Dealing with Exam Stress
Exams - such a small word with such a large amount of fear attached to it. Exams are a big part of your training contract at Grant Thornton and the number of exams you will be required to sit will depend on which qualification you are studying towards and which service line your graduate scheme is in. At the end of August 2019 I will have completed my first year of the Public Sector Audit (PSA) graduate scheme and will have sat 4 out of 11 of my CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy) exams. Due to the nature of the audit lifestyle with commuting and staying away to work on various clients being very prominent, how is it possible to perform well in both the job itself and make sure you are prepared for and succeed in your exams too?
How can YOU help?
The first port of call for successfully dealing with any stress and pressure that may arise due to exams would be to ensure that your work-life-study balance is healthy. For me, I enjoy playing sport a couple of times a week, going to the gym or going for a run, as well as socializing with friends. I think that it’s very important to ensure that you are not sacrificing your leisure time in order to cram in that extra hour of revision. The enjoyment I get from my hobbies makes, in my opinion, the time I spend revising for exams more productive as it gives me something to look forward to, as well as breaking up my revision sessions and helping me focus. I feel like you are much less likely to procrastinate if you plan your revision around your hobbies and social life, than if you try to plan your social life around your revision.
How can GRANT THORNTON help?
In every regional Grant Thornton office there are ‘wellbeing champions’. These individuals have volunteered themselves as friendly faces available for a chat or to give advice if you’re feeling stressed or anxious towards exams, work, or life in general. Having regular conversations with these people and also with any of your work colleagues will help you control any stress you may be feeling, as these people may have, or be currently experiencing the same feelings as yourself and may have certain methods of dealing with these feelings that you haven’t tried, but may think will help. My Dad always used to say to me when I was younger – “a problem shared is a problem halved” – and I still think this is a very true phrase, as often, once you discuss a problem with a friend or colleague, that problem suddenly doesn’t seem so big. For example, I was struggling to understand a concept for one of my CIPFA exams, however after talking this through with a fellow associate, they were able to explain to me a new method of understanding this which immediately made me relax and feel a lot better about the topic. Within your regional office there will also be a Mental health first-aider - another point of contact for any questions you may have about how to control stress. Also, through the private healthcare that is available to enrol onto through the benefits scheme offered by Grant Thornton, you can contact a non-referral service called ‘Stronger Minds’ that can support you with any mental health issues you may be experiencing.
As a PSA Associate, there is always plenty of work to be getting on with all year round, however, between the middle of April and the end of July the workload significantly increases due to the year end for Public Sector clients being the 31st March. The timetabling team schedule in exams so that they do not clash with the peak times for work, and they try to ensure this is the case for whichever service line your graduate scheme is in. Also, the Grant Thornton exam policy is very understanding that you may have an off-day or may have been affected by unusual circumstances in the lead up and during your exams. They offer the opportunity to re-sit any exams you may not have been successful in passing first time around.
As well as providing time off to attend college or to attend online web classes to learn the content of your exams, Grant Thornton also give you one day of personal study leave per exam, as well as the day of the exam off as leave so you can prepare sufficiently for the big day(s). There is also the opportunity to purchase holiday or accrue time off in lieu (TOIL) which can be used to take extra time off around exams in order to ensure that you have enough time to prepare.
Overall, there are a whole host of things you can do to help deal with any stress or nervousness you may have surrounding the exams you need to sit as part of your Grant Thornton training contract and there is ample support provided from Grant Thornton as well.
I hope this blog has helped you in understanding the ways that not only yourself, but Grant Thornton can help you in dealing with exam stress and also given you an insight into how I have dealt with any stress I have felt towards the exams I have sat so far during my training contract.
Best wishes and good luck with any upcoming exams you may have!
- George Amos