Ten tips for keeping your studying on track

Jun 29, 2018

We’re always being told things in the positive and what we should do, but it is often important to know what to try to avoid. 

Taking on a course can be daunting and we want it to be positive and successful. There may be a few ways to make the road a bit smoother.

  1. Don’t try to be the best. Being top of the class is of course a lovely place to be but keep perspective: if you are doing this while working full time, keeping up hobbies, managing a home, taking care of family means that you just may need to manage your expectations. It can be just as important to know how little you need to do to get by as how much.
  2. Don’t agonise about being below par. Again, if you aimed for 90% and got 60%, you just may need to accept that. This is not personal. To an examiner, you are just a number and they’re following a marking scheme. Keep perspective: in this instance, you’ve passed. Absorb the feedback and move on. If you have not reached the pass grade, again keep perspective. Try to get something constructive out of it. Your knowledge may not be deep enough or your approach may be askew. Take a detached look at the feedback and try to salvage what you can. Leave it behind you and carry on.
  3. Don’t overdo it. Balance is so important. Keep focus on the work to get it done and achieve the qualification. But set an end time and stick to it. If you’ve decided bedtime is 11:00pm, down tools and go. If you’re meeting someone for a cinema date, stick to it. You’d be surprised how productive you can be when you concentrate and have a deadline.
  4. Don’t flog a dead horse. We’ve all done it: sat down and read the same line again and again and just not taken it in. Don’t waste two hours doing this because you’ll end up with nothing. Get that same nothing out of 20 minutes. If you’ve made a good try and find you’re preoccupied or distracted, you’ll just have to make time elsewhere to do that work but for now, forget it. Get up and go to clear your head.
  5. Don’t think you can have your cake and eat it. Candles were not designed to be burned at both ends. If there’s something happening involving late nights and/or alcohol the evening before an exam, assignment or other important commitment, it’s a harsh truth that you will be rusty the next day. You need to have your wits about you and stay as sharp as you can. Be Cinderella and be in bed by midnight and opt for the soft drinks.
  6. Don’t miss elements. A huge amount of success is showing up, be it to classes, logging on, completing an assignment or sitting an exam. If you don’t tick all the boxes it’s hard to expect to pass or get the grade you had hoped for.
  7. Don’t dismiss anyone. Your classroom: virtual or actual is an opportunity to network, learn, socialise. You may not become or remain best friends but you may be of use to each other at some point. Keep that contact list! It could lead to a CV getting on the right person's desk or an introduction. The rest will of course be up to you.
  8. Don’t forget that a healthy body and a healthy mind are interlocked. Good food, sufficient sleep, proper breaks, downtime and exercise will all contribute to make your study time more efficient.
  9. Don’t cut corners. All the above about taking breaks doesn’t mean you don’t have to do the work. Read the brief for the module, assignment or exam and complete the steps required to the best of your ability.
  10. Don’t be shy. If there is something you don’t understand, ask a peer, tutor or administrator. It could save you a lot of time in the long run rather than fumbling around with the wrong ideas. 

Finally, don’t forget why you started it. It may be under duress if you’ve been paid for by your employer, but perhaps it’s also because of a personal development ambition, enjoyment of learning, professional goals to a role or career change or promotion aspirations. Keep the end goal in sight, even in the moments of exasperation and frustration. There will be plenty of those but think too of the better moments: learning something you didn't already know, impressing your team or customers with your new skills, receiving your results and celebrating your graduation.

Good luck! 

Amy Dawson

Amy is a member of the Specialist Qualifications team at Chartered Accountants Ireland. https://www.charteredaccountants.ie/en/CPD/Specialist-Qualifications/