Spotlight on study skills

Student in library

When you first start your CA course, it's important to get into good study habits as early as possible.

The sheer volume of material you're faced with can be daunting and there are lots of competing demands on your time

Here are five ways to study smarter. These will help you get the most from your study time and give you the best possible shot at passing your exams.

1. Use your time wisely

This is really important.

Although studying for the CA is tough, you don't need to spend every waking hour chained to your desk. That's not going to be productive, or healthy. The way you study for the CA is quite different to the way many of us studied at Uni.

At Uni you probably had to go off and do a fair bit of your own reading and research, bringing together other peoples' ideas in a logical way. Now, it's not expected that you need to re-write your notes or do masses of additional reading.  The material has been written for you to use as your main study source. Of course, you can write short summaries if that helps you understand the material that's been covered in class. Ideally you should start by splitting your time 50:50 between developing your core understanding of each subject, and working on practice questions.

2. Use the practice questions

Seems like a no brainer right?

Well, you'd be surprised at how many people don't get into the habit of using the practice questions as often as they should be.

The practice questions help you apply the knowledge you've learned in class. It's not a case of needing to know all the material first before attempting the practice questions. Tutors recommend that you do some open book question practice with your course notes alongside to begin with. This builds up your confidence and gets you familiar with the question format. Over time, you should aim to work through the questions without relying on your notes.

Don't miss: Look out for a follow up article on using practice questions by Steph Jenkins from the tutor team.

3. Don't worry about getting practice questions wrong

Don't be disheartened if things don't seem to fall into place right away.

It is totally OK to get things wrong when you are just starting out. Take some time to review your errors. The mistakes that come up in the practice questions will stand you in good stead for the final exam. Not only will they stick in your mind and help you change your approach for the better, you'll also have knowledge of your weak spots and can use this to your advantage.

A word of warning though – if you do get questions right first time, resist the temptation to assume that you know everything and skip ahead. Ensure you've got a firm understanding of why the question is right and the correct approach to follow for answering the question correctly, as you are unlikely to be asked exactly the same question again.

Remember that your tutors are available to provide help and support with practice questions. You can call or email them directly, or contact them via the discussion forums on CABLE.

Don't wing it!

4. Plan ahead

The teaching schedule for the CA course is well defined, so you can plan your study time in line with upcoming progress tests, mock exams and final exams.

Set yourself clear, achievable targets and break things down into bites sized chunks so you know what you'll be studying and when.

Tip: The progress tests are designed to help you consolidate what you've learnt ahead of the mock and final exams. They are done under exam conditions. Try to view them as a bit of a bonus, as they'll give you a taste of what the real exam will be like, and hopefully help to reduce anxiety around what to expect on the day.

5. Aim for a good work-life balance

Finding a good balance between your work, study and down time helps you become more resilient and better able to cope with stress and pressure. Just a few simple changes can make all the difference when it comes to lifting your mood and helping you feel more in control of your studying.

Try to:

  • Take a break. Your mind needs a break from studying. Downing tools for a while helps you to come back to things refreshed and focused.
  • Take regular exercise. Even if it's just a quick walk at lunch time, getting some fresh air and a change of scene is a great idea.
  • Get enough sleep. A lack of sleep can leave you prone to stress. Things can feel ten times worse when we're tired. What's more, research from the National Sleep Foundation shows that that it affects our ability to pay attention and remember new information.
  • Stay positive. If you are feeling overwhelmed or worried it's important to talk about it. Seek support from fellow students and do talk to your tutors. They have been there too and will be able to offer help and support.

October 2017

Thursday 16 October: MoneyBox on tax and changes

How much has tax changed in 40 years? Do the same challenges face accountants today as in 1977? The BBC's Money Box podcast offers a unique opportunity to reflect on how far the profession has come and what has remained the same.

Sir William Pile, Chairman of the Board of the Inland Revenue (now HMRC), was the first ever interviewee featured on Money Box when the show originally aired on BBC Radio 4. He spoke to presenters Louise Botting and Peter Hobday about the impact of inflation, simplifying the complexities of assessment and the public perception of the taxman.

