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 myCABLE.

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.

February 2019

4 February: Conquering the biggest time drain at work

How much of your day do you spend reading, writing, sorting and deleting emails? The Harvard Business Review has figured out the biggest drains on time.

Full inboxes are the biggest email time-waster, according to research from Zarvana and the Harvard Business Review. A backlog of unread missives enables several email bad habits: reply procrastination, thread build-up, manual scrolling and re-reading old information.

However, even if you're always on top of marking things as 'read' and sorting your email away into organised folders, it's likely you're still spending way too much time on those tasks. Over-checking email is the next biggest time-waster at 21 minutes, followed by archiving messages into niche categories.

The latter practice, while useful to a certain extent, can make things hard to locate if taken too far and also eats up the time spent creating, naming and filling endless sub-folders. Manually moving your emails around can account for 11 minutes a day.

Finally, reading unimportant and irrelevant emails can chip away eight minutes from your busy schedule.

Want to claim back your day? Read our tips for getting your inbox under control and becoming a guru of email management.

Get in touch

Do you think email is a drain on your productivity? Tell us what you think @ICAS_students [or email us directly studentblog@icas.com!].


This week, we take a look at the five things you need on your desk at work or home, what you can do to avoid bad habits as a future leader, and what to consider when saving for your first home. We also share some advice for those of you advancing from TC to TPS and go back to basics on audit risk for PAR.

Management: Breaking the mould

Elizabeth Lyle, Partner and Managing Director of The Boston Consulting Group, explains why potential leaders need to change now.

Saving a deposit for your first home

First-time buyers are saving for longer to afford their deposit, and with rising prices, we offer advice on how to get started.

Transitions: TC to TPS

TPS Level Controller Lauren O’Brien answers your questions on how the TPS stage varies from TC, and how to make the most out of the level.

Five things you need on your desk right now

Can a few small changes to your desk improve your productivity? Browse our infographic for ideas to brighten up your workspace and keep your mind on track.

Back to Basics: Audit Risk

Have you got to grips with the Principles of Audit and Reporting (PAR)? Anna Cameron takes us back to basics on audit risks to make sure you’re on PAR for success!

Back to basics for TPS level

ICAS tutors have put together a series of Back to Basics guides, infographics and support material on TPS subjects. They are a great place to start if your question practice has flagged up areas that you need a firmer grounding.

January 2019

28 January 2019: Less snap, crackle and pop for your buck

New research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found that items like breakfast cereals, bacon, jam and bread may be more at risk of seeing their portion weights and packaging sizes shrink.

We have explored the concept of 'shrinkflation' on the CA Student Blog before. The term refers to manufacturers, often in the food and drink industry, less product for the same price.

Consumers are normally aware of these changes and several popular brands faced backlash on social media after launching new sizes for much-loved snacks and beverages. For example:

  • Tropicana: The family-sized 1.75 litres carton has been reduced to 1.6 litres.
  • Toblerone: The 170g chocolate bar has shed 10% of its weight with a new, controversial design.
  • Jaffa Cakes: A standard pack of the McVitie's treats now holds 10 instead of 12.
  • Bulmer’s flavoured cider: 500ml now replaces the traditional 568ml imperial pint bottle.

The ONS examined which products were affected between 2015 to 2017 and concluded that bread and cereal items were more frequently altered than any other category. Other items that might regularly be found at the breakfast table like meats and preserves also ranked highly.

Shrinkflation Industry Chart

Mike Hardie, Head of Inflation at the ONS, told BBC News: "Over the last few years, consumers may have noticed that some companies have reduced the size of their products while the price remained the same, which is often attributed to operational and material cost rises."

That being the case, we may continue to find the 'most important meal of the day' to be a more expensive affair in the coming years.

Reminder: ICAS feedback surveys will be sent to all CA students on Tuesday 29 January. The survey closes on 7 February so you have nine days to make your views heard.

Get in touch

Is shrinkflation necessary for brands to stay afloat and competitive? Share your thoughts @ICAS_students or email us directly studentblog@icas.com.


In this week's blog, we look at TPS level resits, including ABS, and how to use your examiner's report. For those advancing to the next stage, we round up helpful tips for those new to TPE. We're also sharing two of our most popular infographics for FA and FR: Books of Prime Entry and DEAL and CLIP.

Advice to students embarking on the TPE course

The Test of Professional Expertise (TPE) courses have now commenced with introduction material - find out how you can prepare for success.

How to use the TPS examiner report to your advantage

Find out what materials and feedback are available for TPS exam retakes, and how the examiner’s report is used.

