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.

June 2018

Monday 11 June: Join us at the Young CAs Summit

Will you be in London on 21 June? You should be if you don't want to miss out on hearing from innovators, entrepreneurs and inspiring experts in modern business skills at the ICAS Young CAs Summit, held in association with Investec Click & Invest.

ICAS returns to the 42nd floor of the Leadenhall Building this month to celebrate the achievements of Young CAs, not least with the presentation of the 2018 One Young CA Award, which recognises an exemplary member of the community.

As well as stunning views and sparkling conversation, the Summit will feature two lightning sessions focused on CA entrepreneurs and innovators, ready to share their experiences and advice in successfully navigating a changing economic landscape. Notable CA speakers include:

Angela Malik CA
Sumati Sharma CA
Ricky Munday CA
Paul Thomson CA
Kimberley Oliver CA
Joel Watt CA
Tom Parkinson CA
 

We will also be hosting a Networking Masterclass with business development expert Tom Kerr, trying to 'teach young dogs old tricks' in making and maintaining valuable contacts. This interactive session will encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and dazzle your professional peers to craft your network into a well-oiled machine.

In addition, David Levin, the UK's foremost professional tweeter and Creative Director of social agency That Lot, will be presenting a Social Media Masterclass. Join us to learn how to best engage your audience and get the most out of your online presence.

Students can attend the event at no cost, so secure your place now.

Get in touch

Will you be attending the Young CAs Summit? What are you most looking forward to? Tweet your pictures and insights to @ICAS_students or email studentblog@icas.com.


In today's blog, we're focusing on getting ready for exams. Find out how to handle question practice, information overload, and what you can to combat stress. We also review the importance of how long a month is (for correct accounting periods!), look at research into gender bias at board level, and revisit financial reporting lessons from a real business case.

Top 10 excuses for the lack of women on FTSE boards

In a shocking revelation, the Hampton-Alexander Review revealed why some FTSE boards have been reluctant to appoint women.

Tutor tip: Don't let yourself down with dates

Don’t let yourself down with dates - knowing the number of days in each month is essential for picking the correct accounting period.

Ten ways to beat exam stress

CA exams can be pretty intense and stress can sometimes get the better of us. Whether you are studying for TC, TPS or TPE exams, here are 10 ways you can keep the stress at bay.

What to do, and what not to do for 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.

Information overload? Here’s how to handle it

Do you have trouble remembering what you have studied after a long day of hitting the books? Is keeping track of your workload becoming overwhelming? You may be suffering from information overload.

Financial Reporting lessons from Rio Tinto

On 17 October 2017, the Financial Conduct Authority (‘FCA’) fined the global mining group Rio Tinto plc £27,385,400 for failures in its 2012 half-year accounts. But what were those failures, why was such a fine necessary and are there any lessons for CA students?


Monday 4 June: Building, maintaining and repairing connections

How would your organisation handle a negative story in the press? Is rebuilding public trust and managing your image a priority for the business?

Following on from our article examining examples of reputational damage and recovery, we look at rebuilding trust in this video from Harvard Business School's Frances Frei.

Speaking from her experiences at Uber Technologies and in the wider business world, Professor Frei explains why building, maintaining and repairing connections with customers is the single most important thing for companies today.

View video

Get in touch

How important do you think integrity is to modern consumers? Share your thoughts @ICAS_students on Twitter or email studentblog@icas.com.


We would like to welcome all our new ITP students arriving for classes in Edinburgh, Birmingham and Bristol today (4 June)! If you would like to view helpful resource guides and related articles, simply use this search link.

Meanwhile, in today's blog, we have gathered our top tips for motivated and effective studying in the run-up to exams. We also sum up the basics of inflation and remind you to sign up for the excellent Summer Social - lots of networking fun to be had! Elsewhere, we encourage you to take a look at the ICAS Top 100 Young CAs 2018 and consider our advice for planning career success.

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.