Listen to a panel of experts discuss Sir William's point of view and compare today's issues in accounting.

Available on the BBC website and for free download on iTunes.

Get in touch

What do you think has been the biggest development in tax in the last 40 years? Will Making Tax Digital change the landscape entirely? Tell us your thoughts at or on Twitter @ICAS_students.

In today's blog, your tutors offer their advice for getting the most out of the resources on CABLE. We also round up some handy apps for CA students and reflect on the leadership lessons for the future we took away from the ICAS Young Leaders Summit in September.

Top 5 apps for students

We round up the best five apps for CA students - from apps that help you stay focused while studying, to a handy guide to accounting terms.

10 tips for online learning

How well do you work with CABLE? The online learning platform is integral to your CA studies but could you be using its resources more effectively? Your tutors share their top tips for making the most of CABLE.

Five things we learnt about next generation leadership

Traditional skills are no longer enough to succeed as a leader in this new world. In the Young Leaders Summit Lightning Session on Next Gen Leadership Skills, we heard on how global mindsets, technological savvy and business agility should be harnessed for current and future generations to realise potential.

Monday 9 October: The Monarch collapse explained in numbers

Monarch Airlines entered administration last week after 50 years of business for the UK travel company. What factors drove the financial strain that grounded Monarch's planes for good?

Monarch infographic

Get in touch

Have you lost out on a holiday with Monarch? What do you think big company collapses mean for the wider economy? Tell us on Twitter @ICAS_students or email

Today's blog is all about getting you in the right mindset. We talk to tutors about the importance of mental health while gearing up for exams, investigate how best to handle workplace hierarchies and attitudes, and get geared up for TPE.

Eight quick tips to conquer the TPE exam

You have done the study work and practiced your case studies, but what about tackling the TPE exam on the day? TPE level controller Cat Devaney shares her timely advice on how to tackle questions and pick up extra marks.

How to prepare for office politics

Many young people find themselves unprepared for office politics, according to a study by the Co-op. A surprisingly high 54% of those surveyed said that they were not prepared for, or as informed as they would like to be, about how to handle politics in the workplace.

Caring for your mental health

More students and young adults than ever are reporting mental health issues, according to a study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). To help manage the stress of exams and everyday life, your tutors share some advice on coping with academic pressure.

Thursday 5 October: Do you aim to be a CFO after qualification?

In a recent article in The CA magazine, Editor Robert Outram talked to CFOs about what actions can be taken for others looking to apply for this role. Ian Swanson CA, CFO with Delicato Family Vineyards in Napa, California, believes that soft skills are crucial:

“Up to this role you were a technical adviser adding to the business discussions. As CFO you are playing a leading role in the business discussions, with an expertise in finance. You are no longer leading with your technical skills; those are just the lens you use to manage and direct the business,” Ian explained.

The nine essential steps

EY’s Finance Forte study, based on interviews with CFOs, identified nine key steps for CFOs to take, to ensure they are prepared for the challenges of the role at group level. They are:

1.  Gain a breadth of finance experience.

2.  Develop commercial insight.

3.  Seek out M&A experience.

4.  Obtain a balance of traditional and non-traditional skills, including the “soft skills” of building relationships with colleagues and external stakeholders.

5.  Develop leadership skills.

6.  Get international exposure.

7.  Gain experience of finance transformation initiatives.

8.  Gain exposure to the markets and stakeholders.

9.  Build effective relationships with the board.

Get in touch

Do you already know what role you will aim for after qualification? Tweet us @ICAS_students or email about your aims for the future, and how you hope to achieve them.

In today's blog, we tackle how to improve your learning style in a large class and hear from ICAS President, Sir Brian Souter, on how valuable the CA qualification is, at all stages of your career. We also continue this week's look at building health with an examination of nootropics (vitamins, supplements, and the much riskier 'smart' drugs), reflecting on their rise amongst professionals.

The rise of 'smart' drugs

Cognitive-enhancing drugs have hit the headlines as the new way to tackle work and study with an unstoppable zest. But what are they, and what do they do?

