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Planning for success in an on-demand world

Cup of coffee

I want it now

Increasingly, we are living in a world of instant gratification and impulsivity. Everything from “I need a coffee” to “I’ve got to watch the next episode of Game of Thrones”, the need is there and it has to be satisfied NOW! Businesses have been quick to cater for these impulses, with coffee shops on almost every street corner and TV streaming and catch up services offering content anywhere, anytime.

There is of course a price to pay for this “want it now” mentality. Life seems to move faster and planning becomes less important; what’s the point in planning when you can have everything you want, when you want it? The danger is that we start to feel out of control as we focus on satisfying our short term impulses, whilst other things in life seem to pass us by.

On demand learning

Let’s look at the “want it now” mentality in the context of learning. There was a time when examinations were just once a year, with a possible re-sit option. This was far from ideal, with students wanting more flexibility or the option to progress more quickly. Employers also found their employees were out of the office all at the same time, affecting productivity.

As a result, we saw a move to increase the number of exam sittings. Initially there were two, then four and so it continued ,until today where we have exams on demand.

On the face of it, this is a natural progression. But being able to sit the exam when you’re ready does raise some concerns; how do you know if you’re ready? And will some students worry they never feel truly ready to sit the exam? Compound this with a potential lack of planning and you could quickly find yourself losing control of your studies.

Taking back control

According to a government report published in 2014, people that feel they lack control over their studies suffer from higher levels of stress and anxiety, which in turn can lead to poor academic results both in the short and long term.

Learning can and should be an enjoyable experience. So by taking back control of your studies and putting together a plan, you’ll be in a much better position to progress.

Exams on demand, the best of both worlds

Exams on demand offer many opportunities. They should in theory help you take back control. BUT you’ll only see the benefit, if you set your plan and stick to it - self-discipline is important. And like all plans it needs to be realistic.

Steps in planning

  • Start by setting out when you want to qualify, let’s say September 2019. Be sensible, think about what other objectives you might have. Will you still be with your current employer, are you planning to get married etc. Equally don’t go too far into the future. Three years is the norm for professional examinations.
  • Working back from that date, add in the other milestones e.g. when do you need to pass the first level, second level etc.
  • Now fill in the detail relating to the subjects. When do you want to pass the individual paper examinations. You may want to consult with your employer to avoid times that are not well suited for the business.
  • And finally plan the date you will start to study, for each paper. This should take into account some of those smaller but equally important commitments, playing football on Thursday evenings perhaps. Remember, having a balance is important.
  • One last but important step - print off the key dates, put them on your wall and give a copy to someone who you don’t want to disappoint. That’s your commitment.

What you end up with is the best of both worlds; exams that fit around both your needs and your employer’s but a commitment and plan as to when you will achieve certain milestones.

Having the ability to sit examinations when you want is desirable but it needs to be structured, organised and you need to be disciplined to stick to the plan. And if you think about it that’s no different to being able to say no to that 3rd cup of coffee, even if you do want it NOW.

Kaplan now offers a new and innovative way to study for CIMA examinations. Kaplan OnDemand courses have been designed specifically for on demand CIMA exams, giving you the best of both flexible study, with the structure and support of a classroom course. Find out more about OnDemand courses.

Stuart Pedley-Smith, Head of Learning for Kaplan Financial, has been involved with training and educating finance professionals for over 20 years. He is especially interested in the process of learning and the exam skills and techniques that contribute towards success in the classroom and in life. Stuart has written two books – The E word – Kaplan’s Guide to Passing Exams and A student’s guide to writing Business Reports.