Jo Hazel, Senior Content Specialist at Kaplan, shares guidance on completing the final two steps of your Level 4 Accounting Technician Apprenticeship.
You’ve spent the best part of two years developing the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to qualify as a Level 4 Accounting Technician. During that time, you will have undergone off-the-job training, gained practical experience in the workplace and completed six exams.
Now – after your employer and training provider have undertaken your gateway review, and you can demonstrate you have achieved Level 2 or above in GCSE Maths and English or equivalent – you are ready to move on to the end-point assessment. It has two parts: the portfolio and reflective statement and the role simulation exam. Here, we share eight top tips to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward when completing both parts of the assessment.
1. Portfolio and reflective statement: Demonstrate your growth
“This is an apprenticeship, so you need to show how on-the-job training has helped you improve in the workplace,” Jo says. “This is essentially a way of saying, ‘These are all the ways I have improved at my job while I’ve been undertaking this qualification.”
The portfolio and reflective statement has two sections, with 100 marks available, and to pass you need to achieve 55%. For section 1, you need to demonstrate your competence in 17 areas, writing up to 50 words for each.
Section 2 asks you to discuss four of those in greater detail (up to 500 words each). Outline an example from your work, how you used the specific knowledge, skills or behaviour, what you’ve learned, and how you would apply this if faced with a similar situation in the future.
2. Portfolio and reflective statement: Understand the marking structure
Two marks are available for each of the 17 competencies. “The assessors are looking for really specific answers,” Jo says. “Mention the competency itself and make it really obvious what you have done to demonstrate it.”
The online training file you complete throughout the apprenticeship should provide a record of what you have been working on to help with section 1 situations. “It’s really important that the situation is personal to you. Your employer will be signing it off, so it has to ring true,” Jo says.
In section 2, there are 14 marks available for each of the four sections. “You’ve got to drill down to four of the skills and give a thorough discussion of them,” Jo adds. The remaining 10 marks available are for presentation. “It’s a professional report so it needs to have a professional tone.”
3. Portfolio and reflective statement: Utilise ICAEW resources
Students can access Examiners’ Reports on previous portfolio and reflective statements, and examiners’ top tips on what is expected from students when completing each section. You can also download templates for both sections.
The Portfolio and Reflective Statement Guide for students provides a complete outline of the assessment and features examples of what a good pass looks like. “ICAEW has a brilliant set of examples included within the templates that they use. That’s a really good starting place for students,” Jo adds.
4. Portfolio and reflective statement: Start your thinking early
“Think about the statement as early as possible. One of the competencies is proactiveness. It might be that you think, ‘I can get involved in that meeting’, and then demonstrate proactiveness. Think about the competences during your apprenticeship, rather than at the end. Don’t forget to ask for help. Whether it’s your colleagues or tuition providers, there are so many people that have this knowledge.
“For section 2, you need to include improvements. This gives you a chance to ask for feedback from your manager so you’ve got tangible actions that you can bring into the statement. Pick things that are the most relevant and that you can confidently write about and come up with outcomes for. The assessors are looking for full sentences, and stick to words you can spell!”
5. Role simulation exam: Study the advance information
“This exam gets students to analyse a real business scenario, applying their knowledge to it and demonstrating how they might deal with a similar scenario in their work in the future,” Jo says.
Eight weeks before the exam, ICAEW will make the advance information available. This will contain 12 to 15 pages of background information on a company, including a recent set of financial statements and organisational hierarchy, and upon which you will be asked a series of business-related challenges during the exam.
Unlike the six exams you have completed prior that consist of multiple choice questions, this exam consists of written questions that allow you to show that you can apply what you have learned to real life situations.
6. Role simulation exam: Understand the exam structure
The computer-based exam lasts 2.5 hours and assesses knowledge, skills and behaviours across two multi-question tasks. There are a total of 100 marks available and you need to achieve 70% to pass.
“Knowledge is less important for marks than skills and behaviours that you need to be able to demonstrate,” Jo says. For example, there will always be a question about ethics, and you need to be able to discuss that ethical dilemma in a professional way that shows you understand the importance of being diplomatic, teamwork and how you can take actions forward. “Assessors are going to be looking for those professional behaviours and demonstrating those skills within the answers,” Jo adds.
7. Role simulation exam: Utilise ICAEW resources
All the information you need to apply for and book the role simulation exam is on the ICAEW website. Past exams are also available and give you a chance to identify regular topics and practise your approach.. “Once you’ve finished your last exam, it is worth having a look at them to understand what is coming up,” Jo says.
The role simulation exam is the first time students will use the exam software, which is available on the ICAEW website. “Students sometimes expect it to be similar to MS Excel or Word but there are slight differences,” Jo says. “The sooner they can start playing around with that software, the better.”
8. Role simulation exam: Be specific and detail-oriented
“Read the additional material sentence by sentence. Pick it apart and understand what areas of the syllabus you have studied in the past that relate to the scenario. The advance information gives really useful hints. For example, it might say ‘For our next board meeting we’re going to look at a BCG analysis’. It gives students a chance to prepare an exam file that gives them all the knowledge they need about a BCG analysis.
“Practise the written questions. A lot of students have a tendency to spend less time on written questions in exams than on basic calculation questions. Review your answers and don’t pad them out with flowery language. Delete any words that aren’t adding anything. This way, you’ll get succinct writing that answers the question.”
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