Tax Diaries: An insight into the work life balance…

Many of you may be wondering what it is actually like to hold down a full-time job, complete professional studies and still have a life. Admittedly getting the balance between these things can be difficult but it is honestly so worth it.


For the past three months I have been working towards sitting my first three professional level ACA exams, which I sat last week. Having completed the online e-assessments in my first few months at Grant Thornton it was time to step it up this spring and prepare to sit the first three written papers.

I began studying for these exams back in March where I spent a week and a half at Kaplan – a professional studies college. There are lots of Kaplan colleges dotted all over the UK and they are the training provider for many of the qualifications offered by Grant Thornton.

This first week and a half was spent learning the technical knowledge that would be needed for the exams I was going to be sitting. The exams covered three different subjects – Audit and Assurance, Financial Accounting and Reporting and Tax Compliance. So my time at Kaplan was split between all three.

After the technical knowledge phase I was back at work for a few weeks and I really had to start juggling between work and studies. I tried to make sure that I revised a couple of evenings a week and spent some time studying at the weekends too. I did have some time to relax and took the weekend off for my birthday! You can still spend time doing what you want to do and I think it is important to prioritise your time so that you can make the most of it.

Following on from the few weeks back at work I returned to Kaplan for the applied workshop phase. At this stage we learnt some new knowledge but the focus was really on applying the knowledge we had learnt in the previous phase to exam style questions. We had a progress test for each of the three subjects, which began to give us a feel of what the exam would be like. The days at college are shorter than a work day with the hours being roughly 9-4:30. It is of course important to utilise those extra couple of hours in the evening when possible to keep on top of the revision.

The final stage at Kaplan came a couple of weeks later. In the meantime I had been back at work and studying almost every evening. It was very tiring but I was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and felt like I really had something to work towards. The exam preparation stage consisted of two weeks of question practice and a mock exam for each of the three subjects. Nerves were beginning to build and there were days where I questioned if I’d ever feel ready for these exams but somehow you do get there.

Before I knew it exam week was here and I probably felt the most nervous I ever had in my life. I’m the kind of person who always feels the nerves and pressure before exams and this exam sitting was no exception. After sitting the three exams that week I was incredibly tired and also relieved that I had actually completed them and could now look forward to holidays and celebrations. It’s very hard to tell how they went and so I am trying to put the exams to the back of my mind until I get the results in July.

To give an overall picture, the past three months have been tiring, rewarding and have involved a lot of hard work but I am already feeling like it is worth it. I’ve got a nice break from studying now and summer to look forward to. I am keeping my fingers crossed that results day will go well and whatever the outcome I have learnt a lot. Not just in a sense of my knowledge but also in a sense of how to tackle professional exams. One thing I must say is it is important to keep taking breaks and to keep balanced between time to relax and time to give it your all. I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog and that it has provided you with an insight of what exam season is really like.

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21 June 2016 at 12:07 PM    |   Posted by Charlotte Roberts

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