Home For AAT student members AQ 2013 AAT Level 4 (Level 8 in Scotland)
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How difficult is level 4? Honestly?

AATchickAATchick Feels At HomeKentRegistered Posts: 89
Hi all just in the process of finishing up AAT level 3 and my boss is adamant he wants me to do level 4. Can anyone tell me how they found it and honestly how hard it is?

I personally found level 2 a doddle, but level 3 quite clearly a step up. Ive failed one module so far (costs and revenues) which i am resitting in august but determined to pass this time.

Im currently 6 months pregnant and boss advised i take a year out from studying and go back. Now hes suggesting i work from home when im on mat leave (although dont know how legal this is... topic for a HR person another day perhaps??)

I am siding towards studying from home as ive found that i have learnt more from the books than i have at college, especially this year. And ive found these forums more helpful when asking questions.

The only thing that concerns me (besides my brain turning to mush when i have a baby!) Is the fact that my college confirm that level 4 takes 2 years with them to complete so im guessing itll take me this long if studying from home?

Anyway any advice about the difficulty of level 4 would be greatfully appreciated. I have been told level 2 is like taking a gcse, level 3 an a level so can imagine level 4 is like taking one of the hardest levels there is!! X


  • Jo ClarkJo Clark Font Of All Knowledge Registered Posts: 2,525
    Hello AATchick

    Level 4 is equivalent to the first year of a degree. Some students find it quite straightforward/easy, others less so. I personally found it a step up from level 3, however that said, the modules do follow on nicely.

    If you work hard you should be ok and as you have said, there are always people on the forum to help you!

    I'm not sure about the legal aspect of you studying whilst on maternity leave - surely you will want to be resting before baby comes along, and once baby arrives you won't have much spare time to start with...

    If you do decide to self study rather than going to college you need to be aware that you will have to find a training provider for ICAS. Also, you need to remember that the qualification is changing from September so depending where you are with level 3 and when you plan to start level 4 there may be a small change in the modules you study/optional modules you can select. A lot of colleges say level 4 is over 2 years, however it is possible to complete it in less time. I think 6-8 months is possible depending on time available, determination and other factors.

    Good luck with the baby and level 4.

    JC :o
    ~ An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest ~
    Benjamin Franklin
  • NpsNps Experienced Mentor Registered Posts: 782
    From someone who did AAT whilst heavily pregnant and afterwards with a newborn (and toddler).....

    The BPP books are a nice handy size for holding either whilst walking in circles trying to get a baby to sleep, or when they are curled up in your arms. Trust me, the size of the books (A5) makes a difference as they can be held in one hand. I did level 4 exams at 36,37 and 38 weeks pregnant,and I think I did my first one after the birth when she was a few weeks old (but she was my second so she just kind of slotted in to our lifestyle, plus I had a good reason for getting AAT finished as quickly as possible!) If it's your first baby, you won't even think about AAT for those first few months, nor should you!

    I suffered badly with baby brain (and PND) with my first, and I found that studying before and after my second made a huge difference, it kept my brain sharp. BUT, and this is a big but, I found AAT straightforward, I'm not sure I'd recommend it if you are likely to find it really difficult and the kind of person to get stressed over it. It's just not worth it if you have a lovely little baby to enjoy instead. If you get a napper, you may find you have a few hours every day to study, but neither of mine ever slept during the day, so don't assume you will.

    My advice would be to just buy your first book and read bits of it when you can. If you don't even pick it up till baby is 6 months old, so what. If you finish it within in a month, great. You may find you get far more time than you realise, or you may find that baby takes up every waking minute. Those first few months are so much fun, make sure AAT is just an after thought if you do decide to start level 4.

    Personally, I found studying helped me retain my own identity, but equally, I wouldn't blame anyone for taking a break from it with a new baby.

    As for difficulty level, yes much harder than level 3 but completely do-able.
  • AATchickAATchick Feels At Home KentRegistered Posts: 89
    Many many thanks for both of your well thought out posts, it's really given me some food for thought.

