The central theme of How to Succeed in Accounting is control: Establish plans, perform effectively, evaluate your performance, understand shortcomings, and follow through with an improved strategy. This is an executive approach that will work for you, especially if you aspire to be an executive–and you should, because you will have the opportunity.
* Robert Half 2014 Salary Guide
Planning Your Curriculum
Grades Are Important
Usually, a “B” average or higher is necessary to enter graduate programs and/or law school. Some CPA firms and other employers restrict their hiring to individuals with a “B” average or better.*
If your GPA is currently below an “A” average or if your previous academic successes involved more memorizing and less learning and application, then How to Succeed in Accounting is particularly relevant to you. You must do your best in each course, especially those pertaining to your career. Other courses are also important because they affect your overall GPA and help make you a more well-rounded person. Your employer will be interested in you as a person, not just as an accounting technician.
*If you currently are struggling with a “C” average, don’t give up. These techniques should help you improve. While higher grades are preferred, many “C” or “C+” students are extremely successful once out of school.
...And So Are Student Activities
To their detriment, some students overemphasize grades. You also need to develop your “people skills,” which is harder to do now that many courses are taught online.
Join your accounting club or the honorary accounting fraternity, Beta Alpha Psi, if your school is a member of the American Association of Collegiate Schools of Business. To develop leadership skills, plan to serve as an officer. Create your own club. Volunteer to help low-income families with tax returns. Balance your academic efforts with other activities, such as community service, intramural sports, student government, or the pursuit of personal interests.
Almost all prospective employers are interested in your leadership, communication, and social skills. You will also need to be proficient in computer applications, so make sure to master those programs as well.
Should You Go for a Master’s Degree?
Just as your bachelor’s degree is an investment in your future, so is a master’s degree (MA, MS, or MBA).
Reasons to Pursue a Master’s Degree
A master’s in accounting provides you with even greater opportunities for employment and career advancement and translates to a premium salary. One study indicates as much as a $23,000 difference in yearly salary!
Your employer will have higher expectations as a result of your additional training. Usually this translates into better assignments, more responsibility, faster promotion, and higher compensation.
Positions for advanced employment frequently require (a) a master’s; (b) the CPA, CMA, and/or CIA designation; and (c) several years of experience for accounting executive positions or managerial positions, such as controller or treasurer. Adding the EA designation will show your proficiency in tax matters.
Once you begin working long hours in a specialized field, resuming the role of a student is not easy. It’s best to stay in school until your educational goals have been met, if possible.
Considering the Cost
Education is the best investment you will make! The amount and availability of financial support can be an impediment to continued education, but borrowing funds to pursue a higher level of education is generally a prudent financial decision, especially if you graduate with an accounting degree. A part-time job will also help defray some of your costs.
Delaying the Attainment of a Master’s Degree
Many professionals attend graduate school on a part-time basis (evenings, weekends) if circumstances did not allow them to do so before entering the work force. These programs provide a chance to interact with peers who have similar interests and aspirations. An added benefit of attending graduate school part-time is learning from the work experience of classmates with various backgrounds, which significantly enriches class discussion. Your employer may also offer tuition assistance if the education furthers your employment with the company.
The Basics of Learning and Understanding
Your Cognitive Processes
By better understanding how you study, you can learn to be more efficient and effective. If you improve your study processes by 20%, you can change 80% scores to 96% scores and reduce studying 30 hours per week to 24 hours. Let’s learn how.
To Learn (According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
Main Entry: learn
Inflected Form(s): learned; learn•ing
1 a (1) : to gain knowledge or understanding of or skill in by study, instruction, or experience <learn a trade> (2) : memorize <learn the lines of a play>
b : to come to be able <learn to dance>
c : to come to realize <learned that honesty paid>
Psychologists have defined many categories of learning, such as classical conditioning, trial-and-error learning, sensorimotor learning, verbal learning, concept learning, and rule learning.