How to tackle learning in a large class for success

Our class sizes vary throughout the country, but each individual is sure to have a preferred learning style and setting to make the most out of their time - here are our tips for taking on any learning environment, whether it's with ICAS or in-house company training.

Sir Brian Souter on the CA value 

In this short video, discover why Sir Brian Souter, ICAS President, and Stagecoach Co-Founder believes the CA Qualification provides life-long value and can be used in your career at any stage.

Monday 1 October: How are you coping with the Uber ban in London?

Transport for London recently announced that they will not be renewing the taxi app's licence, due to not meeting the standards of passenger safety.

Tom Elvidge, General Manager of Uber in London, responded: “By wanting to ban our app from the capital Transport for London and the Mayor have caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice. If this decision stands, it will put more than 40,000 licensed drivers out of work and deprive Londoners of a convenient and affordable form of transport.”

Further stories emerged later in the week, announcing that Uber would try to overturn a ruling on granting employee rights to drivers, by insisting the company practices do not fall under the 'gig economy' due to their position as an 'agent' for drivers. If the rights were to be enforced, the troubled company would need to pay minimum wage and holidays to their drivers.

Uber lawyers said: “The driver is in no sense in an employment relationship. Rather, Uber acts as the driver’s agent, in referring passengers to him … for [which] it receives payment [for] each trip.”

The situation brings a whole host of business and employment issues to the fore, and offers food for thought for any emerging start-ups on how to manage contractual arrangements and guarantee the safety of consumers (or a due responsibility to anyone using their service or product); important for any budding entrepreneur to keep in mind!

Get in touch

How do you travel between work and home? Will the ban affect you? Tweet us @ICAS_students or email

In today's blog, we feature a look at non-controlling interests in our Back to Basics series for Financial Reporting students, take a quick look at how to start preparing for the TPE exam (it's never too early!), and emphasise the importance of a good rest to keep a healthy head on your shoulders. Happy studying and snoozing!

Eight quick tips to prepare for the TPE exam

Success is just around the corner for our students and we know that you will do your utmost to achieve your qualification at every turn. If you have finished block 2 of TPE then take some time to digest these tutor tips by Level Controller Cat Devaney on how to prepare for the exam.

Sleep for a healthy life

A recent study has revealed that sleep deprivation can result in Alzheimer's disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes, but a 24-hour society and increasing sleep problems mean that we have left behind our established patterns and filled the market with energy-boosting products. Try these five tips for a better rest.

Back to Basics: Non-controlling interests

We go back to basics on non-controlling interests (‘NCI’) from the FR consolidation modules. Students often ask: What are non-controlling interests and is there a way to remember if I am crediting or debiting it in a consolidation question? Ally Millar, FR subject controller explains.

September 2017

Thursday 28 September: CA demographics revealed

The most - and least - popular baby names of 2016 have been revealed with Oliver and Olivia topping the rankings in England and Wales. But which names are most associated with CAs? 

Research by CA Today in 2015 revealed that David and Jennifer were the most popular names for CAs in the UK and beyond. The titles placed 43rd and 246th respectively in this year's baby charts.

You can use this interactive chart from the Telegraph to find out how widely bestowed your own name was last year. In the meantime, check out this information on CA demographics:

Get in touch

Are you a David or a Jennifer? How about an Olivia or Oliver? Tweet us @ICAS_students or email

In today's blog, we continue our Back to Basics on costing methods to help you get to grips with the subject for Business Management. Our new TC students are getting to grips with new materials and potentially a new way of studying, so take a look at our advice for where and how to study for success!

The joys of costing: part 2

In the second part of our back to basics on costing, we delve into the other types of costing methods that are available to businesses (and explained in the CA qualification). This is a helpful look at methodologies for any business management refreshers.

Organising an ideal study space

Self-directed study is key to completing your ICAS qualification and associated modules, but even for the best of us this can be a difficult task to achieve in a structured matter. We investigate approaches for organising the most effective study space.

Organising your study notes

You will have a lot of notes to hand during your time studying to become a CA. It's important to stay on top, so try these five ways to get your study notes organised.

