Choose the best study method for success

There are lots of study methods available for AAT students, and it can be challenging to choose the right one for you. Not every study method is right for every learner. Let’s work out your ideal methods and make sure you succeed.


Study methods and skills series


In order to do this, you need to consider how you like to work and let your study skills choose the study method. Think Harry Potter – he didn’t choose his wand, the wand chose him. 

So, study skills, what are they?  Do I need to buy some, or can I use what I have at the moment?

What are study skills?

Study skills are a collection of approaches that individuals can apply to learning.

For example:

  • listening to lectures
  • reading
  • note taking
  • time management
  • collaboration with others
  • and self-regulation or self-discipline. 

They’re used in work-based training, online training and other situations where individuals want to develop new skills, like driving a car, learning a sport or to play a musical instrument.

You can’t buy study skills like groceries (online or in the supermarket), and it’s only recently started to become common to teach study skills.

Quite ironic if you think about it; you need to learn ‘stuff’ but don’t get any guidance on how you can learn it best. In the next two articles in this series, we’ll discuss effective study skills for different situations.

Study effectively

Being an effective learner means developing tools that you already have like reflecting on the past (good and bad), and action planning based on the information to hand. 

This doesn’t have to be within education. It could be remembering a key event in your life that you look back on with pride or fondness. For example, you may have used a range of research skills to plan out an elaborate holiday, making sure to stay on budget. 

Expected study hours for AAT

Next, you need to be aware of the guidance regarding expected study hours. In the table below, you’ll see the recommended hours for AAT’s current standards:

Qualification Total qualification time (hours)
Foundation Certificate in Accounting 340
Advanced Diploma in Accounting 520
Professional Diploma in Accounting 560

If you’re studying on a 30-week programme, then 340 hours for the foundation certificate works out at 11.3 study hours per week. That’s a lot of time, so you need to be sure that you’re studying in the way that you most feel comfortable with. 

If you’re thinking about distance learning because you don’t have the time to go to college, consider that you still have to find the 11.3 hours per week to study elsewhere.

It’s easy to see a large increase in hours as you move from Foundation to Advanced. Being aware of this at the start of your study programme can help you make longer term plans, where discussions with significant others in your life become more important. 

You should also be aware of the difference in difficulty between the levels.  Foundation Certificate is GCSE level, Advanced Diploma is equivalent to A levels and the Professional Diploma is the equivalent of first year university.

Trying to study a course faster than you can absorb the information leads to poor results, so give yourself time to succeed.

But what study methods are available to you? 

If you haven’t been in formal education for a few years, you may be expecting a classroom-based provision, where the teacher explains a lot, you make notes and at some point you answer questions. 

There are a wide range of tutor-focussed methods available, and individual providers vary:

  • Classroom-based, where you attend class once or twice a week (currently unavailable during the Covid-19 lockdown). You will still have to do a significant amount of homework.
  • Blended, a mix of reduced classroom hours and self-driven (see below for different self-driven study methods, however blended comes in many formats so check what the provider means).
  • Live video lectures with a tutor where you can ask questions online, however check how the tutor is going to give individual feedback.

Some providers will operate a roll-on-roll-off style of delivery that will have various start times throughout the year, so check if your local provider is running suitable courses at the times you want to attend.

The following methods are generally self-driven, although many come with various degrees of programme planning and access to tutor support:

  • Distance learning where you have access to videos, interactive questions which self-mark, and may or may not give feedback
  • Distance learning where you have access to videos and traditional learning materials with answers.
  • Traditional distance learning with textbooks and perhaps some other online materials.

To help you identify the best study method for you, click below to download our worksheet.

In summary

You may feel that one particular study method will never be enough for you, and you need the variety. That’s to be expected, many of us will use a combination of study methods during formal education, with some aspects working better than others.

When choosing your learning provider, you should ask the following questions:

  • Progress checks – How do you track your progress and what information do you get on how well you are doing? How do they help if you’re not succeeding?
  • It’s possible to track students on some courses and predict success and failure. What support is there if you’re not on track?
  • Who controls access to materials? Are all the materials available from the start of a course and throughout or is it released in stages?
  • Where will you sit exams? (once they’re available again after Covid-19) 
  • What are the exam pass rates with that provider?
  • Student success/speed of attaining qualifications. This is different to pass rates; a provider may have high pass rates because weaker students don’t even sit the exams or students are sitting only one exam per year. 

In the next article in this study methods and skills series, we’ll focus in on studying with the free AAT study timetable (available to download in the next article), and chunking your work to make it more manageable.

We finish up by looking at how to do your absolute best with distance learning and you can download the final AAT revision plans to really kick start your studies.

Read part 2 now: Study in chunks with AAT’s study timetable

Read more on perfecting your study efforts:

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..

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