Help for re-sitting ABS exams

Are you feeling a little unsure after your ABS exam? It is a fact of life that some students will fail their ABS exam at each diet. But never fear, we're here to help!

Infographic: What are the 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 explains the Books of Prime Entry for FA and FR, step by step.

TPS resits: What you need to know

In this article, TPS level controller Lauren O’Brien explains the options for resitting TPS exams, the process to follow and the resources available to help you.

Infographic: Helping you tackle DEAL and CLIP

One of the fundamental accounting concepts taught in Financial Accounting is the dual aspect, which gives rise to ‘debits and credits’. If you've not previously studied accounting, this infographic will help you navigate the first progress test.


21 January 2019: We want to hear from you in 2019!

ICAS is asking CA students to provide feedback on the value of your course, the resources available to you, and your experience training with us.

In association with James Law Research Associates, ICAS is conducting an 8-10 minute survey of all students who are studying the CA qualification, to help us continue providing the highest quality education and service to you and future generations of aspiring CAs.

All research will be completely anonymous and we urge you to be honest and detailed in your responses.

This is part of a wider initiative to improve and future-proof the services ICAS provides. We can learn a lot from direct feedback at all levels and you, as current students and future CAs, have an invaluable and unique perspective.

Keep an eye on your inbox for an invitation from ICAS Chief Executive Bruce Cartwright CA on 29 January to take part. You will have until 7 February to complete.

Get in touch

Is there anything you would like to let us know about your CA Student Blog experience? Get in touch via Twitter @ICAS_students or email us directly studentblog@icas.com.


In this week's blog, we find out how to stay energised throughout the day and detail how to overhaul meetings. We go back to basics on trading and property allowances with an infographic on tax deductions, and find out why being positive at work is beneficial. Continuing the journey into starting TPS classes, we present an infographic on ideal study hours and there's also advice on how to win at networking events - great tips for your career!

How to win at networking events

Love them or hate them, the networking event is unavoidable in the modern working world. Making a bee-line for the comfort of a person you already know won’t help you get ahead. Here are 22 ways on how to win at networking events.

Stay energised at work (without caffeine!)

The afternoon slump plagues office environments around the world. If you find yourself fatigued, unfocused or demotivated after lunch, try some of these quick and easy solutions - coffee not included!

The pluses of workplace positivity

A positive work environment has a proven measurable impact on improving productivity, creativity and motivation. But what can you do as an individual to positively influence your career?

The ABC of TPS pre-course work

Our guide to what you need to do before commencing TPS - in a few simple steps!

Tools for productive meetings

What can you do to ensure a productive, valued meeting that achieves set objectives and allows discussion time for each team member?

Back to basics: Trading and property allowances

On 6 April 2017, two new allowances were introduced to alleviate the tax burden on small amounts of trading or property income received by individuals – the trading allowance and the property allowance. We go back to basics on how to declare tax.


14 January 2019: Are online consumers ending physical stores once and for all?

In the latest blow to the British high street, retailer Laura Ashley announced 40 store closures to refocus on the Asian market for 2019, and HMV called in the administrators for the second time. Will online sales ultimately move the entire high street to a virtual premise?

According to research compiled for PwC by the Local Data Company (LDC), 2018 saw the largest net decline of UK stores for five years between January and June due to widespread closures and a lack of new storefronts to replace them.

This phenomenon has been attributed to the rapid growth of online alternatives and the restructure and diversification of services undertaken by many household names trying to keep up with consumer demand.

Lucy Stainton, Senior Relationship Manager (Retail) at LDC, commented: "While there are still many examples of sectors and brands which remain resilient to market challenges, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the increase in store closures, seen especially in the first half of 2018 when the gap between openings and closures has widened significantly.

"Retailers and leisure operators alike are frantically trying to adjust their business models and concepts to meet evolving consumer habits. Arguably in part these latest figures reflect both; businesses which have struggled to meet consumer demand, but also conversely those operators who are actively managing and reducing their portfolios to ensure their estate remains fit for purpose."

Andrew Khoo Boo Yeow, Executive Chairman of Laura Ashley parent company Malayan United Industries (MUI), said that the company was refocusing to build awareness of the brand, regardless of whether that attracted online or in-person customers.

In HMV's case, slashed budgets have seen a drop in brand-awareness marketing with a knock-on effect for their physical stores, both at home and abroad, including the closure of all Hong Kong stores. The demise of a physical presence is being felt across the world, but there might be lessons to be learned from those who remain resilient, and what they are doing differently with their budgets to survive.

