10 things to help you develop and recall your synoptic skills

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Synoptic assessments encourage you to combine elements of learning from different parts of your studies to demonstrate your understanding across topics.

In particular, they assess your ability to link elements from a number of units across a qualification. This mirrors how we apply knowledge in everyday life. Having deeper context for even straightforward questions sustains a network of associations that help retrieve information and apply it in different situations.

Accountants must be able to explain different accounting concepts and theories, as well as analyse the results of certain calculations – what they mean, how they will affect the client’s business, and what action the client should take as a result of these figures. In your AAT synoptic assessment, you may be asked to write about certain concepts and theories, explain the results of certain calculations, or analyse data in order to make a decision or recommendation.

10 things you can do to help develop and recall synoptic skills in your study

  1. Become familiar with the test specification for the synoptic test unit. The synoptic test specification is slightly different to a unit test specification, as it includes the specific learning outcomes from each unit that will be addressed, rather than just covering one unit.
  2. Synoptic assessment objectives cover more than one learning outcome across multiple units. To help prepare yourself for a synoptic assessment, make a note of which learning outcomes are included against each assessment objective. This will help focus your studies and think “synoptically”.
  3. Review the practice assessments and Sample Assessment and Mark Schemes (SAMS). The practice assessments will help you familiarise yourself with the assessment environment and question format.
  4. Stay focused on the question that has been asked – always go back to the original question and check that you’ve clearly addressed the question.
  5. There is a requirement to write extended responses in the synoptic assessment. Depending on what the task instructions are asking for, key command verbs are used to prompt you to respond in a certain way and require varying levels of detail. Command verbs are the words in your exam questions that tell you what the examiner is expecting you to do. They are normally the first word in each question. Check out the e-learning module on writing skills on the AAT Lifelong Learning Portal.
  6. Practicing your writing skills and responding to different command verbs will help you, even if you practice with everyday subjects. When you feel more confident, try limiting the time you allow yourself to write a response to practice writing under timed conditions.
  7. Look back at the units you’ve already taken. Refresh your knowledge, understanding, and skills across all contributing units of the synoptic.
  8. Read the latest Examiner’s Reports on the AAT Lifelong Learning Portal. The Examiner’s Reports review each of the assessment tasks, noting where students do well and where there are areas for improvement (see page 26 for more).
  9. You can find a wealth of study resources on the AAT Lifelong Learning Portal.
  10. Remember to stay calm and reflect on all you have learned.

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