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.

September 2018

Monday 10th September: Who deserves tax relief?

As we get closer to the UK Autumn Statement, Chancellor Philip Hammond is being urged by some political parties to scrap Entrepreneurs' Relief and distribute the funds elsewhere.

Described by some as the 'worst tax break ever', Entrepreneurs' Relief was introduced in April 2008 and reduces the normal rate of capital gains tax (CGT) by half for people selling all or part of a company, capped at £10m over a lifetime for individuals.

It can also be utilised by employees with Enterprise Management Incentive (EMI) share options at their company.

The Resolution Foundation, a respected thinktank, measured the cost of Entrepreneurs' Relief and suggested that the money may be better attributed to the NHS in the next Budget.

In the 10 years since its inception, Entrepreneurs' Relief has saved business owners an estimated £22bn in CGT. The tax break is widely thought to be a motivating factor in entrepreneurs deciding to set up their businesses here, given the chance for better returns further down the line and allowing investors to reduce the impact of taxes should they decide to sell shares.

In return, businesses contribute to the economy through VAT, corporation tax and by creating jobs.

This is an interesting issue. Largely, the Resolution Foundation publication advocates more research into how the cost and value of the relief balance out before any drastic abolishments.

However, their report does paint a persuasive picture of Entrepreneurs' Relief as little more than "a welcome bonus suggested by their accountant" for anyone looking to sell.

Get in touch

Is Entrepreneurs' Relief worth an average cost of £2.2bn a year? Are there alternative options that could do more for less? Share your thoughts by tweeting @ICAS_students or email studentblog@icas.com.


In today's blog, we look at the ins and outs of Books of Prime Entry, the staple feather in an accountant's cap. We also look at the impact of new deemed domicile rules and offer advice on surviving meetings at work. For students new and more experience, there are tips on how to craft a study plan, details on the benefits of being an ICAS CA, and a special welcome to those taking the direct entry route from someone who has been in your shoes.

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. This infographic explains the process for FA and FR, step by step.

Domicile and the new deemed domicile provisions

As of 6 April 2017, new provisions relating to ‘deemed domicile’ came into effect. This article looks at the concept of domicile, the new deemed domicile rules and how domicile can affect an individual’s tax liability.

Four tips for study plans

One of the most common questions students ask the ICAS tutor team is: "Can you help me create a study plan?" Here are four tips to help you create an effective plan of action.

The five personality types you encounter at meetings

Meetings can either be a collaborative and informative dream or the bane of any professional's existence. These are some common archetypes of meeting personalities and how to work with them.

What can ICAS do for you when you're a member?

As new students start their CA journey and others start to see the end in sight, we round up some of the benefits that come from being an ICAS member after you qualify.

Welcome to ICAS - Direct Entry Students

Lecturer Calum A. Macdonald CA shares his advice for CA students taking the Direct Entry route. What should you expect?


Monday 3rd September: Insolvency overhaul: What you need to know

The Insolvency Service (IS) has announced plans to hold directors responsible for pensions and worker payouts when companies collapse, as part of wider action by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Following a consultation on insolvency and corporate governance that ran earlier this year, several changes have been decided in the outcome for the insolvency framework and governance structure of UK businesses to offer more protections for creditors, employees and other stakeholders.

These include:

  • greater accountability of directors in group companies when selling subsidiaries in distress;
  • enhancing existing recovery powers of insolvency practitioners ;
  • powers for the IS to investigate directors of dissolved companies;
  • strengthened transparency requirements;
  • framework clarity for dividend payments;
  • proposals to improve board-room effectiveness.

ICAS was one of the 93 respondents to the consultation and welcomed efforts to take appropriate steps to deter and deal with abuses of insolvency processes and reduce the risk of major company failures.

The detailed proposals announced last week will afford viable businesses a moratorium to restructure or obtain further investment before involving creditors, new rules to prevent supplier contracts being immediately cancelled when a company becomes insolvent, and increasing the ring-fenced pot available to unsecured creditors.

Most notably, the IS will now be able to investigate directors of dissolved companies if they are suspected to have acted against the law or in bad faith. The watchdog will also be able to disqualify directors of holding companies, should they conclude that the individuals unreasonably sold insolvent subsidiaries.

These developments were heavily influenced by high-profile company collapses, some of which left large pension fund deficits and many workers in difficult financial positions.

Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst said in a statement: "While the vast majority of UK companies are run responsibly, some recent large-scale business failures have shown that a minority of directors are recklessly profiting from dissolved companies. This can’t continue."


