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Effective Study Habits for AAT Level 4 Students: Best Practices for Success

Studying an online qualification can be intense, but incredibly fulfilling: particularly when it comes to guiding your own learning. Most people find that one of the best ways they’re able to do this is through building effective habits and routines.

A study habit is essentially a type of behaviour that you perform regularly, almost without thinking. The dictionary defines a habit as ‘a settled or regular tendency or practice’. When it comes to the process of studying, consistency is absolutely key to your overall success – even more so if you’re studying an advanced qualification like the AAT Level 4 Diploma in Professional Accounting, or you’re studying an online course.

In 2002, a study by psychologist and habit researcher Wendy Wood and her colleagues found that a staggering 43% of the behaviours that we complete daily could be classed as habits – things that we complete without even being consciously aware of what we’re doing. We take many of the habits that we have for granted and for the most part, aren’t that aware of them in daily life.

When we talk about a ‘study habit’, we mean building a study routine and behaviours that are so regular and consistent that we don’t even need to think consciously about them. This can really supercharge your learning and help you make the most out of your qualification.

Here are 6 of the most effective study habits we’ve found for AAT Level 4 students.

Effective study habits for AAT Level 4 Students

1.   Build a routine – and stick to it

Having a clear structure and plan for your studying can improve your overall productivity and how well you retain the information you’re studying. When you’re covering complex accountancy topics, like drafting statutory financial statements for limited companies, which you’ll explore in the AAT Level 4 Diploma in Professional Accounting, the quality of your learning is much better than the quantity of it.

Research and numerous studies have consistently suggested that routines ultimately help to supercharge our learning by saving our brain much needed energy and processing-space. In effect, implementing a regular routine basically removes one huge thing for your brain to worry about, letting it concentrate on tasks that require much more cognitive processing power.

Oxford Languages defines a routine as ‘a sequence of actions regularly followed’ and a habit as ‘a settled or regular tendency or practice’. Taking these two definitions, it’s clear that the two are closely related. In effect, by performing a routine consistently, you’ll ultimately be building a habit.

2.   Find the time of the day that you study best

When it comes to the time of day that you should study, there’s no simple answer. The truth is that you’ll have your own unique preferences for the time of day that you feel you get your best studying done.

This blog by James Clear explores the time of the day that celebrated artists preferred to work, with some fascinating results.

Novelist Ernest Hemingway said that he produced his best work during the morning, waking up between 5:30am and 6:00am to do it. Poets, on the other hand, like Robert Frost, Pablo Neruda and Carol Ann Duffy all felt that they worked at their most productive at night.

The exact time of the day that works best for you is entirely unique, dependent on a whole host of personal factors; from whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, how busy your existing schedule is, whether studying is the only commitment in your life, the level and intensity of your work and family commitments etc.

You’ll usually feel some kind of innate pull towards the time of the day that works best for you. If you’re unsure, experiment by working at different times of the day and seeing which one feels most natural.

A lot of research suggests that our actions in the morning can have a direct impact on our productivity during the day that follows. There are a lot of theories behind why. This blog by John Rampton on Entrepreneur cites research that suggests natural light patterns and our circadian rhythm can have a huge impact on everything from our productivity to our general mood and mental wellbeing.

Man Typing Laptop Having Coffee

3.   Discover the way that you learn best

There are a bewildering array of study methods out there that you can choose from when it comes to studying, ranging from the wacky to the inspired.

A lot of research has been carried out in the last 50 years into learning styles and the science of learning. As a result, there are a lot of different frameworks that scientists and researchers have been used to categorise learning styles.

One of the most commonly used ways to categorise the different ways that we learn was developed by New Zealand education worker Neil Fleming in 1987. Whilst working as an school inspector, Fleming noticed that there didn’t seem to be a clear connection between the quality of teaching a child received and how well they retained information. In effect, some good teachers weren’t able to help children learn, whilst some less-effective teachers were. 

Whilst working at Lincoln University, he built on this idea and created the VARK learning model, (building on an earlier model called VAK). For Fleming, learners could be divided into four distinct types

  • V: Visual learners who learn best through images
  • A: Aural learners who learn best through listening or speaking
  • R: Read/Write learners who learn best through reading or writing
  • K: Kinesthetic learners who learn best through physical activity.

Have you got an idea which type of learner you might be? There are a range of tools online you can use to find out what type you could be: this questionnaire is particularly useful for giving you an indication.

As we’ve alluded to above, there are a whole host of other learning models and theories out there too. This blog by Indeed gives a great overview of them.

4.   Study in the right frame of mind

There’s no point studying if you’re not in the right mental headspace to do it. After all, if you were bedbound with the flu, you were half-delirious and you decided to study, you wouldn’t really expect to understand, let alone retain, most of what you covered.

Of course, there’s a difference between not studying when you kind-of-don’t-want-to-but-are -otherwise-perfectly-fine-to and being tired, ill or something else getting in the way.

Sometimes, despite how much you’re wanting to do something, fate aligns against your plans and makes studying impossible. That’s perfectly fine – and normal. It just means that you’ll have to postpone what you had wanted to do and do it in the future. Just set another time, try not to stress and carry on with your routine.

Girl Studying With Books

5.   Look after yourself

Studying can be an overwhelming activity sometimes – particularly if you have other commitments to do that take up a lot of your mental headspace, like caring for young ones or a family member, or working a full time job. As a result, we can all reach points where we feel physically and mentally exhausted.

Studying and balancing family life is challenging and we all need to take care to make sure that we are looking after our wellbeing so that we can protect ourselves and stay on top of our studying game. If you’re studying and you’re finding that you are getting really overwhelmed, taking time out to relax, clear your mind and recover from the stress of the process is a great way to ensure that you’re working

If you find that your mental health is really struggling, make sure to reach out to your GP, family and friends or someone that you can trust. A number of charities exist that can listen to you, provide guidance and offer practical support.  Some of the most popular include:

There’s a range of advice out there on the internet about how you can build a good routine of self-care too. This blog by EverydayHealth is particularly useful at exploring how you can go about building a self care routine you’ll actually stick to.

6.   Set study targets (and incentives)

Targets – and incentives for achieving targets – are incredibly important when it comes to motivating yourself to complete a project. When it comes to studying, where you’ll be directing the pace of your own learning, setting targets becomes absolutely fundamental. Targets ultimately allow you to clearly plan out your progress, hold yourself accountable and ensure that you complete tasks timely. Completing them releases chemicals in the brain that make you feel good and motivated to tackle other targets.

We explored the science behind setting targets, goals and incentives in an earlier blog which is well worth a read if you’re curious about the complex science behind goal-setting. The TLDR version is this: Set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-limited.

Build positive study habits and improve your learning

From tweaking the method that you’re using to learn and looking after your mental health to experimenting with your routine and setting targets, there are a variety of strategies you can use to create effective study habits. Remember, habits are just actions that you do repeatedly, so much so that they become second-nature. If you’re finding it difficult to create them at first, don’t worry. Just keep ploughing through and eventually you’ll find that they stick.

We hope this blog has given you a lot to think about when it comes to building a range of positive studying habits that will help you enhance your learning. Good luck.

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