Welcome to my blog. It’s been something I’ve wanted to dabble in for quite a while now and I’ve finally found the courage to just start writing.
Today’s topic I wanted to write about was my experiences of completing AAT and the jump in difficulty when beginning ACCA. The reason why I wanted to go into this was because there doesn’t seem to be much out there in terms of people’s experiences other than the standard ones from the established tuition providers so I thought I’d write my thoughts down.
As you can see from my About Me post, I completed the City and Guilds Level 2 in Bookkeeping and Accounts on a 12 week course before beginning my level 3 in AAT – both at my local college. I found that before studying accounting, I was fairly good at Maths and although double entry bookkeeping initially baffled me, once it caught on, I found both level 2 and 3 pretty straight forward.
I initially started my level 4 distance learning and then quickly worked out that it wasn’t the learning style for me so I took a year out before returning to college to complete level 4. I did find level 4 more difficult in terms of learning about cash flow forecasts and the nitty gritty bits of budgeting and working out variances and what caused them but I found it was a reasonable step up in difficulty. Others in my class found the internal systems and control project hard – I don’t think this is on the syllabus now as it’s been replaced by the synoptic but I found that as I had a topic I really had interest in at work to base it on and experience in project and dissertation writing that it wasn’t as daunting as I initially expected. Overall, I found that I was doing around 10 hours extra study a week during term time which I thought was reasonable.
I did enjoy my learning with AAT and naturally I found myself looking to the next step – I originally planned on staying in industry and completing CIMA but I ended up going into practice and my new employer preferred me to take ACCA. Don’t forget that ACCA at the Applied Skills level is the equivalent of a Bachelor’s Degree and the Professional Strategic level the equivalent of a Masters Degree. It is difficult and you need to mentally prepare for it.
When I started ACCA, my previous college tutors had set up their own accountancy school so I did all my applied skills tuition with them. Due to their schedule, they began teaching Financial Management (FM F9) as the first unit when I started. I will tell you now that it was a massive push into the deep end. Not to scare anyone, but I found FM incredibly difficult, complex and almost overwhelming with the sheer knowledge you need to remember for the exam. It was such a step up that I doubted if this was the right choice for me. Yet, somehow, I managed to pass first time so I guess how you learn and revise is a key factor in how successful you will be.
I would fully recommend doing the units in the order that they were intended with ACCA rather than starting with one of the most difficult. I ended up doing Corporate and Business Law (LW F4) after this unit and it is the perfect unit to guide you into ACCA if you have already completed AAT and have the exemptions for the Applied Knowledge level. As I previously completed a Politics degree, I found this unit quite interesting as it goes into some detail on how laws were created in the UK and how the system has evolved to where it is today. It is more of a wordy unit in that there are no formulas or calculations to remember but there may be some key dates and from memory, the exam is on demand CBE so you get the results straight away as the exam is multiple choice.
The most difficult exam I’ve encountered within Applied Skills is without a doubt Audit and Assurance (AA F8). I have no audit experience and I’ve found this unit particularly wordy and difficult to absorb the processes as I feel like unlike with the other units, I don’t have a point of reference to help the information sink in. If you haven’t taken external audit as an optional choice with AAT, then I think you may be in the same boat if you’re not actively working in an audit department but I have faith that I’ll get the pass eventually.
In terms of extra study, I found myself trying to do at least 10 hours a week. I found that studying ACCA was a lot more difficult than AAT, partly because I found myself in a more technical job which I was also learning the ropes for. Even though the in person classes were half of AAT (3 hours vs 6 hours), they were pretty intense with how much material we needed to fit in. The intense classes along with the more mentally demanding job, can be overwhelming. From speaking to others in the same boat, this is pretty normal but I suppose studying to become chartered ends up being a character tests of sorts – can you hack it?
So to summarise, ACCA for me, has been a massive step up technically which ironically is how I felt going from college doing my A Levels to university and studying for my degree. I would definitely do the units in order – ease yourself in with LW and don’t give up. You are going to have set backs. The pass rates for ACCA Applied Skills exams were between 39-51% (excluding LW at 86%) in the December 2020 sitting – the chances are that you aren’t going to fly through ACCA without one exam fail. It’s normal. It’s disappointing when it happens but you just need to pick yourself back up and remind yourself why you want to do this. Keep focused on your end goal.
Until my next post..