Get in touch

Do you think the new provisions are a step in the right direction? Should directors be banned from future companies? Let us know what you think by emailing  studentblog@icas.com or by tweeting @ICAS_students


In today's blog, two of our articles feature the BBC's 50 Things That Made The Modern Economy podcast, and we demonstrate how the lessons learned can be found in your studies, including financial derivatives and LLCs. For those embarking on block 2 TPE, we share tips for better business writing and how to improve your commercial awareness. We also feature an infographic on the new phenomenon of quarter-life crises and where to get extra support, and examine the economic impact of stockpiling goods.

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.

Why are people having quarter-life crises?

While a mid-life crisis is a long-known occurrence, 'quarter-life' crises are now becoming common among millennials. Check out this infographic for reasons why.

How to improve your commercial awareness for TPE

During block one of TPE classes, we introduced you to commercial awareness as part of your studies. This is a key requirement of a good and competent CA in order to provide value-added business advice.

The economic impact of stockpiling goods

With worries over supply chains, border controls and access to labour after Brexit, many are turning to stockpiling as a way to prepare for the separation. From the NHS to rural communities, what impact does shoring up supplies have on the economy?

Why LLCs widened opportunities for the classes

The set up of Limited liability companies (LLC) in the early and mid-1800s popularised business investment among the general public and paved the way for modern capitalism as we know it. We examine this in PoT.

Gambling with financial derivatives

If you gave someone a sum of money, and they agreed to pay you a larger one should a certain outcome happen in the future, you may be forgiven for thinking you're gambling. In fact, you're getting insurance, as discussed in TC Finance.

August 2018

Monday 27th August: What is 'technologically unemployed'?

The Bank of England's Chief Economist has warned of large groups becoming 'technologically unemployed' as the government launches a new Artificial Intelligence Council.

Andy Haldane stressed the importance of a skills revolution while speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"What we can, I think, say with some confidence, however, is that given that the scale of job loss displacement it is likely to be at least as large as that of the first three industrial revolutions," he said. "We will need even greater numbers of new jobs to be created in the future if we are not to suffer this longer-term feature called technological unemployment."

His comments come as a new advisory panel on artificial intelligence is launched by the government. Chair of the Artificial Intelligence Council Tabitha Goldstaub has stated: "What we have to think about is the time in which this change is happening, and it is definitely happening quicker than ever before. The challenge we have now is ensuring our workforce is ready for that change.

"What are the new jobs that will be created whether those are in building new technology, maintaining the new technology or collaborating with the new technology?"

Many numerical and repetitive tasks of accountancy lend themselves to automation. Even more qualitative skills like writing financial reports and asset management have already been well-established as playing grounds for AI advancement.

However, the widely held belief among the CA community is that the value a chartered accountant can offer, as an adviser, innovator and source of specialised knowledge, protects the profession from technological displacement.

Get in touch

Do you think CAs are at risk from automation and AI? How do you see the profession evolving to meet the challenge? Share your thoughts by tweeting @ICAS_students or email studentblog@icas.com..


In today's blog, we examine the results of an extreme solution to tackling corruption, think about getting onto the property ladder and how much you should be saving. We also share advice for using myCABLE at home. In addition, listen to a podcast on the shift towards a customer-led business world.

Does demonetisation remove corruption from systems?

In late 2016, the CA Student Blog reported on a new initiative being launched in India to tackle tax evasion and counterfeit money: banning and withdrawing 86% of all cash overnight. Things did not necessarily go according to plan.

Infographic: Buy vs Rent

Is it time to invest in a new home? Will you be better off if you do? Here are some of the factors you should consider before choosing between buying or renting a property.

Does wealth bring happiness?

How would you feel if your net worth doubled overnight? Elated? Worried? Stressed? It sounds like a dream come true, but research has suggested that there is a peak to how much money will make you happy.

Are you saving for retirement?

The likelihood of younger generations having a comfortable amount of savings to fall back on in retirement is disconcertingly low.

When did production priorities change?

'The customer is always right.' We've all heard this nugget of business philosophy and, regardless of whether it is necessarily right, we undeniably live in a world dictated by the consumer.

Three ways to plan for studying and working at home

myCABLE days and flexible working policies can mean you get to stay at home to work. On paper it sounds great - no dress code, early commute or unfulfilling sandwich at lunchtime - but how do you stay focused outside of a class or office environment?

Monday 20th August: What's going on in Turkey?

Last week saw global markets shudder in the wake of Turkey's currency collapse. The lira hit a record low of ₺7.24 to $1 on Monday 13 August, completing a 40% slide in value against the US dollar over the past year.

Asian and European markets are particularly concerned about exposure to the crash and worldwide stocks took a hit in the aftermath. While a pledge from the central bank to provide liquidity and lower reserve requirements helped the currency recover slightly in the short term, many of the issues affecting the lira value are still in place.

