeship, in conjunction with the Association of Corporate Treasurers (ACT).

    We’re the very first training provider to offer this route, and to explain how it will work, we hosted a webinar. You can watch the webinar to find out more.

    The ACT is the only professional treasury body with a Royal Charter and sets the global benchmark for treasury excellence, leading the profession through internationally recognised qualifications. The following qualification from the ACT has recently been approved for delivery under the Level 6 standard by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education:

    • Diploma Treasury Management, which includes the Certificate Treasury if required.

    As a leading provider of Accountancy, Tax and Financial Services apprenticeships, treasury sits well within Kaplan’s existing portfolio of apprenticeships. Whilst the 32-36 month programme is available for businesses in a variety of sectors, the new pathway particularly lends itself to: building societies, commercial / business banking, investment banking, investment management and those in operational roles.

    We know that businesses vary in the size of their treasury function, or financial services teams which work closely with treasurers, so we’ve taken the decision to enrol all learners on this programme as one cohort. This will allow learners to support one another and develop alongside their peers, sharing good practice.

    Ideal for newcomers

    The programme suits individuals who are new to the sector (i.e. graduates), and for existing employees looking to develop skills and behaviours - plus gain a recognised professional qualification.

    During the apprenticeship, individuals will be required to develop into senior roles tasked with maintaining the financial health and success of a business, contributing to the development of strategic and operational plans for their area.

    I’m very excited about this launch, which will finally provide a treasury apprenticeship route within the financial services sector. It’s important for bankers and others to understand their clients and support them with the right products and approach.

    - Caroline Stockmann, ACT Chief Executive

    Ongoing support

    During the programme, apprentices will be supported by a Kaplan Talent Coach and will develop the Skills and Behaviours required to be competent through a range of online learning activities and work-based projects. Apprentices will be invited to interactive development sessions and asked to document their off-the-job learning activities through a Training Record.

    They will gain significant knowledge from the ACT Diploma in Treasury Management, whilst making use of all the benefits of becoming a student member of the ACT for the duration of their studies.

    Watch the Webinar

    If your organisation has a treasury function and you would like to find out how this apprenticeship would work for you, please watch the webinar. 

    For more information on anything mentioned in this article please email

  • What type of student are you?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jul 02, 2020

    Do you think of yourself as a ‘Class clown’? Or maybe a ‘Procrastinator’?

    Find out with our new Instagram filter.

    The Kaplan Instagram account launched the filter in February and it’s proving to be quite popular with students. Once you activate it it assigns you a ‘student type’.

    When we released it we thought there’d be some uptake and that it’d die off after the first few months, but it’s still rolling. It’s just a fun, relatable thing that students can do.

    - Anna Cooper, Social Media Exec

    How to activate it

    To access it, all you need to do is log onto our Instagram profile with your phone, then click on the filter button (it looks like a little face icon) and away you go.

    Our Instagram account is useful for many things, we regularly post: motivational tips, well-being messages, links to useful blogs, new product announcements and course offers.

    So give us a follow, and don’t forget to discover what type of student you are!

  • How to prepare for your next exam - today

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jun 25, 2020

    John Cunningham is the regional Head of Education for Europe and Americas, at ACCA. He offers some tips for those looking to get back into their ACCA exams.

    No matter where you are in the world, COVID has been massively disruptive. You have this extra challenge now in the sense that it’s affected all areas of your life, and you may be considering how to get ‘back on track’.

    Given that exams are starting to resume soon, in many countries, there are various things you can be doing to get you where you want to be.


    Ask yourself ‘What is my plan?’. Pick a target date, establish when you want your next exam to be, mentally commit, and work back from there.

    You might simply mentally commit to getting your exam entry in. That first mental commitment is the all important first step.

    Once you’ve done that think ‘What do I need to do now to reasonably prepare for that exam?’.

    There are planning resources out there such as the ACCA study planner, on the ACCA website, which is a great new tool to help manage your time in the run up to an exam. For the other main accountancy qualifications I am sure they have their own versions.

    Learning is a habit, so make sure you get into that habit and stick at it.

