Self-study

Welcome to the IAB, we’re excited you’re interested in studying for one of our qualifications. Below is some more information that might be useful. If you would like to get your free taster, which is the first chapter of the textbook for the Level 1 bookkeeping qualification, fill out the form at the bottom of this page and you will be able to download it.

Self-study is one method for you to study the IAB’s professional qualifications. It is exactly as the name suggests where you study by yourself, using study books to guide you. There is no tutor support from an IAB accredited training provider or the IAB. This method of study can be great because it means that you are the boss and in control of your learning. Many of our students are successful using this method.

Why study with the IAB (International Association of Bookkeepers)? As a leading professional and awarding body, and a specialist in bookkeeping and payroll, all our qualifications are regulated by Ofqual. They regulate qualifications, examinations and assessments in England, meaning you can always be confident our courses are rigorous and your professional competence will be recognised.

IAB qualifications enable you to learn in-demand and highly sought after skills, to use either within your own business or improve your job prospects and open the door to a range of career opportunities.

Below you will find FAQs that cover the different qualifications on offer, the study materials available and the costs.  You can also receive a free taster of our study text book by completing the form at the bottom of this page.  You might also find helpful case studies from successful IAB members and students and some top tips to support you through your studies.  We will be happy to answer any questions you have.  Please get in touch via the contact us button at the top of the page.

If you’re ready to register for one of our manual bookkeeping qualifications please click on the links below.  Manual bookkeeping is the foundation of all bookkeeping and our qualifications will teach you the key skills and knowledge so you understand the core principles behind bookkeeping, which you can use effectively in the workplace.

Register for the Level 1 Award in Bookkeeping -Self-study registration and study pack price: £128

 

Register for the Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping – Self-study registration and study pack price: £153

 

Register for the Level 3 Certificate in Bookkeeping and Accounting – Self-study registration and study pack price: £163

FAQs

Who should use this approach?

You might already have the knowledge, skills and experience, perhaps from your existing job, and you just want a regulated qualification to enhance your CV and act as that all important benchmark of your abilities. Perhaps you have a line manager or friend who is going to be supporting you.

Or maybe you are looking for a career change.

Either way, you are a highly motivated individual and you are confident in teaching yourself, using high quality training resources such as the IAB study text books (written specifically for the qualifications).

 Which qualifications are available to study?

All of our bookkeeping and payroll qualifications give you a foundation of skills micro and small businesses demand: practical knowledge and know-how.

All qualifications are regulated by Ofqual.  The qualifications are devised by an expert team of education specialists, IAB members, employers and professional organisations, resulting in comprehensive, relevant training so you can hit the ground running.

Please find below a list of our manual bookkeeping qualifications.  Manual bookkeeping is the foundation of all bookkeeping and our qualifications will teach you the key skills and knowledge so you understand the core principles behind bookkeeping, which you can use effectively in the workplace.  For further information there is a list of our manual bookkeeping qualifications below.  Please click on the links to discover what you’ll learn in each qualification, how it is assessed and the learning resources available to you.

Manual bookkeeping qualifications:

Level 1 Award in Bookkeeping 601/9065/6

Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping 601/9061/9

Level 3 Certificate in Bookkeeping and Accounting 601/9058/9

What study materials are available?

The IAB has a selection of study text books available which we highly recommend buying as a self-study student.  Written by IAB examiners, each text book comprehensively covers the whole syllabus from cover to cover. Crammed with practical advice, know-how and sample questions with answers, they are the perfect study tool.

How much is it?

Please find below the costs for studying the qualifications.  Included within this price, you will also receive our study text book at a discounted rate, to support you with your studies.

 

QualificationCost
Level 1 Award in Bookkeeping 601/9065/6£128
Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping 601/9061/9£153
Level 3 Certificate in Bookkeeping and Accounting 601/9058/9£163

 

What questions should I ask myself before registering?

Can I keep myself motivated throughout the course?
What is the right level of qualification for me?

When and where can I sit the exams? (if applicable)
Exams can be taken at any time in the year as long as you give us at least five weeks’ notice.  This means you can take the exam when you feel ready and aren’t restricted to dates.  To book an exam you will need to contact your nearest external exam centre first to arrange a suitable date and time.  Once you have booked the exam you will then need to let the IAB head office know by sending an email to education@iab.org.uk.  You can find your nearest external exam centre here: https://www.iab.org.uk/qualification/external-exam-centres/.

How can I register?

