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Motivation, concentration and confidence - reignite your studies

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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.