Revision – a marathon not a sprint

It comes to that time of year again where the sun decides to shine on the weekends, my friends invite me to really fun events and…I have to study. It’s the same for all trainees, as passing exams is a major part of our role, but even after two years, knuckling down to put in the hard hours does not come naturally.

This term I have decided to try and start revising a little earlier than usual for my June exams; we have the busy NHS final accounts season beginning in May and then move straight onto Local Government final accounts swiftly afterwards, meaning I may not have much time in the week to study (unless I want to sacrifice my sleep hours, which for me, is not an option).

My CIPFA studies this term have covered the modules, Business Strategy, Public Finance and Taxation, where Public Finance and Tax both count as half modules and will be split into two mini exams. Public Finance explores how the public services are funded, the options for public bodies if they wish to increase spending and some history about previous taxation policies (such as Thatcher’s unpopular poll tax). Business Strategy is another, theory based subject where we look into the different methods of creating strategy and what organisations need to consider when developing a plan. Tax is a calculation based subject where we have learnt how to compute an individual’s income tax liability, a company’s corporation tax liability and VAT calculations. It has been interesting to learn some of what my colleagues in tax will cover on a daily basis and also understand some of the quirks of the UK tax system which may have actually affected my own tax bill.

From my previous blogs you may have gathered that my usual revision technique involves a lot of tea and cake. This term is going to require some different approaches to revision, as I have two mainly narrative modules to cover, with lots of definitions to remember. For these I am going to revert back to my primary school days of look, cover, write until I have the definitions on autopilot. We are also expected to be able to apply the theories we have learnt to a range of public sector bodies, which means some outside research is necessary. We have been encouraged throughout the term to complete outside reading; however as reading is not one of my preferred pass-times (I favour being outdoors and moving around) I have slacked a little on this front. Perhaps now that the sun is shining I could hit the park to read through some articles from Public Finance (a magazine we are sent monthly, as part of our CIPFA membership), whilst trying to avoid the enticing delights from the ice-cream van in the corner.

For tax, which is a calculation-based subject there really is no substitute for practice. This may sound dull but it is probably the easiest way to revise and with a calculation at least you can see whether you are right or wrong, and can identify areas which require further work. During revision periods I try not to spend more than four hours per day revising, otherwise I start to feel I am spending my entire day sitting at a desk (below you’ll see why I don’t fancy this). I know some people prefer the cramming approach whereby they block out whole days close to the exam to revise, but that is not for me; as stress and panic are not really part of my personality, I tend not to experience ‘the fear’ that many people rely on for motivation and therefore by leaving my revision so late I probably wouldn’t end up doing it. Plus I really like a full night’s sleep.

Bristol really is fantastic at this time of the year, with music, food and arts festivals covering many weekends there are plenty of distractions on tap to lure me away from revision. In order to combat this I am going to make a plan, which includes all of these things, as well as my study, to ensure I don’t end up feeling left out and boring. Especially during our busy final accounts seasons, I think it is important to try and maintain some balance between work, study and fun, which to me is the major advantage of starting revision early. This way, putting away a few hours a day, I can also fit in dancing around one of our lovely parks, watching the famous Bristol hot air balloons floating overhead – I may even succumb to the ice-cream van in the corner…

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