6 tips to help you on your study journey

Written by Holly Whitehead on Tuesday March 26, 2019

Let’s imagine that you have enrolled onto your new ICA training course, printed your training manual, and are now eager to start studying and learning immediately. And who can blame you? The decision to undertake a qualification, alongside work and family life, is a significant commitment with a rewarding outcome.

Given this commitment, there are likely hundreds of thoughts running through your mind, including: ‘where do I start?’ and ‘how can I maximise my learning and ensure that I pass?’.

Successful students (and professionals) will often sit back and critique how they study and work. They hone their learning methodology so that it is a fine-tuned machine, completely fit for purpose and sufficient to their needs.

‘An investment in knowledge pays the best interest’ – Benjamin Franklin was not wrong. With this in mind, we have put together a list of some simple study methods and useful advice to help you achieve success during your study journey with us at ICA.


  1. Determine your study goals

What is your learning strategy? Have you thought about what you would like to achieve from your newly-acquired ICA course? Whatever you are studying, the core principles of study remain the same: you want to pass, and ideally achieve a merit or distinction. Set clear goals from the outset to ensure that you get the grades that you both want and deserve.

Create a daily, weekly and monthly to-do list that helps you obtain your goal. By doing this, you will be able to prioritise and clarify what is truly important for your studies. In addition, is there anything more satisfying than ticking off tasks on a to-do list and learning something exciting at the same time?

Remember the importance of setting goals and having something to work for. Personal goals can be the biggest motivator of all.


  1. Routine is key

A professional footballer would not stuff all of their training into a one-hour block per week, so why would you approach study in this way? Having a fixed routine or schedule for studying is more effective – try studying for one-hour bursts per day. Cramming may help you pass, but your aim is not merely to tick a box; you want to learn and retain information so that it adds value to your professional life.

It is crucial to understand (and reassuring to know) that the stepping stones to success are so much more than packing revision into every waking hour. Whilst it might be tempting to read every available thing on the planet, it is actually counterproductive to spend so much time on your studies. Routinely studying, on the other hand, means that you retain information and genuinely learn it, which is what this is all about.

The phrase ‘work smarter, not harder’ may be a little bit of a cliché, but it is an accurate one. Studying is all about how you make smart choices, and how you learn and remember information, rather than simply memorising your notes.

While you want to remain motivated, you do not want to work so hard that you stop enjoying your course, or lose sight of why you are doing it in the first place.


  1. Get in touch

If you are unsure about a topic, or simply need to ask a question, then don’t assume – ask. The Q&A Forums on the Learning Platform are the ideal place to ask questions, not only to the Tutor/Course Director, but to other students. Whether it is sharing knowledge and revision tips or simply chatting to someone in the same boat as you, it is always good to talk.

You will often find that everyone shares the same concerns/fears and so it is always a positive move to discuss them with your fellow students. Keep an eye out for useful updates and assessment tips from your tutor. Utilise social media and online student support groups. Studying online does not mean studying alone – it means studying in a collaborative, albeit different, way.


  1. Test yourself

Testing yourself is an excellent way to ensure that you hold on to all of that important and new information that you have learnt. Obviously, you want to avoid being a walking textbook in the office, but what you do want to do is fill in the gaps, using the keen analytical skills that are the requirement of a brilliant compliance officer.

You need to find a way to engage with your material, and remember it. Self-explaining, or testing yourself, is critical to helping you think more deeply about your chosen subject matter. After all, it is a deliberate action to stop, pause and repeat. This period of reflection allows you to fully take in the information you are learning.


  1. Find your study method

Study methods are varied to say the least – and what works for you may not work for your colleagues. It is important, therefore, that you find something that works for you and helps motivate you in the process. Nothing is more draining to your motivation than attempting to study in a way that is wholly incompatible with your personality.

Here are just three study methods you can try:

  • Mind maps. Notes are usually written in a hurry, and are not always entirely useful for revision and study. To render them usable, formulate your notes into mind maps, making them bright and colourful. Stick to strong themes; in doing so you will make more meaningful connections between themes in your work, thus improving your memory’s capacity. This visual way of learning is proven to be an effective way of studying.

  • Flashcards. This is an inexpensive, immersive way to absorb all the new material that you are trying to learn. Write down key facts onto small pieces of card, and simply read and revise when you have a moment. Commuting? Get out your flashcards. Settling down to lunch? Take them out and have a read-through. Bite-sized chunks of information can easily be digested to help on your study journey. This is a great example of working smarter.

  • Bring the subject to life. It goes without saying that studying is a paper-based activity. There will be books, articles, documentaries and a vast amount of material that you can consume that are indirectly related to your course material that will maximise your studying potential and give you a lot of scope and background information. Do not restrict your reading and research just to the ICA manual. Undertake your own research – it will help you understand the subject better.

Studying may seem somewhat overwhelming, but using the right study methods (and a mixing it up to keep your studying fresh) can see you embrace your new learning journey.


  1. Do not panic

We have all had that moment when we have looked at an assignment/exam question and thought ‘I haven’t a clue how to approach this!’. Remember, it is not the role of the examiner to confuse or trick you so look at the question again and break it down into smaller components.

If it is an assignment question and you are still confused, get in touch with your tutor who will be happy to provide guidance if it is an exam question.

Do not waste time panicking: move onto the next question and come back to it later. You may find that your thought processes change when answering a different question, triggering a light-bulb moment meaning you are better able to focus and go back and tackle the original question.


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