Interview with Alkemist (OpenTuition Moderator)
Alkemist – is one of the most active moderators on OpenTuiton.com
Can you tell us more about yourself and your work?
I hold a B.Sc. in Chemistry fromt the University of the West Indies and have pretty much been teaching Chemistry and Physics every since (including some years doing work towards my Masters degree in Chemistry). I currently teach the equivalent of A’Level Chemistry at a High School for Boys in the capital of Jamaica, Kingston.
One day, whilst still at the University doing some research I asked myself the question what next and realised the option was to acquire some business qualification to make me a more rounded individual. An MBA was quite a lot of money and I felt I wouldn’t learn as much, so I looked around and found that the ACCA studies offered me what I was looking for – a manageable and comprehensive curriculum at a reasonable cost and which would fit itself into my busy schedule.
I sat my first paper, 1.1 (now F3) in December 2006 and have been attempting since then.
Many users are working just like you, how do you balance between studying, job and private life?
I prioritise I ensure I complete my work when I am supposed to, during the day, although with teaching, some amount of planning takes place after work hours.
My study time however is sacred and realising that I am the one paying for the exams is enough drive to have me studying. I try to start studying from early (at least 3 weeks after the last exam) that way I am not rushing through as the next sitting approaches and thus I am able to still include a private life.
My other half is an ACCA member, so she understands for the most part that there are times when she will only see me briefly, but her busy work life as an auditor also means that she doesn’t complain. That said, we do find lots of time for each other, especially ont he weekend.
Any particular method – as a working student – works for you?
One of the best things is to find a place conducive to studying very early in the study period. FOr me it was at the University I attended, although a new favourite of mine is the local accounting institute (the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Jamaica – ICAJ) which provides a study area for students who wish to use it. The last sitting (December 09) the institute was closed for renovation and it was a real challenge finding a good place. THankfully, I had the university to study at.
Another important aspect is assessing the scope of the syllabus from early and realising your limitations. Seek tuition where you realise it will be helpful, but ensure that the lecturer will deliver value for money. For me, I did tuition for F6, F7, F8 and P7.
Finally, form small study/revision groups, especially for those subjects considered reading subjects. For me that was F8, P1, P3 and P7. I remember especially for P1 the many evenings a group of us spent outdoors at the ICAJ arguing points for P1 topics.
You have been a member of OpenTuition for a very long time now, how did you first time find out about this site?
I first learnt about OpenTuition when I overheard some students mention the site. I then came across a link when searching google for a topic relevant to paper F6. I found the site to be extremely helpful, especially the forums.
Is OpenTuition known in the Caribbean?
I have met many persons from other Caribbean territories who use the site, especially from Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago. I can tell you this, I come across students all the while who have printed the OpenTuition course notes and work through them religiously. I am sure if I took a survey, many of the students here (in Jamaica) have come across OpenTuition material.
Do you attend any classes? What is the tuition like?
I attended classes for F6, F7, F8 and P7 with the same tutor. There are quite a few places and individuals in the capital who offer tuition for various papers. In the other parts of the island, tuition is not so readily available, but it is slowly changing.
The cost is quite reasonable, between J$9,000 and J$10,000 which in british pounds works out to 66 – 73 pounds per course. Classes are roughly 3 hours, once per week for about 3 months and then an all day weekend workshop spread over two days for about 22 pounds.
We once got a visiting lecturer to the island and when he heard how cheap our tuition was and how often we had class he commented that he couldn’t make a living here.
Not all tuition providers offer good quality, but we pretty much know who to go to for whichever papers, so most of us who attend tuition get real value for money.
What resources are the most valuable to you on opentuition and/or helped you most on OpenTuition?
The most valuable resource on OpenTuition has been the forums. Whenever I have a problem understanding a certain component for a paper, I just scan through the relevant forum and chances are the problem has already been answered. If there is no topic, then I post a quick note and receive very helpful responses. Second to that has been the course notes, which I have used for some of my subjects.
What do you think could be improved OpenTuition even more?
I think one of the main things is the level of moderation. Sometimes the same questions are asked over and over again by users, thus placing other more helpful topics so far down the forum page that after scanning three pages, they still do not show up. Occasionally, we as moderators need to scan through our forums and consolidate repetitive information into one topic, so that there is less individual topics to go through. Sometimes I have tried to do this, but even I am not perfect at it.
I love the work done by some moderators however, especially MrTaza and Husnain. Always on the ball and ready with a solution or the link to the answer. (Don’t be offended if I haven’t called the names of other moderators…many of you do a great job.)
What other study materials do you use? Anything you can recommend?
Well, I am a die-hard BPP user. I also make sure at the beginning of every session I acquire the updated syllabus for the next sitting.
This is the way I see it. I pay ACCA and the examiner is kind enough to tell me what will be examined.
The examiner goes even further to tell me which books I can find the information in and where I can obtain past papers questions to see how the examiner is thinking, so I would be crazy not to take the advice.
For my auditing papers I used material garnered from my tutor, since he is a practicing auditor, his experience was very relevant.
Was there ever a time when you thought you had not done well in a paper?
This last sitting was my most trying. Full time 9-5 job (previously I had more flexibility in setting time) and for the first time I was attempting 3 papers. In addition, I was doing P2 and without tuition, so I focused extensively on this. When I sat the paper, I thought “what a waste” as I didn’t think I had done enough to pass the paper. Additionally, the time allocated to studying my other papers was severely reduced, though I felt confident that I could at least pass them. My grades would have been better without the distraction of P2, but I am happy to have gotten that out the way.
You have produced excellent copy of F9 quick point notes and shared them on the forums, many students found it valuable! What prompted you?
When I did paper F5 (December 07) I knew nothing about costing, nor the horrible reputation it had for failing people. I just studied, did the paper and that was it. By the time I got to F9, I had heard all the horror stories about financial management and I was so eager to pass my final F-level paper, I was taking no chances, so I read the BPP text from cover to cover, then I went through a second time and wrote the notes, so that I would have the relevant information set aside for my third revision.
A few people looked at it and said it was quite helpful, so I figured why not share it with the OpenTuition community. After all, we are all here to learn from each other and others had been so kind to me in the past (esp Admin for giving me an avenue to learn even better) that it was only natural for me to share it.