Study buddies

Whether you study in a classroom or by yourself, study groups can bring myriad benefits to ACCA students. So even if there are times when you prefer to work alone, you should explore the possibilities

When Marcin Wienke was studying for his ACCA Qualification he had lots of support. Because he participated in a special programme at Warsaw School of Economics, for students who wanted to graduate and become ACCA qualified, he had the support of Ernst & Young Poland, and his fellow students on the Finance and Management in Business scheme. ‘I appreciate how much this helped me in passing all the exams,’ says Wienke, who graduated in Quantitative Methods and Information Systems, became an ACCA affiliate and now is part of the E&Y actuarial services division.

Being on the Finance and Management in Business scheme meant that Wienke was automatically part of a small select group. ‘I took all of the ACCA exam training with the same group of students,’ he recalls, and this proved to be a mutually beneficial and bonding experience, in a variety of ways. ‘Shared interests, fun and challenging exams made us feel like a big family, and preparing together for the exams proved to be really helpful’ he recalls, ‘and taking this opportunity, I want to thank Kasia, Ewa and Tomek for their motivational spirit in our group.’

Not all ACCA students are fortunate enough to have the structure of a Big Four firm behind them, but all ACCA students can enjoy the mutual support, motivational spirit, and myriad other strengths offered by a study group.

Study groups can help you to focus on syllabus-specific material, understand complex or confusing technical concepts, consider broader professional issues, or simply provide a much-needed sense of perspective. So working with a study group could help you prepare for Paper F3 by focusing on the preparation of basic financial statements, better understand management accounting and costing, discuss why ethics and corporate governance are so important to the finance profession, or discover that you are not the only student who wishes they had made better use of the reading and preparation time at the start of their exams.

As ACCA student Chitresh Sharma from Udaipur in India has discovered, even study groups that do not involve other ACCA students can be a boon. ‘I am an independent student, and it can be difficult for me to make my study time productive,’ says the graduate, who is studying for his ACCA Qualification exams with minimal guidance and support. ‘Having discussions with friends who were studying for an Indian chartered accountancy qualification was very helpful,’ he says, as it made difficult accounting concepts easier to understand, despite the syllabus differences. 

Strength in numbers

Over the years that you spend studying to gain the ACCA Qualification, study groups can represent endless possibilities. But some of their general benefits hold true no matter what stage of your studies you have reached, and regardless of which particular area of the syllabus or the profession you are focusing on. Study groups can provide a forum for discussion where you can share concerns, ideas, difficulties, and multiple perspectives, students can learn from each others’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as finding out what you don’t know and reinforcing what you do know.

Top tips

  • Arrange to all do set questions to time, you can compare how much of the question you manage to get through
  • Swapping answers helps students to realise that most people write similar answers, and see that an extra couple of facts will help them to stand out and gain that valuable pass
  • if you are struggling with a tricky concept help could be at hand. Somebody who has more experience or knowledge may be able to step forward and offer an explanation; you might even be able to do this yourself.

As well as helping other members of your study group, this can have a positive impact on your studies. When you explain or teach something that you have learned to somebody else you gain a better understanding of it yourself. Some students find it particularly effective to hold study group meetings as a follow-up to more formal sessions in the classroom. Reviewing material together as part of a group, after you have learnt about it in class, will help to reinforce what you have learnt and make it easier to retain and this can be particularly effective if you meet to review the material within hours or days.

Study groups can also help you to seek further clarification on technical areas, talk about their study concerns and find solutions, as well as providing the comfort that you are not alone.

The informality and mutually supportive nature of a student‑only study group can be liberating, and help you to voice concerns and ask questions that you would not share in a classroom.

Starting a study group

Face-to-face study groups work best in small numbers: around four or five people is the optimum size, and six is the limit experts seem to recommend, so if there are eight or more people it may be most effective to create more than one study group. Too many ‘voices’ can create confusion and complicate the decision-making process.

Do not limit the group to just your friends: having the support of smart people who are conscientious about their studies, and committed to learning together – and attending study group meetings – will be more rewarding in the long term. Remember that the goal is to improve your academic performance.

Before or during the first meeting, establish the aims of the group, agree a meeting schedule, and decide how responsibilities will be shared. How will the agenda be agreed for each meeting? How will preparatory work be organised? Who will be the moderator? Maybe these responsibilities should be rotated among the members.

Communication and compromise are vital. The overall aim of the study group and the theme for each meeting must be clearly defined; despite unanimous agreement on a topic or objective, individual needs and expectations will vary. Even if you all want to focus on Papers F7 or P2, the specific areas you each find challenging may be very different.

Focus, focus, focus. It is in the best interests of all students for the moderator to keep study group meetings ‘on track’ and ensure that they do not fragment or turn into social events. The group will be less effective if you all sit and study your own subjects while having a general chat about the weekend’s events.
Finding the right location is an important part of starting a study group (unless it’s an online group). You can hold study groups in a public place, as long as there are not too many distractions, and there are seating and work surfaces available. But the ideal space will provide ‘infrastructure’ as well as the necessary quiet and privacy.

If you are thinking of starting or joining an online study group, explore the options covered in ‘Get together online’ and use an internet search to reveal other possibilities.

It’s also a good idea to consider how developments such as Google or Yahoo groups and wikis can help your study group to work together more effectively.

"I am an independent student, and it can be difficult for me to make my study time productive. Having discussions with friends who were studying for an Indian chartered accountancy qualification was very helpful"

Chitresh Sharma - ACCA student

"I took all of the ACCA exam training with the same group of students. Shared interests, fun and challenging exams made us feel like a big family, and preparing together for the exams proved to be really helpful"

Marcin Wienke