Whether you’ll be classroom-based (after lockdown), attending live-streamed lectures, or using a blend of study methods, we’ve got advice from the experts on how to make the absolute most of it.
Study methods and skills series
- Part 1 – Choose the best study method for success
- Part 2 – Study in chunks with AAT’s study timetable
- Part 3 – Revise smarter not harder with the AAT revision plans
If you haven’t been in formal education for a few years you may be expecting things to go a certain way. Maybe the teacher explains a topic, you make notes and, at some point, you answer questions.
To really get the most out of your classroom learning though, there are a few key things you can do to take things to the next level.
Be open to constructive feedback
If you’ve chosen tutor-based learning, then the most important resource you’ve got is the tutor. And one of the big drivers in quality education is feedback.
If you currently study AAT via distance learning, skip to part 3 of this series here.
It’s not surprising that if the tutor gives constructive feedback, you perform better in the long run. Feedback should include how to improve, not just what you did wrong, and should be followed up with additional support via supplementary questions and discussion.
It’s important therefore that you’re receptive to getting feedback in the first place.
Evidence shows that if you sit an assessment and are given a score alongside a constructive comment, you’re most likely to ignore the comment and focus on the score. Even worse, you may go on to compare scores to the rest of your group, to justify where you sit in the spectrum of responses.
The study skill you need here is to focus on the feedback and follow instructions to improve. Don’t get complacent if you got the question mainly right, or don’t have the lowest score in the group.
Feedback with blended learning
When following blended learning programmes, which combine online learning and face-to-face interaction, it’s often the case that the process is flipped. You follow the online programme and, when you have a classroom session, the tutor is not teaching a new topic, but is reinforcing learning and focussing on weaknesses or difficult errors.
Again, they should give you personal feedback on where you’re doing well and where you’ve struggled. Focus on the feedback that enables you to improve, as well as soaking up any praise.
Train your attention span
When the tutor is imparting knowledge, perhaps through a short talk or through group feedback, are you listening, or checking your phone?
Often when a student asks a question, the rest of the class switches off. But the tutor wants to feed back to the whole group, so it’s important that you continue to listen, and make notes. After all, they may cover something that you were confused by too.
This is particularly essential when you’re attending an online lecture as you’re more likely to be distracted. However, one of the advantages of online sessions is that you can usually listen to it all over again the next day (if you want to!).
Engage and ask questions
Whichever way you’re accessing contact with the tutor, do ask questions.
Some students are more comfortable asking questions online, from the safety of their home desk, than in a classroom, but the main advantage of having a tutor present (in whatever form) is that you can actively ask questions and gain personalised answers.
You may want to have two notebooks to keep track of everything:
- one for writing down explanations from tutors, learning points and theory, copying examples from the board or from the screen. This way, you start to compile your own textbook.
- and one notebook for practice examples and active working out.
Working it out yourself
One of the required skills for accountants is to be able to sort information out and use that which is relevant.
As part of your lesson, you’ll have to complete questions and tasks.
It’s essential therefore that you don’t expect the tutor to spoon-feed you the numbers you need for the calculation, but that you take the time to puzzle out the problem yourself.
Actively engaging with the work like this will also help you to focus in class.
Studying with others
Another study skill is working with others, or collaboration, which is important in a classroom and more importantly, the workplace.
This is potentially challenging when online, depending on how the session is managed, and the flexibility of the software. But strive to log some time working with others, even if it’s over Skype or Zoom, to get into the habit.
Some software does allow students to talk directly to each other, away from the ‘main room’. So, if available, puzzle out the problems in pairs or groups over Zoom – but don’t fall into the trap of passively allowing the clever student to tell you what to do! If you’re the clever student, ask the others questions to actively draw them out.
Developing your writing skills
Written questions are always the bane of the accountancy student’s life.
The reality is, when you’re working you’ll have to communicate with clients and managers in writing quite a lot. Develop your self-discipline and get practising your writing skills – because practise here is just as important and effective as practising numerical calculations.
If you’re learning via live-streamed lectures, find out how the tutor is going to give individual feedback, and make sure to seek it out. Guidance on honing your writing skills will serve you well in the long-run.
Your AAT study timetable
We’ve reviewed some key tips to make the most of your classroom or tutor based learning above. But one key tool to help you really tackle your studies is the AAT study timetable.
Schedule out your days to factor in when you’ll be in classes or self-studying, but also when you’ll be at other commitments like work. Your tutor’s plan of study will tell you what you need to study each week, but you are in charge of when.
A well-planned schedule is one of the keys to successful study. It’ll enable you to space out the required number of study hours per unit, factoring in ‘down time’ for your brain to relax and unwind.
Read the next article in this series now to download your free AAT unit and overall revision plans, which work well with the AAT study timetable to help you take charge of your overall studies.
In the first article in this series, Choose the best study method for success, we advised you to combine classroom-based learning with self-study or homework in order to get your full learning hours in.
Remember that at Foundation Level, over a 30-week programme, you need to study for more than 11 hours per week.
The next article will focus on study skills for home study which all students need to engage in, but is particularly important for those who choose non-tutor based programmes of study. You’ll be able to download the AAT unit and overall revision plans in our final article, which bring everything together.
Read more on study methods that work:
- How to manage your time when you work and study
- Distance learning: Study in the real world
- Study hacks to help you slay your final assessment
Cath & Ralph Littler are contributing authors for AAT Comment. Cath Littler is an accountancy learning specialist who works with AAT and Mindful Education. Ralph Littler MEd lecturers for the University of Bedfordshire and is a teacher coach for the Chartered College of Teaching..