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?

Back to basics: Inflation

What do quiche, leggings and edam cheese have to do with consumer spending levels and interest rates? We go back to basics on inflation.

Designing a 10-year career plan

Now you know how to plan for reaching your career goals, what should you be thinking about when you decide on where you want to be?

ICAS London Summer Social

The ICAS London Summer Social is one of the most popular and eagerly anticipated events in our busy social calendar. Organised by the Young Leaders Network, this event is perfect for CA students and newly qualified ICAS members to meet and connect with like-minded CAs in your local area.

The ICAS Top 100 Young CAs 2018 announced

In case you missed it - the ICAS Top 100 Young CAs 2018 list is here! Including recently qualified students who are now rising stars of the membership.

May 2018

Monday 28th May: Blue chips struggling in harsh retail conditions

Adapting to digital has, in recent years, been the benchmark for growth in most areas of UK business. Retailers have been caught in a balancing act of e-commerce and high street sales. Is it already too late for those playing catch-up?

Marks & Spencer Group (M&S) announced their intention last week to close 100 stores across the UK by 2022, amounting to around a third of their locations. The British retailer has been struggling recently to reinvigorate its clothing business in particular, with some claiming they have been too slow to address the challenges of online competition.

In total, online sales are thought to account for almost a quarter (24.1%) of non-food retail in the UK. As such, chains with extensive high street presence have had to adapt to manage the value of their stores versus their website.

Bloomberg Intelligence Analyst Charles Allen believes that, even with this latest cut, M&S is spending too much to keep locations up and running: "This will probably still leave them with too much store space. M&S has to get its clothing-and-home stores down to a much smaller number unless they can demonstrate there is a real purpose to them."

There was a major upset for traditional brands at the end of last year as the market valuation of online clothing retailer ASOS overtook that of M&S. The circumstances of the 134-year-old blue chip company can serve as an example of the shifting dynamics of the consumer arena and show why digital disruption should be taken seriously.

Get in touch

How is your firm addressing digital disruption? Do you think all businesses will eventually move online, and where does that leave shoppers who prefer to grab their goods in person? Share your thoughts @ICAS_students on Twitter or email studentblog@icas.com.


In today's blog, we offer some advice on setting goals and identifying if you are a workaholic, and what to do about it. Ally Millar goes back to basics on non-controlling interests in FR (great if you're studying module 17 - consolidated financial statements: acquisition accounting) and ICAS' Anne Adrain breaks down integrated reporting for those new to the subject (FR module 23 - corporate reporting).

We also consider what impact GDPR will have on you now it has come into effect, and take a look at three cases of how a company has repaired reputational damage and triggering effects.

Are you a workaholic?

While hard work and dedication are admirable, workaholism can be a dangerous trait adding unnecessary pressure to your life. Read about the seven signs and ways to change behaviours.

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.

Four ways GDPR will affect you

New General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) came into effect on 25 May 2018. It is likely your organisation has been gearing up to adapt the way they handle data in order to comply, but have you given much thought to its impact outside of work?

An intro to integrated reporting

Are you familiar with Integrated Reporting (IR)? This holistic reporting method is a fantastic new method of collating and presenting financial and strategic information.

Repairing reputational damage

Reputational risk is the biggest issue currently facing financial institutions and professional services, according to recent research from Aon. Reputational risk is the biggest issue currently facing financial institutions and professional services, according to recent research from Aon.

How to craft a five-year plan

Following on from our guide to one-year career goals, this guide to a five-year plan will help you think longer-term to elements such as promotions, job changes and deciding on a specialism.


Monday 21st May: Where next for the sugar tax?

National Biscuit Day falls on Saturday 26 May this year, celebrating the sweet snacks we love to buy in bulk and dunk in our tea. But could the sugar tax be coming for our snacks too?

