Self-study tips

Self-study is a study option which is growing in popularity.  It offers learners flexibility as it gives them the opportunity to study at a place of their own choosing, to set the pace at which they study, and is often a cheaper method of study than classroom based or distance learning. Of course, if you should choose self-study you are accepting full responsibility for your learning and you do not have the direct support of a tutor.

Those learners who have decided self-study is a suitable option for them should find the following tips useful:

Understand the requirements of the qualification – each of the IAB bookkeeping qualifications comprises several units. Each of the units is made up of learning outcomes and assessment criteria, these indicate what learners need to demonstrate in terms of what they know (knowledge) and what they are able to do (skills).

Familiarise yourself with the learning outcomes and assessment criteria for each of the units which make up the qualification at the Level at which you are studying, so that you are fully aware of what’s expected of you. Unit specifications can be accessed via the RQF Qualifications section of the IAB website and clicking on ‘Learn more’ next to the qualification you are interested in.  https://www.iab.org.uk/qualification/rqf-qualifications/.

Be aware of methods of assessment – The IAB needs to assess your learning and there are several methods by which the IAB assesses learner competence – these include Knowledge Tests, Assignments and Examinations.

You need to be fully aware of the assessment structure which applies to the qualification at the Level at which you are studying. The supplementary notes to the unit specifications provide details of the assessment structure for each of the IAB’s bookkeeping qualifications.

Pace yourself – although self-study allows you to work at your own pace you have not entered a race. Your main objective is to achieve a level of competence which will enable you to successfully complete your chosen course of study, so take your time.

Look at the Total Qualification Time (TQT) recommended by the IAB for completing each of the units within the qualification at the Level you are studying and use the time appropriately. TQT includes time for study, practice, revision and assessment time and is indicated within each of the unit specifications. Develop a self-study plan that will give you the time you require to achieve your objective of successfully completing the qualification.

Personal self-study plan – adopt a disciplined approach to self-study and draw up a personal study plan. Consider your lifestyle and your current commitments and then first of all decide on the number of learning hours you can realistically allocate each week to studying. The next step is to develop your plan further by breaking down weekly study hours over the various days/nights of the week that you are able to study. There may be some days/nights when you may be unable to study at all, and of course, there may be some days/nights when you can spend more time studying than others.

Remember the ‘it’s not a race’ rule and don’t forget to include in your study plan some ‘time off’, you will need the occasional break from your studies otherwise studying will lose some of its enjoyment and become a burden.

Make appropriate use of the IAB study materials – the IAB provides learners with a variety of learning resources, these include study texts and pilot assessments (Knowledge Tests, Assignments and Examinations).

Study texts have been written to give full coverage of each qualification and the study texts present the unit learning outcomes and assessment criteria for each qualification in a logical and structured sequence.

Each study text is made up of a number of lessons and you are advised to look carefully at the content of each lesson and then allocate appropriate study time to each of the lessons. The lesson study time then needs to be added into your personal study plan on a lesson-by-lesson basis.

Pilot Knowledge Tests, Assignments and Examinations can be accessed online, you must successfully complete pilot assessments before you are given access to live assessments. Time for completing pilot and live assessments also needs to be included in your study plan.

Practice makes perfect – Work your way through each of the lessons in the study text making sure you fully understand the lesson content. Complete the practice questions at the end of each lesson before you move on to the next lesson.

You are advised to complete the practice questions in the study text in pencil, then, having checked your answers against the model answers, you can erase your answers and have another go at the questions before  moving on to the next lesson. In particular concentrate on the areas where, on checking your answers, areas of weakness are revealed. Although the IAB will assess both your knowledge and skill you will probably find you need to spend more time on the skills based elements of the qualification than you do on the knowledge content.

You are personally responsible for ensuring that you are ready for the assessments before you attempt pilot or live Knowledge Tests, Assignments or Examinations. You are advised to use the pilot papers for the purpose of practice and revision, it is recommended that you work through each of the pilot assessments several times before you move on to the live assessments.

Here are some other tips to help you through your studies. 

  1. Produce a list of your goals: By writing down what you hope to achieve from your studying and setting yourself targets each day then this will help to ensure you work through the course at a good pace, while not feeling overwhelmed. Studying for a whole qualification can seem daunting but if you break the studying down into manageable chunks then you will soon work your way through the course.
  2. Don’t move on until you fully understand: It can seem easier to skip the difficult bits, but getting to grips will all the concepts as they arise will help you further down the line. It’s worth taking the time and making sure you test your knowledge as you progress.
  3. Thinking food: Planning your meals and picking brain boosting foods can greatly affect your study performance. Here are some foods that could help you improve your cognitive abilities and help you concentrate on those all important facts and figures:
    • Wholegrain foods (glucose) – A slow-energy release food, that will keep you mentally alert over a longer period of time
    • Avocado (monounsaturated fat) – Essential in maintaining a healthy blood flow and mental alertness
    • Oily fish (omega 3) – They contain instant fatty acids that aid with memory retention and brain function
    • Pumpkin seeds (zinc) – Zinc, like Omega 3, helps maintain a focused mind, and helps with cognitive progress
    • Broccoli (vitamin K) – Vitamin K contributes to the production of myelin, a chemical that protects your brain cells
    • Nuts (vitamin E) – Much like leafy green vegetables, and eggs, nuts are a great source of Vitamin E, which has been shown to reduce cognitive decline
    • Blueberries (vitamin C) – Vitamin C greatly improves mental capacity
  4. Pick up a pen: The benefits of putting pen to paper when studying are endless. From re-writing notes to making checklists of your best and worst topics, writing down your new knowledge can help analyse and refresh existing knowledge and highlight areas in need of focus.  You could make key notes on flashcards and then test yourself.
  5. Make sure you take breaks: When studying it is important to take regular breaks to make sure you are taking the information in and not overloading your brain with too much at once. It is also advisable not to study during the night, as without a good night’s rest the information you are trying to take in will probably not be fully absorbed.
  6. Study where there are no distractions: You need a quiet and comfortable place to study, with good lighting, in order to understand what you are learning.  Don’t allow your phone, TV or social media to distract you.  It’s important to give studying your full attention.
  7. Find some support: studying on your own can be difficult at times, so make sure you have people around you that understand what you have committed to and are willing to help (maybe by making dinner or babysitting), and get help with the subject area either at work, or through social media channels – there are some friendly bookkeeping groups out there, including the IAB’s own Facebook group for members: facebook.com/groups/IABmembersgroup.
  8. Shut eye success: A good night’s sleep can boost your concentration immensely. You may think that cramming some last minute studying in before an exam will help you succeed.  However, a good night’s sleep and an early rise for any final revision is much more beneficial.  Without a good night’s rest, the information you are trying to absorb will inevitably be lost to fatigue.
  9. Don’t give up! Keep reminding yourself why you’re doing this – write some motivational post-it notes and leave them around to help get you through the tough times. Everyone has those moments, and they will pass.