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.

November 2018

Monday 12 November: Seven snippets of global tax

PwC has published a report detailing the significant corporate tax rates, rules and developments from around the world, providing a free resource for anyone practising international tax.

Described as a 'key reference tool for all tax practitioners', the annual Worldwide Tax Summaries report covers 152 countries and regions, including key financial hubs and emerging economies.

Colm Kelly, Global Tax and Legal Services Leader at PwC, said: “Tax systems are evolving around the world all the time, and for business that means keeping up to date with all elements of tax compliance locally and internationally.

“Having the most up to date information from our experts available in an accessible, mobile-friendly way is critical to the thousands of people and businesses using our summaries who are looking to make the right decisions.”

These are some of the significant developments made in financial hubs.

Global Corporate Tax Infographic

Get in touch

Do you find reports like this useful? Are there any publications you think we should cover? Tweet us  @ICAS_students or email studentblog@icas.com.


In this week's blog, we cover some basic business skills like understanding business plans, dealing with coworkers in the office, and the second part of our guide to working with clients. We also take you through what you need to know about investment appraisals for TC Finance, tax penalties at TPS and go back to basics on the joys of costing.

Back to basics: The joys of costing

There are several topics that are likely come to mind when students think back to their good old Business Management days. A straw poll of former BM students revealed that absorption and marginal costing still give some nightmares!

Eight updated tax penalty tips

Understanding how HMRC tax penalties work are an essential part of both the Principles of Taxation and TPS Tax course. There’s lots of information to take in, so we’ve developed these handy tips to help you remember the key details.

What makes a good business plan?

Business plans can be difficult to understand, especially for those unaccustomed to the format. We identify what makes a good business plan with reference to TC Finance.

How to prepare for office politics

Many young people find themselves unprepared for office politics, according to a study by the Co-op - 54% of those surveyed said that they were not prepared for politics in the workplace.

Back to basics: Investment Appraisal Techniques

Before a business undertakes a project, it needs a way to assess whether the project is profitable. Module 3 of the TC Finance course introduces the four most common techniques used to appraise a capital investment.

Working with clients: part 2

In the second part of our series on working with clients, we focus on how to effectively manage your time and mitigate project ‘slippage’, as well as turning briefs into smaller, manageable deadlines.


Monday 5 November: A new strategy for pension savers

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and The Pensions Regulator (TPR) have launched a joint strategy to deliver better outcomes for pension savers and those entering retirement.

In the wake of a campaign to alert the public to pensions scams, this new joint regulatory strategy will focus on two key areas: undertaking a strategic review of the consumer pensions journey and the use of regulatory powers to drive value for money for pension scheme members.

There has been rising awareness surrounding inadequate pensions saving in the media. Often, people reaching retirement either don't have as much saved as they expected or lack understanding of when and how to access their savings.

As such, the FCA and TPR have set regulatory objectives including people having access to helpful information, guidance and advice which enables them to make well-informed decisions.

The quality of decisions will depend on people understanding their pensions and what is in them, are engaged when they need to be and feel confident in making decisions about what to contribute, when to transfer and when to withdraw funds

By focusing on people being engaged when they need to be, FCA and TPR are recognising that engagement is not a panacea. In an ICAS Challenging Conversations article on pensions, Gregg McClymont explained that engagement may not lead to better outcomes.

Read his article to find out the three key elements the world’s best pension systems have in common and which need to exist in the UK if a pension system is going to deliver successful retirement outcomes.

Lesley Titcomb, CEO of TPR, said: "The joint strategy further strengthens our close working relationship with the FCA so that through our new approach we can together address earlier any issues that threaten the retirement outcomes for pension savers.

"Our goal is to ensure the people who run workplace pensions meet our expectations so that members can have confidence their savings are protected.

"We are being clearer, quicker and tougher in the pursuit of this goal and working collaboratively with the FCA is vital."

The CA Student Blog has covered saving for later life before. Take a look at some common pension problems for millennials.

Get in touch

Have you given much thought to your pension? Do you think groups working together will help effect change? Share your thoughts on Twitter @ICAS_students on Twitter or email studentblog@icas.com with your reaction.