    I've spoken to a few of my family members and friends about it and whilst they are outraged about my boss asking me to study whilst on mat leave (their view is that it's there for a reason not to fob off work) I'm now considering buying the first book and seeing how I go. Baby could be very demanding but also could be very easy - I don't know yet and I think it'll be a matter of seeing how I go.

    Boss is determined to get me Level 4 qualified before he retires (he's 62) he's not in great shape health wise so I understand the need to get me sorted asap but I can't help thinking he's expecting too much of me perhaps, studying and caring for a newborn?? He's had 3 kids himself so you'd think he'd have a bit more sympathy perhaps especially as he originally suggested I take a year out.

    Although if I work from home instead of college maybe I could convince him that if I take a year out and do it in september 2014 I'm more likely to get it done in a year as opposed to 2 years studying in college so the timeframe would end up the same at the end ... plus if I have heard that the Level 4 syllabus is changing next year probably wouldn't be worth getting the books now as they'll be out of date...

    Boss is on holiday now for a month so can't speak to him about it again for a few weeks. But at least it'll give me time to make my mind up.

    Thank you x
  • NpsNps Experienced Mentor Registered Posts: 782
    I'm looking at this from a different perspective as my studies were never part of any employment, but I don't see AAT as being 'paid work', more as improving my own prospects for my own benefit. Your boss can't make you study as maternity leave is just that. The law will be completely on your side in this respect. However, I, personally, would want to try and continue studying for my benefit, no one else's. Ultimately, I doubt it makes very little difference to your boss one way or the other so I'm not sure why he's broached the subject, unless he is actually just trying to support/help you and it's been interpreted as pressure to continue. It sounds like he'd probably be mortified if he thought it had been interpreted as unfair pressure. It's also very reasonable of him to offer to continue to financially support your studies despite you not being at work.

    Another thing to consider, would you prefer to a) juggle level 4 and a baby, or b) level 4, a toddler and a job? I chose option a as I honestly felt I'd have more time whilst on maternity leave than afterwards.
  • James PattersonJames Patterson Trusted Regular Registered Posts: 281
    Hi AATchick,

    Surprisingly, i can't speak from experience in having to juggle the two.

    I think 2 years for Level 4 is too much, a year is enough to get it done; although when things come along i know people who come back to it after a couple of years.

    Maybe you can get your books (maybe just for the easier units), read them when you can to get a little headstart but not sit any exams.

    That way with self study and no college; you are studying, and will be better prepared to sit the exams when you're ready/the following year.

    I've nearly finished level 4 and it is a lot tougher than level 3 just by the amount of information you need to retain, just don't do too much :)

    Hope this helps
  • Sulew17Sulew17 Well-Known Registered Posts: 174
    I've never been lucky enough to be in your position but I have been studying AAT while caring for my mother - which, to be honest can be a lot like looking after a baby! Subject to the results of FNST & FNPF I have just finished Level 4 which is a big step up from Level 3 but is definitely doable. My thoughts are that if you feel up to it why not start reading up on the 'easier' modules while waiting for the baby and if you can do an hour or so a few times a week once the baby arrives. Obviously this would depend on whether you're lucky and the baby sleeps during the day and that you're in the right frame of mind. Don't stress yourself about it. You can do it in a year - our college and the other local colleges that teach AAT are all one year courses. Also , why not start thinking about the ICAS report? That's something that you could pick up when you've got a few minutes and just go back to whenever you've got time. My friend started level 4 last September, took October off to have her baby but did the project whilst she was on leave before having the baby! Also she had a toddler to take care of at the same time! Good luck and hope all goes well.
  • Kelly7Kelly7 Well-Known Registered Posts: 218
    Unfortunately I can't offer any advice on this topic as i have no experience here either but seeing the books being mentioned, does anyone have any idea when the books for the new style level 4 will be available?

    From googling aat level 4 costs I'm not sure my employer will pay for me to continue this year as it looks like it will cost around £2k going to college and I do feel I'd have to go to college rather than self study as I am not one who easily understands things and like that I can ask a teacher. I have thought even if they wont, maybe getting the books and taking a year out to read through these and saving some money to do the course at college the year after and getting a bit of head start from the books. Has anyone else took a year out and then went back?

