No confidence to take Level 4

Since the new Synoptic exam came into place I have absolutely no confidence to even start level 4.

I took level 3 under AQ2013 and found it VERY challenging. I gave up a few times and then went back to it and then scrapped through by the skin of my teeth, taking my final exam in December 2017 just before the deadline for AQ2013 to close.

I always wanted to go onto level 4 and then onto either ACCA or CIMA, but I feel like with the new synoptic exam in place there is no chance I would be able to achieve it.

I really don't want to stop studying but I also don't want to pay for the level 4 and be unable to achieve it (I get no help with funding from my employer towards studying and I am still paying off the debt from my level 3)

I feel like i'm stuck in a rut and don't know where to go from here.


  • CSan89CSan89 WiltshireRegistered Posts: 160
    You can get a student loan for level 4. Not sure if that helps at all.

    I personally would say go for it. You will have 5 exams before the level 4 synoptic, which will give you the knowledge (and confidence) to tackle the synoptic.

  • leesajohnsonleesajohnson LondonRegistered Posts: 3
    First, develop confidence in yourself and do hard work for level 4.
  • pet3rcpet3rc Registered Posts: 2
    Do you have to pay for the exam? If yes, then is the exam expensive?
  • CSan89CSan89 WiltshireRegistered Posts: 160
    I did my AAT level 4 with Wiltshire college and the student loan covered everything except the books. Also it didn't cover resits but they only charged what AAT charges them, (which was around £50 when I did it in 2017)
  • amurrayamurray Feels At Home Registered, AATQB Posts: 137
    I would say continue your AAT journey, you are already so far on your way having completed Level 3.

    As one of the other comments mentioned you have 5 other exams (including the 2 optional units) to complete in Level 4 and you could leave the Synoptic to last if you preferred. I know that my college suggested sitting the Synoptic exam after the 3 mandatory units. But by allowing yourself further time you will hopefully feel prepared and confident to sit it.

    I wont lie the Level 4 Synoptic exam is horrible, I have to resit this one - however there are so many resources available through the AAT and through the various training providers. Finding the right support will bring you confidence and get you through to complete your AAT.

    I am not sure on student loans but I know there are quite a few options available. Also alot of training providers offer payment plans.
    AATQB - (Nearly completed Level 4).
  • stitchstitch Registered Posts: 4
    Hi Rachel, I would give you the opposite advice. For context, I am just finishing level 4 with one of my optional units outstanding. I passed all exams first time, and have full membership accepted pending my last exam. I attended evening class at college, costs have been met by employer, so I have had plenty of support, and no financial worries.

    But the extent of the personal cost to myself has been unnecessary and disproportionate. I cannot convey how two of the exams, the Synoptic, and Decision and Control are nightmarishly impossible to prepare for. Not in a ‘technical, level of difficulty way’ that would be possible, with hard work, to conquer. But in an airy fairy, bottomless pit kind of way. Its almost as if the exams have been written in a foreign language and translated really poorly. And the AAT have taken a ‘like it or lump it’ approach. They seem to have set out to improve standards, great, but instead of increasing the actual level of difficulty, just thrown everything up in the air to see how it lands – and used it just like that. Instead of using complicated concepts, they have just used a complicated approach – not the same thing.

    I only ever intended to do AAT, without going further, and I am very proud to be completing what I hope is still a respected qualification. But I also resent the AAT for making me feel at times that I was slaving for an unpredictable, irrational, despotic toddler, draining me of excessive time and unreasonable stress from which there is nothing I can take to make me a better accountant. Its not your confidence Rachel. Its not you at all. It’s battle scars.

    If you intend to go further, can you start ACCA/CIMA now? One of my colleagues has just completed Level 3, and is switching now to ACCA, and so he will never know the current horror of Level 4, as will no one who completed everything under the 2013 standards. Innocence is bliss, and I am green with envy. And that could be you. All things considered, my advice would be to go further, but not with the AAT in its current lifeform.
  • VS1VS1 Registered Posts: 15
    I agree with @stitch, For the amount of stress, time and effort, the outcome of AAT is not as recognised as ACCA or CIMA when applying for good jobs. The level of difficulty does not do justice to the worth of the qualification in the job market.

    I haven't taken the Synoptic exam yet but speaking for Decision and Control only has been one of my worst experience with exams, never have I failed an exam except this one before, and this is coming from someone who has done a university degree already. The actual studying for the exam was not difficult at all but the exams itself totally made me feel all that studying was for nothing. However, after resitting the new version of the exam, I have noticed a vast improvement, so for students taking the latest exams, there is still good chances of passing first time.... who knows

    However the final decision lies with you, as not only will you have to finance the book but exams bookings are expensive too (the rates have increased for me to £94 in London so not sure if your location offers cheaper rates).

    After completing Level 4 which is 6 exams, you are exempt from 3 exams for ACCA and you have to pay the additional exam fee of £228, so you have to see if it's worth it.

  • CSan89CSan89 WiltshireRegistered Posts: 160
    I have to disagree with @stitch, correct there will be stress, time and effort that needs to be put in, but it is at an equivalent level to the first year of a degree.

    I did my level 4 in the first year so was definitely a guinea pig for the exams. They have looked at the MDCL exam after poor results and have made alterations to it. People that took the old exam got an uplift of upto 10%.

    The synoptic exam is a tricky exam (passed on the 2nd attempt) but it is not unpassable. There was a lot of anger about the exam, especially for the first year due the lack of information on it. Also it combines 4 areas into one exam. (I would recommend reading the external auditing book as this helped with the synoptic)

    I think a lot of people were annoyed as before it used to be a project which wasn't time pressured.
  • CheesypeesyCheesypeesy MAAT Posts: 60
    Agreed @CSan89 , level 4 is not supposed to be easy. I also don't agree with the idea of starting CIMA/ACCA when one is not confident with passing AAT. I'm doing CIMA now and it's no joke! The exams are a bit more straightforward but there is so much content to learn.

    And if one were to skip level 4 you would be missing out on becoming an MAAT, which can really help your career prospects. You'd have to wait till the end of CIMA/ACCA, which takes years!
    Matthew Dearlove MAAT
    Studying CIMA Operational Level. E1 and F1 passed, studying P1.
  • CSan89CSan89 WiltshireRegistered Posts: 160
    @Cheesypeesy, agree with the starting of CIMA,ACCA etc. I am currently doing Financial accounting and reporting on ACA and the step up on the amount of knowledge needed is a eye opener. Also the time pressure on the exams seems to be higher too.
  • absco14absco14 Registered Posts: 31
    Hi @Rachel6xxx

    I have been in a similar position to yourself. I took level 2 and 3 on a night time whilst working full time and also had to fund this myself as my employers wouldn't.
    And unlike alot of people i've spoken to i felt challenged doing level 3. I failed a couple of exams and feel i scraped it.

    Level 4 has been the hardest thing i've ever had to do and a different level of effort is expected completely.
    I personally found the synoptic relatively easy. I passed this first time with 78% having failed the other three modules that this exam combines... Not sure how that is possible?!
    But what i think that shows is how much the AAT have changed things and made it difficult.

    However, what i would say is do it!! I am finding it super hard to pass FSLC (any tips from people would be appreciated!) No matter how long it takes, how much time it consumes and how many tears are shed (I've shed too many after every fail) it is worth it in the end. Its a great qualification to have and you've come this far so see it through. I'm sure you have a great sense of pride now which will only increase once you are a MAAT.

    There's lots of support/books/tutors to help you and you can achieve this!
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