    Get good tuition

    I recommend to all students that they should make the use of an expert tuition provider. As you may already know, the qualifications are very difficult and this really helps.

    Some students out there choose to buy the books and study entirely by themselves. This works for some but this is the more difficult way to do it. In my role I look at a large volume of student data, it shows that by using a platinum training provider like Kaplan you’d be significantly more likely to pass.

    Make studying, habitual

    Another thing I look at are ‘risk categories’. Meaning, what are the trends we see when students start to wobble and risk not getting qualified?

    Learning is a habit, so make sure you get into that habit and stick at it. It’s like the gym, if you miss one session and then another and another then the longer it goes on, the less likely you are to get back into it.

    Also, prepare yourself for potential failure. We know that once a student fails an exam, it’s too easy to doubt yourself and step back. So resilience is so important with exams to ensure you have that bounce-back-ability, if you fail an exam.

    It’s vital right now that we are kind to ourselves about our learning.

    Camaraderie and well-being

    Camaraderie is important. Get yourself into a cohort; find other like minded students who you can study with, and feed off. This is really important in helping you get through it and find motivation.

    In terms of well-being, it’s important that we recognise the unusual circumstances we live in right now. It’s been an unsettling and disruptive time, which tests our resilience and adaptability.

    So it’s vital right now that we are kind to ourselves about our learning. Make realistic targets, given the circumstances. Make sure you have balance. Yes, have ambition about your studies - but make achievable targets.

    Also create opportunities for you to be able to express how you’re feeling, either with your tutor or other students. Look after your wellbeing, it’s important.

    The resources at your disposal

    Don’t just pick the book up and dive head first into the syllabus. Use resources available to help contextualise the concepts.

    We have launched something called ACCA bite-sized videos, which help to bring to life and set the scene for the context around the concepts.

    Also look at past exam papers. The research shows that students who go through past exam papers do better in the exams. It’s just a fact.

    We can’t underestimate the importance of good exam technique.

    Finally, focus on exam technique

    We can’t underestimate the importance of good exam technique. When I speak to examiners they always tell me that students leave many ‘marks on the table’, and this is down to exam technique.

    Time management is important - Avoid putting all your time into the first part of the exam, therefore leaving little for the end. Timing is crucial. Really focus on the question, and the wording - even the verb used is important.

    Look out for the verbs in the question - When the examiner uses words like ‘list’, ‘detail’, ‘compare’, ‘contrast’, etc make sure that is what you do.

    For those taking the computer based exams (CBE) make sure you’re familiar with the software and functionality. We see some students wasting a lot of time because they clearly didn’t know how to use the functions.

    Finally, mock exams are really important, so take them. And be serious with the way you take them. Take them in exam conditions, without the resources you wouldn’t have access to in the real exam, and apply the same time constraints.

    Once complete, get your tuition provider to mark it, and make use of the feedback they provide - their feedback is gold and will direct you on the areas you need to focus on during revision. It really will make the difference.

    Best of luck everyone!! And be kind to yourself!

    John Cunningham has many years of experience in Accounting education with ACCA and formerly AAT. He says his main responsibility is to ‘help people to pass exams’.

    For the full interview with our Head of Learning, Stuart Pedley Smith, watch the 30 minute interview.

  • ACCA students - have you considered an Oxford Brookes course?

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jun 25, 2020

    With the interruption to exams, many students may be considering what they can do to keep progressing their studies. One option is the BSc Applied Accounting course, offered by Oxford Brookes University in partnership with ACCA.

    Complementing your ACCA qualification, the course allows you to gain the skills needed to apply your ACCA knowledge to a real life situation, which you will also need to use in SBL.

    With it you can make the most of the extra time you may have, and use this as a way to further boost your career prospects. The course has been jointly designed by the University and the ACCA to meet the requirements of a degree and a professional qualification.

    Suited to the current climate

    This short course can be taken entirely online, and requires students to have completed their ACCA Applied Knowledge and Skills Exams, the ACCA Ethics and Professional Skills module (EPSm).

    When preparing for the Research and Analysis Project part of the course, all students will have a mentor. This is the final element of the programme.

