Exams and stress articles

Stress levels can be higher than normal when preparing for exams. While some stress can help you to stay motivated and focused, too much can be unhelpful.

Aiming for success second time around

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Tips to boost your exam performance

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Maximising your study time

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CA Support in collaboration with CASSI are delighted to announce a motivational webinar with Tony Og Regan at 1.00 on the 30th September. Tony is a keen advocate of CA Support and in this bespoke webinar will motivate and guide students onto their next challenge. During his time as a trainee and the disappointment of not passing them the first time was a huge setback. A former Galway Hurler and a Chartered Accountant, he is now also a Performance Psychology Coach. He runs his own coaching business that inspires, supports, and enables people, teams, and organisations to achieve peak wellbeing and performance. In this webinar he will concentrate on how to overcome exam setbacks- develop the key tools to deal with setbacks effectively and comeback strongerHe will share with students:Why our state of mind has an important role to play in overcoming setbacks/challengesHow elite performers in sport and business manage their state of mind in challenging situationsUnderstand what state of mind we are in right nowWhat is enabling or blocking us for moving forwardWhat are the key tools we can use to accelerate our growth from setbacks/challenges?To register click here Overcoming exam set-backsTo read more about how he coped with change and his journey. CA Support is here to support our students, members, and their families. Contact the CA Support team on mobile: (353) 86 024 3294 or email:  casupport@charteredaccountants.ie

Sep 24, 2020

“I’m going to like you.We’re going to be friends.”…is what I said to my Management Accounting book, the week after the CAP1s. Coming out of the exam hall, I knew that I had failed that subject. I’d put in the time studying, but didn’t understand it, and counted on enough of the theory coming up to cover myself. But it didn’t. So each evening, after work, I’d sit down to study. Friends teased me for being such a nerd- the results weren’t out yet!As predicted, I’d failed- scoring 25%. I continued to tell myself that I liked the subject as I studied. September came, and so did the repeat. I was on holiday and had just finished a hot air balloon ride when the Partner called me with the result- 62%. I felt sky high again!The science part…I didn’t know it at the time, but I had been practising “Neuro-Associative Conditioning”, a human behavioural science developed by Coach Tony Robbins. It’s all about changing our attitudes to increase our likelihood of success.What’s your current association to exam success?You want it, but thoughts of “what if I fail?”, “I just don’t understand it!” “I’ll do it later…” might be stronger in your nervous system. To get the results you want requires more than positive thinking- you need to change the meaning you give to study and actually feel good about doing it- from your head to your heart, right down to your gut!There are no shortcuts to success, but here are some ways that you can re-programme your mind to facilitate it:1. Begin with the end in mindThink of the big picture and take time to question- why are you doing this? It might be painful to sit down and study when you want to do other things, but ask yourself “what pleasure is it going to bring to my life in the long term?”…greater security, increased opportunities, a sense of achievement?  Once you’ve done this:• Write down what it is that’s driving you.• Spend a few moments daily, before you start studying, imagining your ideal future and reminding yourself that what you do in the present, will help to take you there. • Really feel and visualise your success to get it ingrained in your nervous system. Get excited about it!2. Get familiar and get it out of the wayWe don’t like changing our habits. Therapist Marissa Peer notes that the mind instinctively rejects what’s unfamiliar to us and returns to the familiar. This keeps us alive, protecting us from things perceived as dangerous. But this approach doesn’t always serve us- sticking to the familiarity of studying theory didn’t work for me. Good news though- studies show that it is possible to make what we don’t want to do familiar to us. We may even end up enjoying it! You just have to start the behaviour. Do it before you get comfortable doing something else. By consistently repeating, “I will make this familiar/I will like you”, you will. You can choose how you feel about something- knowing this gives you control. Getting what you dislike doing out of the way by prioritising it is empowering.3. Mind your languageListen to the language you use to describe studying. Are the words “hate”, “painful”, or negative sound effects common?Switching to more neutral language makes the process far more manageable. Phrases like:“I am determined to be a success, and I am prioritising my studies for me and my future”, or“I am choosing to feel great about doing what I don’t want to do” are great for interrupting our mind from negative internal conversations. 4. Celebrate your winsFocusing on your reward system will instil the habit of doing what you like least first. Maybe this is the lack of guilt/feeling of accomplishment by getting it done? Take your breaks and give yourself something to look forward to. And remember…Nothing is wasted. All the work you put in now will help going forward. Keep focused on that promising future of yours as you sit down with those books in the present!CA Support are here to assist you and we can be contacted on email at casupport@charteredaccountants.ie or on 01 637 7342 or 086 024 3294.  There are also other video supports on mindset available on our site.Article written byCharlotte Keating is a Member and Life, Business & Creativity Coach. With both trainee and managerial experience, she established Act On It Coaching to help fellow Chartered Accountants, trainees and other professionals achieve more balance and fulfilment in their lives. To get in touch or to find out more, visit www.actonitcoaching.com or contact charlotte@actonitcoaching.com

