Tips for moving from classroom to remote study

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As lockdown continues, many students, trainees, and apprentices are adjusting to studying at home rather than in the classroom, at college or in the workplace.

So what is the best way to study remotely, and how can you make the most of your time at home? We look at the options for examinations, and how to stay motivated when there is no specific exam date.

The current situation

  • All AAT assessments worldwide have been suspended since 22 March 2020
  • As soon as the current government restrictions are lifted, assessments will be made available as soon as possible
  • With the exception of two synoptic assessments (Level 3 and Level 4), all our assessments are available on-demand
  • There are currently no changes to the development and launch of AQ2021, our new accounting qualifications set to replace AQ2016 next year
  • All AAT events are cancelled until 30 June

Looking to the future

Until the government decides how and when the current restrictions will be lifted, AAT is not holding exams. Once the restrictions on educational institutions are lifted, AAT will talk to training providers about synoptic assessments. These changes will be published on the Results webpage and will also be advertised via SummingUp and AAT Weekly – our training provider and student e-newsletters. 

Where to find more information

AAT is aware that members need help and information, so we have increased our online offering to help AAT members and student members. This includes:  

Where to find updates

We will be publishing further updates in Summing Up for training providers and AAT Weekly for students. You can follow AAT on Twitter and on Facebook for updates.

How can I keep the motivation going?

One of the biggest challenges for students is not knowing the date of their exam. Having a specific date in mind helps to concentrate your studies and gives you a deadline to work towards. Without this, planning and studying can be more challenging. So what do the experts suggest in this uncertain time? Here are their top ten tips for remote study:

1. Be disciplined

“Take time to get accustomed to a different setting. Be disciplined about remote study,” says leading education and learning expert Murray Morrison, founder of Tassomai.

“That doesn’t mean working 10 hours per day – but it does mean putting together a routine and having certain red lines: these are the hours when I study; these are the times when I rest and play. Communicate your routine with others you live with so that they can support it, not disrupt it, and can help you stay accountable to it.”

2. Create your own deadlines

“To set deadlines, you need to break down your tasks to get from now to your exams, and then assign them dates,” says Chloe Burroughs, Graduate Ambassador for the Open University and author of The Return to Study Handbook. If you don’t know your new exam dates, plan for the earliest possible date and then push back your deadlines as more information becomes available.”

3. Break it down into chunks

Sometimes staring into a really big task can seem really overwhelming. When we can’t see past the enormity of it all, can start to feel unachievable, says Nathan McGurl, founder of revision aid The Study Buddy. But, there’s a simple trick to tackling any big project: look at it like a collection of smaller tasks. 

“The important thing is to use your time effectively, rather than equating time spent in front of your books as being time well spent,” he says. “A well thought through the plan can reduce levels of anxiety, giving students a clear sense of purpose. Not knowing where to start is one of the things that leads to feeling out of control and that can result in anxiety or simply giving up.”

4. Build in pace and timing

“Motivation is important – but also think about pace and timing,” says Murray Morrison. “If we think of those athletes preparing for the Tokyo Olympics, they will have had a cadence and a pace of training in the lead-up to the event. Now it’s postponed, they’re not going to carry on as they were, extending for a further 12 months.

They’ll reset, rethink, and pace themselves to the big event in 2021. Just so with exam preparation: plan for the future date and work backwards to set your milestones. If you’re a bit further away from the exam, now would be the time to recharge and to focus on some gentle consolidation of your foundational knowledge.”

5. Keep testing yourself

The more times you test your knowledge of a concept and retrieve it from your memory, the stronger the connection becomes,” says Chloe Burroughs. “So, although you may feel panicked to hear your exams are postponed, use your additional time to revise your concepts more often and you will recall more in your exams.”

“To boost your chances of achieving high grades, focus on active learning which requires participation,” she says. “This includes answering practice questions or past papers, testing your knowledge with flashcards or quizzes, or applying a concept to a real-life scenario.”

6. Don’t burn out

“You’re unlikely to be at your best if you go at it really hard now and burn out,” says Murray Morrison. “Put time into good solid study – retrieval practice and consolidation of notes, application of knowledge in exam practice, but don’t overdo it. If you have more time than you thought you would, rather than fill it with more intensive work, space it out a bit so you can focus also on health and relaxation. Not only will you be more mentally equipped for the coming months, but the work you do each day will be more solid if it is given time to percolate through your brain a bit.”

7. Boost your motivation

The two key problems of studying on your own are motivation and getting stuck,” says Chloe Burroughs. “Firstly, think about the small, everyday things you need to feel motivated and learn effectively – then make them happen. For example, a clean desk, great snacks, focus music, or the promise of your favourite TV show afterwards. Secondly, create a plan for what you’ll do if you get stuck and don’t understand something, which will help you push through rather than give up.”

8. Focus on quality study time

It’s easy to slip into a habit of procrastination but creating a structured timetable so you’re doing the same tasks at the same time every week is useful for maintaining focus says Kelly Burwood, Head of Student Support Services at the University of Law.

 “Once you know the specific task you are about to do, it’s important to dedicate uninterrupted focus to this. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method used to break work down into 25-minute intervals, separated by short breaks. Set a timer on your phone for 25 minutes and do your best to focus solely on your set task during the interval, not interrupting yourself. After each 25-minute burst, take a short break to grab a drink or have a walk around the house. Do four of these pomodoros then take a longer 20-30-minute break.”

9. Visualise success

“Think about the grades you want to achieve and then consider the student who could achieve those grades,” says Chloe Burroughs. “What habits could you implement to become that student? And what’s the easiest first step you can take to kick-off those habits? For example, the first step to more focused study sessions is to put your phone in another room.”

10. Take care of your health

Taking care of your mental and physical health is vitally important. Bearing in mind lockdown rules, getting some daylight and exercise is great for a change of scenery and to get your heart pumping. Even soaking up some spring sun in the garden for a few minutes can do wonders for your wellbeing, says Kelly Burwood.

Further reading:

Marianne Curphey is an award-winning financial writer and columnist, and author of the book How Money Works. She worked as City Editor at The Guardian, deputy editor of Guardian online, and has worked for The Times, Telegraph and BBC.

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