Monday 25 September: What made the modern economy?

Tutor Matt Gorrie explains why a new BBC series is great material for financial accounting students:

The BBC is currently running a series of ’50 things that made the modern economy’, where they examine some of the key historical developments which made the modern economic system as we know it.

As students of FA will know, an effective accounting system is essential to any financial system. This nine-minute podcast looks at the development of the double entry system by Luca Pacioli in 1494, reflecting the growth of complex financial institutions in medieval Europe. Bookkeeping is an essential knowledge for CA students, and it's exciting to think we're over 500 years into the process without much change!

BBC: 50 things that made the modern economy podcast

Get in touch

What do you consider to be the most important economic event in recent times? Tell us on Twitter @ICAS_students or email

In today's blog, we're encouraging you to get stuck into revision with the BM basics of costing and our guide to the titles and terms that you may encounter during your time with ICAS. We also take a look at FinTech's figurative cousin in the property sector to see what it's all about.

Photo of a model house held in hands

The joys of costing: part 1

There are several topics that are likely come to mind when students think back to their good old Business Management (BM) Days. A straw poll of former BM students revealed that absorption and marginal costing still give some nightmares! But have no fear, our guide breaks this down into manageable steps. 

You've heard of FinTech, but what is PropTech?

In the same way that the recruitment sector has been forever altered by online services, businesses like Rightmove and Zoopla are threatening a total overhaul of the real estate industry with PropTech.  

ICAS acronyms and abbreviations

Like many organisations, ICAS has its own set of terms and acronyms. At first, they can seem bewildering. Here’s a handy list of the most commonly used expressions and phrases you’ll come across when you start your training.

Thursday 21 September: Clothing for confidence at work

EY and PwC embrace professional dress code, according to a new global survey from salary benchmarking site

Professionals from around the world answered questions relating to standards of dress at their firms and two Big Four firms were revealed to have the most specific requirements for employees.

EY was reported by respondents as the organisation most likely to limit the colour choices of workers' outfits; two-thirds of participants from EY said that suit and tie/jacket and heel combinations are compulsory at all times. Nearly 10% of PwC employees confirmed similar restrictions with regards to colourful clothing.

Alice Leguay, Co-Founder & CMO at said: "The debate rages on: is dressing to impress still relevant? In some sectors, a sharp look is still important, especially in jobs such as asset management where professionals provide a service and must exude confidence and reliability."

See the full results of the study.

Get in touch

Do you think suits are a necessary requirement for professionals? What is your alternative suggestion? Contact or tweet @ICAS_students to give us your opinion.

In today's blog, we sum up some of the more technical aspects of TC and TPS with a refresher on the books of prime entry and the influence of tax on behaviour. We also examine the responsibilities of Directors when it comes to Business Law.


Tax and behaviour change for CA Students

TC and TPS tax materials contain many instances of tax being used as a mechanism to encourage certain behaviours.

Infographic: Books of prime entry

The Books of Prime Entry allow us to capture raw financial data and process it, through a journal entry, into the financial information within the nominal ledger. In turn, we can create a trial balance and our final presentation of the financial statements. This infographic takes explains the Books of Prime Entry step by step.

Back to Basics: Directors' Responsibilities in Business Law

Business Law is relevant throughout the CA qualification as well as your post-qualification career. Use our mnemonic to get back to basics on director’s responsibility, as explained by Chris Cunnane, Lecturer.

Monday 18 September: What you may have missed at the Young Leaders Summit

CAs flocked to London last week to attend the inaugural ICAS Young Leaders Summit. Keynote speaker Kate Robertson, Founder of One Young World, shared why accountancy could hold the key to solving global issues, especially those linked to corrupt activities. 

Ahead of Thursday's event, we invited Kate and 2015 One Young CA Indy Hothi, for an ideas exchange on what it means to be a young leader in today's world. 

Watch below to find out why Kate believes CAs work at the coalface of conquering global issues, such as cheating on carbon emissions, and why they are integral to introducing standards and transparency within legal frameworks that allow for limited self-regulation.