To register for a qualification please follow the links below:

Register for the Level 1 Award in Bookkeeping

 

Register for the Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping

 

Register for the Level 3 Certificate in Bookkeeping and Accounting

Bookkeeping 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.

Other useful self-study tips

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.

Helpful resources:

Here is a study planner which we hope you will find of use.  This will help you to work out how long each unit is likely to take to complete and schedule in time to study.

Download the IAB self-study planner

Case studies:

Read Trin Tran's story

Trin Tran

“I chose IAB qualifications because they are well recognised and established within the financial community.”

Trin successfully completed the Level 1 Award in Bookkeeping as a self-study student.  She currently works as a financial director’s assistant.  Her role consists of bookkeeping duties such as raising invoices and checking expenses or entering them onto QuickBooks.

Q: What made you choose bookkeeping as a career route?

A: I chose bookkeeping as a career path because I knew this would be a good way to progress onto different levels through finance.

Q: What was your reason for choosing to study the IAB’s qualifications?

A: I chose IAB qualifications because they are well recognised and established within the financial community.

I chose the self-study route because it allowed me the flexibility so I could study at my own pace and in my own time.  The self-study route was more beneficial for me because I work full time so it also gave me the opportunity to gain a qualification.

Q: How have you found the qualifications? What are the easiest and hardest aspects of studying?

A: I have found the qualification challenging in a good way.  The easiest aspect of studying is knowing you are gaining knowledge in the field and the hardest aspect is remaining motivated throughout my studies.

My financial director is supporting me though with encouragement and the potential of a long-term career in finance.

Q: How do you plan to use the IAB qualifications to build your career?

A: My plans are to continue onto IAB level 3 to be able to gain more knowledge in bookkeeping and become a qualified bookkeeper and to confidently work alongside my financial director with the skills I have gained from the IAB bookkeeping qualifications.

Q: What three pieces of advice would you give to anyone thinking of studying to become a bookkeeper via the self-study route?

A:

  • Stay focused.
  • Try to keep motivated.  It is easy to forget methods of how to solve problems within bookkeeping but keep revising! It helps.
  • If you need help always ask.  The IAB are good at providing assistance.

Q: How have you found teaching yourself the qualification?

A: It has been a learning curve as I found teaching myself the qualification difficult but rewarding.

Q: How useful have you found the resources such as IAB study text books, and past exam papers?

A: I have found the past exam papers very useful.  They help you understand how the IAB qualification is structured and prepare you for the type of questions which may be asked in the exam.

Q: How useful was the support you received from the IAB team?

A: I found the IAB team very useful.  Whenever I was stuck, they pointed me in the right direction.  This helped to give me confidence as I progressed through the qualification.

Read Richard Platfoot's story

Richard Platfoot MIAB

I wanted to take qualifications which were recognised and enabled me to learn key skills and knowledge which I could use effectively in the work place.”

Richard successfully completed the Level 2 Award in Computerised Payroll as a self-study student.  He is now a professional member with the IAB and is currently employed as a Financial Controller where he regularly uses SAGE 50 Accounts and Payroll.

Q: What made you choose payroll as a career route, and why did you choose the IAB’s qualifications?

A: Payroll as a career evolved through circumstances in previous employment. The IAB are the industry ‘standard’ when it comes to Bookkeeping & Payroll.  I wanted to take qualifications which were recognised and enabled me to learn key skills and knowledge which I could use effectively in the work place.

 Q: What made you decide to take the self-study route?

A: I couldn’t find any colleges that supported SAGE Payroll above Level 1, so self-study was my only option.

Q: How have you found teaching yourself the qualification? What are the easiest and hardest aspects of studying?

A: To a degree, teaching myself was straightforward, as I use SAGE 50 Payroll regularly in the office. However, that doesn’t prepare you, nor train you in exam technique, and as the company only has one licence I couldn’t use company software to train during the day.  Therefore, everything had to be done exclusively at home which was very draining at times.

Q: How useful have you found the resources such as IAB study text books, and past exam papers?

A: Past exam papers were vital in preparation and practice, however there were times when ideally I needed the support of a tutor.

Q: What three pieces of advice would you give to anyone thinking of studying payroll via the self-study route?

