10 Tips to Make an A in Accounting

Studying accounting can be scary. Accounting is the first business course for many college students and it is a difficult and challenging subject. Here are the top 10 tips to make an A in accounting.

How to make an A in your accounting class

I have taught accounting classes for many years and students always ask what can they do to succeed in accounting. Here are my top 10 tips for thriving in your accounting class.

1. Know the expectations

Know what the professor expects and know what is required on the syllabus. Accounting is a challenging subject and you must work hard to make a good grade. 

Make sure you know the deadlines for homework and assignments. Set your own deadlines so you can work ahead of when they are due. You will have much more time to complete your work and you will also have time for questions.

2. Be an active learner

Teach yourself by asking questions. Quiz yourself to see if you remember concepts and how to work problems. Make it a game to make sure you know the accounting material. 

Make flashcards to carry with you. If you have 10 extra minutes, instead of checking your phone, review your flashcards.

Be prepared every day to come to class, to listen, and to take notes.

3. Attend every class and participate

Arrive 5 minutes early so you can be ready when the class starts. Answer questions that your professor asks. Ask questions if you do not understand. Good questions are the key to learning. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you do not understand.

Before class starts, get out your pen or pencil and notebook. You know you will need it. Don’t wait until the professor starts to get your tools out. You are already behind if you wait. 

You should bring a financial calculator to class every day. A financial calculator is a great tool for any business student. Have your calculator out so you can make quick calculations in class. This is active learning!

Put away your phone and put it in silent mode in class. Even better, put your phone in airplane mode. You don’t want to be distracted while you are in focus mode. You need your attention to learn the material so you can take good notes and you can ask questions.

4. Take good notes

For most students, taking notes with a pen and paper is better than using a computer. It is simpler to draw a diagram or formula by hand than with a computer. Computers are distracting both to you and to your classmates.

Find a good system to take notes and then use that system. The Cornell Notes is an excellent system for accounting. You should have plenty of space to add notes or summaries later.

When you begin class each day, put the date on the top of your paper. This will help you see what is covered each day and how many days you covered similar topics. You can also compare your daily notes with friends to see if you missed anything.

5. Study your notes and textbook

Now that you have a good set of notes, you need to review your notes. You should plan on going over your notes almost every day. If you want to learn, you will spend some time every day learning the material. When you study, try to rework the problems you did in class or on homework.

Don’t forget to read your textbook! There is a lot of information that will help your understanding. Focus on how the new material connects to what you already know. The more you study the more you will learn! 

6. Work lots of problems

Work lots of problems and then work more problems. You should work enough problems so you are confident in your understanding. Ask your professor if you can do extra problems or if solutions are available for problems in each chapter. Accounting is a subject with lots of problems, journal entries, and financial statements. You need to do all types of problems.

See The Only Financial Calculator You Will Ever Need

7. Study with friends and try to teach each other

You should make friends in your class. If you miss a class, you can ask them for their notes. You should plan to study with friends in class. Practice trying to explain a concept or problem and you will find out if you know it. If you want to learn a subject, try to teach it to someone else. 

A benefit of friends is that they hold you accountable for being in class and sharing your notes. Also, you learn the important business skill of networking. Your friends in class may work for a company that you like and you already have a contact!

8. Study to learn and not just for a grade

Your grades are not as important as you think they are. It seems so important when you are in school. In fact, some students only focus on how to get a specific grade. Do not let grades interfere with your learning. Hard work is better than good grades.

Learning how to work hard is the real benefit of school. If you work hard, your grades will usually be good. Do more than what is asked of you. Memorization is not enough to do well. Seek to understand why and how. Be curious and keep asking questions.

Estimate how much time you will need to complete an assignment or to study for an exam. Now, double that estimate. That is the amount of time you need to schedule in your week in the days before the assignment is due. 

Many assignments will take more time than you initially realize. Build extra time in your schedule. If you have extra time, that is good. If you run out of time, your assignment is missed or your exam grade suffers.

9. Work ahead of schedule and do not procrastinate

If you wait until the last minute, you are setting yourself up for failure. You cannot do well if you are hurrying and if you are stressed. If you wait until the last minute, you will not have enough time for assignments and for studying. You will miss assignments and do poorly on exams.

You should set your own schedule and make your deadlines earlier than your course deadlines. If homework is due on Wednesdays, try to complete it on Mondays. 

If an exam is on Friday, set your deadline to finish studying on Wednesday. Do your best to stick to your personal deadline. Your stress level will go way down and you will have time for a final review and sleep the night before!

10. Eat, sleep, socialize, study, and exercise on a sustainable schedule

Maintain good habits. Try to go to bed and to wake up at the same time every day. Plan times to eat and exercise on a normal schedule. Make times for friends in your daily schedule. Make sure you are studying some course material every day.

Limit time on social media, television, streaming video and video games. These are great activities but can easily take several hours each day. Turn off automatic next video settings in YouTube, Netflix, and similar streaming services. You want to make the decision to watch the next video, not Netflix or YouTube!

Look at your smartphone report on how many hours spent each day on your device. Now, multiply that number times 7. That is how many hours you use your phone each week. This number is shocking!

Some studies say that college students spend up to 8-10 hours per day on their phones. That’s over 50 hours per week. Losing over 2 days a week to your phone is a tragedy. You need to manage your phone and not let it control you.

College students spend up to 8-10 hours per day on their smartphones. That’s over 50 hours per week!

Bonus: Know the financial statements

One of the goals of accounting is to prepare and understand financial statements. You should know the financial statements. The four financial statements are:

  • Income statement
  • Balance sheet
  • Cash flow statement

You should know how everything affects the financial statements. For example, the income statement has all the company revenues and expenses. The income statement shows the most recent net income or profit.

The balance sheet shows all the company assets, liabilities (debt), and equity. Every asset and every debt is included on the balance sheet.

Studying accounting is worth it!

Accounting is the best introduction to business. It is the language of business. This language includes financial data and financial statements. When it is yours, you want to know all about your business. 

Thriving in an accounting course is possible if you have a plan and you work hard every day. With these tips, you are on your way to success in studying accounting and in your business career. Good luck!

Question of the day: What tips do you have that have worked for you in studying accounting? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Jeff Mankin

Jeff Mankin teaches financial literacy. His website is FinallyLearn.com.

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