Jul 22, 2020

A problem shared is a problem halved. It might be a cliché, but it's true. When you're not feeling yourself, talking things through with someone you trust can help lighten the load. It's the first step towards taking back control of your mental wellbeing. Why does talking help? Talking about something with another person allows you to see things from a different perspective. There could be another way of looking at your situation Talking aloud can help you make sense of a problem and clarify your thoughts and feelings. When we're just turning things over and over in our own heads it can be difficult to see what's really going on Another person may offer practical advice and solutions that you hadn't considered before The simple act of being listened to often has a big impact in itself. You'll feel less alone knowing that someone is there for you. You might even discover that you're not the only one who feels the way you do Sometimes just saying something aloud is immensely relieving. You may have been carrying something around in your head for a long time and talking about it can be like setting down a heavy load. You might notice your whole body relaxing as you start to talk Opening up to friends and family might encourage and empower others to do the same Talking openly about how you feel might seem awkward at first. Especially if you're not used to it. But it will get easier and become more natural the more you do it Who can you talk to? Friends and family are a great place to start. They may have already noticed that you're not quite yourself and asked if everything is ok. This can make starting a conversation a bit easier. Having said this, it's common for people to find it difficult to talk openly with friends and family, for lots of reasons. Often they're worried about upsetting people they care about, how their relationships might be affected or that they might be treated differently. And this can affect how honest and open you are about the reality of your situation. Sometimes it's easier to be more honest with someone you don't know. That's where counselling can help. Counselling, or talking therapy, is a chance for you to talk to someone who will listen without judgement. It offers you a safe space and dedicated time to talk openly about you. Your thoughts. Your feelings. And the real impact they have. A counsellor can offer an impartial perspective on what might be a very complex and intense situation. As someone who's not involved and with no personal agenda, they may be able to help you work through and understand things in ways that your friends and family can't. Ask us about counselling CA Support can arrange for you to work with a professional counsellor face-to-face, over the phone or online.  Take the first step You might have avoided opening up in the past, simply because you don't know where to start. How can you possibly articulate all the thoughts and feelings going round and round in your head? But there's no set script you have to follow, and no rush to get it all out at once. When you contact CA Support, our trained advisors will help you find the right words. And after that first step, you'll have the support of a professional counsellor to help you through the rest of the process. You won't be on your own. You can talk to an advisor in complete confidence, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us on 01 637 7342 to talk to one of the team. We are here for you. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Aug 08, 2019

