Author: Andrew Leong, BCom – Accounting Co-op 2017
Year course was taken: 2013W
Final mark obtained in course: 96
Financial Accounting (COMM 293) is a very complex and fast-paced course. I few of my friends struggled in this course, which is why I’m sharing some of my secrets to success in this course. This isn’t a “must-do” list, but rather a few strategies that I had going into the course. Feel free to tweak these tips or cater them to your own fit.
- Practice, practice, practice: I had the opportunity to study accounting at high school for two full years (Accounting 11 and Financial Accounting 12). For those of you new to this field, you have approximately four months for the course. Accounting is a very different topic (not difficult in my opinion). My recommendation is lots of practice with journal entries, t-charts, and financial statements (cash flow). Make sure that you can complete homework problems and textbook problems without looking at the solutions! Continued exposure and familiarity will be beneficial. Which leads to…
- Time-management and organization: Time management is an essential skill for accountants, and very important on exams. Memorizing accounting formulas and procedures will increase speed during exams, and more time to check over work. Complete the easy problems first to leave some time for the more complex questions later. For example, for the purchase of equipment, understand that in the general ledger, equipment will increase (an asset), and most likely cash or accounts payable will also increase (depending if the purchase is made on credit or through cash). However, memorizing concepts is no substitute for understanding. Ensure that you understand why accounts decrease and increase, or why an expense account usually has a debit amount. Not all accounting concepts can be memorized; be organized in your approach.
- Keep up with the assigned homework: Spend time completing MyAccountingLab, or your online module for homework. I found that in my previous courses, the earlier I got started on the homework (instead of frantically doing it last minute), the more I understood the HOW and WHY of the answers. It’s important to understand this because exam questions might not be identical to ones in your homework. Continue to practise each and every week; falling behind could be detrimental given the breadth of the course (financial accounting is a cumulative and integrative course, if you don’t understand journal entries, you won’t understand depreciation methods).
- Understand the accounting lingo: For instance, know the difference between periodic and perpetual (very different methods of keeping track of inventory). Memorize commonly used vocabulary and definitions. The professor might use these words in the lecture; not fully understanding these definitions could lead to errors and confusion. Let’s say, for example, that a question on an exam was to differentiate between LIFO and FIFO accounting errors. Each inventory accounting tool is very different in its approach and procedures. Knowing the terminology will allow you to better understand the process.
- EXCELLENT READING SKILLS ARE ESSENTIAL: Despite the fact that accounting requires a lot of calculations, the ability to read is very important to capture appropriate numerical and critical values. I’ve lost a few marks in the past when I simply missed an important detail which affected my calculations (like the type of depreciation). Take time to understand the question.
- BE PROACTIVE NOT REACTIVE: Pre-reading is also very important, especially in accounting. Often times, with new subjects, I found that engaging with materials before the lecture enabled me to better understand and capture the topics. If a chapter is on revenue recognition, read the assigned chapters BEFORE class. That way, if there’s a grey area or a topic that is still confusing after class, you can ask for clarification from a friend or the professor.
Hopefully, you’ll find these tips helpful for succeeding in accounting. The main reason, in my opinion, for my success is my continued exposure and practice with the material. Don’t hesitate to print off a series of journal entries and simply journalize each one!