People who are good at what they do always make it look easier than it really is. The same goes for top accounting and taxation students. While there are several rules for studying accounting effectively, learning accounting starts with desire and hard work. If your heart isn’t in it, studying accounting can be pure tedium. Once your heart is in it, and you’re ready to give it your all, it’s time to learn how to maximize your study time and learn how to learn accounting more efficiently. However, those who perform best in their studies do not sit on their hands and wait for the ‘A’ s to roll in. Instead, they put in the work and follow some of these study habits to reach the top of their class:
Studying accounting from a textbook
Similar to math, accounting concepts build upon one another. What you learn in chapter 2 builds on what you learned in chapter 1. What you learn in chapter 3 builds on what you learned in chapters 2 and 1. If you didn’t really grasp the concepts taught in chapter 1, you’re going to have a difficult time learning the concepts in chapter 2 – and you’ll most likely be lost by chapter 3. It’s imperative that you thoroughly understand the concepts being taught in each chapter before moving on to the next chapter.
Make sure you can solve every type of problem illustrated in your textbook
A top student doesn’t ‘spot’ for exams (only learning the things they think will be asked). Instead, they make sure they can solve every type of problem they can possibly encounter. Not knowing how to approach and solve a certain problem can have the following detrimental effects during an exam: Struggling with questions you are unsure of can cause you to run out of time during the exam. Encountering a question you don’t know how to answer can make you panic and ‘blank out’ during the exam.
Test yourself after each lesson
A top student knows that the best way to truly internalize course content is to test yourself after each lesson. It’s not enough to just ‘go over’ your notes again. You have to make sure you have comprehended the lesson, and that you are able to do the work on your own (without consulting your notes) afterwards.
Work hard from Day One
A top student knows that they can’t succeed if they only start working hard when a deadline is approaching, or when the exams are nearing. Working hard from the start doesn’t only apply to your academic year, however, but to each day of your course as well. A top student starts working as early in the day as possible, and not only at 22:00 at night.
Rely on discipline, not just motivation
A top student knows that they won’t always feel like studying. Motivation is fickle and can often disappear when your mood changes. Discipline, on the other hand, means studying even when you don’t feel like it – even when you don’t feel motivated. You have to force yourself to do the work you need to do, no matter how you feel. And you have to stick to your schedule, despite everything else going on around you.
Participate in class or online
Students who participate in class are more involved in the work, more present during lectures, and more likely to develop a sound understanding of the work. It is no coincidence that you’ll often find that the students failing a course are sitting in the back of the classroom. You have to ask questions and volunteer answers. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
Try to understand patterns
The human mind loves categorizing information and looking for relationships between the different things we encounter. This is how our minds make sense of the world around us. Top students use this way of thinking when it comes to studying as well. They look at the bigger picture and they look for patterns in the work that will help them make sense of different—yet usually interrelated—topics. Understanding the bigger picture, and how different topics relate to one another, will help you comprehend, memorize, and recall your work better.
Compete with yourself
Every student wants to do well. But those with clear goals are the ones who manage to push themselves a bit further each time. For each semester and each exam, you have to create a realistic goal for yourself regarding the mark you want to achieve. And each goal should be just a little higher than the previous one.
Accounting Study Skills Guide
How To Study Accounting
While there are several rules for studying accounting effectively, learning accounting starts with desire and hard work. If your heart isn’t in it, studying accounting can be pure tedium. Once your heart is in it, and you’re ready to give it your all, it’s time to learn how to maximize your study time and learn how to learn accounting more efficiently.
Preparing for Professional Accounting Exams like the CMA, CPA, CIA in tough times : If you have been preparing for a professional accounting exam like the CPA examination or the CMA US examination at this time, you need to introduce some changes in your lifestyle and thought process so that you can focus properly. Read more…
READ YOUR TEXTBOOK
Textbooks are a great resource for studying accounting. The following are rules and suggestions for using your textbook effectively to learn accounting.