Get in touch

What would you like to see at the Young Leaders Summit in the future? Let us know at the CA Student Blog by contacting or tweet @ICAS_students.

In today's blog, we cover the basics of using your Casio Fx85 calculator and walk through the steps of Internal Rate of Return (IRR). We also have some advice for improving your memory - handy for networking and all that TC terminology!

Casio Fx85: why we use it 

The calculator is one of the most important tools you will use during your time as a CA student, besides your brain. Our education team share their tips and tricks for getting the most out of the CA calculator of choice.

How to remember names

Ever been stuck for words when introducing someone at work or a conference? Their name becomes a fleeting memory and dances on the tip of your tongue, despite only meeting them five seconds previously. If this happens to you, then you need these tips for perfecting the art of remembering names.

Infographic: Internal Rate of Return

We have a great step-by-step breakdown of the Internal Rate of Return (IRR) for TC students embarking on their Finance classes. This is also helpful revision material for those studying TPS.

Thursday 14 September: Reminder: Get your BE1 completed

Have you completed your Business Ethics 1 component yet? It's due by 31 October 2017. 

Business Ethics is a compulsory course completed over three components, the first of which is an interactive CABLE learning day. You must have completed this by the end of your training year but the date of receiving materials varies by type of training contract. 

The BE1 material will be available on your CABLE workspace alongside your TC / TPS course materials. Deadline for completion is 31 October in the year following your enrolment, although early completion is encouraged.

This is a compulsory part of your CA qualification.

When should you complete BE1?

Get in touch

Do you have any questions about your BE1 component? Are there other reminders you'd like to see on the blog? Let us know at the CA Student Blog by contacting or tweet @ICAS_students.

In today's blog, we revisit some tried and tested methods of keeping you on top of your studies as exams approach. Find out how to pull together your achievement log, make sure you're making full use of practice questions and stay motivated as the end of the year comes into sight.

How to complete your achievement log

Your achievement log is not a hurdle at the end of training - it is your personal account of everything you’ve learned and achieved at your training firm. Here are some useful tips and tricks to help make completing your achievement log that little bit easier.

Dos & don'ts of question practice

Practice questions are an essential part of your studies. Here’s how to get the most from using them for mocks or the real thing.

Six ways to stay motivated to study

Whether you are at TC, TPS or TPE level, finding (and keeping!) the motivation to keep going can be a challenge. However, with the right drive, you are much more likely to go the extra mile with your studies and be more focused on your success. Here are six ways you can boost your motivation levels.

Monday 11th September: UK universities topping the global charts

Oxford and Cambridge top the global university charts but fears have surfaced that studying in the UK will become less attractive for international students as Brexit looms.

The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2018 report two UK universities taking both the first and second place slots for the first time. All but one of the UK's Russell Group of 24 higher education bodies appear in the top 200.

Universities are scored annually according to; the quality of teaching and research, the number of featured citations, the amount of industry income generated, and international outlook. The rankings are audited by PwC.

Vice-Chancellor of the Univerisity of Oxford, Professor Louise Richardson, said: "To be judged the best university in the world for the second successive year, against a backdrop in which Britain’s role in the world is uncertain and the place of universities in society open to question, will be a great source of pride for everyone at Oxford, and, I hope, for the whole country."

These results were released just a week after research from the Office for National Statistics suggested that the number of non-EU students remaining illegally in the UK after graduation is not as high as previously believed. The government's Migration Advisory Committee has launched a review into the societal and economic impact of international students studying in the UK.

At present, EU funding contributes around a fifth of Oxford's research grants and a quarter of the University of Cambridge's.

2018 World University Rankings: THE

1University of Oxford, UK
2University of Cambridge, UK
= 3California Institute of Technology, USA
= 3Stanford University, USA
5Massachussetts Institute of Technology, USA
6Harvard University, USA
7Princeton University, USA
8Imperial College London, UK
9University of Chicago, USA
= 10ETH Zurich - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Switzerland

In today's blog, we focus in on exam time as one of our TPE examiners shares their advice for good business writing and we take a look at why mock exams can be so useful. We also examine some common career mistakes for young professionals to help you stay ahead of the curve.