In this week's blog, we reveal a simple trick that can vastly improve your productivity, and share top tips for working with clients and project management. We also take a look at the role of directors in business for Business Law and get back to basics on TC Finance with discounting and cost of debt. Finally, our FAQ covers all you need to know about your upcoming TPE exams - essential reading!

What you need to know about TPE exams

We speak to the Examinations Manager, Hayley Reid, about the most common questions related to the TPE exam, including what you should take into the exam, appropriate ID, and how you will receive your exam results.

Back to basics: the responsibilities of directors

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 responsibility, as explained by Chris Cunnane, Lecturer.

How to be productive in 25 mins

Have you ever wanted to get more out of your day? Are you easily distracted or do you find it hard to concentrate on one task at a time? Then try the Pomodoro technique!

Back to basics: discounting

We dive into module 2 of the TC Finance course and examine the process of discounting with the calculations involved.

Back to basics: calculating the cost of debt

We explore risks and costs associated with debt as part of your Finance studies in our Back to Basics series with reminders of the key formulae at your disposal.

Working with clients: part 1

Unsure about working with clients on a project? First project you have managed and led? You may have questions on how to appropriately manage your work, your conduct, and all those meetings.

October 2018

Monday 29 October: Big Four on the Budget

We look at some of the predictions made by the Big Four in the run-up to Chancellor Philip Hammond's announcement and how they measured up.

This year's Budget has been scheduled earlier than most expected and with Brexit looming on the horizon, any major updates will likely have far-reaching consequences.

Deloitte

Predictions: Daniel Lyons, Head of Tax Policy at Deloitte, highlighted the promise to allocate more funds to the NHS - something that will undoubtedly involve tax hikes. However, with the 2015 tax-lock pledge protecting Income Tax, National Insurance and VAT, it's unclear where those hikes might hit.

Rather than the traditional so-called 'sin' taxes, which are coloured by falling revenue and public opinion, the Chancellor may turn his attention to savings, investments or a Sugar Tax that reaches beyond soft drinks.

Keep an eye on Deloitte's Budget analysis

Outcome: Duties on fuel, beer, cider and spirits were all frozen in the Autumn Budget. The Chancellor introduced a new tax on the manufacture and import of plastic packaging that contains less than 30% recycled plastic.

EY

Predictions: Chris Sanger, EY Global & UK Tax Policy Leader, and Katie Selvey-Clinton, Head of Capital Allowances, discussed the possibility of changes to business rates. Some argue that the structure of business rates in no longer fit for purpose in the modern environment of online retail dominance, even if it is a large source of income for the government.

Katie commented: "Businesses have seen a lot of talk about this and a number of different reviews. Now there's some real call for change."

Keep an eye on EY's Budget analysis

Outcome: While no overhaul of the business rates system was announced, small businesses will benefit from £900m in business rates relief. The ownership period of Entrepreneurs' Relief was also doubled to two years.

KPMG

Predictions: Melissa Geiger, Head of International Tax at KPMG, stressed the need for stability in an interview with Accountancy Age. She noted that without a view of how Brexit may play out, Philip Hammond's hands are somewhat tied.

Uncertainty has plagued businesses of all sizes as the Brexit negotiations have dragged on. Any long-term plans should feed into a strategy that continues to make the UK an attractive place for industry and entrepreneurs.

She concluded: "I would say [the Chancellor’s] best strategy for delivering stability will be to resist making any major policy changes for now. In the Spring he will need maximum room for manoeuvre."

Keep an eye on KPMG's Budget analysis

Outcome: Despite Brexit, several key announcements were made in the Autumn Budget, most notably the commitment to raise personal income tax allowance in 2019. However, the Chancellor also clarified that the 2019 Spring Statement could be extended to a full Budget event in order to take Brexit into account.

PwC

Predictions: Stella Amiss, Tax Partner with PwC, also expected few major changes in this Budget. A key one to look out for, though, may be the introduction of a Digital Services Tax.

