Let’s be frank, studying isn’t easy, especially if you have to juggle it with other priorities, at work and at home. When you start a course, you may feel well motivated, but it is hard to maintain that motivation all of the time, so if you think you might flag at some point, you’d better read on!
It helps if you have a clear purpose for studying in the first place, as this will help you to regain your focus when things become a bit tough. So, why have you chosen to take this qualification? The most common reasons are to get into work or to get on at work, but whatever yours is, write it down somewhere that you can easily refer to.
If you want to be successful, you need to be honest about two things: what sort of learner you are and how much time you can regularly commit to study? The answers to these two questions will determine what sort of course is most suitable for you. Do you have the opportunity for full-time study or has it got to be part-time, and if so when and how much time can you commit to study? Will you attend an ABE accredited centre or study by distance learning?
Whilst distance learning offers flexibility, it requires much more self-discipline than attending a class. If you are highly motivated and/or unable to attend classes regularly, then distance learning may be a good option for you. However, attending classes offer the benefits of instruction, insight and interaction from tutors and other learners, both of whom can help keep you motivated.
As well as making the time to attend classes or engage with your distance learning material regularly, you need to make time for personal study – reading around the different subjects you are studying, talking to colleagues and friends about how what you are learning about relates to and works in practice (or not as the case may be!), and preparing for your assessments.
It is hard to put a precise figure on how much time you should allow, but as a starting point for courses at Level 3 or 4, you should aim to spend at least as much time in self-study as you spend in class or with your distance learning material. If you are doing higher level qualifications, at Level 5, 6 or 7, then you will need to allow progressively more time for personal study. At level 7, you are likely to spend at least three times as much time in personal study as you do with your tutor, and their role is much more about facilitating your learning by encouraging debate to help you engage with learning materials and your peers than in teaching you new material.
If you think you will struggle to find enough time, then it might be better to do fewer units of study concurrently. This may extend the time in which you complete your studies, but it will increase your chance of passing first time, and mean that you are less likely to need to re-take assessments.
Effective study requires self-discipline! When, where and how are you going to study? It is a good idea to look at your diary and decide which times in the week you can regularly commit to study and block them out for this purpose. This may require you to ask someone else to look after your children or perhaps giving up a hobby to create the space you need. Having done this, if you are asked to use any of your study time for something else, don’t agree to do it unless you can reschedule your study time! If you do this, you will be able to keep up to date with your studies; getting behind tends to lead to demotivation and it then takes a lot of time and effort to get back on track.
If you can find an appropriate place to study, this will help make your study time effective, which is especially important if it is limited. Having the appropriate tools also helps. Most learners find that if they use files and dividers to organise their study materials logically, it makes revision easier and they are better able to retrieve information from memory when it comes to working under exam conditions. This also means reading around the different subjects your course covers, and you should do your best to access relevant texts, current journals and quality newspapers.
Even choosing the best time of day to study will help you use time efficiently. People are more or less effective at different times of day, so try to plan your study for a time when you are alert. Most people work more effectively in fairly short blocks of 20-40 minutes followed by a short break of 5-10 minutes, when you should move away from your study area and have a drink or some fresh air perhaps; this way, your brain will remain receptive to absorb information. Try to avoid working for more than 2-3 hours without taking a longer break. Most people find it helps to reward themselves with something pleasurable after a block of study as this helps to maintain motivation.
Make sure you have a copy of the full syllabus so that you are familiar with what you will be expected to know. Your tutor should also give you a scheme of work so that you know what you will be covering for each session, whether face to face or online. Try to read ahead so that you are prepared for each session and can ask questions from a place of knowledge rather than ignorance.
You will gain a lot more from your study if you engage with it – by participating in exercises, activities, tutorials, homework and mock assessments. Research shows that learning goes deeper and people retain more if they engage with the learning process.
It might feel uncomfortable at first, but it can be fun, the time goes more quickly and you will probably get more out of the learning experience. Don’t be frightened about getting things wrong or asking questions: you are a learner – you are not expected to know all the answers – yet!
Also, you can learn a lot from other learners as well as your tutors; they can provide you with insight into sectors that you know nothing about, and if you all bring and share examples from practice or things you have read about, it means less work for everyone. It is a good idea to collect a portfolio of examples from different business sectors and if you use these selectively, they can support the work you submit by way of assessment.
Follow these tips and believe in yourself and you will be well on your road to success