Studying accounting from a textbook is different from studying other subjects such as history, economics or biology. When reading a history textbook you can get by if you’re able to understand 90 percent of the information or if you come away with a general idea of what’s going on. Not the case with accounting. Read your textbook for understanding. And if you don’t understand it, read it again. If you understand a concept being introduced, then it’s okay to skim the text or skip ahead. But make sure you understand the concept(s).
Similar to math, accounting concepts build upon one another. What you learn in chapter 2 builds on what you learned in chapter 1. What you learn in chapter 3 builds on what you learned in chapters 2 and 1. If you didn’t really grasp the concepts taught in chapter 1, you’re going to have a difficult time learning the concepts in chapter 2 – and you’ll most likely be lost by chapter 3. It’s imperative that you thoroughly understand the concepts being taught in each chapter before moving on to the next chapter. Scanning text for main points doesn’t work in accounting. Accounting textbooks are meant to be read. Almost everything that is included in your accounting book is important. So when you read… read everything.
Read your accounting textbook to understand “WHY.”
Accounting doesn’t require you to memorize as much information as other subjects do. It does however require you to understand “WHY.” Accounting is all about “WHY.” As you read your textbook discover the “WHY” in what you’re reading. Try to understand the logic behind what is being taught. When you finish studying a new topic from your textbook, try to put it in your own words. Explain the new concept to yourself or someone else. Putting concepts in your own words and explaining them aloud is far more effective than reading a text over and over again.
Discover the “HOW.”
Once you understand the “why”, it’s important to discover the “how”. It’s not enough to understand why an accounting principle or concept works, if you can’t apply it. You must understand how accounting concepts work and be able to apply them. In order to discover how accounting principles work and how they are applied, work the problems included in your accounting textbook. Most chapter problems are designed specifically to help you discover how to apply the principles or concepts being taught in that section. Work each problem before checking your answer.
Review as you go.
Any subject is easier to understand and remember if you thoroughly learn it the first time through. But if you’re unable to remember everything you’ve learned, you’ll just start reviewing a few days before finals, right? This may be an acceptable strategy if you’re studying history or sociology, but not when you’re studying accounting. The most effective way to learn accounting, and retain what you’ve learned, is to “REVIEW AS YOU GO”. If it’s a bad idea to cram for a history exam the night before a test, it’s a very bad idea to cram for an accounting test. Never postpone reviewing your accounting until examination time. As you review, visit previous chapters in your textbook and rework problems you struggled with. Find other accounting problems similar to those that were difficult for you and work those problems too.
At the end of each week take some time to review your notes to refresh your memory and to make sure you understand everything you studied during the week. Remember, information that is forgotten must be relearned. The time required to relearn information is often the same as learning it for the first time. It’s far more efficient to review as you go than to attempt to relearn forgotten information at the end of the term or semester.
Ask questions and get answers to your questions throughout the semester. Your professor, or teacher’s aide, isn’t going to be anxious to sit down with you for several hours at the end or the term to answer all your questions and re-teach you concepts you should have learned along the way. AND when your professor asks you what you don’t understand, don’t say “everything.” Statements like this suggest you’ve made very little effort on your own to try and understand. Before asking questions, pinpoint exactly what you don’t understand. Make sure your questions are specific.
DO HOMEWORK PROBLEMS
If you want to learn accounting, then work all the homework problems given to you. There is no better way to learn how to do accounting than practicing accounting problems. Mastering accounting is as easy as mastering the homework problems in your textbook, in study guides and those given to you in class. If you will work on your homework problems, you will learn accounting.
- Read the problem and make sure you understand what is being asked. Then scan the problem.
- Work each problem in its entirety without referring to reference materials. If you get stumped, refer to the textbook or your notes, but not until after you’ve made your best effort to work the problem on your own. If you can’t work problems without referring to your textbook or your notes, you aren’t remembering the material – and aren’t ready for your next test.
- It’s easier to keep up than play catch up.
Since accounting concepts build upon one another, it’s very important you keep up with the class. After each class, review your notes. If there are any accounting concepts that were introduced during class that you did not fully understand, do whatever is required to learn them before your next class.
- The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.
If you are having difficulty understanding part of a problem, or don’t quite get a new accounting concept being introduced, don’t hesitate to raise your hand and ask for clarification during class.
