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Why it’s important that you test yourself
Gareth John explains why it’s vital you routinely test your yourself on your syllabus knowledge. How else can you guage your progress?
Normally in my articles I deal with specific technical issues such as depreciation or time series analysis. I certainly hope that students find those articles useful in achieving their qualifications, but this month I wanted to look at something far more fundamental to that journey.
I was chatting to one of my level 2 students recently and asked them how they were getting on with their studies. “Great” they replied “I’m really enjoying the things I’ve learned over the past four months. And it’s helping me so much at work.”
“That’s excellent to hear” I continued “And how do you find the study material?”
“It’s really easy to follow and understand. And I love all the questions and mocks we are given to practise.”
“Awesome. I’m really pleased you find it all so useful. How many of the real assessments have you passed so far?”
“Assessments? Oh I haven’t sat any of the real assessments yet.”
I was lost for words.
I am finding this situation increasingly common. Students who dedicate hours a week to their studies, month in month out, students who learn the syllabus content and practise dozens of questions but who never get around to sitting a real assessment!
As far as I am concerned, all that precious time spent studying and practising is wasted if you never get around to sitting any assessments. It’s only by sitting assessments that you can possibly pass those assessments and it’s only by passing the assessments that you will eventually gain your qualification; a qualification that can change your life dramatically. And it all starts with sitting your first assessment.
I thought I would consider some of the reasons I hear for why students put off sitting that first assessment.
“I might fail”
I believe that the fear of failure is probably the biggest thing that prevents a lot of people from achieving what they truly want in their lives. Rather than giving something a go and perhaps falling short, a lot of people would prefer not to try something in the first place. But by avoiding the chance of failure I think they take an even bigger risk, the risk of ending up with a life that doesn’t fulfil them.
There is nothing important in my life that didn’t require me to risk, and often to actually experience, failure. My qualification, my career, my business, my wife, my family, my home. All required me to put myself in a position where I could fail but it’s only by risking failure that I was able to pursue success.
Failure can be an extremely positive thing. Failure is how you learn what you need to do to succeed, failure is the only way you will find out what you need to improve. Failure helps to focus your mind on what really matters to you and failure will help your eventual success taste all the sweeter!
And failure is rarely as bad as you think it’s going to be. If you do sit an assessment and fail it might cost you some money and a few weeks to do a resit but that’s got to be better than spending a year of your life studying for an exam you never sit.
I think that the only real failure in life is to not have a go in the first place.
“I haven’t sat an exam in a long time”
I can understand that when people have a break after school or college – perhaps a year, perhaps a decade – the prospect of sitting an exam again can be quite scary. They probably have dim memories of the stress and pressure they had doing exams as children.
But you have to remember that these exams are very different to exams you did back at school.
At school, we generally sat exams because we had to. There often wasn’t a lot of choice.
Now you are sitting AAT exams because you want to. You are sitting these exams because of the incredible career options the qualification will give you and the impact that will have on the lifestyle you can lead. Refusing to sit your first exam is stopping you making that vision into a reality.
Feeling a bit of stress and pressure is no bad thing, as it’s what will give you the incentive to do some work to prepare. But if you are feeling so much stress that you can’t bring yourself to sit the real thing you need to focus on how achieving the qualification can change your life.
Stress is, after all, something we do to ourselves.
“I’m not ready to sit the exam”
Nobody ever feels 100% ready to sit an exam. Everyone will feel that there is at least one part of the syllabus where they are weak. This can lead them to believe that they will flunk the whole thing.
You have to remember that to pass an assessment you don’t need to score 100%. Far from it. As long as you are competent with the basics you can achieve success even if you find some of the fiddlier parts of the paper tricky.
The AAT provides sample assessments that give a good feel for what you can expect in the real thing. First Intuition and other training providers also produce mock assessments that help to test whether you are ready. If you are passing those mock and sample assessments you should take confidence that you are ready for the real thing and sit it without further delay.
“I need to do more study”
This is related to the previous reason, with the student feeling that they are not ready to sit the exam and need to do more study. The danger with this is that the longer your studies drag on for the more likely you are to start forgetting more than you are learning.
I think that an ideal length of time from starting a new subject to sitting the exam would be eight to 12 weeks. Much longer than three months and I really think you start going backwards.
So, in conclusion, don’t let your fears dictate the direction of your life. Don’t delay, book your assessment today!
• Gareth John is a tutor/director with First Intuition and helps to manage their AAT distance learning programme. He was PQ Magazine Accountancy Lecturer of the Year in 2011
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