    Maybe you could suggest to your boss that you are willing to prepare a bit by reading the books but don't want the added pressure of exams and deadlines while you have a baby and that you want to enjoy the time you have with them while you are not at work.

  • Jo ClarkJo Clark Font Of All Knowledge Registered Posts: 2,525
    The new books should be available from September, I know that is when the BPP books are due out.

    Kelly - Try to continue as I think you will do better whilst level 3 knowledge is still fresh. If you can't go to college there are lots of students here who self study who can help as well as those who have finished studying who will also be more than happy to help.

    Lets us know what happens re your level 4.

    JC :o
    ~ An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest ~
    Benjamin Franklin
  • Kelly7Kelly7 Well-Known Registered Posts: 218
    Aww thanks Jo. I emailed the college last week but no response yet. I keep hearing on the radio that they are enrolling from 19th Aug so if I don't hear anything from them before then then I'll go up and ask them before broaching the subject with my manager lol.

  • KarenBKarenB Just Joined Daventry,NothantsRegistered Posts: 3
    Hi AATChick

    Thought I would add my tuppence for what its worth. I completed Level 4 at start of the month and I used a combination of BPP classes and laterly BPP online classroom to study level 4. I actually found the online classrooms excellent as you can work through them at your own pace, it is just like sitting in the classroom, without the interaction, and they work through example questions as well and the tutors are very helpful. There is a step up from 3 to 4 but a lot of it is following through and expanding knowledge gained at Level 3. Personally I would avoid attempting ICAS prior to sitting any of the other modules as I feel the knowledge gained in FSNT, FNPF and Budgetting is needed to help you with the project - but that is IMO.

    Good luck with both the baby and your studies whatever you decide to do. All I can say (with 2 grown up daughters) is that you can never replace the "baby" years so enjoy them whatever you do.
  • AATchickAATchick Feels At Home KentRegistered Posts: 89
    Thanks everyone for your insights again, it's given me more food for thought :-)

    I've actually spoken very informally to our HR part time lady about the situation and she has confirmed that I wouldn't be able to study Level 4 whilst on maternity leave anyway unless I'm paid for it because it IS classed as "work related" studies and not personal. (i.e. anything the company would pay me to study has to be classed as work).

    I think the reason my boss mentioned it is because he's done his plan for the next few years leading up to retirement and is trying to jump ahead - he is the kind of person to speak before he thinks, in fact when I told him I was pregnant his first reaction/response was "oh, you might not have a job to come back to if we sort it out whilst you're on leave" - he quickly retracted the statement afterwards and said to ignore what he said then as he was thinking aloud (he does this a lot and changes his mind on things quite regularly).

    Saying all this though, apart from revising for my last exam last week (which I passed woohoo!) I AM starting to miss learning... I hope that doesn't sound too geeky! I'm having my baby's nursery decorated this week and am sorting out bits and pieces so that has kept me busy but I do wonder what I'll do with my time when it's all finished and I'm just waiting for baby? Then buying the books popped into my head but then I've read somewhere that the syllabus is changing next year? Therefore if I bought the books now would it be out of date?

    Obviously the baby would come first and only IF I had spare time I would read and learn the new material and I intend to enjoy the first few months/years as much as I can (I hope to go back to work part time after 6 months) so AAT would not be a priority BUT I can't help feeling positive if I did get n chance to study a little bit and keep my brain sharp!

    Anyway I'm just rattling on now but thanks to everyone for your thoughts and comments and sharing your experiences :-) x x x
  • AATchickAATchick Feels At Home KentRegistered Posts: 89
    Hi All,

    Well I need your help again guys if poss.... my boss has come back off holiday and told me again he wants me to start level 4 as soon as possible. I did remind him that he mentioned taking a year out and going back but his argument now is that it's going to be more difficult to get back into it after a year than if I start it in September. I also mentioned that there could be a HR issue as he wants me to study on maternity leave and he said because it's NOT directly work related (yes they want me to do it but it's for my personal benefit but I don't need it to do the job I'm currently doing) he doesn't think there would be any problem. I also mentioned that I read that the syllabus is changing next year and he said if that's the case it's probably too much to ask you to complete it by the end of this year...!