    Due to the current pandemic, all mentoring for the course is conducted remotely. Most mentors offer online mentoring and students do not need to use a mentor from their own country.

    Kaplan are a highly valued partner of ACCA with a team of experienced online mentors supporting students through the BSc Applied Accounting

    - Dr Jane Towers-Clark, Head of Academic Partners at ACCA

    Study with Kaplan

    At Kaplan we have a team of experienced online mentors supporting students through the BSc Applied Accounting and enable them to gain the skills desired by their employers as well as their academic and professional skills.

    For more information about how you can start this course with us, visit our Oxford Brookes page.

  • How to become a Financial Controller

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jun 18, 2020

    For those who like working with numbers, enjoy responsibility, and have superb organisational skills this job might be the one. It's a pivotal role as you'd be responsible for the financial control of a company. But what the does the position involve and how do you get into it?

    What is a Financial Controller?

    A financial controller is a senior role within accounting. They are responsible for all of the accounting operations of an organisation. Essentially they are the finance director’s second-in-command.

    Responsibilities include:

    • Producing periodic financial reports
    • Ensuring a system of accounting records
    • Maintaining the company’s general ledger
    • Managing the accounts or finance team
    • Producing a comprehensive set of budgets and controls
    • Ensuring that all reported results comply with accounting standards and relevant legislation.

    Simply put, a financial controller is responsible for all aspects of the smooth running of a finance department.

    What qualifications do I need?

    You will need a relevant degree in a subject such as Maths, Business, or Economics, as well as having completed an accountancy qualification. This could be from either the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) or the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ACA-ICAEW).

    ACCA - consists of three levels: Applied Knowledge, Applied Skills, and Strategic Professional. You will also need to complete relevant work experience. In total, it takes around 5 years to qualify.

    CIMA - is split into Certificate (a standalone ‘beginner’ qualification), and Professional, which is split into three levels: Operational, Management, and Strategic. It takes 3-4 years to complete.

    ACA-ICAEW - is made up of three levels: Certificate, Professional and Advanced, and you’ll need to do 450 days of work experience. It takes around 3 years to complete.

    What skills and experience do I need?

    You will need a lot of experience in finance and management as this is a role that requires you to balance the hands-on financial management of a company with high-level decision making.

    Being able to communicate clearly and effectively is essential. You will need to be able to explain your reports clearly, ensuring that departments understand the implications of your findings.

    Good analytical skills are essential. You’ll need to be able to look at complex data and decipher what it means for your company and the individual departments. You’ll then need to be able to react to the results, and work out how to improve or adapt to any changes.

    Being able to work under pressure and to strict deadlines is a must. Reports need to be produced regularly, and month-end and financial year-end analysis will need to be done.

    Pre-planning will reduce some of this workload but, at the end of the day, the data for a specific period is only available at a certain point. Financial controllers work under a great deal of time pressure to put out the reports, while still maintaining a flawless level of accuracy.

    What can I earn?

    The annual salary for a financial controller ranges from £51,000 to £72,000 depending on experience and location.* But there are financial controller positions that command much higher salaries - some well over £100,000 a year.

    *Source: Reed average salary 2020


    Want to become a financial controller? Check out our ACCA, CIMA and ACA pages for more information about the qualifications, and what is involved to become qualified.

  • Exams and Learning in a Virtual World

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jun 11, 2020

    Currently, all physical training locations and exam centres are closed, and nobody knows exactly when this will change or what the new world of socially distanced training locations will look like.

    In an ever changing world it seems that virtual learning could be the method that many students continue to adopt, even into the future.

    At the moment the only scheduled classes from training providers are via online study channels. With the Kaplan Live Online method, tutors can have their webcams on so students can actually see them, as well as being able to ask questions of the tutor and other students, through the chat panel.

    Zoom, Webex, Teams - these words have now become part of our everyday language. Using them for online meetings has become second nature for many of us as we adapt to remote working.

    As well as LiveOnline we have our OnDemand and Distance Learning study methods. The flexibility of non-scheduled learning means that students can study at a time to suit them, especially useful for those juggling a busy life.

    This has always been a possibility but with furloughed students, reduced working hours for some, and others wanting a distraction, studying remotely is a huge opportunity to keep going, or even start something new.