Accountants mainly focus on concept learning and rule learning. Most accounting and business concepts are multidimensional (i.e., relate to many concepts, rules, and relationships); therefore, they can be better understood by examining their multiple aspects. For example, you might view a financial accounting transaction in light of
Train yourself to consider the contextual implications of the underlying business transactions for all accounting procedures you study. For example, what effect a given procedure or transaction will have on
Levels of Cognitive Activity
One categorization of the levels of knowledge1 can be illustrated by the following image:
These levels are a revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy2, which has been used in curriculum planning, research, and other areas of education and psychology since 1956. The levels are cumulative–they constitute building blocks of cognitive processes. To understand something, you need to remember what you have already learned; to analyze problems, you must understand the concepts.
ACCOUNTING EXAMPLE: According to Statement on Financial Accounting Concepts (SFAC) No. 8, the two fundamental qualitative characteristics of accounting information are relevance and faithful representation.
ACCOUNTING EXAMPLE: According to SFAC No. 8, “Relevant financial information is capable of making a difference in the decisions made by users. Financial information is capable of making a difference in decisions if it has predictive value, confirmatory value, or both.” What does this mean? Do you understand? Can you explain it to someone else? The ability to explain a concept to someone else is an indicator of your comprehension.
ACCOUNTING EXAMPLE: Memorizing the cost of goods sold (COGS) formula is mere recall [COGS = BI (beginning inventory) + Pur (purchases) – EI (ending inventory)]. In order to solve more complex problems, such as the effect of inventory errors, you should also understand the relationship of the change in inventory level to COGS. For example, when EI is greater than BI, it means not all purchases were sold. Given BI, Pur, and EI, most students can solve for COGS simply by plugging numbers into the formula. But an interpretation of the relationship of the data is required for more complex problems.
ACCOUNTING EXAMPLE: Would you accept a customer’s order at a lower-than-usual price? Variables to consider include contribution margin generated, available production capacity, and psychological and economic effects on other customers.
ACCOUNTING EXAMPLE: The company received a special order to produce an additional 1,000 units. The decision to accept the special order requires evaluation of production capabilities and personnel availability.
ACCOUNTING EXAMPLE: A new company hires a consultant to analyze and evaluate its operations. The company wishes to have the consultant develop and design (create) a new system of internal controls that are better-suited to the company than those currently in place, which it has found to be inadequate.
Undergraduate accounting courses generally emphasize the first three levels of knowledge, while your career in professional accounting will require and emphasize the last three levels. Gleim products will help you reach these higher levels of thinking while preparing you for your exams.
Put another way, the first three levels of knowledge are required to prepare financial data. The second three levels are necessary to use financial data and exercise professional judgment. How does accounting differ from bookkeeping? Professional judgment.
In your study of accounting, you must go well beyond recall and memorization. Many accountants move on to executive positions after beginning their professional career as an “accountant.” Even those who remain in accounting exercise more and more judgment and rely less and less on rote memory as they take on and exercise more responsibility.
1 Anderson, L.W. and David R. Krathwohl, D.R., et al (Eds.,) (2001) A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Allyn & Bacon. Boston, MA (Pearson Education Group).
2 Bloom, B.S. and Krathwohl, D.R. (1956) Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals, by a committee of college and university examiners. Handbook I: Cognitive Domain. NY, NY: Longmans, Green.
The Basics of Studying
At the very beginning of the term, as soon as you have your text and syllabus, create an executive overview of each course.
The entire process will probably take 2 to 4 hours. Spend half a day at the library and do a thorough job for each course. This initial investment of time will pay dividends because you have a basis for understanding how the chapters and their parts fit into the overall course at this point.
Now you will be able to put individual definitions and concepts into the context of the entire course. Through the exercise of control, you will be more efficient and effective and therefore better prepared to attain higher levels of knowledge.
Where to Study
Study where you study best. Some study best at home. Others study best at the library. Some prefer to study at different locations at various times in the day and/or on different days. Still others study at only one location.
