How to prepare for your synoptic

Here’s what you need to know about preparing for your synoptic assessment and what to expect…

Taking your synoptic assessments is an important part of your studies. Even though assessment centres may be operating in a slightly different way to how they normally would, you should be assured that you will be kept safe before, during and after your assessment. 

In order to adhere to social distancing guidelines, assessment schedules will be limited to ensure the correct distance is kept between each computer. It is advisable to book your assessment as soon as possible to secure your spot. 

Tracey Mosley, chief executive at EMA Training, says there are many students waiting to sit their assessments, so you may experience a delay in booking yours.  

Getting motivated to study again 

Nick Craggs, AAT distance learning director at First Intuition, says lockdown has been a testing time for students, as many have been trying to study at home while working, managing homeschooling, and dealing with other pressures. “It helps to remember why you are studying, and the real-world benefits you will get from passing your exams,” he says. “That might be career progression, a change of role, or working for yourself.” 

Nick recommends using the AAT learning materials to help, including the timed mock exams, and perhaps asking fellow students to mark your work, so that you have a more independent result than if you were to mark the paper yourself. You can also find support in the AAT forums, on Facebook, and with colleagues or other students. This will give you moral and mental support as well as technical help. 

“Students have a lot of external pressures to cope with – money worries, being furloughed, trying to fit in study with family commitments, and if progress is not as great as usual, try not to get too worried,” Nick explains. “You are still progressing in your career and you are trying your best. If you have not achieved what you have planned over the last year, try not to put undue pressure on yourself. You can only do your best.” 

Preparing independently for your assessment 

Simon Bell, director and founder of Careermap, says it can feel overwhelming preparing for your exams independently without any time in the classroom. However, he suggests that creating a structured home learning plan is key to succeeding. 

“Don’t leave it to the last minute to cram in all of your revision,” Simon explains. “It can be a challenge to get into a study mindset when learning from home – try to keep to a routine as best as you can. When revising on your own, it is easy to get distracted and lose concentration, which is why it’s important to create a timetable and stick to it. At the start of each revision session, write a list of everything you would like to cover and tick it off as you go along. Make sure you are realistic with your time.” 

Simon also advises students to schedule in time for breaks and exercise in order to avoid burnout. “Make a plan and stick at it,” he says. “Prioritise your topics – think about which areas you’re a whizz at and areas you’re not as confident about. If you are struggling, speak out and ask for help. Whether you need support from your tutor, lecturer or a friend and family member to lend a listening ear, remind yourself that people want to help and support you.”   

Taking a socially-distanced assessment 

James King sat his Management Accounting Costing Level 3 assessment earlier this year in Milton Keynes. He says staff at the assessment centre explained the procedures when he arrived, and it gave him confidence as they were taking it very seriously. “I had my temperature taken when I arrived – and before we could enter the building, we had to sanitise our hands,” he explains. “You had to wear a mask at all times in the building. In the exam room, the computers were spread out and had dividers.” 

A clear process to follow

Paulina Durak started her journey with AAT during lockdown and is currently studying Level 2. She sat her first two assessments, Bookkeeping Transactions and Bookkeeping Controls, earlier this year in Welwyn Garden City. 

Paulina says she felt confident before entering the assessment centre as she had received some information, rules and guidance at the time of booking. “It gave me a basic understanding of what to expect when I arrived and the rules that everyone was supposed to follow,” she explains. “There was social distancing (from the very beginning in reception, through my exam, to leaving the centre at the end). And everyone had to wear a face mask. Computer equipment was cleaned after each student and every other seat was empty.” 

Paulina’s advice: “Speak to your exam centre and ask for clear procedures. Try to point out what is important to you and your safety during an exam. Getting some knowledge will save you any added and unnecessary stress after arriving for your exam.” 

James’ advice: “Do a practice exam wearing a face mask for the whole time. It sounds silly, but I hadn’t been out much or worn a mask for more than 20 minutes prior to my exam, so I didn’t want the first long period of wearing it to be during the exam. You don’t want to be getting used to it and not concentrating on the exam and fiddling around with it or focusing on it being uncomfortable.” 

Synoptic top tips 

Synoptic assessments allow AAT to check that students have a good all-round knowledge and understanding of accounting. This means not only having a good grasp of the numbers, but also being able to explain what the numbers mean, what makes up the numbers and the impact that the numbers may have on a business in a real-life situation. Passing your synoptic assessment is a great way to enhance your career progression, move towards working for yourself, or to change your job role. 

Before you book

  • Complete all the mandatory units before you book your synoptic exam. If you are studying with a training provider, ensure you complete all the coursework provided. 
  • Take note of the feedback given to you from your tutor. The tutors are there to support you and to give you constructive feedback. 
  • Make use of the many resources available – AAT has valuable resources that will help you prepare for your synoptic assessment. 
  • Be consistent with your studies when preparing. Studying little and often is better than studying for long periods every so often. 

During your assessment

  • Read the question and understand it fully before you begin your answer. Don’t assume you know what the examiner is expecting. 
  • Plan the time you will spend on each task. Try not to spend too much time on low-marked questions, as you will run out of time and this can impact on your result. 
  • Make sure your answers are structured and the examiner can follow what you are saying. 

Further reading:

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