Fiscal policy aimed at reducing the sugar content of soft drinks came into effect in April 2018. The 'sugar tax' has caused popular brands like Irn Bru and Coca-Cola to either change their secret recipes or sell products in smaller quantities, prompting disgruntled customers.

Now, a recent study from Oxford University, Cambridge University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggests snacks should be targeted next.

Lead author Professor Richard Smith said: “We know that increasing the price of sugar-sweetened beverages is likely to generate a small, but significant, reduction in their purchase. However, there has been little research on the impact that a similar price increase on other sweet foods such as chocolate, confectionery, cakes and biscuits could have on the purchase of sugar.

"This research suggests that taxing these sweet snacks could bring even greater health gains and warrants detailed consideration.”

Interestingly, one of the outcomes of the research was that increasing the price of biscuits leads to a decline in the purchase of other chocolate and confectionary, particularly in low-income groups.

Co-author Professor Susan Jebb added: “It’s impossible to study the direct effects of a tax on snack food on consumer behaviour until such policies are introduced, but these estimates show the likely impact of changes in the price.

"This research suggests that extending fiscal policies to include sweet snacks could be an important boost to public health, by reducing purchasing and hence consumption of these foods, particularly in low-income households."

Get in touch

Do you think biscuits should be taxed for their sugar content? How has the sugar tax impacted you so far? Email studentblog@icas.com or tweet us @ICAS_students.


In today's blog, we hear from leading CAs of all ages and take a look at goal-setting and planning for the year ahead. We go back to basics on blockchain and examine how you will deal with instances of financial fraud in the future, with steps that CAs can take to prevent it. If you haven't already booked your ticket for the Young Leaders Summit, take a look at what you might be missing out on.

And we want to wish everyone sitting their TPE exam the best of luck!

Nine quotes from CA CEOs

CAs who have become CEOs share key advice for career development and insights on the future of the profession.

Get your BE1 completed

The first component (BE1) will be completed in the first year of your training contract - specifically by June. We have further reading on how you should morally use your knowledge as a CA, with reference to all business ethics components of the CA qualification.

Financial fraud - what can CAs do?

Research by KPMG estimates that alleged losses from fraud cost the UK economy over £1bn in 2016. How can CAs contribute to managing the threat and keeping finances secure?

Back to Basics: Blockchain

Blockchain is something which most accountants are likely to have heard of, but how many of us fully understand what impact it will have in our sector?

Young CAs summit

We are delighted to introduce this year's ICAS Young CAs Summit – a unique event where you can meet and be inspired by the stars of our profession. Taking place on 21 June 2018, the Summit will bring together a carefully selected line-up of speakers who have risen to the top.

Having a one-year career plan

What do you want to achieve in the next year? A promotion? A pay rise? Maybe you want to do better in your studies or undertake a professional development course? Our infographic could shine a light on the way forward.


Monday 14th May: The moonwalking bears of finance and other warnings

Would you notice a moonwalking bear if it danced in front of you? Seems like something that would be hard to miss, doesn't it? What about a risk to financial stability that might be hiding in plain sight?

As opposed to 'iceberg' risks, which lurk under the surface of markets, these so-called 'bear' risks are apparently obvious but largely unnoticed or ignored. The name comes from an old Transport for London (TfL) campaign about awareness and distraction, which you can view below.

The Executive Director of Financial Stability at the Bank of England, Alex Brazier, has issued a warning about potential 'bears' i.e. the risk of low returns on investments impacting corporate debt.

He highlighted corporate bond investors willing to engage with riskier assets for the chance of a higher return. This practice is an example of unusual investor confidence and could have the knock-on effect of large sell-offs in the debt market further down the line.

Speaking at the London Business School last month, Mr Brazier said: "In global debt markets, investors seem to be willing to take the same risk for less compensation. Appetite for risk-taking has increased."

Economists are on the lookout for what might cause the next financial crisis. Could these grizzly bears be the big threat we're missing?

Watch the video and test yourself!