Six tips on better business writing for TPE

A successful CA must have excellent communication skills; one of our TPE examiners looks at how better business writing can improve your performance in the TPE exam.

Five biggest career mistakes

Millennial employees are a growing demographic within the workforce, however, the job market is quite possibly more competitive than ever and banking on the appeal of 'new talent' may not be enough. What career missteps should you be avoiding?

The five steps of taking mocks seriously

Mock exams and tests of progress are a key indicator of how well you understand and can communicate the material of your course. Ahead of the real exam, make sure you are using these opportunities to achieve your full potential.

Thursday 7th September: Should all leaders embrace diversity?

How important is diversity to effective leadership? This is one of the many questions we'll be seeking to answer at the exclusive ICAS Young Leaders Summit in London, 14 September 2017.

The ICAS Young Leaders Summit will be a highly practical, interactive event designed to hone the skills of the next generation of business leaders. It will provide you with the unique opportunity to learn from your peers and other CAs.

We invited One Young CA 2015 winner Indy Hothi, and One Young World Co-Founder, Kate Robertson, for an ideas exchange on what it means to be a young leader in today's world. Watch below to find out how Indy works to promote diversity in the profession and the importance of the issue for leaders.

View the video

Get in touch

How does your workplace promote diversity? Do you have any ideas you would like to express on the blog on how you would action a plan to increase diversity within the profession? Write to us at or tweet @ICAS_students.

In today's blog, we have put together the ultimate TC welcome pack! For all our new lovely students, we have a feature on how to make the transition from a university-style of learning to Test of Competence, and introduce all the terms you are likely to encounter in your first year. We also look at the five study habits you should rid from your life for a successful learning experience.

Transitions: University to TC

TC Level Controller, Joanne Lloyd-Jones introduces the TC level for new students and discusses how to navigate the course to your best advantage.

Five bad study habits to kick to the kerb

Different studying styles work for different people - you may favour highlighters, post-it notes or just good old reading and repetition. But are your studying habits working against you?

Common terms in TC

To help with your TC revision, we've put together a glossary of important terms to use as an aid. Remember that your course materials and notes from class are invaluable resources too!

Monday 4th September: Hasta la vista PPI!

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has chosen an unlikely candidate to star in a £42m advertising initiative, two years ahead of saying "hasta la vista" to PPI for good.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has been hired as the face of a new marketing campaign to raise awareness about the deadline to claim compensation for mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI).

Members of the public have until 29 August 2019 to find out whether they are entitled to a refund. New measures have also made it possible for customers who previously had a claim rejected to receive some recompense if the provider in question earned a high commission from selling PPI.

Andrew Bailey, Chief Executive of the FCA, said: “Our campaign aims to cut through the noise on PPI. We want to encourage people to decide whether to find out if they had PPI and whether to complain or not. Our message, and Arnie’s, is ‘do it now’ and I urge people to make a decision before the deadline on 29 August 2019."

The 18 banks, building societies, and credit card providers, have the largest number of PPI complainants and are funding the campaign and have also agreed to several new measures to make the process of submitting a PPI complaint easier for customers. These include:

  • An online complaints system;
  • simplified paperwork;
  • extra support for vulnerable customers;
  • and free PPI checking processes.

Over £27.4bn has been claimed so far in the UK on PPI policies sold with loans, credit cards, store cards and mortgages over two decades.

In today's blog, cook up a storm for the time-pressed, take a peek behind the scenes at CABLE and provide a comprehensive glossary for TPS!

Cooking for the busy student pt 2

We continue our series of healthy quick-cook / prepare meals for CA Students on the go. Free your time for studying, work, or pleasure!

A look behind the scenes at CABLE, our online learning environment 

You’ll be familiar with CABLE, the CA Blended Learning Environment, as it forms a crucial part of some courses and is an essential study resource for others. Here, eLearning Instructional Designer Roddy Munro gives you a peep behind the scenes at CABLE.

Common terms in TPS

To help with your TPS revision, we've put together a glossary of important terms to use as an aid. A more in-depth guide to common abbreviations and phrases can be found in your course materials.


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