Political motivations

One of the biggest factors in the currency's poor performance is ongoing tension between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and US leader President Donald Trump.

American pastor Andrew Brunson is currently a detainee under house arrest in Turkey, accused of being connected to the Gülenist movement and outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party who are believed to have been the driving force behind a failed coup in 2016.

Subsequently, the US has refused to extradite the movement's figurehead Fethullah Gülen, who resides in Pennsylvania.

This situation is thought to have been the motivation behind President Trump approving a doubling of tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminium on Friday 10 August, a move which prompted an 18% drop in the lira's value.

The issue of interest

Frozen interest rates have also been pointed to as having played a part. President Erdogan is famously outspoken against raising rates, something which may have influenced the central bank's surprise decision to hold rates steady at 17.75% in July.

This is a problem as a higher interest rate would likely help contain inflation while the lira recovers. Instead, the President hopes that cheap credit will fuel growth and has urged citizens to sell dollars and buy lira to boost the economy.

Next steps

Turkish authorities took several immediate actions:

  • Cut the lira reserve requirement ratio for banks by 250 basis points;
  • Pledged to provide banks with necessary liquidity;
  • Swap, spot and forward transactions with foreign investors limited to 50% of a bank's equity.

These measures helped curb the crash and calm markets. However, economists still have a poor view of the country's outlook. Andrew Kenningham, Chief Global Economist at Capital Economics, told The Guardian: “The plunge in the lira which began in May, now looks certain to push the Turkish economy into recession and it may well trigger a banking crisis.

“This would be another blow for emerging markets as an asset class, but the wider economic spillovers should be fairly modest, even for the eurozone.”

Finance Minister Berat Albayrak spoke with approximately 3,000 international investors and economists on Thursday and stated that Turkey 'fully understood and recognised all its domestic challenges'.

Get in touch

What do you think the ongoing impact of the lira crash will be? Share your views by tweeting @ICAS_students or email studentblog@icas.com..


In today's blog, we look at how advertising could impact your attitudes to finance. We also round-up some great resources: HMRC toolkits and TC Back to Basics guides. Take a look at our focus on capital allowances and on sole trader accounting issues to help with your studies.

Are financial stereotypes holding you back?

How does the media influence your thoughts on money? Research suggests that stereotyping may skew your attitude to finances by gender.

Back to basics: Sole trader accounting dates, overlap profits and end of trade (Part 2)

We continue our back to basics series on basis periods for sole traders with a look at overlapping profits, ending trade and the practicalities of choosing an accounting date.

HMRC tax toolkits – a great student resource

Throughout your CA and ITP studies, you will cover tax and tax returns. Many of you will also be working within a role that requires tax calculations and completing returns for clients.

Kimberley Oliver CA: Thoughts of an entrepreneur

Young CAs Summit speaker Kimberley Oliver CA shares her experiences with the challenges and rewards that come with being an entrepreneur. Find out why ICAS training and a CA network can be crucial to success.

Capital allowances exam technique checklist

This handy checklist covers the method you should use when practising capital allowances questions in an exam setting for TC, TPS and TPE.

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.

Monday 13 August: What you need to know about the new Business Ethics exam

ICAS is proud to announce the launch of a new Business Ethics exam for CA Students, which formalises our profession’s core value.

From November 2018, all CA students sitting the final technical exam (TPE case study exam) will also sit a separate exam on Business Ethics. This will be a short case study, which requires students to identify ethical issues, evaluate these issues, discuss options and provide recommendations.

This initiative has the wide support of the ICAS Council, education committees and the Training Principals. The exam’s introduction emphasises the importance ICAS places on ethics at the heart of the profession.

It will also equip them with the skills necessary to exercise professional judgment within an ethical framework.

ICAS Executive Director of Education Mark Allison said: “The formalisation of the Ethics assignment as an exam at the point of entry to ICAS membership supports the wider ICAS position and signals to prospective members and the public the importance placed on ethical behaviour.”

The assessment will ensure future students are encouraged to develop an ethical mindset and be prepared to act in the public interest from the beginning of their professional career. It will also equip them with the skills necessary to exercise professional judgement within an ethical framework.

Real-world dilemmas

The new Business Ethics exam will be completed by all students in the final year of their CA qualification, and replaces an essay-based assignment.

The exam includes a more formal assessment of the ethical characteristics of newly qualified chartered accountants and will take place the day before the final technical exam, TPE. Both exams are fully open book, reflecting the real-world nature of the exam.

The exam will be a similar format to the current assignment. Students will be placed in the role of a recently qualified chartered accountant and will find themselves faced with a number of ethical dilemmas. They will be required to evaluate the issues, consider the impact on relevant stakeholders, discuss a number of possible actions, and recommend the most suitable action(s) with reference to ethical theories and appropriate legislation.

