How to Study Accounting * 
The following recommendations will help you achieve the maximum results for your study efforts. Although there is no substitute for HARD WORK and a DESIRE TO LEARN, this guide will help you use your study time and classroom time more efficiently.
  1. Studying accounting is not like reading a novel or studying history or sociology.
    • Each assignment in accounting builds on previous assignments.  If you do half-hearted work in Chapters 1 and 2, you may be confused by Chapter 5 and lost by Chapter 6.
    • Accounting books are condensed. Almost every sentence is important.  Scan reading just does not work!
  2. Read to understand “why”.
    • This is a technical subject, it is logical, and it requires reasoning. Strive to be able to say, “I understand why that is done.”  If you can understand “why” in accounting, there is very little to memorize.
    • Try to explain every new topic in your own words. Putting the new ideas into your own words is better than reciting the words of the text a hundred times.
  3. Work problems to understand how.
    • Even though you understand “why it is done” in accounting, you must be able to do it yourself
    • To be sure that you understand “how” as well as “why”, work the examples that are used with the reading material.  Don't copy the book.  Try your own skill and then check your answers.
  4. Remember “why” and “how”.
    • Go back to previous chapters and notes to refresh your memory. Rework problems that were difficult for you.  Try to work extra problems that are similar to the assigned homework.
    • Never wait until examination time to review your accounting.  The review-as-you-go plan produces better results, doesn't take as long, and saves all that last minute worry and sacrifice of other courses.  The forgetting  curve is the mirror image of the learning curve. You forget as fast as you learn. It is a scientific fact that information that has been forgotten requires that it be relearned, requiring the same amount of time it took to learn it originally.
  5. If there is something you don't understand, prepare specific questions to ask your instructor. Some students keep a notebook of points with which they have questions. PIN-POINT THE ITEMS THAT YOU DO NOT UNDER-STAND. Don't make vague comments to your instructor such as “I don't understand any of this material.” Such statements are a strong indication to the instructor that you have made no attempt to try to understand, and will receive very little sympathy or help.
  1. Read  the  problem!  Read the instructions and scan the problem to see what is ahead. 
  2. Work the problems without “page flipping” back to the chapter and/or notes. 
    • When in doubt, look back at the chapter and/or notes – but NOT until you have tried to do the problem on your own. This indicates that you do not remember the chapter material.  You are not prepared for an examination.
    • The “page-flipping” method is guaranteed to waste a maximum amount of your time and to produce a minimum of results.
  3. Keep up with the class!   IT IS EASIER TO KEEP UP THAN TO CATCH UP!! 
    1. Check your solution against the solution presented in class (or online).
    2. Be sure that you understand the correct solution.
  4. Note the part of the problem with which you have difficulty and ask questions during or after class.
  1. Classes are never interesting unless you take part.
  2. Always be prepared before you go to class.
  3. Don't be afraid to ask questions.  If you have a question, at least ten other students probably have the same question but are afraid to ask because it might sound like a dumb question.
  4. Students who make failing grades also fail to attend classes, fail to pay attention during class, fail to do their homework, and fail to ask the instructor for help until it is too late.  And when they do ask, it isn't for help. They go to the instructor to offer poor excuses for poor performance. Remember, when you start your professional career after graduation, excuses won't explain away poor performance; nor will excuses earn you a passing grade in this course.
  1. Be specific in your study; concentrate on the things which seem to be most important. Note items that the instructor emphasizes in class and homework problems that are assigned.
  2. Every exam has an element of speed.  Have your “hows” and “whys” at your finger tips (but not written on your finger tips).  If you are slow, you probably need to study and practice more. 
  3. The questions that appear on exams approach the material from a slightly different direction to test your ability to reason and understand rather than your ability to memorize.
  4. Don’t stop with just “getting the idea”.  It is often a great shock to students who thought they understood the material but did poorly on the exam. “Why?” they ask. The answer is simple. Of course it is important to “understand” the material. But unless you can “apply” what you have learned, the results you get on an exam will be very disappointing. How do you know if you can “apply” what you’ve learned? The best indicator is being able to work all of the homework problems correctly during your review without looking at the solutions. If you can’t do that, you are not ready to take the exam and apply what you have learned.
  5. Again, read the problem! When taking exams, many points are lost and questions missed because the student does not READ THE PROBLEM, especially with multiple choice questions.  Read what the question is really asking, not what you think or want it to ask.  Avoid careless errors.  On each exam, assume that you have made several careless errors and allow enough time at the end of the exam to look for them.
  6. An excellent strategy to use when taking an exam is to quickly look through the entire exam and answer all of the questions that are easy for you.  Those are “sure” points and help to relieve the pressure when you go back to work on the more difficult and time-consuming problems.
  7. The greatest weaknesses in a student's ability to take an exam are failure to concentrate, to keep his/her composure, and to maintain a steady pace. Be aware of the time to help pace yourself. But don't break your concentration or lose your composure by constantly thinking about the time factor. Don't let your mind close up on you and end any chance you have to do well.  It is better to concentrate on answering only 80% of the questions and getting them all correct than to answer all of the questions and missing half of them.  Of course, it is best to answer all of the questions and get them all correct.  And most importantly, get a good night of sleep before the exam even if you need more time to study or you think you should cram for the exam. Your mind will not function at peak effectiveness if you are deprived of necessary sleep. Your recall and analytical ability will be severely diminished.
* Taken from Irvin N. Gleim, Careers in Accounting, 1999.

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this page is maintained by Reed Fisher
last updated January 15, 2011