Get in touch

Is time up for high street stores? Could budgets be redeployed or reshaped to move with demand? Share your thoughts with us by emailing studentblog@icas.com or tweet @ICAS_students.

This week, we look at helping you get back into the swing of studying with top tips for note-taking and self-directed study. We also consider some key subject matter for PoT resits and TPS pre-course work. Returning to a busy work and study schedule can be tough, especially when you're moving up a level - see our advice for seeking help if you need it.

Organising your 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.

Back to Basics on 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 whether you are beginning your BM TC studies, or if you just need a refresh.

How to approach PoT resit revision

"I didn’t pass my TC PoT exam and I am a bit unsure of how to approach my revision. What is the best way to consolidate my learning, identify my weak areas and be successful in the exam the second time around?"

Top five ways to take notes 

It’s time to take your note-taking skills to the next level. Investigate and experiment with these five methods for yourself, as well as specialist easy-to-read fonts for people with dyslexia.

Tackling TPS pre-course work - TPS Modular Students 

Now that you've got to grips with TPS Assumed Knowledge work, it's time to tackle Pre-Course work for TPS Modular students.

When students should ask for help

The pace is fast and the subject matter complex when you’re training to be a CA. It would not be surprising if you felt overwhelmed or stressed from time to time during your course, but you should always ask for help.


7 January 2019: Welcome to a new year!

Welcome back to the CA Student Blog! 2019 may have only just begun but we are still looking forward to the ICAS Admissions Ceremony in March. If you are becoming a CA this year, make sure you don't miss any deadlines.

By now you should know if you have passed TPE with flying colours. All you have to do now is complete your training contract, hand in your logbook for final sign-off and apply for ICAS membership.

What you need to know

  • You can check the status of your logbook by contacting Education Support.
  • Applications for membership must be submitted by midday Friday 1 March 2019 to be eligible for the 2019 CA Admissions Ceremony.
  • The event will be held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) on Saturday 23 March 2019.
  • You can invite up to two guests free of charge.
  • The dress code is formal.

ICAS 2019 Admission Ceremony - Register now

If you didn't receive good news about your TPE results, don't panic! You will be automatically enrolled to resit exams in the next diet. However, if you wish to defer this, please contact the ICAS exam team as soon as possible.

Can't make it?

If you are unable to attend the Admissions Ceremony, you will still be inducted into membership in your absence and can use the designation CA after your name.

New CAs in London are invited to a special drinks reception on Thursday 4 April 2019 at The Deck in London’s National Theatre to celebrate with the ICAS Chief Executive, ICAS President, and 2018 One Young CA Michael Scott.

Don't forget to follow the excitement of the day and support your fellow newly-qualified CAs on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag #ICASclassof2019.


Reminder: Have you received TPE joining instructions?

TPE 2019 officially starts this week.

Some TPE students heading to the May 2019 examinations will receive joining instructions directing them to the introduction material, which advises that technical knowledge needs to be up to date.

TC and TPS Technical knowledge is assumed at TPE. It is important that you start to work on this as soon as possible.

Those students awaiting TPS results in January, before being enrolled for TPE, will be contacted with details about the introduction material to allow you to start working on your technical revision. A second round of joining instructions will be sent out after TPS results are issued.

Get in touch

Are you looking forward to the Admissions Ceremony? How do you hope to use your CA qualification going forward? Tell us by emailing studentblog@icas.com or tweet @ICAS_students.


In this week's blog, we help those diving into new subjects and modules with guides for moving to a different level and preparing course materials. We also take a look at setting targets for the new year (personally and professionally).

Five student tips for the new year

As we ease into the new year, it’s all too easy for previous worries to resurface after the holidays. Here are quick-fire tips for starting your year right and with success in mind.

How to tackle TPS assumed knowledge work

Aimed at students who will be sitting their first attempt at TPS exams in June 2019, TPS Level Controller Lauren O’Brien explains the ins and outs of the TPS pre-course work.

Transitions: TPS to TPE

TPE Level Controller Catherine Devaney explains how the level changes from TPS, and what you are expected to complete when achieving your qualification.

Eight New Year resolutions for CA students

Fresh out of ideas for your New Year's resolutions? Here are eight targets for CA students to meet in 2018.

Studying for TC? It's time to get back to basics

ICAS tutors have put together a series of Back to Basics guides, infographics and support material on many of the TC subjects that students have found tricky in the past.

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!

Topics

  • CA Student blog

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