Philip's top tips on exams and workload.
Having graduated from UCD studying Commerce International in 2018, I started working in the Audit & Assurance department at Grant Thornton.
Audit was always something I wanted to do after I finished college but when it came to the professional exams, they were something I never really knew anything about. When I realised the workload that was involved for the CAP2’s that I was going to be sitting in 9 months’ time (all while working a full time job), I knew I was going to be in for a tough year.
Although a lot of the onus falls inevitably on yourself, Grant Thornton provides a lot of guidance throughout the year to help you through the exams. The Academy, a support center set up to aid and develop the talent of employees, provides training days and support sessions to help throughout the year. Experienced lecturers are brought in to provide exam tips/notes to help through the process.
During the year, there are also external lectures that you need to attend. Sometimes after working a full day’s work, the last thing I wanted to do was to attend a three-hour evening lecture. What got me through these types of days was surrounding myself with friends from work who were also going to be there! This made the whole experience much easier.
It is also quite impossible to expect yourself to attend every lecture there is! Something will come up. But don’t worry, always keep in the back of your mind that if you miss a class, there is a recording online that you can watch in your own time to help you catch up.
If I were to give two tips to make sure you nail these exams they would be the following:
1. Study smart, not hard
Workload varies throughout the year, depending on your department, so your time available to study will vary too. My advice to future students is to leave the ‘real study’ until study leave. (Although this doesn’t mean completely switching off until then!).
As many of the exams are open book, if you simply attend lectures and keep an organised set of notes along the way, you can save yourself a lot of time when it comes to study leave! If you’ve planned ahead, you’ll be able to jump into study straight away and use your study leave effectively to practice exam papers!
2. Ask past students for advice
Unless you are severely unfortunate and you sit a whole new syllabus for the first time, there will be plenty of people on your team who have sat these exams in the past and will be more than happy to help – they’ve been in your position before!
Some will have shortcuts, some will tell you things not to do, some will have the best sets of notes you could ever dream of! You are not alone and a lot of the work/stress can be cut down for you if you just ask! The professional exams are no walk in the park. However, if you are efficient about how you use your time to study, utilise the exam support materials that are given to you and stick with your intake and help each other out, the whole process can actually be made quite enjoyable (ish)!