Make Effective Use of Class Time
You may be able to breeze through your history course and get a B+ at the end of the semester without attending class regularly. The same can’t be said for skipping your accounting class. Class attendance and participation is key to doing well in accounting.
Always arrive in class PREPARED.
Show up for each class having completed all assignments and having reviewed your notes from the previous session. You’ll get the most out of each class session if you participate. Come to each class session prepared to ask questions, answer questions, and participate in classroom discussion.
PREPARE FOR EXAMS
Most exams offered at reputable accounting programs are designed to test your understanding of specific accounting principles and concepts. The following suggestions will help you prepare for such exams.
Focus your study in the most important areas.
Review and make sure you can work all homework problems that have been assigned to the term. Focus your review on topics the professor has emphasized in class.
Make sure you really know the material.
Be sure you can work all homework problems without help.
Teach the accounting concepts you’ve learned to someone else.
Form a study group, and test each other.
Do you know the “whys” and “how’s” for each accounting concept?
Focus on understanding — not memorization.
Your instructor wants to see that you truly understand the accounting principles and concepts that have been taught throughout the term of the course. Expect to see questions appear on the test that are presented in a slightly different way than you’ve previously seen. Make sure you understand how to apply what you’ve learned.
Read the entire problem.
Read what each question is really asking.
Allow enough time at the end of the exam to review for errors you’ve made.
Answer the easy questions first.
Go through the exam and answer all the questions you know. Then go back and tackle the more challenging questions. This will ensure that you get credit for all the questions you know and relieve a little pressure as you tackle more time-consuming questions.
Maintain a steady pace.
Most accounting tests have a time limit. Make sure you’re confident enough with your ability to work accounting problems in a timely fashion that you aren’t constantly checking the clock and stressing yourself out. While we would all like to finish the accounting exam having answered all of the questions correctly, it’s far better to complete 85 percent of the questions having answered them correctly than to complete 100 percent of the questions having answered a majority incorrectly.
Additional Tips-At a Glance
Create a schedule
One of the most important things you can do when studying for an accounting certification exam is to create a study schedule and stick to it. Having a set time each day that you dedicate to studying will help you stay on track and ensure you continue to make progress toward your goal. Don’t try to cram everything in at once. You’ll risk ending up feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Instead, break up your study sessions into manageable chunks. Dedicate an hour or two each day to reviewing material, and you’ll be surprised how quickly the information starts to stick.
Make use of study aids
There are a lot of great study aids out there that can help you learn and retain information more effectively. From flashcards to apps to practice quizzes, there’s no shortage of resources available to help you prepare for your exam. Using them can make a big difference in how well you do come test day. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different study aids until you find the ones that work best for you.
Take Mock tests
Taking practice tests is one of the most effective ways to study. Why? Because it allows you to see what areas you need to focus on, and it also helps improve your test-taking skills. Not to mention, the more practice tests you take, the more confident you’ll feel on exam day. If you can, take at least one practice test per week leading up to your accounting certification exam.
Get plenty of sleep
This one might seem obvious, but it’s important, nonetheless. Getting enough sleep is crucial for both your physical and mental health. And when you’re studying for a big exam, it’s even more important. When you’re tired, your concentration and memory suffer. Try to get at least eight hours of sleep each night.
Just like getting enough sleep, eating healthy is also important for both your physical and mental health. When you’re studying for a big exam, you might be tempted to grab whatever’s quick and easy for a meal. But that’s not going to do you any favors in the long run. Eating unhealthy food will make you feel sluggish and unfocused. Do your best to eat healthy meals and snacks while you’re studying. It can make a surprisingly noticeable difference.
It’s important to stay focused when you’re studying for your accounting certification exam. But that doesn’t mean you have to study non-stop. In fact, taking breaks can actually be helpful. Taking a few minutes here and there to clear your head will help you come back feeling refreshed and ready to focus. Just make sure you don’t take too many breaks, or you’ll never get any studying done.