    I really need some advice as I do want to do it but I have a baby on the way (due 31st Oct) he's really pushing me to do it asap but if I get the books now they'll be out of date next year surely?

    Would love some opinions xx
  • NpsNps Experienced Mentor Registered Posts: 782
    I think you need to be quite firm with him and tell him politely to butt out! You'll be on maternity leave and that's the end of it. If YOU choose to do some studying then great, if they choose to finance it, then even better. If you choose to do absolutely nothing apart from baby things during your maternity leave then that is entirely your choice and the law will be absolutely on your side.

    Why is he taking such a personal interest in what you decide to do? I agree it's great that he's supportive of your studies but he does seem to be getting a little over involved.

    Of course it will be a little more difficult getting back into the swing of studying after a years break but people have far longer breaks than that and manage just fine. You might have to just refresh your memory by skimming through your level 3 books, but so what.

    You have a short time before baby comes (though you can't guarantee this of course, they may decide to surprise you early!) so if you really want to squeeze an exam in before the September syllabus change, why not look at one of the modules which is identical on both the old syllabus and the new one. You'd then be on the old syllabus till Dec 14, but the module you'd passed would directly transfer over to the new syllabus if you hadn't completed it by then (which realistically it sounds like you don't intend to have).

    Personally I'd only study whilst on maternity leave for personal reasons (ie to keep your brain active, or if you really needed to do level 4 ASAP for some reason). If you are in no particular rush then I wouldn't waste those lovely months with a newborn on studying.
  • Kelly7Kelly7 Well-Known Registered Posts: 218
    Just thought I'd come & reply on here as Jo said to let you know what happens re my level 4. I asked at work last week & they have agreed to pay my fees so I start back on 17th Sept. Scary lol. I know it's going to be tough but like that I will be qualified in a year if I can pass all the units. Dreading the report mostly.
    Thanks for the advice.
  • AATchickAATchick Feels At Home KentRegistered Posts: 89
    Hi All,

    I've written a similar post in another thread of mine about this, but I wanted to give an update on my work situation, long story short, boss agreed that I could take a year out and get back into AAT when I return next year.

    3 weeks to go until little one arrives, can't wait! Thanks for your advice and help everyone x x
  • send2aditisend2aditi Registered Posts: 4
    Hello, I know this is an old post. I am considering an AAT qualification and I don't have any accounting background (my hubby is a CA though). I have a 18 month old daughter who keeps me very busy. I have a Masters Degree in Economics and 33 years old.

    I am thinking from reading these posts that Level 1-3 should be fairly OK and Level 4 will be a step up, am I correct?

    Do you think it is achievable to do this with a little one? To all the ladies who did this while pregnant KUDOS to all of you!! You all a real inspiration to everyone :)

    Also do you prefer online/distance learning (preferred) or classroom (less preferred)? Is it possible to get a job while studying?
  • south59south59 Registered Posts: 22
    With your clear academic pedigree, you'd have no issues completing the entire syllabus.

    It isn't a difficult qualification.

    I prefer to study alone, at home. Everyone is different. I decided on the most cost effective method.

    Yes it's possible to study whilst working. Possible even if you work in an industry which is in no way connected to accountancy.
  • send2aditisend2aditi Registered Posts: 4
    Thanks :)

    Which provider you went with?
    south59 said:

    With your clear academic pedigree, you'd have no issues completing the entire syllabus.

    It isn't a difficult qualification.

    I prefer to study alone, at home. Everyone is different. I decided on the most cost effective method.

    Yes it's possible to study whilst working. Possible even if you work in an industry which is in no way connected to accountancy.

  • south59south59 Registered Posts: 22
    I used Kaplan. No complaints.
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