    What the institutes are doing

    CIMA has been delivering remote exams through Pearson OnVue since 4th May and the other Institutes are following suit - with ACA certificate launching in May and ACCA starting a pilot in July.

    The tax exams will be offering remote options from November, although using a different software to Pearson. Providers of tuition courses are offering courses through online channels, but what has this shift meant for students and their desire to sit exams remotely?

    Your feedback

    In a social media poll* that we completed in May, 59% of those polled were happy to book their next exam, whereas the other 41% felt uneasy and wanted to wait until exams were back in a physical location. Some students taking exams are concerned about sitting them from home, with distractions present due to children, pets, shared housing and the merging of the work and home environment.

    Students seem to be happier with the ‘wordier’ subjects. The biggest fear seems to be the inability to write things down on a piece of paper or a whiteboard in the exam.

    The virtual whiteboard

    The Pearson software has attempted to overcome an element of this by introducing an online whiteboard. Using this means that you can still do workings, although they will be typed rather than written.

    For CIMA exams this functionality can be tested on the CIMA Canvas. Although this isn’t the exact whiteboard you will be given in your exams, it gives you a chance to test it.

    For other exams proctored through Pearson Vue you can get familiar with the online whiteboard before your exam.


    Pen and paper are still relevant, of course, but in a world that is becoming increasingly digital, maybe this is a lesson to us all that we could save a lot of time and energy by writing things straight onto a computer?

    When writing a report or an email at work there is nowhere to write notes. We write as we think - perhaps this is something we should be doing in exams.

    When doing a calculation question why do we feel the need to write our calculations on a piece of paper? Could we do them straight on a calculator and use the online whiteboard for the key numbers we find?

    In a working day most calculations that we do are done on Excel - which, afterall, is the world’s most powerful calculator. Could this actually be a far more efficient way of working and sitting exams? A lot of the subjects have huge time pressure constraints so perhaps doing calculations straight on a calculator could be a time saver?

    Keep going

    We strongly encourage students to continue studying and sitting their exams. With all the current uncertainty and change, we should try to keep some sense of normality and if you were studying before, keep going.

    Many of us have more time on our hands so picking up a new skill, or advancing a skill, could be something to take your mind off today’s uncertainty. If you have completed a level of a qualification could now be the time to do another level? Or if you have finished AAT, could you think about the next step?

    If you’re anxious about sitting an exam, try the online canvas for a technical question and see how you find it. Book the exam so you have something to work towards and don’t forget to reach out for help whenever you need it.

    Follow Kaplan on Facebook and Twitter for some useful tips and updates. If we can support you in any way please don’t hesitate to contact us.

    *374 votes in total, May 2020.

  • ACCA Practising Certificates Explained

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Jun 01, 2020

    An ACCA Practising Certificate (PC) shows that you have the relevant experience and knowledge to perform the duties of a Chartered Accountant.

    Last year, the ACCA used feedback from members to update the Practising Certificate process. Using a similar framework to the student Practical Experience Requirements they created a smoother progression from student to practising member.

    However, the minimum competency level members need to demonstrate remains challenging.

    So, we’ve produced a quick look at Practising Certificates to give you a better understanding.

    Practising Certificate training record (PCTR) Guidance

    If you have already started recording a practising certificate training record (PCTR), which was replaced on 1st January 2019, the ACCA provides a transition guide to help you.

    All completed PCTRs need to be submitted and approved by ACCA by 31 December 2020. After this date, only the Practising Certificate Experience Form (PCEF) will be accepted.

    Do I need a practising certificate?

    You will need a practising certificate if you are:

    • Planning on setting up a practice and intend to produce accounts, tax returns or reports for third party use (public practice)
    • Joining a firm as a director or partner, or other senior position
    • Working in the UK, Ireland, Zimbabwe, Australia, or where there is a local requirement for you to hold an ACCA practising certificate.

    You do not need to apply for a practising certificate if you are engaged in public practice outside of the above territories. You must notify ACCA and apply to be placed on ACCA’s register of practitioners.

