Top 5 Challenges of Accounting Exams and Their Remedies
Tackling college-level exams can be challenging due to the time constraints and the difficulty level of the subject at hand. Accounting exams come in the form of MCQs, short and long answer questions. All these exam formats have different rules that govern them how they are taken. However, the common thing is that you can do any of them effortlessly with good studying and preparation. There are many challenges that students encounter when taking accounting exams. The top 5 challenges include:
1. Lack of knowledge and understanding of the accounting concepts tested in the exam
Knowledge gaps are among the top challenges most students face when attempting accounting exams. This is whereby a student fails to adequately study for the exam or only studies to cram and does not understand the accounting concepts. This means they cannot answer the questions sufficiently. For example, it is not sufficient for you to only know what sections and activities to include in a statement of cash flows. That alone will not see you pass your exam. Instead, you need to understand and be able to do the calculations necessary for each section and activity (operating, financing, and investing) that make up the cash flow statement. Lack of this knowledge will be a challenge when taking your exam. You can also avail accounting exam help.
A remedy to this challenge is to ensure that you have studied the lecture notes and understood the accounting concepts well. Do not study for the sake of memorizing; this will not be helpful in application questions. Practicing beforehand, especially accounting calculations, ensures that you understand how such questions should be attempted and presented. This is especially for topics with formulas like profitability, leverage, and turnover ratios. Use past papers to guide you on how exam questions are structured and where you need to deepen your understanding. This will help you cover the basics and not face the challenge of knowledge gaps.
2. Failure to read the exam questions carefully.
Reading the questions too fast and not stopping to understand what is required of you is another challenge faced by students in accounting exams. Some students just skim through the questions and jump to answer what they know without carefully considering the questions' keywords. For example, you can have a management accounting exam question on the First In First Out (FIFO) inventory valuation method. Failing to read the question carefully can result in you doing your calculations using the Last In First Out (LIFO) inventory valuation method. This will automatically mean you get a wrong answer and a low grade due to carelessness.
It's important always to ensure that you read the questions carefully before attempting them. That way, you can avoid making mistakes. For long answer questions, always read the keywords used to know exactly what the question requires. For example, a question asking you to explain the differences between accrual and cash basis of accounting differs from one asking you to simply define the terms. The first question requires more differences beyond the definition and will probably carry more marks. Read the question at least twice to ensure that you are answering it as asked and that you get the full marks awarded for it.
3. Poor time management skills when attempting the exam
Poor time management can heavily contribute to poor grades or even failing your exams. Failing to manage the time given in your exam can mean you do not have enough time to answer all the questions or proofread your answers. Poor time management comes from not assigning each question a specific time limit and instead spending too much time on one question. It can also be in the form of answering the questions incorrectly, e.g., spending equal time on a 2-mark question as you would a 12-mark question. For example, you cannot assign a question on liquidity ratios equal time as a question on preparing a balance sheet. This is poor time planning and management, which makes the whole exam-taking process challenging.
You can develop your time management skills through practice. For one, always ensure that before you begin your exam, you go through each question and estimate how long it will take you to answer each. You can estimate this by identifying the questions that require a longer process and choosing to attempt them first or last, depending on your knowledge. For example, a 4-part question on journal entries will take less time than a question on preparing a group income statement. If you are more knowledgeable in group accounting and the preparation of group financial statements, you can begin with the latter and be done with it. As a general rule, always start with what you know and end with the difficult questions. That way, even if you do run out of time, you can still earn some marks from what you have answered. Also, remember to leave enough time for proofreading your work to avoid mistakes.
4. Poor exam writing and presentation skills
Another common challenge is poor writing skills. This is a situation whereby the student has prepared for the exam well and has the answers but cannot present them on paper. Poor writing skills could range from poor grammar and punctuation to poor sentence and paragraph structure. For example, you could have studied everything about revenue recognition under accrual accounting, but how you present your answer is so illegible that you do not get full marks for the question. So, all your studying and time spent understanding the topic goes to waste for being unable to write properly. For mathematical calculations, poor writing skills can mean that your instructor cannot follow your workings, leading you not to get marks for correct answers.
The good news is that you can always improve your exam writing skills through practice. If your challenge is sentence structure, do as many theory questions as possible and see how your answers flow. Do not be afraid to engage your instructor or a tutor where necessary to help you polish up. For calculation questions, especially with preparing financial statements, practice with past papers and see how well you fair. The more you prepare balance sheets and their workings, the better you understand them and the better your presentation gets. Do not skip out on assignments and continuous assessment tests, as these are excellent avenues to test how well your writing skills translate. Studying enough and being unable to adequately present your answers only means you get a poor grade despite the preparation.
5. Anxiety and nervousness when taking accounting exams
For most students, exams bring a sense of panic and anxiety, which can be challenging when taking them. Exam anxiety can result from failing to prepare adequately. You could also have prepared well, but you get general anxiety due to the whole exam experience. Anxiety can be bad enough to the point of resulting in a student being unable to take the exam. Nerves can also cause you to forget what you had studied before, possibly resulting in a poor grade when not handled well.
It's normal to be conscious and nervous during exams. The best thing you can do to overcome this is to practice and study well before the due date. If you know you struggle with a topic like accounting for deferred taxes, ensure that you cover every sub-topic and possible question that could come from it. Practicing using available past papers can help alleviate your exam anxiety. Always prepare adequately for your exam, and ensure that you get a good night's sleep the day before your exam, as this can also be helpful. If the anxiety is extreme, you can seek help from a professional.
The main factor that causes challenges when taking accounting exams is failure to prepare. Failing to prepare can cause anxiety, and knowledge gaps and also result in poor time management during the exam. Failing to read questions carefully as well as poor writing skills are also common challenges encountered in exams. The good news is that with practice, all these challenges can be remedied. Putting in more time to adequately study and understand accounting concepts is one way to remedy the challenges and be better equipped to face the exams.