One of the best ways to stay motivated while studying for your accounting certification exam is to set goals. Decide how much you want to study each day, and then make sure you stick to it. It’s also a good idea to set a goal for the date of your exam. Having a specific date to work toward will help keep you on a schedule.
Use a timer
One of the best ways to stay focused while studying is to use a timer. Set it for an hour (or however long you want to study), and then start working. Once the timer goes off, take a five-minute break. Then set the timer again and start working. This technique will help you stay focused and make the most of your study time.
If possible, form a study group with classmates. Study groups are very effective in learning difficult material. Going over each other’s notes and discussing concepts will further aid in the understanding of the material.
Preparing for and Taking Exams-The Final Approach
- Be sure that you can work problems representing all concepts covered without the aid of the book or solutions manual.
- Know the material. You will not have unlimited time for the exam. If you have to spend significant time trying to remember the “hows” and “whys” related to each exam question or problem, you will have difficulty completing the exam.
- Do not expect exam problems and questions to be a carbon copy of homework problems. The material may be covered from a different angle to test your ability to reason and understand, rather than memorize. When studying, consider how concepts covered in homework could be presented differently. While working on homework problems ask yourself “what if” questions to challenge your understanding of the material. For example, if the homework problem reflects a loss situation, ask yourself, “how would I treat this if it were a gain situation?”
- At the beginning of the exam, quickly scan the exam to determine what is on it. Easy problems – do those first. Problems that you think you may be able to do if you think about it – do those next. Problems that you swear came from another course – leave them for last. One of the worst things you can do is try to solve a problem that you do not understand first. This may cause you to get bogged down and confused and may keep you from completing problems that you do understand. For most students it is wise to work the problems first and then return to the multiple choice questions. This allows you to get warmed up on the problems, preparing your brain for the often more challenging multiple-choice questions.
- Budget your time appropriately. If a problem is worth only a few points, do not spend half an hour on it (regardless of how brilliant your answer, it will still only be worth those few points).
- Read the problem carefully. Often points are lost because the question asked was not fully answered.
- Show all of your work. You cannot get partial credit without it.
- Tips for navigating multiple choice questions(the following tips are excerpted/adapted from “Gleim CPA Review, A System for Success”, 2007 Edition).
a. Attempt to ignore the answer choices – do not allow the answer choices to influence your reading of the question. If four answers are presented, three of them are incorrect. These incorrect answers are called distractors and they are called this for a good reason. For computational items, the distractors are often the result of common mistakes so do not assume your answer is correct just because it is listed.
b. Read the question carefully and in its entirety to determine the precise requirement. DO NOT assume you know what is being asked based on prior experience in class or with the homework. You may find it helpful to underline or circle important information as you read such as dates, time periods, etc. This will also help you to ignore extraneous information. Be especially careful when the requirement is an exception: e.g. “which of the following is not….”
c. If possible, determine the correct answer before looking at the answer choices (see a. above)
d. Read the answers choices carefully. Even if the first answer appears to be correct, do not skip the remaining choices. As you determine which part of an answer is incorrect, mark the answer in some way (I cross out the words/word that make an answer wrong). This process of elimination is particularly helpful if you are not certain of the correct answer.
Basically, accounting is an information system. Accounting is the set of rules and methods by which financial data are collected, processed, and summarized into reports that can be used in making decisions. Accounting reports provide information for managerial planning, control, and decision making. These reports also provide information to outside investors, creditors, and regulators interested in the financial position of the company. An accounting professor will stress major theories and concepts, and one of the goals is that you, the student, will be able to read, understand, and interpret financial data.
Don’t think for a second that there is any real difference between you and a top-achieving student when it comes to what you are capable of. The only thing standing between you and much better marks is working harder, and working smarter. So, if you want to get to the top of your class, and pass your course with distinction, you just have to cultivate better study habits. Finally, don’t forget to reward yourself for all your hard work. You’re not a robot! Studying for your accounting certification exam is no easy feat, so you deserve a little something special when you reach milestones along the way. Whether it’s something small like taking a break for coffee or something bigger like going out for dinner, find ways to treat yourself that will help motivate you to keep going. You’ve got this!
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