critical thinking, literature

Back to Class – 5.5 Years Later

As I venture back to “classes” after 5.5 years since graduating from my undergraduate degree in Commerce I am reviewing studying methods to see if my old way of studying back then was actually the most effective method for me. Why I never considered this in high school or university is beyond me.  But as they say-better late than never.

The following are some interesting methods I found by browsing the internet. I used variations of these when I studied back in the day-but there are definitely some gold nuggets in here.

Specific Techniques:


The SQ3R method is the reading and studying system preferred by many educators. Reading research indicates that it is an extremely effective method for both comprehension and memory retention. It’s effective because it is a system of active reader involvement.

Step 1. “S”= Survey Before you actually read a chapter, or go over a particular section of notes, take five minutes to survey the material. Briefly check headings and subheadings in order to understand the author’s organizational pattern of ideas to be discussed. Scan all visual material. Read introductory and summary paragraphs. This preview will enable you to anticipate what the chapter is about.

Step 2. “Q”= Question Create interest in the material by asking: What are the main points of the chapter? As you read, keep the question in mind and figure out the most important points. It gives you a clearly defined purpose for reading, and helps you maintain interest in the material.

Step 3. “R”= Read Read the chapter actively for meaning. Go through the paragraph before underlining, then underline key words and phrases to help you recall the main points. Be selective, you don’t want to highlight non-important points or miss anything that can help your comprehension. Summarize main concepts in your own words in the margins. The more active you are in the reading process, the more you will retain.

Step 4. “R”= Recite After every few pages, close your book and recite aloud the main points to the questions you posed in step 2. Try to recall basic details as to the author’s intent by putting them in your own words. Verify your answer by checking the text. If you can’t remember the text, read through it again. If you don’t get it now, you won’t remember it for a test. Take as much time as you need to answer your questions. Don’t be frustrated, this takes more time but the information will be clearer in your mind.

Step 5. “R”= Review Finally, review the chapter every so often to fix the material in your mind. Keep rereading your margin notes and underlinings. Verbalize the sequence of main ideas and supporting facts to aid retention. Numerous reviews are a lot more effective than one cramming session the night before an exam. Review once right after you’ve finished reading and then every couple of days. The SQ3R is time consuming at first, expect it to take ten to fifteen percent longer to read a given chapter when you first begin. Research indicates a 70%% increase in retention after two months of using the system and, eventually, a reduction in time spent preparing for exams.

Accounting Specific-

From an accounting professor (bold and italics emphasis mine):

An A student has risen far above memorization and knowledge recall.  An A student has identified and learned patterns and is able to apply them correctly to any question the professor asks.  An A student wants tough test questions to show how thoroughly he or she has mastered the concepts and material.  Such a student expects the grade of A when taking a test or course, virtually daring the professor to ask a question that can‘t be answered. The professor‘s high expectations have become the student‘s.

The grade of B requires very good performance.  Students really know their stuff, having a very good understanding of the big picture and all concepts and procedures.  They receive a B because on test questions they make too many small errors on too many topics.  Of course, work having patterns of errors is by definition imprecise, and the grade of A requires precision.

C stands for competent, not consolation prize.  I know many students don‘t like a grade of C, but accounting professors believe it is nothing to be ashamed of.  Many students receiving a C are inconsistent, a few errors on some topics and many on others.  A common characteristic of students receiving a C is that they are only familiar with the material.  They can recognize correct answers, but they have difficulty in creating them.  When listening to a professor‘s lecture and reading the textbook, accounting topics make sense to them.  However, they are lost when their textbook or notes are not in front of them.  This is because they have not picked up on the recurring patterns of accounting.  They have learned solutions, not processes.  Students receiving a grade of C often try to memorize everything (text examples and homework solutions).  When studying like this, they get tripped up two ways.  The sheer volume of the material overwhelms them and they get confused recalling snippets at the wrong time on the exam.  A second adverse result occurs when the professor asks an exam question in a different fashion from the textbook examples, the student is unable to adapt.

