Tips on Taking an Accounting Exam

by Maria OCadiz

Accounting exams are challenging for most students as they involve lots of calculations and concepts. Most students will tell you that the time allowed for an accounting exam is never enough to complete all the calculations and explain all the concepts. You must have a desire to learn and put in hard work during exam preparations. To succeed in an accounting exam, learn how to plan, manage time effectively and relax throughout the test-taking period.

Before the Exam

Accounting exam requires a lot of practice to perfect calculations, learn formulas and understand accounting concepts. Do not try to go through the whole syllabus two or three days before the exam -- you'll get stressed and exhausted from retaining too much information in a short time. Instead, start preparing early and make summary of notes that you can go through a few nights to the exam day. You can use past papers for revision. Visit the exam room prior to the exam and familiarize yourself with the surroundings. Sleep well the night before exam day; calculations require a fresh mind to think logically and apply knowledge.

Highlight Requirements

During the examination, try to relax and breathe easy. Take about 15 minutes to go through all the questions and highlight requirements for each question. Highlight the numbers, dates and important information. For instance, if you answering a question on depreciation, highlight dates of acquisition or disposal, cost, useful life and salvage value of the asset. Be careful not to misinterpret the question and miss what the examiner is looking for. Look out for key words such as “explain, discuss, evaluate, analyze and show.”

Planning and Time Management

Once you know what's required, plan how to go about it so that you can answer all questions in good time. Allocate time for each question. Identify the easiest questions so you can start with them. Examiners like to have well-structured answers, and in accounting this is crucial since your figures should be seen clearly. Label each step of the calculations to make it easy for the examiner to follow. For instance, label working (1), working (2), until the last step when you arrive at the final solution. This way, it is easier for the examiner to award points even when the final answer is incorrect. Mark questions well to save examiner’s time and avoid confusion.

Answering Questions

Try to answer all questions. Finish the questions according to requirements; for instance, if you are required to analyze and advise an investor, calculate the ratios, then give your analysis and recommendations on whether or not to invest. Give succinct answers that are brief and to the point. Accounting is about applying knowledge and supporting it with figures, not argumentative essays. Avoid lengthy introductions. Set apart five minutes to check whether all questions are answered and if there are errors. Recalculate if possible when hesitant about a question. Do not discuss answers after the paper, especially if you are going in for another exam.

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