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Dear All

Having done my last professional exams nearly 10 years ago, I decided to test the waters by self-studying for the ATT qualification with the aim of using this as a stepping stone to attain CTA qualification. It was tough as I have a young family but fortunately it all ended well in just over a year. The aim was always to study for CTA but my marks in the ATT exams (>60 marks) and further committment required has put me in a dilemma. On one hand, I know I will never get this opportunity again where I have to only sit for 3 exams (2 papers really-cosidering the Case Study is based on one of the AT papers) whilst on the other hand we, as a family, would have to possibly sacrifice another year of our lives to this. 

I can only afford to self-study but I know that I would struggle considering I might not know the tricks of obtaining easy marks which could make all the difference at the end. I would love to study the practice route but would ideally like to just do CTA by studying for the easiest papers, any idea which ones!

How much of a jump am I expecting from ATT to CTA? ( I am aware that ATT involves easy answers whereas CTA involves advising clients in the form of reports). My question is more directed towards a direction in terms of study routine and time required to ideally secure a pass?

Any tips from other members who have been through the same would also be appreciated? Very difficult to get over the fact in 3 years time (when my ATT passes expire) that I was 2 subjects away from CTA!

Thank you for your answers. You have all been so helpful and I am ever so grateful.

Replies (11)

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By sculptureofman
27th Jan 2020 10:32

The jump from ATT to CTA is pretty big.

From what I remember, in ATT you use your tax knowledge to calculate the answers. In CTA you are very time pressured and need to know exactly how to answer the question with the time you have. You need much more knowledge, but exam technique also plays a much larger part than in ATT.

I think I finished most ATT exams with at least 30-40 minutes to spare, and passed all first time. In CTA I don't think I fully finished a paper, and had 2 resits.

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Replying to sculptureofman:
By weuk
27th Jan 2020 10:52

Thank you for the reply. The jump is as I suspected and the approach to answering questions is exactly how I understood.

How did you study? Also much of extra time did CTA take from ATT. As stated I have other commitments have to think hard before embarking on at least a year long adventure with my my time and money!

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Replying to weuk:
By sculptureofman
27th Jan 2020 12:32

To be honest I can't remember exactly how long it took, but it certainly took longer than ATT.

I did the classroom courses, there's no way I would have passed without them. Reading the course material is one thing, but it was invaluable to have someone walk you through it, and get you into 'exam mode'.

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By gainsborough
27th Jan 2020 17:52

I agree with sculptureofman - the jump from ATT to CTA is pretty huge. Have you looked at any prices yet, as many of the larger accountancy colleges have switched to online learning for CTA, so it may be less expensive then you think?

Alternatively, you could consider self-studying most of it and just booking revision courses for exam technique.

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Replying to gainsborough:
By weuk
28th Jan 2020 11:24

Thank you for the reply.
That is the plan as I can not afford a full scale study plan. It is like £2k for each paper, around £5k in total.

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By Constantly Confused
28th Jan 2020 08:04

I did the ATT self study (after working in tax for a few years) and (modesty aside) found it fairly straightforward and never really had any worries about it. I averaged in the 70 mark range.

Then I did the CTA via a course and got 72/61/59/51:
- Awareness is the ATT again (hence the best mark), but all in one short form exam; if you can do the ATT you will be fine (though you mention 3 exams so are you exempt from this one anyway?)
- The two technical papers were hard going. I'm not sure I got an enourmous amount from the classes other than a few extra questions and someone to email to ask where I didn't understand, but I think they likely got me some extra marks. The approach does change ATT -> CTA but it's more that the marks shift upwards (so instead of 4 easy/4 good and 2 show off marks it is 1 easy/8 normal and 1 show off marks)
- The application and interaction paper (the case study) was a living nightmare (51 is the lowest mark I've ever had in any exam and I was still overjoyed to get it!). I was never once comfortable in it, all the way from practice papers to real thing. That is the only one I absolutely 100% needed the class for; I didn't learn any new tax knoweldge, but I learned how to pass the paper which is most of the battle with A&I.

So with effort and time, if you can do the ATT self study you could do the CTA, but I'd strongly suggest doing a class for the A&I paper, otherwise you can be amazing at tax and get 20% for not structuring it right or not telling them what they want to know, and you will likely increase your chances hugely for the other papers with tuition/access to a tutor.

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Replying to Constantly Confused:
By weuk
28th Jan 2020 11:27

Thank you for the reply. I shall be taking your advice on board. Self study the 2 ATs and then AP I will take revision classes. It is not even marked in the traditional way so the only way to pass is to adhere to the 3 components which lead to a pass.

Will try one AT at the moment if I pass fine if I fail, I will take that as a sign and hang up my boots!

May I ask how much more CTA help you when compared to ATT in real life?

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By tom123
28th Jan 2020 09:13

I presume you are currently working in tax?

I only say that as an FD (CIMA) who thought I would add CTA a few years ago,

Naively, I wasn't expecting it to be as hard as it was. I 'dropped' down to ATT after a couple of years - and was very pleased to have got that.

Got a distinction in the VAT paper - the only tax I really had that much exposure to.

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Replying to tom123:
By weuk
28th Jan 2020 11:32

I work in tax and yes after years of trying to do CTA because I was never committed, I also came to ATT and was pleased to have done it. I broke down when I passed my Law exam and had to be escorted by a staff member at Prometric even though I was still waiting for my final exam result because at that moment all could see was the the hard work and effort and sacrifice me and my family had to go through but somehow I feel like ending this now might be something I might regret in future. It is not like you get the opportunity to do CTA with only 3 more exams. I am not sure if I can spend another year of studying in the car at the local Tesco whilst the family does the weekly shopping or spend 1 year without any social life!

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By The Dullard
28th Jan 2020 10:50

The "easier" two papers are probably Taxation of Individuals and Taxation of Owner-Managed Business, but it all depends on the papers!

Don't try and do them all in one year. Choose your application and professional skills paper, and sit that together with the corresponding advanced technical paper. Take a year to do it. Then take another year to do the other advanced technical paper, potentially with resits. You can do your next lot of resits six-months later, if you need to.

Just keep going. But, if you haven't passed it all in the three years, then you might as well just give up anyway. Enjoy your family.

Allocate time for studying, but spend time with your family too.

Don't try and get as many marks as possible. Just try and pass. Allocate your time between the different parts of the paper, questions, parts of questions, etc strictly on a time basis, and don't go over the time (the pareto principle applies). That is the only exam technique you need.

Revision technique and learning technique. Do lots of questions. Keep doing lots of questions. Familiarise yourself with your legislation. Break the spine. Know where to find 5h1t. It will save you.

Wear sunscreen.

Thanks (1)
Replying to The Dullard:
By weuk
28th Jan 2020 11:36

Dullard-I am speechless. I needed these words. All of you guys who replied to me here have given me the resolute I needed. To be honest I hated Taxation of Individuals (Share Plans and Residency Tests in particular). So might speak to someone and see if I can sit the Human Taxes exam if it is different or easier or who knows may be VAT.

You are right in what you say regarding family.

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