Self Study...?

NeilH Registered Posts: 553 Epic contributor 🐘
edited October 2014 in General discussion

I’m thinking of studying for the Certificate in Tax and Ethics – didn’t do the tax options at level 4 and having done CIMA, by formal tax study is minimal.

I want to do home study, but want to keep costs to a minimum, what are peoples experiences of self-study – just by the texts, book the assessment when ready? I’m particularly interested in what people put on their AAT registration form for their study centre, I’m no longer a member of the AAT so have to re-register.



  • ariadne
    ariadne Registered Posts: 218
    Find out which exam centre you are likely to use (based on location, price and availability - if you need weekend dates you may be more limited) and register that provider, usually a distance provider, on your form. You can change your 'provider' if you book a different venue I understand, I didn't do this myself but have seen others have done so.
  • ajleighto
    ajleighto Registered Posts: 8
    edited November 2014
    Well firstly can I clarify here that I've done years of online self-study (not textbooks)
    so what I say here applies purely to online learning (webpages & files & online tests)

    online self study is not for everyone. It may be right for you if:
    You need study to work around you because your life is hectic
    You need a way of studying at home because regular trips are difficult to fit in
    You need study outside of classes because you have varied work shifts
    You need study at home because you have no study support at work/can't reach classes
    You are self-motivated and can work around distractions
    You enjoy working alone/with only emails/occasional yearly visits to see tutor(s)/phone
    You enjoy working late at night when you study at your best/early morning/weekends
    You are a very determined person who can cope with unexpected website down-time

    online self study may not be right for you if:
    If you work best in teams, like face-to-face interactions, learn best verbally
    If you have a dislike for computer-based learning, i.e. you prefer classroom to screen
    If you have a permanent/direct work contract with full study support and study leave-this may strongly support you doing classes and give you extra time for study in which case it may make far more sense to take advantage of this support by doing classes, having the contact time to interact with other students and regular contact with tutors

    online self study will not tend to provide you with face-to-face meetings with students.
    You might get to see certain key tutors, e.g. for your level 4 project you will have the chance to meet your tutor at least once, maybe even more depending. The first meeting can be in person or a booked phone call (they ring you at the arranged time). There is often a chance for a guidance meeting (this is what I had-I travelled to see him for guidance on how I was progressing).

    My experience of online self-study:
    Level 3 (I didn't do Level 2, I did SAGE Level 1 & 2 in evening classrooms in 2007-because I had a permanent job and this fitted in OK - then I became redundant and had to start temping. I wanted to study AAT so I did the AAT self-assessment skillscheck in 2009, my result was very high and the computer recommended I apply for Level 3. Then I applied with one tutor face-to-face while I was working as a temp for a college in Oxford. She approved my self-assessment score and signed to approve a Level 3 application, but because I needed financial support at this time which the college couldn't provide, I decided on online self-study at this stage instead, because:
    my life was hectic - I was in and out of jobs (still am)
    my homelife at the time was very hectic and very unpredictable
    online would slightly reduce travel costs to get to classes and hopefully other costs

    What happened: I used my previous approval gained from one tutor in one college (in which the job didn't last long- 2 weeks), I phoned up and sent approval and my skills check result to Eastleigh College near Southampton by email, also applying via jobseekers benefit.
    I got in, and the whole of my Level 3 AAT was paid via college (except for exam fees and registration package, which was around £250 or so) by sending jobseeker forms to prove I was on the benefits. I started the Level 3 AAT in 2010 and finished it in 2012.
    I had a very chaotic life during 2010 and 2011 and it took the best part of these 2 years to juggle other things (including a year's self-help discussion & mentoring-based Christian course I took on at the time) and get my head around the online study method.
    Once finally grounded in the routine (when you start you need to get into a routine to familiarise yourself with getting along and studying for your first exam(s) etc.). I then had to re-revise my first unit in Level 3, Accounts Preparation 1 (the second longest ever for me, second only to the Level 4 project), then I did a huge push, studying hard, got back on track, proved to my tutor that I was really in this course, studied and tackled the bulk of Level 3 between August 2011 and June 2012.

    I had to pay for Level 4 myself which was a very difficult decision (which was why it took me a year to decide) but God helped me to decide and to help me get through the course. It costs around £1000 and can be paid in instalments (I paid £1052). This course was completed between:
    May 2013 and October 2014. I paid for it in May 2013, September 2013 and Jan 2014.
    I sat the Level 4 exams Statements & Budgeting in December 2013, then the
    ICAS project between January 2014 and August 2014 (another story-God helped me)
    Performance plus option 1 personal tax in July 2014, followed by one last exam:
    option 2 business tax in October 2014

    Let me clarify that your ICAS project is, under normal circumstances, always a maximum of 4 months only. Projects normally open only in January or September and close 4 months later.

    Key exams: all exams are centre based with at least three exceptions:
    Level 2 IT/health and safety check (if you don't do Level 2 you have to do it start Level 3)
    Level 3 spreadsheets software are "project-based" either in the centre or at workplace
    (for me and for most people likewise, you are advised to do centre-based project. If workplace, you will get accreditation via the workplace- but I did centre based project)
    Level 4 ICAS project which only run during 2014 in January or in September which is either college based or workplace based - if your work is not relevant to Finance environment the AAT and your college will always advise you to choose college based. If your work is relevant to finance and you can approach your work manager then you have the option of doing workplace based (I did workplace based and achieved it).

    All my exams were sat in Eastleigh College, Southampton, which from Oxford is about 75 miles!! I had to go in about 10 times or so in total, which is a lot but sometimes you can combine exams. The ones I did were a morning plus an afternoon. I recommend doing two exams in one visit in this way if you live a long way from your Centre. In theory, you can apply to a local college to sit all your exams and not travel so far, I tried this during 2011 when I was doing Level 3 but found that the colleges I contacted only had enough room for their own as computer based assessments need set spaces available for each student, this may have changed, given this is now nearly 2015 so..

    Check your circumstances, the key to online is you have to be extremely persistent as you will possibly deal with a lot of unexpected website or internet downtimes and as you may want to study over the summer, obviously a lot of key tutors may not be available until September and some of the courses Level 4 ICAS project and Level 3 spreadsheets software will not run over the summer (even the phone line and internet being down and having to go to library to do all your study (I had to do this during an extremely pressurised time - exam looming - and managed!)

    It is very important if you've finished your last exam/project to consider an immediate application for AAT full-time membership, mostly because your ideas and professional development are freshest and your references are most recent, unless you have no relevant workbased experience in any capacity in which case I cannot advise you on this.

    It's worth getting hold of offers for spreadsheet packages/similar through student status-your tutor may approve this. I did this in 2012 through a tutor while studying.

    I would like to offer any advice I can on online self study and centre exams so please ask.
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