Last week we talked about creating an ACCA study plan that sets you up for success. The next step is to build the optimum study environment.
Hopefully you’re using LearnSignal to transform everyday moments like catching the bus or grabbing a coffee into bitesize study opportunities, but you’ll also need somewhere to answer questions, review notes and practice past papers.
Here are our top 7 tips to create a study environment that works for you.
1. Get the light right
This seems very basic but the right – or wrong – light makes a big difference to your concentration and fatigue. It can be very distracting if light is too bright, too dull or even flickering, for example.
Make sure the light in your ACCA study environment is suitable for daytime and evening, or even sunny and dull days. You might not notice if the light starts fading during the day, and suddenly you’re squinting and getting a headache because the room is too dark. Not very motivating!
Some students like to study outside, depending on the weather where you live. If that’s you, the fresh air and natural light can be fantastic but make sure you move inside before it starts to get dark. If you stay while you lose the light, you’ll get tired quicker and lose your positive momentum.
2. Organise your space for you
We all have different preferences. Maybe you study best with your desk at a window, or maybe the window is a major distraction – only you know. The important thing is to be honest with yourself, to create an environment that’s optimal for you.
If you’re sharing a house or a study space, identify an uncluttered area that you can have ownership over. For instance, the family kitchen table probably isn’t the best spot because everyone else needs the space, and your notes won’t get priority.
Pick somewhere you can set-up, that’s your place to study undisturbed. Having a clear study zone can help you get in the zone when you sit down.
3. Don’t let hunger distract you
It sounds silly, but one of the major pitfalls for effective studying is hunger. Say you’re studying at home. All you can think about is your rumbling tummy, so you throw some dinner in the oven while finishing a question. Fair enough.
But then your attention is split. You’re watching the clock, smelling your dinner cooking, thinking about eating, hoping it’ll taste as good as it smells. And suddenly that’s an hour wasted, instead of an hour spent on concentrated study.
Or you’re in a coffee shop, staring at the pastries and cakes instead of doing any work. And staring. And staring. And probably eventually eating. And then study time is over and you haven’t done much actual study. Those ACCA exams won’t pass themselves, you know!
The moral of the story is this: eat, before you start studying. Preferably something healthy and slow-release, like a banana. Then you know any hunger pangs aren’t hunger-hunger, but looking-for-a-distraction-hunger – and you can ignore them and move on.
4. Think about temperature
Nothing is more distracting when you’re trying to study for the ACCA than being too hot or too cold. Especially if your hands are cold, that becomes all you can think about. Every time you write something, your hands remind you you’re too cold.
Or if it’s too hot to concentrate. You suddenly realise you’re in the middle of a pleasant daydream instead of, you know, actually studying your ACCA notes.
The important thing is to plan ahead. Which sounds obvious, but it’s really easy to forget things like potential temperature changes when you’re packing for your day.
Bring that extra jumper or jacket, and pack that extra bottle of water, and you’ll be less likely to succumb to that procrastinating part of your brain that’ll find any excuse not to study.
5. Don’t get too comfortable
Being uncomfortable is no fun, but you don’t want to be too comfortable either. If you’ve ever tried reading notes while lying on your bed, you’ll be intimately familiar with this!
It’s one of life’s great mysteries, how even the world’s biggest insomniacs can turn into nap aficionados when you’re meant to be studying for the ACCA.
Really, you should treat studying like work. The ACCA is a proper, adult, professional qualification – don’t treat it like a degree. Get up, get dressed, sit at a desk and actively apply yourself. And if you’re still tempted to nap, open a window – blow the cobwebs out with a little cold air.
And if you’re still tempted to nap – your body probably needs it. Sacrifice something less important than studying – like those pre-bedtime Twitter hours – and get an earlier night.
6. Apply the right amount of pressure
Everyone responds differently to pressure at different times. The clock can be your best friend, motivating you to study efficiently – but it can also be your worst enemy, reminding you that the ACCA exams are coming closer at every tick.
Know yourself, and work accordingly. Adapt to the mindset you have today, not the one you had yesterday or the one you’ll have tomorrow.
Everyone has good days and bad days. Provided you’ve left enough time to study, you can afford to be kind to yourself on those bad days. And you can afford to push yourself a little harder on those good days, to get ahead of yourself.
7. Consider studying with other people
The ACCA can be a very lonely experience – but the journey doesn’t have to be. Even if you work better alone, having a support network of other people who understand the challenges you’re facing can be invaluable.
Reach out to friends or even strangers who are in the same position as you. We always encourage LearnSignal students to forge connections with one another, from all over the world.
You could study together, or swap notes, or discuss topics or questions you have in common, or even just share your experiences. You might even split topics between you all and then swap notes, to save time.
The point is, build your support network because there will be tough days on your ACCA journey – and your network can help you pull through.
Everyone is different, and not everything will work for you. But these 7 tips are a step in the right direction, helping you build a study environment that you work more effectively and efficiently in. And ultimately, that’s the secret to passing the ACCA.