While this has been an area of interest for some time, calls for reform have been overshadowed with the lack of international action. Should the UK decide to take the leap and impose new tax rules for digital players, it may be seen as a sign of post-Brexit independence, or backfire and make the nation seem uncompetitive.

Keep an eye on PwC's Budget analysis

Outcome: The Chancellor announced the introduction of a UK Digital Services Tax for April 2020. This will effect profitable firms with at least £500m a year in global revenues and is expected to raise more than £400m a year.

Get in touch

Will you be watching the Budget today? What do you expect to see? Tell us on Twitter @ICAS_students on Twitter or email studentblog@icas.com with your reaction.


In this week's blog, we go back to basics on TC Finance and TPS Advanced Finance to boost your understanding for exam season - refresh your knowledge of net present value (TC Finance and TPS Advanced Finance) and the valuation of ordinary shares (TPS Advanced Finance). Lecturer Matthew Hall also answers some frequently asked questions about your achievement logs and we share our top tips for using myCABLE.

Finalising your achievement log at the end of your training contract: FAQs

Your final year achievement log should be signed off within three months of the end of your training contract, so we have the answers to frequently asked questions.

Back to basics: Understanding Net Present Value

Net present value (NPV) is a method used by businesses to determine whether investments (projects) are worthwhile or not. We introduce NPV in the Test of Competence Finance course and then re-visit at a more complex level in Test of Professional Skills Advanced Finance.

Back to basics: How to calculate Net Present Value and determine investments

Net present value (NPV) is a method used by businesses to determine whether investments (projects) are worthwhile or not. We continue our look at how to calculate value through a worked example.

Back to Basics: Valuation of ordinary shares - four methods

Calculating the value of ordinary shares can be completed through four, clear methods for TPS students.

Back to Basics: Valuation of ordinary shares worked example

In the first part of our Back to basics on ordinary shares, we looked at the four methods of calculation for buying and selling. Now we investigate a worked example using these methods and key points to remember.

10 tips for online learning

How well do you work with myCABLE? 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.


Monday 22 October: Audit after a no-deal Brexit

Following the publication of technical notes for financial services and VAT earlier this year, the UK Government has released guidance for audit and accounting in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

How companies and other legal entities in the UK report on financial activity and corporate governance, and how they are audited, is dictated by the standards of EU rules and regulations. However, should Brexit go ahead in March 2019 without an agreed deal, it will be up to the UK government (and devolved bodies) to structure a new framework.

Largely, reports suggest post-Brexit UK regulations will very closely mirror those of today. Audits of companies that reside and operate solely in the UK, for example, will remain the same.

Cross-border operations, on the other hand, will likely be subject to additional requirements. A transitional grace period will operate until December 2020, allowing UK auditors (firms and individuals) to apply for EU recognition and vice versa.

UK businesses should also look into the specific requirements of any EU state they operate in.

Other implications include the status of individual accounts for EU-owned businesses in the UK and possible changes to International Accounting Standard Board (IASB) compliance statements.

Subsidiaries and parents of EU companies established in the UK should familiarise themselves with accounting and reporting exemptions covered in the Companies Act 2006. UK businesses should also look into the specific requirements of any EU state they operate in.

Also worrying for CAs, in particular, is the possible impact on professional qualifications.

Currently, the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications (MRPQ) Directive allows for a reciprocal agreement between European Economic Area (EEA) nations that validates domestic qualifications in other member countries. In the event of no-deal, the MRPQ Directive will no longer apply to the UK and professionals like accountants, auditors and tax advisors will need to re-qualify to practice in the EU.

Get in touch

How do you see Brexit impacting your work? Has your firm started preparations? Tell us @ICAS_students on Twitter or email studentblog@icas.com with your thoughts.


In this week's blog, we're helping you gear up for exam season with refreshers on materiality (PAR), national insurance contributions (Tax), and tests of control and substantive testing (PAR). We also look at making the jump from FA to FR and one of our tutors shares their advice for using mock exams.

