My name is Emma and I am an AAT Apprentice with Accountancy Learning – here’s my story:
I have just completed my Level 3 Advanced Synoptic exam and have been working in accountancy for a little over a year now. I started my career straight from school, having completed A Levels with no previous accounting experience or knowledge.
Needless to say, I was terrified of this new unknown that I was venturing into. When I first started my learning as an AAT Apprentice, it felt like a new language, especially when you realise the bank statements you are used to are technically the wrong way around! During my A Levels I struggled with knowing what to research and learn at home, but thanks to the layout of the AAT course I found distance learning a breeze. The structure of the course, with unit tests, helped me track my progress and set goals for myself. Independent learning is a skill that came up at work – if I didn’t know the tax treatment of some schemes, my manager would ask me to do some research. Accountancy Learning provided me with an individual learning plan (that was tailored to me) which included target dates that I should be aiming for to complete each exam. All I had to do was go away and study – easier said than done right?
This is where my tutor support really guided me through my studies. I am someone who learns well from seeing examples and having a go myself. At first I was quite nervous about emailing my tutor, I had just left a strict classroom environment without really having conversations with teachers. After a while I realised the easiest way to solve a problem was to contact my tutor as soon as I became stuck with something rather than waiting (and interrupting my learning) until I could meet with them. For me, the tutor support was essential to my success in exams. If I didn’t ‘get’ something, it was explained in ways I could understand, and feedback on practice assessments assured me I was on the right track to achieving the exam. On occasion, being the curious person I am, I would ask questions outside the scope of the course, but my tutor gave me answers which helped me in my apprenticeship work.
As an apprentice, I gained valuable work experience that is now an essential requirement for many future employment opportunities. I got to work with specialists within their fields and experiment with the different avenues that an AAT qualification can take you. During my year working in finance as an apprentice, I have dabbled in personal tax, accounts preparation, VAT treatment, bookkeeping and even a bit of Auditing, with many more opportunities in the making. Whilst working as an apprentice, I gained ‘on the job training’ on aspects that I would otherwise still be clueless about, such as the internal processes of accountancy practice e.g. online filling systems and accounting software. But I also learned things that for some of you might be second nature e.g. how to write emails for different situations (for a manager or a client), how to draft letters for different requirements, how to take calls on reception and how to use various office contraptions for the first time that bind, copy, frank letters and much more.
- Always apply your learning. I remember when I was at school that teachers would go on and on about this. But it really works! I often asked for work to do within my current role – this shows the use of initiative to your employer and helps you to see how what you are learning applies to a “real world” scenario (no different to what exam questions try to do).
- Don’t be afraid to ask. Usually, problems can escalate if you don’t ask the question, be it in your studies or at work. Trust me I am talking from experience…
- Use tutor support. Unless you are an accounting whizz and breeze through (tell me your secret) don’t be afraid to ask questions. Tutors are on hand to support you and they will make sure your questions don’t go unanswered, so you can stress less and achieve your goals.
- Lastly, have a plan! Often I will “flesh out” my learning plan by identifying when I wanted to get each chapter done. This helped me plan around holidays or life events that would otherwise set me back. But also don’t freak out if today wasn’t your day, there is always tomorrow. I used the pomodoro study method for days I really didn’t want to study. If I just did a few minutes it was easy enough to think “well I might as well finish it”.
If you are thinking of starting AAT but don’t know where to start, I would look at the AAT Qualifications Navigator (and/or you can use the AAT Skillcheck). I started from ground zero, so foundation bookkeeping helped me learn the lingo, however, I am quite mathematically inclined so the full foundation accounting certificate wasn’t necessary for me. The qualification navigator will help you identify where your current accounting knowledge is.
Then reflect on how you best learn – are you like me and like the support of a tutor to guide you through your course and help you when you get stuck? Or are you more independent? The course advisers at Accountancy Learning will help you decide what style you would prefer.
Since the AAT is such a widely recognised qualification, you can work in practice for a firm of accountants or even work in the industry. Scenario-based exam questioning gives you some knowledge and experience of these situations, which help prepare you for what may occur at work. Many people look at accountancy for the progression opportunities available but many also look to bookkeeping as a career option as this can provide people with flexible working arrangements and the possibility of working from home.