    You will need to apply for an ACCA practising certificate and audit qualification if:

    • You will be responsible for signing audit reports in the UK and/or Ireland
    • You would like statutory auditor status in the UK and/or Ireland.

    Applying for a practising certificate - what will you need to have completed?

    To receive a practising certificate you will need to have achieved:

    • 3 years of supervised experience with an ACCA approved employer - practising certificate development (general or audit) stream - or an employer that would be eligible to register
    • 2 years of post-membership experience. Only experiences gained after becoming a member can count towards a practising certificate
    • Experience that has been supervised by an appropriately qualified individual
    • The competencies contained in the Practising Certificate Experience Form (PCEF). A member training towards the practising certificate must complete the PCEF part 1 and part 2. You can find out more about the PCEF on the ACCA website.

    To apply for an ACCA practising certificate and Audit Qualification you must, in addition to the above, achieve:

    • The competencies in the 3rd part of the PCEF that cover audit
    • At least 44 weeks (1540 hours) of audit training in the three years. For the UK at least 22 weeks (770 hours) must be specifically in statutory audit work. For Ireland it’s 44 weeks.
    • Passes for the UK (or Irish variants) of the following ACCA exams*:
      • Corporate and Business Law
      • Taxation
      • Strategic Business Reporting
      • Advanced Audit and Assurance

    As of January 2020, the standard fee for a practising certificate and a practising certificate and audit qualification is £514.

    How long does it take to get a practising certificate?

    It takes at least 30 days for the ACCA to process your PCTR or PCEF.

    Important changes implemented from 1 March 2020

    From 1 March 2020 the ACCA changed the way they handle instances where members, affiliates and students are found to be practising without a practising certificate.

    We are also changing the way we deal with members, affiliates and students providing bookkeeping services only.

    There’s lots of information on the ACCA website as well as all the application forms that you will need. You can submit your 2020 practising certificate renewal and firm’s renewals online via myACCA.

    Need more information?

    We’re here to help you with your ACCA qualification, so get in touch with Student Services if you have any questions or just want some more information.

    *Or equivalent from the previous syllabus.

  • How to make Live Online work for you

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | May 28, 2020

    In today’s climate it’s understandable if you struggle to get out of bed in the morning, never mind finding the motivation to learn how to consolidate a foreign subsidiary!

    A lot of my students who are experiencing Live Online for the first time have said they feel demotivated and distracted. So I thought I’d piece together some useful tips to try and boost morale and motivation when using the study method.

    Get dressed for the day

    Let’s be honest. How many times have you stayed in your pyjamas the whole day in the last since late March? As tempting as it seems, my first tip is to actually get dressed in the morning.

    You won’t believe the difference it makes to your mindset and productivity! When you actually get dressed for work it signals to your brain that you’re in “work mode”.

    Get rid of distractions

    How many of us get distracted by our phones throughout the day? From the ever increasing new TikTok dances, to making the famous Dalgona whipped coffee, the temptation to procrastinate through social media is at an all-time high.

    I would recommend for you to check your social media when you wake up and then leave your phone in a separate room to where you’ll be working. You’ll be surprised how productive you can be when your phone is out of reaching distance!

    Bite-sized learning

    A typical teaching day starts at 9am and ends around 4pm - that’s a long time to be staring at a screen. Rather than putting pressure on yourself to concentrate for seven consecutive hours, break up your day.

    Your tutor will usually set you one or two breaks in the morning, and at least a 45 minute lunch break, with a final afternoon break. If you can set yourself small goals such as “stay focussed for session 1 (9-10am)” this makes it a lot more achievable.

    With live online specifically, your tutor will give more frequent breaks, usually on the hour, which lends itself perfectly for bite sized learning

    When you achieve your goal, reward yourself – go and check on your phone, do a silly dance, or go and have yet another slice of cake!

    Attend live sessions as much as you can

    It’s really important that you attend the sessions live rather than listen to the recording. Listening in live allows you to have more of a routine and stay focussed as you need to keep up with the pace of the tutor.

    Copy down relevant notes and attempt the questions set by them. Another advantage of listening live is the ability to interact with your tutor and colleagues via the chat panel. This is a great way to boost morale rather than re-watching a recording with no interaction.