Students will receive guidance on their approach to the Business Ethics exam on the Business Ethics 2 teaching day, and will also sit a mock exam, which will be marked with feedback to assist with their exam preparation.


Students sitting TPE in November 2018 will sit their BE exam on Monday 12 November. For more information on the Business Ethics exam, contact Joanne Miller. For more information about the new exam and why ethics is integral to the CA, read the full article in CA Today.


Get in touch

Share your views with @ICAS_students or email studentblog@icas.com..


In today's blog, we look at recent news in trademarking and the changing world of banking. We also go back to basics on corporate insolvency and basis periods, as well as offering guidance for filling out your achievement logs. Finally, we have 10 top tips to prepare yourself for exam day.

The evolution of money: Where next?

A new independent group has been created to examine the impact of rising digital payments and declining use of cash. We look at how the use of money is already changing in the UK and who is put a risk or an advantage by the digital shift.

Shaping up the value of trademarks

Nestlé's recent appeal to have the four-bar shape of KitKats trademarked as unique has fallen flat in the face of competition and you may be left wondering: what's the point?

Back to Basics: Corporate Insolvency

Insolvency is taught at TPS Advanced Finance and is also relevant to TPE case studies, where a company is, or may become insolvent. Read our back to basics on corporate insolvency for a great summary on types of voluntary liquidation and more.

Back to basics: Basis periods for sole traders starting a new business (Part 1)

For entrepreneurs starting their own business, it is possible to choose whatever accounting date suits the business - but tax is paid for the fiscal year, running from 6 April to 5 April. We go back to basics on the rules of the start of trade and what this means.

Your achievement logs shouldn’t be a slog!

Our achievement logs manager, Matt Gorrie, deals with the most commonly asked questions from students so you submit your achievement log in record time.

10 tips for exam day

With both TC and TPS exams on the horizon, here are some great tips for those crucial few hours before the exam to help you perform well on the day.

Monday 6 August: Five free five-minute stress busters

More than half of professional services workers in the UK aren't taking action to lower their stress levels, according to a new survey. Here are some quick tips for chilling out.

Workers in accountancy and law have said they lack the time and/or money to actively try to reduce stress levels outside of work. In a survey conducted by Obby.co.uk, 58% of professional services respondents struggled to decompress during downtime.

Of that group, 78% claimed they had no free time to dedicate to stress management and one in 10 did not have the funds to pursue stress-relieving activities.

With that in mind, here are some schedule and wallet-friendly options for you to consider.

  1. Breathe easy: Slow deep breaths can help lower your heart rate and blood pressure, easing some of the symptoms of stress. The pranayama technique advocates breathing through one nostril at a time and is thought to ease anxiety.
  2. Have a snack: Certain foods and beverages have positive effects on your mood. Dark chocolate, mango and mint chewing gum can all help combat the influence of high cortisol levels (the stress hormone). Green tea and water are also good options to calm your nerves and rehydrate.
  3. Watch a funny video: Smiling and/or laughing is proven to boost your mood and release tension. Keep a few funny videos saved for a lunchtime giggle or, if all else fails, fall back on classic Vine compilations.
  4. Squeeze a stress ball: These handy little stress relievers are a common free gift from places like banks, supermarkets, and even business conferences. Keep an eye out and get yourself a squishy companion.
  5. Move around: Standing up from your desk to stretch or walk around eases the tension in your body and forces you to distract yourself. Take a trip up and down some stairs or try some deskercise!

Get in touch

Do you struggle with stress on a regular basis? How do you find ways to cope? Share your advice for fellow student with @ICAS_students or email studentblog@icas.com..


In today's blog, we consider the future of financial reporting, what shifting demographics mean for the economy, how to account for stock destruction, and personal data security. We also offer some advice for those getting ready to finish their training contracts and how to use mock exams for upcoming assessments.

What does your data say about you?

This TED Talks playlist showcases the expert perspective on who has your data, what it tells them, and how they use it.

The five steps of taking mocks seriously for success

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

How declining birth rates affect our economies

Around the developed world, people are living longer, and birth rates are falling. What does this mean for our society, our economy, and our families?

Accounting for stock destruction

High-end fashion brand Burberry has come under fire from the public in recent weeks after financial reports revealed £28.6m worth of stock was destroyed in the past year. The fashion industry has since dubbed this as 'common practice', but how can account for brand protection?

How is financial reporting set to improve?

The quality and content of financial reporting can be a point of some contention in the corporate sphere. What information is most pertinent to the reader?

Finishing your training contract - what's next?

When your training contract draws to a close, the transition away from 'student' can be daunting and exciting in equal measure.

Topics

  • CA Student blog

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