The issue is effective study. You must seek out the study locations that provide you with the most effective environment for concentration, which means avoiding or blocking out distractions most often produced by people you know. Try out-of-the-way places where other accounting majors and friends do not study, e.g., the law library. Consider turning off your cell phone.
When to Study
Study on a regular basis, 7 days a week to the extent possible. Stay ahead of all assigned material. Do not wait to study before exams and assignment due dates. Such a habit emphasizes rote memorization, which does not result in learning and understanding. You will improve your grade point average and increase the amount learned by investing several hours in each class at the very beginning of each term (as advised in “Course Overview” above).
Are you a morning person? Do you study more effectively in the morning or in the evening? Experiment with different study times to determine when you are most effective and schedule your time accordingly.
How to Study a Chapter in a Textbook
Before reading a chapter, gain a general understanding of the chapter contents. The following seven steps should precede actual study:
Each Gleim product contains an extensive test bank of former exam questions and is thoroughly cross-referenced to textbooks used at universities throughout the U.S. Accordingly, you can identify specific areas in the Gleim book for each chapter in your textbook. Answer 5 to 10 questions to determine the standards to which you will be held. Gleim EQE Test Prep allows you to study, self-test, and measure your progress. Please see www.gleim.com/accounting/eqe/.
During Class Time
NOTE: Do not become completely dependent on highlighters and underlining! Yes, many students highlight and underline, but using short-term memory to become familiar with the concepts, facts, and definitions is only sufficient to complete courses. Remember that you are in school to learn and understand with the objective of a successful career, not just to get a diploma.
How to Complete Homework Assignments
Many accounting course assignments consist of computational problems that are largely similar to the examples and illustrations in your chapters. Thus, most of your homework problems are susceptible to “cookbooking,” or copying from the chapter illustration, step-by-step. Barely more than rote memorization is required to achieve false success.
However, you will be adequately prepared to complete your homework assignments under exam conditions (time pressure and no reference back to the chapter) because you have previously accomplished the necessary building blocks in your individualized control process: establishing where and when to study, surveying the course, studying your textbook, answering multiple-choice questions in the Gleim Exam Questions and Explanations book and EQE Test Prep, and participating in class.
First, scan the exercise or problem and set a 5-, 10-, or 15-minute time limit. With a watch or clock handy, see how much you can accomplish within the time limit.
Next, as you get each problem under control, note the issues you need to research after you have substantially completed the problem.
Put yourself in a frame of mind to be highly productive during homework preparation. Effective time management is very important for successful exam performance. Do your best! No one can ask for more.
Develop and use your question-answering techniques on each homework assignment. These systematic methods of problem solving should be executive in nature. Before you start, determine what has to be done, how it has to be done, the sequence of procedures, etc. It is the same general approach recommended for course overviews, studying a chapter, taking an exam, etc.
How to Succeed on Exams – Preparation and Control
Preparation – In order to be successful on academic and certification examinations, you must
For college courses: Ask your professor for clarification of the exam process publicly in class and privately in his or her office, talk to former students, and attempt to review exams from prior terms.
For certifications: Virtually all certification programs (CPA, CIA, CMA, EA, etc.), admission tests, and other established exams have informational books developed by those responsible for the examination. For example, Gleim prepares and provides free to all customers and students comprehensive System for Success (www.gleim.com/sfs) booklets that contain all of the information you need for complete understanding of the CPA, CIA, CMA, and EA exams. The better you understand the process, the better you will perform.
For college courses: Confirm text and chapter coverage with your professor. Also, to what extent are class lectures, examples, handouts, etc., tested?
For certifications: Obtain content specification outlines for established exams. Confirm coverage by looking at past examinations (if available) and/or review manuals. For example, Gleim includes the content syllabus for each exam in the relevant Review book. That way, your assurance of coverage is right there!
For college courses: See “How to Supplement Your Studies with Gleim Exam Questions and Explanations” below.