How to prep final accounts in FR

Students who are moving up from Financial Accounting (FA) to Financial Reporting (FR) often ask about preparing final accounts as this is not a skill they get the chance to develop at Test of Competence level.

The five steps of taking mocks seriously

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

Summary of National Insurance Contributions

NIC is one of the taxes that is often forgotten about – by both students and taxpayer! Fiona Winter, one of our tax tutors, explains why.

Tests of control and substantive testing

Tests of control and substantive testing come up in the Principles of Audit and Reporting course, and are a topic that can sometimes be confusing.

Back to basics: Materiality introduction

Materiality is a fundamental concept of the audit process. In reaching an opinion on the financial statements, auditors assess whether there are any material misstatements.

Back to basics: Overall vs Performance Materiality

In reaching an opinion on financial statements, auditors assess whether there are any material misstatements. We examine the differences between overall and performance materiality.


Monday 15 October: Over £500m stolen by fraudsters in 2018

New figures have revealed that security measures and intervention by the finance industry have prevented two-thirds of attempted unauthorised fraud. However, scammers still made off with £503.4m in the first half of 2018.

The report comes from UK Finance and revealed that 'purchase scams' have taken the most money from fraud victims between January and June this year, totalling a lost value of £19.4m.

'Purchase scams', which involve advance payments for non-existent products or services, are part of the Authorised Push Payment (APP) category of fraud. These are cases in which the victim has authorised the payment due to being deliberately misled. Unauthorised fraud is generally the result of stolen data, bank cards, or identification.

Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, said: "Fraud and scams pose a major threat to our country. The criminals behind it target their victims indiscriminately and the proceeds go on to fund terrorism, people smuggling and drug trafficking, whether or not the individual is refunded. Every part of society must help to stamp out this menace, especially by stopping the data breaches which increasingly are fuelling fraud.

"The finance industry is committed to fighting back, investing millions in security systems and cyber defences to protect customers. We have brought in new standards to ensure scam victims get the help they need from their payments provider; we are supporting law enforcement in disrupting the criminals and freezing stolen money; and we are assisting the government in improving intelligence sharing to extinguish the threat."

Our infographic explains the different types of fraud you may encounter and which scams prove most lucrative for the criminals involved.

Get in touch

Have you ever had an experience with a financial scam? Do you think enough is being done to protect consumers? Share your thoughts @ICAS_students on Twitter or email studentblog@icas.com.


In today's blog, we look at getting ready for Financial Accounting exams and share some top tips for TPE. We go back to basics on the subjects of TC, return to calculating the cost of debt and your tutors give their advice for succeeding in Assurance and Business Systems. All great advice for the exams ahead!

How to master Financial Accounting long-form questions

Sitting Financial Accounting (FA) long-form, and wondering how to tackle the question? Stephanie Pentland and Matt Hall share the five key steps that you should use for success for the paper-based and computer-based exams.

Final preparations to material to take into the TPE exam

TPE Level Controller Cat Devaney shares her important pointers on what material you can take into the exam and how to use it.

Eight quick tips to prepare for the TPE exam

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.

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.

Calculating the cost of debt

We explore risks and costs associated with debt as part of your Finance studies in our Back to Basics series with reminders of the key formulae at your disposal.

Top ten tips for ABS

Our tutors share tips for Assurance and Business Systems on day one of class or revision day, but they are useful for everyone sitting ABS. Use these advice gems to get ahead in class and studies.


Monday 8 October: How your training can tackle money-laundering

Following reports that the National Crime Agency (NCA) is stepping up investigations into potential facilitators of money laundering and protecting criminal assets, we revisit advice from Ken Murray CA, Head of Forensic Accounting at Police Scotland.

New powers for the NCA came into power on 31 January, allowing officials to require that wealthy individuals explain the source of any and all assets if they are suspected of being corrupt. These Unexplained Wealth Orders may put pressure on accountants and lawyers to share information about their clients.

This can be an uncomfortable situation and requires CAs to call on their ethical training to determine the best course of action.

Listen to Jeremy Clarke CA, Assistant Director of Practice at ICAS, ask Ken about when to submit a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) and what happens next for the accountant involved.