How much of our time and mental energy do we spend dwelling on things that have already happened or worrying about the future? For many of us, mentally multi-tasking and having our brain in three places at once is a reality of daily life. But it often means we miss out on what's happening in the here and now. This is bad for our mental wellbeing in a number of ways. By dwelling on things we can't change or control, we are more likely to feel anxious, insecure or uncertain. Focusing on the present, on the other hand, allows us to channel our energy into the things we can control. When we're distracted, we're less able to concentrate and focus on the task in front of us. How many times have you walked upstairs and forgotten why you're there? By paying attention to the present, we increase our effectiveness and productivity. In addition, when our minds are somewhere else, we miss out on all the positive things that are happening right in front of us. Being present in a moment allows you to enjoy everything it has to offer. The key to breaking this cycle is mindfulness. Mindfulness is being aware of the here and now, of your thoughts, feelings, sensations and your surroundings. Using techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga, it can help you become more aware of the present moment, rather than worrying about what happened yesterday, or what will happen tomorrow. Mindfulness exercises Here are three mindfulness exercises you can try in your own time, at home or at work. 1-minute meditation - This quick and simple breathing exercise is useful anywhere, anytime you need to pause and refocus. 3-minute breathing - This quick mindful breathing exercise can help you pause, regain control and refocus on the here and now. 10-minute body scan - How are you feeling? Reconnect with your body and your senses with this 10-minute full body scan Being present throughout your day Like any other skill, mindfulness takes practice. But the more you do it, the easier you will find it to apply the principle of being present to moments throughout your day. When you're eating... Whether it's in front of the telly at home or sat behind a desk at work, many of us eat throughout the day simply to satisfy hunger pangs before moving on to the next thing we need to do. But eating can be an opportunity to experience real sensations of joy and pleasure. The next time you sit down to eat try this mindful eating exercise. What difference do you notice? When you're walking... In the daily rush, walking is usually just a means of getting from A to B and on to C. But it could be an opportunity to exercise our curiosity and heighten our senses. By becoming aware of the world around us, we're more likely to find things that make us happy, fill us with wonder or spark our imagination. Try this mindful walking exercise as part of your commute or the next time you walk to the shops. When you're listening... Even when we're mid-conversation with someone it's easy for our minds to wander off. How many times have you found yourself thinking, 'What were they just saying?' To really listen to and understand someone requires your full and undivided attention. And that means being aware of how your own thoughts and feelings might distract your attention from a conversation. Learn how to apply mindful listening techniques for more meaningful conversations and stronger relationships. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 14, 2019

Even those who couldn’t have studied harder or more thoroughly get nervous when exam results are published. But if you don’t get the result you were expecting or hoping for, it can really knock you for six. Failing even the most minor test – let alone an important exam – can leave you feeling frustrated, dejected and devastated, not to mention embarrassed. Knowing how to manage your behaviour and emotions if you fail an exam isn’t usually something you’ll find instinctive. Indeed, most people struggle with the aftermath of a result that doesn’t go their way. But it’s certainly not the end of the world (even though you may feel it is). Many successful people had serious setbacks when they were starting out – and kept having more setbacks throughout their careers. In fact many experts believe failure is essential for success, as failing always offers invaluable opportunities for learning. So the first step to getting back on your feet is not to be too hard on yourself and realise you’re in good company. Here are some other strategies that may be helpful: Make a new plan So you’ve had an exam result that didn’t go your way. What’s next? It’s important to remember you have options. But it’s even more important to weigh those options up before deciding which course of action would be best for you. Try making a list of all the pros and cons of each available option if you’re struggling to come to a decision. Can you resit? Find out whether you can take the exam again, if that’s what you’ve decided to do. For instance, if the exam in question is a CAP1 or CAP2 exam you're allowed a maximum of 6 attempts. For the FAE exams, you're allowed a maximum of 3 attempts. Also check with your employer about the number of resits they will allow if you’re in a training agreement. Learn from the experience If you’ve decided to resit the exam but you don’t have much of a clue about why you failed it, it’s a good idea to find out. Try to identify your weaknesses – if you have a clear idea of an area or areas you’re lacking in, you can tailor your study to help ensure you’re much better prepared overall during your next attempt. Besides any weaknesses or gaps in your knowledge, you may have made other mistakes previously too. You may have stayed up too late revising the night before the exam, or you may have let your nerves get the better of you – either way, these things could have affected your performance. You may not have had an effective study plan or you may not have stuck to it. Or perhaps you simply didn’t have enough confidence in your abilities. So try and identify what you could do differently next time. Aim to get a good night’s sleep the night before the resit, and look at things that may help you feel more calm as the exam approaches. Also remember that you don’t have to be the best or the brightest to pass exams – you just have to work and study hard, and practice. Be more resilient Your future attempts at passing exams – or navigating any other challenging situations – may be more successful if you learn to bounce back more effectively. Being more resilient will help stop you going into panic mode and allow you to cope better whenever you feel under pressure. But unless you’re a naturally resilient person, developing resilience takes practice. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 13, 2019
Personal Development