For certifications: Purchase the Gleim CPA, CIA, CMA, and/or EA Review System. Systems may include books, online Test Prep, Audio Reviews, Gleim Online courses, Gleim Instruct video series, Study Planner, Essay or Simulation Wizard, and access to a Personal Counselor. Go to www.gleim.com/accounting for more information.
Plan and practice exam execution. Anticipate the exam environment and prepare a plan, including your arrival time, your manner of dress, the appropriate exam supplies, the expected number of questions and the format, the order in which you will answer questions, and the time you will spend on each question. Expect the unexpected and adjust!
For college courses and certifications: Remember that your sole objective when taking an examination is to maximize your score. Most examinations are “curved,” and you must outperform your peers.
Control – You must be in control to be successful during exam preparation and execution.
Control can also contribute greatly to your personal and other professional goals. Control is a process whereby you
The objective is to be confident that the best possible performance is being generated. Most accountants study and understand this process in relation to standard costs, i.e., establish cost standards and compute cost variances.
Every day you rely on control systems implicitly. Consider this simple example: When you get dressed, you have expectations about the desired appearance of your outfit and the time required to attain that appearance. You monitor your progress and make adjustments as appropriate, e.g., straighten your tie or iron your skirt.
Develop and enforce standards in all of your endeavors. Exercise control, implicitly or explicitly. Most endeavors will improve with explicit control. This is particularly true with certification examinations and other academic tests.
Accounting is competitive (academically and professionally). The Gleim Series provides a competitive advantage by improving the effectiveness of your study time through learning and understanding.
The Gleim Series works! Gleim will help you to
After graduation, you will compete with graduates from schools across the country in the accounting job market. Make sure you measure up to standards that are as demanding as the standards of your counterparts at other schools. These standards will be tested on professional certification exams.
Practice Multiple-Choice Questions; Learn from Answer Explanations
Each book in the Gleim Series is a comprehensive source of multiple-choice questions with thorough explanations of each correct and incorrect answer. You learn from our explanations regardless of your answers to the questions.
Monitor Your Progress
Pretest before class to see if you are strong or weak in the assigned area. Retest after class and before each exam or quiz to be certain you really understand the material.
Rely on our Coverage as Detailed in the Cross-References
The questions in these books cover virtually all topics in your courses. You will rarely encounter questions for which you are not well prepared. Each Gleim book is cross-referenced to the primary textbook used in your class.
Use Gleim EQE Test Prep
The student next to you has the exam questions – do you? See what might be on the exam before you take it! Use the Gleim Exam Questions and Explanations books and EQE Test Prep to master the material in your courses and learn how to succeed on exams – almost 9,000 questions with detailed discussions covering every accounting, tax, business law, and auditing topic!
How to Supplement Your Studies with Gleim Exam Questions and Explanations
Experts on testing continue to view multiple-choice questions as a valid means of examining various levels of knowledge. Many of the questions on the GMAT, GRE, LSAT, and other entrance examinations are multiple-choice questions. Two major certification exams, the EA and CIA, remain 100% multiple-choice, and the percentage of multiple-choice and other forms of objective questions on the CMA and CPA exams remains very high.
Using objective questions to study for undergraduate examinations is an important tool not only for obtaining good grades but also for long-range preparation for certification and other examinations.
The following suggestions will help you study in conjunction with each Gleim Exam Questions and Explanations product:
Studying the important concepts that we provide in our answer explanations will help you understand the principles to the point that you can answer that question (and any others like it) successfully.
Time to Complete
Avg. Time per Question
The analysis will show your weaknesses (areas needing more study) and also your strengths (areas of improvement). You can improve your performance on objective questions both by increasing your percentage of correct answers and by decreasing the time spent per question.
Improve Your Grades!
Use these objective question and explanation products to ensure your understanding of each topic you study in your accounting and business law courses. Access the largest bank of exam questions (including thousands from past certification exams) that is widely used by professors. Get immediate feedback on your study effort while you take your practice tests.