    Look after yourself

    Stay aware of your mental health. We’re going through such an unfamiliar period in life and it’s likely to have an impact on our wellbeing.

    Understanding that you’re going to have some ups and downs during this period of uncertainty is absolutely normal. Try and go outside once a day – either by sitting in your garden/balcony or going for a short walk around your neighbourhood.

    Getting that time away from a screen and taking in a bit of fresh air can do wonders.

    Another way to look after our mental health is through healthy eating: drinking plenty of water and exercising. There are many free online classes that you can try out to aid your well-being around things such as: yoga, meditation, HIIT and many more.

    Finally, make sure you check in on family/friends and let them know how you’re doing. Set up regular FaceTime/zoom calls between groups of people. Since it’s difficult to spend time with them as we normally would, it’s important to get some face time with your nearest and dearest.

    Final thoughts

    All the above points are valid, but I’d say the best way to ensure your success with Live Online right now is through implementing structure to your day, and to look after your mental health.

    Please don’t feel like you’re in this alone. There are plenty of resources available to you if you feel you need to reach out to someone. From your tutor to charities such as Mind or CABA – there will always be someone to speak to.

    So stay safe everyone – we’re in this together.

  • Which qualifications help you earn a Fund Accountant’s salary

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | May 21, 2020

    A fund accountant prepares accounts and investor reports for investment funds. But what does the role entail and what are the routes into this accountancy based profession?

    What is a fund accountant role?

    A fund accountant prepares accounts and investor reports for investment funds. They usually work with investment managers to make sure the fund is well serviced.

    They must detail how the company is using its funds, which may include producing separate reports, and they help companies decide how to use available revenue.

    Essentially, a fund accountant acts as a go between for the investor and the business.

    Businesses use fund accountants to ensure that their funds are achieving their targets, while remaining compliant. In some cases, this role is focussed on how money is spent rather than the profits incurred.

    The areas of specialism range from government, to non-profit, hedge funds or others.

    The average salary of a fund accountant is £38k, but this can obviously vary depending on region and experience. Top salaries in the field can earn in excess of £55k.

    Fund accountant qualifications

    To be attractive to an employer, typically, employers will expect fund accountants to qualify and be a member of a professional accountancy body such as ACCA, CIMA or ACA.

    Also having a bachelor’s or master's degree in accounting or a similar field would also be acceptable.

    In addition to the above, you’d be expected to have the following soft skill traits:

    • Strong interpersonal skills
    • Excellent attention to detail
    • Great time management skills
    • Multitask ability

    Experience needed

    In terms of experience, many employers expect fund accountants to have strong knowledge of basic computer programs, and accounting software.

    Although fund accountants will largely work in an office, they may be required to travel to other offices, so access to transport would be helpful.

    Being a good candidate for this type of career is not just about having a good exam track record. You also need to have the right experience to prove that you’ll be competent within your role, and be able to apply your skills correctly.

    Any real life experience can help count towards influencing their decision, so things like PER within an ACCA qualification could help.

    How to gain ACCA, CIMA, or ACA qualifications

    Here’s an overview of the qualifications you’d need to be able to start a career in fund accounting:

    ACCA - This qualification consists of three levels: Applied Knowledge, Applied Skills, and Strategic Professional, plus the relevant work experience you’ll need to complete. In total, it takes around 5 years to qualify. ACCA is also ideal if you are looking to become a chartered accountant, or work in an accountancy, audit or tax firm.

    CIMA - CIMA is split into Certificate, a standalone ‘beginner’ qualification, and Professional, which is split into three levels: Operational, Management, and Strategic. Averagely it takes 3-4 years to complete. Also ideal if you’re looking to develop your accountancy skills to lead finance departments or provide management accounting consultancy.

    ACA - Consists of three levels: Certificate, Professional, and Advanced. You’ll also need to have 450 practical work experience days, and it takes around three years to complete. ACA is also a great option if you’re looking to become a chartered accountant and work in accountancy and finance.

    Start your fund accountant journey!

    So why not look into this further, get thinking about the next steps in your career.

    For more information on our courses visit our website.


  • 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.

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