Listen to the podcast

Get in touch

To what extent do you think accountants are responsible for their clients' legal compliance? Would you know what to do if you suspected criminal activity? Get in touch with studentblog@icas.com or share your thoughts with @ICAS_students on Twitter, and we'll publish your suggestions!


In this week's blog we have not one but two back to basics, on PAYE deductions and income tax relief for business losses. Continuing the tax theme, we have a short video on how to use tax legislation books, and answer a student conundrum on capital allowances and integral features. We also have all the info you need for TPS resits if needed, and take a look at the 'dying' professions of the future (and how to outlive them!). Happy reading!

Back to basics: Understanding PAYE deductions

At a time when most people are looking for ways to tighten their purse strings, we go back to basics on understanding pay packet deductions. A useful skill for all employees, we explore the process as covered in Principles of Tax.

Vlog: Tips for using tax legislation books for TPS

As a TPS tax student, you will receive two white legislation books. They may appear daunting, but if you follow a few tips, they can become your friends.

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.

Student conundrum: Confused about capital allowances for integral features?

A student contacted us with this question: “I am confused about the rate of allowances to apply to integral features, as I have seen both 8% and 100% used. What is the rule?”

Back to basics: business losses - income tax relief

In this month’s brand new Back to Basics we provide a clear summary of the options open to a loss-making taxpayer - a topic covered in both the CA and ITP syllabi. This handy reminder shows the relief claim dates and the relevant legislative references.

The dying professions - and how to outlive them

An article published in Work + Money outlined '25 Dying Professions You Should Avoid'. The list has gained notoriety on LinkedIn and Twitter but how accurate are its predictions, and could CAs be at risk?


Monday 1 October: What do professional services staff neglect?

Are you guilty of pushing yourself to exhaustion? Recent research by Obby.co.uk has discovered that professional services workers take the least amount of action to relieve stress levels.

Their findings reveal that of 1,015 adults surveyed, those who work in accountancy and law reported higher non-management of stress: 58% stated that they do 'little or nothing' to manage stress levels due to a lack of free time (78%).

Tom Batting, co-founder at Obby.co.uk said: “It’s extremely worrying how many workers within professional services claim they do not prioritise getting the stress relief that is so important for maintaining their mental health.

"The irony is that this can actually become a vicious cycle – if we don’t make time for stress relief, this can lead to becoming more stressed or even burnout, both of which can reduce productivity further.

“It’s in professional services managers and bosses’ interests to ensure that employees actually do take measures to manage their stress levels – whether that’s communicating how important this, allowing them flexi-time so that they can attend whatever activity it is that they do to relieve stress, or even providing classes or workshops for their workforce.

He continued: “As well as reducing stress, this can positively impact on employees’ focus, concentration and efficiency in the workplace – which are particularly key in industries such as law and accountancy, where attention to detail and precision are especially vital.

"We see this time and again - employers who provide workers with healthy and stress-busting ‘perks’ like yoga, meditation or even arts and craft workshops reap the rewards in a more productive – and satisfied – workforce."

The student blog has produced several articles to help you de-stress and prioritise your health:


Get in touch

How do you de-stress? Get in touch with studentblog@icas.com or share your thoughts with @ICAS_students on Twitter, and we'll publish your suggestions!


In today's blog, we help you prepare for TPE in November with a look at product recalls, and ahead to the skills that make a successful CA (including commercial awareness!). We get back to basics on audit risk for PAR, and Internal Rate of Return for TC students sitting Finance. If you are using the TPS examiner report, check out our article on what materials and feedback are available for exam retakes, and also what to do if you need to re-sit your ABS exam - we're here to support you!

TPE in practice: product recalls

Are you familiar with how to analyse business issues such as product recalls and what you should look out for in terms of skills practice?

How to use the TPS examiner report

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!

TC 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.

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!

Infographic: Skills of a successful CA

Being a successful CA is about more than just having a good head for figures and knowing your way around a spreadsheet. This infographic takes a look at the components of a CA.

Topics

  • CA Student blog

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