AAT exam help: preparing for your AAT accountancy exam

This is taken from the final chapter of the series of AAT revision guides for Bookkeeping & Accountancy exams and is designed to provide AAT exam help for students.

One of the most important points to remember about AAT exams is that they are professional qualifications in a professional organisation.

This puts them a level above many vocational exams that are just a test of knowledge.

Although this does not matter so much at level 2, at the higher levels in particular, exam results are an indicator of not only knowledge but professional skill and competence, and employers will want to know that you can undertake the task required to a high level of competence.

There are numerous things that you can do when sitting an exam to prepare yourself as much as possible and to maximise your chances of success.


Before the Exam

One of the most important things that you can do to prepare for an exam is to do as many practice questions as possible. AAT provide two practice exams and Green Light Tests per unit, training providers provide practice questions and organisations such as Quo Vadimus Learning Ltd provide revision materials and practice questions for a good reason.

Practice questions are the best way of both solidifying your knowledge and also practicing the style of question that AAT exams demand. Practicing a wide variety of topics through questions is the best way of preparing for an exam.

This is called Retrieval Practice.

When we learn a new skill or piece of knowledge, our brain will try to file it but is unsure where to put it, as it doesn’t know yet how important that piece of knowledge is going to be in our future. By practicing the retrieval of particular pieces of knowledge (double-entry, day books, trial balance etc.) through questioning, not only does that knowledge become more deeply embedded and secure but our brain becomes more skilled at retrieving it, which helps in an exam situation.

Practice questions, whether provided by AAT or organisations such as ourselves, have been proven by academic research to be more effective than revision methods such as re-reading notes. Taking notes is important, and there is also plenty of research that suggests that even taking notes that are never read again will have some benefit over just listening or reading, but practice questions, and as many as you can get your hands on, is the best way forward.

In terms of revision, little and often is also important. Do not rely on a large cramming session just before the exam. Even short periods of 30 minutes a day every day, or even a few days a week, prior to an exam will make a significant difference.

You can choose to focus a revision session on a particular topic, particularly if it is one that you are struggling with, or you can do a practice exam or a Green Light Test that practices multiple topics. Some students dislike the AAT Green Light Tests as they are difficult, but that is why they are so good, as they stretch the brain across multiple topics within the unit and practice the important skill of being able to jump to and from different topics in a short period of time, just like in an exam.


The AAT Examiner Report

For every unit in the Learning Portal, AAT provide an Examiner Report. This may seem like a dry and dull document that is of more use to tutors and training providers. However, it is a vital document that shows the common errors that students make on particular tasks.

Misreading the question and calculation errors are commonly highlighted in the report and can give you a valuable insight into the potential pitfalls in the exam.

Although it is not revision in the sense that it does not provide subject knowledge, you should consider it a vital part of exam preparation.


During the Exam

 It should go without saying that you need a basic level of preparedness on the day of the exam, including (but not limited to):

  • An awareness of the exam regulations.
  • An awareness of any regulations or restrictions at your exam venue.
  • Check your calculator (and it should be one that you are familiar with using, it is not wise to use a calculator for the first time in an exam).
  • Writing materials (pen, pencils etc.).

Being ready and feeling ready in practical ways will help you to feel more relaxed during the exam itself and will help your memory to remember key facts and knowledge than if you are stressed and feel unready.

In the exam itself, the following will increase your chances of success:

  • Take your time – many students leave before the end of an exam without having taken the proper time to answer the questions and check their work.
  • Read every question thoroughly – a very common error in all AAT exams is not reading the question either thoroughly or correctly. Students often answer the question they think that they are being asked rather than the one being asked. Resist the temptation to begin answering parts of the question until you have read the whole question or task.
  • Check your calculations – many errors are because students have not adequately checked their calculations. It is easy to enter incorrect numbers into the calculator or misread numbers on the screen. Ensure that you do each calculation at least twice.
  • Do not leave a question unanswered, even if you are unsure – an empty box where there should be an answer is always a mark dropped, whereas even a best guess gives you an opportunity of a mark gained.
  • If you are struggling with a question, come back to it later – it is understandable in an exam situation for your mind to go blank or struggle with question. Sometimes, moving on to another question and then coming back to it later can be beneficial.
  • Check your work before clicking submit – don’t just answer the questions, press submit and leave. Check through every question thoroughly.

If you follow all of these hints and tips, you are in the very best position to get the most out of your study and learning, and be ready to perform at your best in your AAT bookeeping or accountancy exam.

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