Updated: Sep 9, 2021
Hey Accounting Students!
This week, I will be sharing my tips on how I made the most out of practice exams. Probably the most common question I am asked when giving end of year revision lectures is “how many practice exams did you do to get X study score?”. And while I wish it was as easy as reaching a certain number of practice papers, it’s not that simple.
This week I want to debunk a myth, that your final study score is a linear function of the number of practice exams that you do. I understand that your time is divided among many subjects so you don’t have an infinite amount of time to complete an infinite number of Accounting exams. My advice would be not to worry too much about the quantity of practice exams you are doing, but how much you learn from each one. Below are my top tips to ensure that you maximise your learning from each practice exam you do.
1. Complete practice exams under timed conditions
Try to emulate the pressure of the exam by completing your practice exams under timed conditions. I found that the added time pressure allowed me to work on my time management in the exam and develop an effective exam-taking strategy. For me, this was attempting general journal questions at the very start of the paper to earn some quick marks. By completing my practice exams under timed conditions, I also practiced working quickly through questions and if I still didn’t know the answer, I would practice writing a response which would maximise my chances of getting consequential marks.
2. Mark your own exams
It can be quite tempting to complete a paper and never think about it again, but that kind of defeats the purpose of completing a practice exam. Because if you made mistakes (and we all do), if you don’t correct them, you will continue to make those mistakes in future practice papers and maybe even in the exam! To combat this, mark your own responses using all the resources available to you (sample answers or the VCAA Examination Report).
I would often spend nearly as much time marking my practice exams as I spent completing my practice exams. So, for a 2-hour paper, I would devote probably 1.5 hours to marking. I found that most of my learning actually occurred in this process of marking my responses.
3. Mark your own exams harshly and give yourself specific feedback
Not only is it important to note where you made mistakes but also to understand why you made the mistake. So if your amount is incorrect for a balance day adjustment, ask yourself, what exactly went wrong? Perhaps you forgot to remove GST, perhaps you made an error in the reporting period. Whatever it was, it’s a good idea to note down the reason why you got this wrong to avoid making the same mistake in the future.
For theory questions (e.g. discuss profitability or explain in relation to a qualitative characteristic), I would focus on marking my responses very harshly. If there were any improvements that could be made to my answer at all (even it was a super minor change), I would make sure to make a note of it in a red pen on my practice paper. Rather than simply deducting a mark for “not including enough detail”, I focused on writing in the missing sentence. So, if there was not enough detail, what detail was missed? What exact sentence would be required to transform my response into a full mark response? Over time, I found that fewer and fewer edits needed because I started to understand how theory responses should be structured and over time I began mimicking the structure of a high scoring response.
4. Keep a log of all the mistakes you make so that you don’t make them again
I also kept an excel spreadsheet with my practice exam results and the mistakes that I made in each. This was a great resource so I could look back to one place and find a list of key areas to focus on. I would then put in conscious effort into revising these key areas where I was making mistakes and then re-attempt these questions at a later date.
5. When you attempt your next practice paper, have a key area of focus
Another thing that I found super helpful was developing intentions or key areas for improvement with every practice exam you do. This can be applied to not only Accounting, but also subjects like English. If I found myself making errors with GST, I would attempt a practice exam with the deliberate intention of accurately recording GST in different types of transactions. Other key areas of focus might be: applying qualitative characteristics appropriately, managing time well, improving theory or improving practical. I found that by focusing on one area at a time I was able to rapidly improve that one specific skill. The same can be applied to subjects like English. For each essay you might focus on topic sentences or using evidence effectively. By establishing an intention for every practice exam you do, this can help to break down the complex challenge which is an exam and allow you to really develop one skill at a time.
Those are my tips for today, hopefully you found them helpful!
Have a question?
In the final weeks before exams Lauren will be hosting 2 Live Q&A sessions to help everyone get fully prepared for exams. If you have a question on how to best get prepared, have been stuck on an exam question or want to clarify an area of content send it through here, and Lauren might answer it live!