Self study and lockdown: What it was like to take a socially distanced assessment

AAT self-studier, Sarah Marks, tells us about her experience of learning in lockdown and socially distanced assessments.

Where are you now with your AAT studies and what has your journey been like so far? 

I’m 33 now but I didn’t do very well in school, particularly in maths. I decided to resit maths and finally passed and I ended up really enjoying it. My husband suggested that I take a short bookkeeping course so I did AAT Level 1 Bookkeeping over seven weeks and then Level 1 Accounting Software. 

I really liked those courses so I began AAT Level 2 Foundation online just as lockdown started this year. I’m looking to progress to Level 3 but I’m not sure of the career path I want to choose yet. I’ve been a stay at home mum for six years and I’ve had a couple of offers of employment already but they haven’t worked around school hours. I want to get as many letters at the end of my name as I can and maybe run my own practice one day or work my way up in a company. 

How have you found self-studying during the pandemic? 

As I’m doing it all online, Covid-19 hasn’t really held me back in my learning. I was always going to take the online route as my husband works full-time and I have two young children. It’s great that I can be totally flexible when I study and grab an hour here or there if the boys are playing nicely together or watching a movie. 

What challenges have you faced? 

I’m quite an anxious person and my worry shot through the roof with the pandemic. My youngest has a heart condition so he’s in the vulnerable category. Studying was a welcome distraction at times. I had to get on with something so I’d just find a quiet space in the house and crack on. Some of the units are short and might just take a day but some can take a week for you to to get a proper understanding.

Have you taken any assessments? 

I’ve sat three of the five Level 2 exams so far and booked them for when I was lucky enough to have a bit of childcare in place. I’m looking to get the rest booked in the next two to three weeks so I should have the qualification by October. It’s so close I can almost smell it!

How did you feel about taking socially distanced assessments? 

I was freaking out at first especially because my son is in the vulnerable category so I really need my space respected. I get nervous with exams and don’t normally cope that well anyway but the assessment centre was so good at helping to settle my nerves.  

How did you find an assessment venue and book your assessments? 

I went on to the AAT website to find an assessment venue. Quite a few are closed at the moment or only serving their own students and as I’m learning online I don’t have a designated centre. I found Pittman’s in Leeds city centre and paid online for the exam and just showed up on the day. I haven’t had any complications.

How helpful was the venue with regards to taking your exams while social distancing? 

They gave me all the directions on email before I arrived and I was guided through the whole process when I got there. You wait in reception for someone to collect you and they respect social distancing at all times. The rooms are divided with screens and there’s no one near you. You need to keep your mask on if there are other people in the room. The assessment centre was very calm about the whole thing which made me feel welcome, safe and settled. 

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Sophie Cross is a freelance writer and marketer specialising in business and travel. She is the editor for London Revealed magazine and her clients include lastminute.com Group and Merlin Entertainments.

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