A:

  1. If you are employed, check if your employer has access to multiple SAGE licences so that you can effectively ‘practice’ at work. However, this isn’t the end of the world if not!
  2. Become familiar with the rules governing various payroll process e.g. company pension, sick pay, maternity / paternity pay, payroll giving. These all have little tweaks that in an exam situation can really stress you out under pressure.
  3. If there is someone you can talk to if you are unsure about anything, utilise it, as at times I really wanted just to ask the simplest of questions with regards to exam vs real world scenario, but with no tutor support you are on your own.
  4. Here’s a fourth one! Become familiar with your exam centre, as they can be ever so helpful and supportive, which may just help take the pressure off on exam day!! After all, they are here to help, and they want us all to pass! The Level 2 Payroll exam is tough.

Read Amanda Essen's story

Amanda Essen AIAB. 

 “Self-study was ideal for me due to the responsibilities of having a young family.”

Amanda successfully completed the Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping and the Level 1 Award in Bookkeeping via the self-study route.  She is now a professional member with the IAB and is looking to set up her own bookkeeping practice. 

Q: What made you choose bookkeeping as a career route?

A: Bookkeeping is what I have always enjoyed as part of learning accounts. It gives a vast insight into the running and success of a business, and you get to be part of the behind the scenes team.

Q: What was your reason for choosing to study the IAB’s qualifications?

A: I chose the IAB because it offered a self-study route. The IAB specialises in Bookkeeping and Payroll which is where the focus of my career will be. The qualifications are recognised by Ofqual, and I had heard very good reviews from current members on social media. The qualification itself was easy to understand and straightforward.

Q: What made you decide to take the self-study route?

A: Self-study was ideal for me due to the responsibilities of having a young family. It meant I could work around them and to my own schedule. I wanted to change my career path and this was the only way I could see it happening.

Q: How have you found teaching yourself the qualification?

A: I usually like to complicate things for myself however this qualification was much more relaxed than I expected which was great. I feel Level 1 prepared me greatly for Level 2 so I was not feeling as daunted. I found the IAB resources – the text books and past papers – invaluable to my studies, and very clear and concise.

Q: Can you tell us a bit more about your plans for the future? 

A: Although I have applied for my Practice Licence with the IAB I haven’t made the jump and started looking for clients yet. I am still a bit apprehensive to take the leap as I am working out what services to provide and how much to charge. I plan to sit Level 3 and I do want to progress with further qualifications if that’s an option. I would love to become a professional member of the IAB.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone thinking of studying to become a bookkeeper via the self-study route?

A: Take your time. If you have questions ask them. There are plenty of other resources out there like Facebook groups specifically for accounting/bookkeeping students where you get a friendly answer to your questions. The IAB has a Facebook group for members.  Don’t move on until you fully understand. Invest in various other books to give a different perspective on the same subject.

Read Alicja Drazkiewicz's story

Alicja Drazkiewicz MIAB.

“I found the resources very useful.  They provided me with all the information that was needed for the qualifications.”

Alicja successfully completed the Level 3 Certificate in Bookkeeping and Accounting via the self-study route.  She is now a professional member with the IAB and is currently employed as a business analyst for an international company where she provides support with reports and budgets.

Q: What made you choose bookkeeping as a career route?

A: I chose to study bookkeeping when I was looking at university degrees, and then saw how many career opportunities there are.  I also liked the fact that it is a career which enables you to open up your own business and work for yourself.

Q: What was your reason for choosing to study the IAB’s qualifications?

A: The IAB’s qualifications are recognised in different countries, which really appealed to me.  The qualifications are also a simple route to professional membership and I read good reviews about the IAB.

Q: What made you decide to take the self-study route, and what techniques and resources did you use?

A: As I work full time, I don’t have the time to attend a college so it fitted in really well with my work commitments, enabling me to study at times which suited me. I produced a schedule so I made the time to study.  This helped to motivate me and ensured I took the time to sit down and review my studies.  I found the IAB’s resources very useful.  They provided me with all the information that was needed for the qualifications and gave me the best preparation for the exams.

Q: Do you plan to become a self-employed bookkeeper? If so, what is it about being self-employed that excites you?

A: I would like to be self-employed one day as it would mean I can choose my work hours and be my own boss. I would like to open my own bookkeeping business and complete the ACCA qualification to help me further develop my own business so I can offer accounting services as well.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone thinking of studying to become a bookkeeper via the self-study route?

A: Make sure you are disciplined and schedule time to study.  The most important thing is do not give up!

Please complete the contact form below if you would like to receive your free taster of our study text book.  We may contact you again in relation to self-study but we will not share your details with any third parties.  A link to our privacy policy can be found here: https://www.iab.org.uk/privacy-notice-for-enquiries-about-studying-iab-qualifications/