Hugh Battrick

Those first days at university are always the scariest; uncertainty is not a favourite of mine! That’s one of the great things about starting the graduate scheme with other graduates; we’re all in the same position!

We all join not knowing how we will adapt to a new job, a new city and new people.

Being in a graduate class helps develop a great sense of camaraderie; it’s a bit like being in halls again at university. There are lots of jokes and it means we can ask each other those silly questions you’d rather not ask more senior people (saving us some face!).

This week our challenge was to get back into the exam mindset.   Barclays supports us to obtain the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) qualification as part of our graduate programme. Whilst this is one of the most prestigious qualifications in finance, it does have a rather scary reputation with less than a 50% pass success rate, reflecting its demanding schedule. Luckily Barclays provides us with study leave and schedules a seven day intensive course, which we have just attended.

The idea of attending an intensive study course a few months before the June exam is that we’re all at different stages and require different guidance on how best to structure our revision. It highlights areas where we might need to apply a bit more study time! It was also a great chance to ask the course tutor questions that the books don’t answer.

Day one began with a 2 hour exam. It was a bit cruel first thing in the first morning and some people needed more coffee than others to get through it! We quickly learnt the purpose of doing these tests was not primarily to pass or fail us but more for us to monitor our own progress to see if we are on track.

The tutor gave us some really useful advice. He pointed out areas that are frequently tested and how to best use our time depending on our strengths. I thought it was useful to hear this now rather than spend months studying areas that are unlikely to feature. One minor drawback though was the pace of the sessions, an unfortunate consequence of having to cover a great volume of content in a short duration.

Not all hard work 

Although it was a study week it was great to be out of the office with all the graduates. We got to explore the city during lunchtimes and found some great food markets which helped us to relax during our breaks. The city has a completely different atmosphere to working in Canary Wharf, so it was good to experience a change of scenery. Our lunch time jaunts did oddly make me feel a student again, what with marching around the in a large group of graduates complete with rucksacks!

A nice element of gathering together in the same location was seeing our fellow graduates from the regions and overseas who had travelled to London for the course. It is great being part of a class and it brought back memories of those first few days when we joined Barclays. At the end of the week a few of us went for a drink to catch up properly, not a calculator in sight I would like to add!

I found being back in a classroom environment a welcome reality check. We got the results of the test we did on day one at the end of the course and some people had scored really highly, which was a great motivator. It was pleasing to see that the effort I’ve put in so far hasn’t been for nothing!

Most of us started studying around Christmas for the June exam and it’s recommended to spend 300 hours studying to pass level 1. We are allocated study leave the week before the exam but I might top this up with a few more days to do more mock exams. Fingers crossed being back in the classroom will have helped us all to pass come June!