Get in touch

What are your thoughts on risk versus potential return? Is corporate debt a bigger issue than it seems? Tell us what you think @ICAS_students on Twitter or email studentblog@icas.com.


In today’s blog, we offer advice for your achievement logs, insolvency for TPS and TPE and debits and credits in FA. For those sitting TC finance, we have the formula you need to calculate weighted average cost of capital. We also take a look at the ICAS Challenging Conversations theme on pensions and detail what your next steps should be if you ever get hacked.

Back to basics: WACC

Are you familiar with the weighted average cost of capital? The calculation of a company’s cost of capital appears in Module 12 of the TC Finance course, and we go back to basics on the formulas.

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’. This infographic will help you navigate the first progress test.

How to complete your achievement log

Your achievement log is not a hurdle at the end of training - they are 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.

Back to basics: Corporate Insolvency

Read our back to basics on corporate insolvency for a great summary on types of voluntary liquidation and more.

What to do if you’re hacked

Having your privacy invaded is a horrible experience and can put you at risk of identity theft and financial fraud. Your priority should be trying to limit the damage with these five tips.

Five questions that need answered on pensions

Pensions iss the first big issue that ICAS will debate as part of our Challenging Conversations initiative. Are you up to date with how much you need to save into a scheme to ensure a suitable retirement?


Monday 7th May: Afin lessons in new Asda-Sainsbury's supermarket merger

Green and orange are mixing together in a supermarket sweep of the grocery industry, as Sainsbury's and ASDA prepare to merge in a £15bn deal.

The new partnership will bring nearly a third of all supermarket revenue in the UK under one umbrella, a move which has heightened fears of store closures, job losses, and competition dominance.

For customers, this could be great news as the businesses aim to cut the prices of goods across both stores by doubling-up on product buying power. However, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is being urged to consider the impact on both suppliers and competing supermarkets.

The terms of the merger were released to the public last week, showing that US retailer and ASDA parent company Walmart would be left with a 42% stake in the new combined company, which is predicted to overtake Tesco as UK market leader. The merged group will have control over 2,800 stores and 31.4% of UK groceries.

Interestingly, the current CEOs of both ASDA and Sainsbury's have previously worked with each other's brands.

The competition watchdog has not yet confirmed whether they will launch a full investigation into the deal, though several politicians have deemed it necessary.

Mergers are covered in TPS Afin modules.

Get in touch

Do you think Sainsbury's and ASDA will be able to maintain their current store and staff numbers? What TPS or TPE issues could potentially arise from this merger? Tell us what you think by emailing studentblog@icas.com or tweet @ICAS_students on Twitter.


In today's blog, we dive into pre-course work for modular students sitting TPS soon, and get to grips with TPE exams, including an FAQ of what you need to know on the day, and how to prepare materials you can take into the exam. We also look at how to develop the important skill of assertiveness and maintain a focus on wellness during your studies. Lastly, creating memorable or unhackable passwords can be the bane of your life - here are five tips to create a great one!

Tackling TPS pre-course work 

In a recent post we looked at TPS Assumed Knowledge work for TPS Modular students. Here we look at the TPS Pre-Course work for TPS Modular Students.

How to demonstrate your assertiveness in 15 ways

You may already be a few years into the world of work or just starting out with your training firm, but assertiveness is a skill that will help you at every stage of your career.

Final preparations to material to take into the TPE exam

Now that your block 2 classes are finished you are well on your way to the final 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.

Five tips for a better password

You may already be a few years into the world of work or just starting out with your training firm, but assertiveness is a skill that will help you at every stage of your career.

What you need to know about TPE exams: FAQ

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.

Five wellness apps for students

Hectic schedules, looming deadlines and commitments outside of work and class can leave little time to worry about yourself and the toll day-to-day life might be taking. If you find yourself sleeping less, eating takeout more, or feeling anxious on a regular basis, some of these apps might be worth a try.

Topics

  • CA Student blog

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