As a student, your primary goals in learning are to gain (1) knowledge or (2) understanding of or (3) skill in (Merriam-Webster).


First, recognize that you should have at least one full page of handwritten notes for each 25 minutes of class.  Second, your notes should capture the professor‘s description of each accounting rule and all related examples.  Your professor expects you to study and learn the examples, so make sure you don‘t miss any.

Notes should be rewritten within 24 hours of class! Why? One benefit is that it reinforces the key points made in class.  Another is that the notes will be properly organized and neat, which should make study for the next exam all the easier.  When finished with rewriting your notes, you should have a complete story as to what occurred in class.  If there is not enough time both to rewrite your notes and read the textbook, you should rewrite your notes.


Reading an accounting textbook is much like reading an encyclopedia.  It is knowledge and factually oriented, and difficult to swallow in one gulp. No chugging is allowed.  Chapters are long with about 30 pages of words and numbers and 20 pages of homework problems-fifty pages in all!  Critical reading is the key to learning the detail-oriented material in long chapters.

The first reading of the chapter (about 20 minutes) is more of a leisurely skim.  The goal is to identify the chapter‘s topic.  The second reading should be very thorough, taking two to four hours.  Jot notes in the margins, use a highlighter, and take notes.  Each example in the text should be worked by hand.  Later, when doing homework problems, refer back to the relevant pages (the third reading).  After the topic has been covered in class, read the chapter a fourth time.  The goal now is to tie everything together.  Observe how key concepts and principles (e.g., asset characteristics, matching principle) are reflected in the chapter‘s coverage.  When studying for an exam, there is no need to again read the chapter. Use it only as a reference.


After taking good notes in class and critically reading the text book, students are in good position to identify the key patterns.  A pattern is a form, template, or model.  Applied in accounting education, a pattern is a general set of rules used to solve homework and exam problems.  When studying a general topic area (such as the accounting for inventories), the goal is to develop a summary of the rules broad enough to cover most homework and exam problems and specific enough to provide guidance for dealing with accounting‘s details.

Start by creating a numbered list of steps for working a problem.  Then, with this list as your guide (i.e., the textbook is closed), start working homework problems.  If you can‘t accurately complete a problem with your initial list, then add a few words of explanation or another point.  If you have worked three or four problems and you haven‘t used one of your points, then please delete it.  Your goal is to develop light-weight but heavy-duty patterns.

My thoughts: much like my checklist posts.


Accounting rules are man-made.  Not always self-evident, they must be learned by a process that includes repetition for reinforcement.  When I was a young accounting student, a graduating senior gave me excellent advice.  He advised me to work every exercise and problem in the text book.  I eventually found this to be an attainable goal.  In a little more than four hours (spread over two or three days), I could organize the key parts of the solution to all exercises and problems.  I recommend all accounting students do the same.


Acing your accounting exams takes real work and a lot of it.  After putting into practice the preceding nine hints and the date of the exam is fast approaching, you are ready for exam preparation.  I recommend about 15 hours of study just for exam purposes.  Fifteen hours seems like a lot of time, and it is.

The first step in preparing for a test is to identify what the professor expects you to know and how well.  This step is fairly easy if your professor has distributed an exam preparation guide.  This guide generally lists the major topics to be tested, along with the type of question format.  You should study everything on it, and nothing else.  If your professor has said simply, -You are responsible for everything covered either in class or in the text book,‖ then you have your work cut out for you.  Go through your notes and form a checklist by listing all topics and sub-topics covered.

Feynman Technique-

Step one: Choose Topic
Write that concept at the top of a piece of paper.

Step Two: Pretend you are teaching the concept to a new student
This helps you pinpoint the things you do not understand

Step Three: When you get stuck go back to the reference materials, enough until you can explain the sub-part of the concept on the paper

Step Four: Simplify the language or create an analogy that you can identify with


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