Anxiety can strike anyone, anywhere and at any time. With exams just around the corner, here are some tips to help you keep anxiety at bay and – should you need to – deal with an anxiety attack when it arises. Words by Dawn Leane “His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy; there’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti; he’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready to drop bombs; but he keeps on forgetting what he wrote down...” Ok, so you’re facing your professional exams, not a rap battle… but under certain circumstances, anyone can be visited by anxiety and panic. A healthy lifestyle and good study practice are essential in the lead-up to the exam. On the day of the exam, however, apart from a few practicalities, your psyche is really the only thing within your control. Anxiety causes cognitive processes to believe negative self-talk such as “I haven’t done enough”. In such a scenario, a cycle of physical reactions and heightened anxiety quickly becomes established. This cycle can be broken with practised interventions and it’s important to prepare these in advance. These strategies can be carried into your future career and will benefit you in interviews, presentations and public speaking. Before the exam On the day of the exam, avoid studying any new topics as this may impair your ability to remember what you’ve learned. Don’t study for the last hour before the exam and most importantly, keep away from other anxious people. Take a bottle of water, some nuts or fruit, and a slow release carbohydrate into the exam. Avoid sugary snacks that will lead to a quick high followed by a slump. In the exam hall It’s natural to feel nerves prior to starting the exam, but excessive nervousness is counterproductive. Give yourself time to settle and use a breathing exercise to calm yourself before you turn over the exam paper. Take time to read through all the questions and instructions carefully. Make sure you get a firm grasp of the questions and what’s required of you. Then, prioritise what needs to be done, divide your time according to the importance of the questions, and answer the easiest questions first. This will guarantee marks in the least amount of time and help build your confidence. Don’t rush through the exam and regularly check the time. When anxiety strikes… If panic sets in or your mind goes blank, close your eyes and take several long, slow and deep breaths. This will help calm your entire nervous system. Then: Identify the feeling and own it; remind yourself that your panic will end; Set aside three minutes to divert your attention away from the panic; think about something unrelated to the exam; Use the mini-relaxation exercises you have been practising; Think positive and repeat coping thoughts such as, “I know I can deal with this”;  Remind yourself of a similar situation which you survived; Remind yourself of your past successes, especially exam achievements; and Visualise yourself feeling more relaxed and able to get through the questions. If you still can’t remember the information, then move on to another question and return to this question later if time allows. If you feel unwell, on the other hand, call the invigilator. They are there to help you and are experienced in dealing with such situations. And remember, it’s only an exam! Of course you want to do well, but it’s not a life or death matter. In fact, resilience is a key component of leadership. Behavioural psychologist, Albert Bandura, suggests that “if people experience only easy successes, they can come to expect quick results and are easily discouraged by failure… the route to high attainments is strewn with failure and setbacks. Success is achieved by learning from mistakes.” If you suffer from anxiety, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can really help. Further information and support is available from Reachout, Spunout and Chartered Accountants Support. Dawn Leane is Director of People and Resources at Chartered Accountants Ireland and Coordinator at Chartered Accountants Support.

May 02, 2017