Studying NCEA can be overwhelming at times, there is a lot of pressure put on New Zealand high school students. However, it doesn’t need to be so stressful – the Education system is set up to help you pass. This doesn’t mean that it will be easy, but you will have access to past exams, exemplars, assessors’ feedback and all the curriculum information you need to make sure that you have the knowledge you need. All you might need is someone to help you to action your study plan and help translate what you’re learning in a way that you can connect with.
Where to start studying
Are you studying Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3? Each level builds on the knowledge students have already gained, so where NCEA Level 1 accounting looks at understanding financial information for individuals and small businesses, NCEA Level 3 accounting helps students to understand how international taxation can work and what large corporations need.
Head over to the NZQA Accounting website and try to get familiar with the resources that will be available. These are updated each year, so you will be able to find exams and internal assessments from the previous year, as well as those from earlier.
The first place to look is at the “Appendices” which can be found in “Other Accounting resources”. Look at the appropriate level, and you will find a wealth of information about what you will be expected to by the end of the year. For example, in NCEA Accounting Level 1 some of the goals from the achievement standards include understanding:
Concepts used in the preparation of the financial statements
- capital and revenue expenditure
- accounting entity
- monetary measurement
- going concern
- period reporting
- accrual basis
- historical cost
Passing NCEA Accounting Exams
There are a few things that all students are expected to be able to do to pass NCEA Accounting, but there shouldn’t be any surprises when you come to assessments and exams. Often the most difficult part of any assessment is interpretating the question, but take a breath and read the question carefully. This is an essential step of passing any exam, but even more so with NCEA Accounting, as thinking a question is asking for a Balance Sheet when it wants a Profit and Loss Statement can be the difference between passing and failing.
Exam Questions Give The Answers
When you are writing answers, use the information you see in the exam questions. One of the most common criteria is to “use and integrate resource material in their answers”, this means that you need to look at the question, then consider the resource you are supposed to get your information from. For example, looking at the assessors’ remarks from an exam that received an Excellence, we can see how the student received extra marks for being clear in their analysis:
The student has compared Spark and Vodafone as possible internet providers for himself. A financial decision has been made (1). The decision has been justified using financial (2) and non-financial (3) reasons.
The decision has been justified by the student’s calculation of saving $54 a year by choosing Spark rather than Vodafone. The future possibility of upgrading the plan to access Lightbox has been discussed and linked back to the budget (4).
For a more secure Excellence, the student could explain the implications of sharing the Spark $19 package with his brother, and discuss the disadvantage of Spark not offering a carryover option on data or minutes.
Another thing to make sure that you are completely comfortable with is understanding what you are looking at. If you were given a financial statement with little or no headings, would you be able to work out what you were working with? Can you tell the difference between a Balance Sheet and a Profit and Loss statement? As you progress through the NCEA levels the expectations are that you would be able to create a full financial statement from basic information provided.
Accessing NCEA Accounting Past Papers
All the information you could possibly need is available on the NCEA website. You can access past papers, assessment requirements, and exemplars of previous NCEA Accounting exams with Excellence. Additionally, you can access exemplars where the student has received a “Not Achieved”, which gives you a starting point to understand what to avoid doing.
For example, in the Level 1 Accounting exam for the unit “Demonstrate understanding of accounting concepts for small entities”
The assessor gave this question a grade of N2 (Not Achieved), with the comment “This candidate does not provide evidence towards Achievement because they have not described equity, liability, or going concern.”
When going through past accounting exams, if you look at exams that have not passed and feel that you would have answered the same way, it is absolutely time for you to get a tutor in. Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know, and in the classroom, it is not too hard for teachers to miss that you have misunderstood a foundational topic. Having a strong understanding of accounting terms and principles is vital to being able to communicate in this field.
Just like any other area of life, Accounting has terms that are quite specific, and if you don’t know them then you will struggle to pass. Just like you could play rugby without knowing what a halfback was, can play guitar without knowing the chord names, or play CoD and think camping involves tents, but if you want to progress you will need to develop a better understanding of the terminology so that everyone can communicate.
How to Use Past Exam Papers to Pass
While looking at the marked exemplars is an excellent way to judge what the assessors are looking for, and if you can meet the standard, going through old exams is a great way to simply practice.
Print out the exam from the NCEA website. Don’t worry about timing, just work your way through each question - but do try to do complete the whole exam in one setting, otherwise you are creating a habit that will potentially cause you problems when it comes time to sit the real exam. Of course, you can’t see an answer sheet, and being long form answers there is no easy markers schedule, so if you are working with a tutor you will be able to give your completed exam so that they can help you improve.
If you’re really struggling with a concept at level 2 or level 3, look at the similar exams for lower levels. Often re-learning topics that you have already completed can help solidify the information and provide those “ah-ha” moments which enable you to suddenly see what you have been struggling with.
Too Many Past Exam Papers
When you look at the NZQA website it can be overwhelming to see how many past exams are available for each NCEA Accounting achievement standard. Most have exam papers going back ten years! If you were only doing one NCEA Accounting standard this would be an easy goal, but when you are looking at multiple units, and multiple subjects for each NCEA level, it can be unachievable. Particularly if you are like many students and only really start studying in the last half of the year (if not term 4).
Start with the first exam paper that has a marked exemplar. This probably isn’t the latest year but starting with the exemplar means that you will be able to get instant feedback and work out if you are achieving your goals. Again, if you are struggling, or feel that you’re not working at the level you want to be, get a tutor involved. Where you can, find someone who has a solid understanding of NCEA Accounting, but at the least you want someone who is well grounded in New Zealand accounting practices.
If you are working with someone who is great with New Zealand accounting but doesn’t necessarily understand NCEA accounting, direct them towards the Ministry of Education website “Te Kete Ipurangi” to get a better understanding of how to teach and tutor NCEA Accounting at different levels.
You will want someone who can help you understand, that means they need to be able to communicate in a way that ‘clicks’ with you. It's OK if you have to change tutors, not everyone will meet your needs – but make sure that you are moving on because of a communication barrier, not because they’re getting you to do the work!
Once you have completed an exam with an exemplar available, do the most recent exam to make sure that you have an idea of things that have changed. While the questions won’t be too similar you may also see a pattern emerging, such as always being asked to use a particular formula, or being asked to define terms.
Other NCEA Accounting Resources
While you’re looking for past exams on the NCEA website, if you scroll down a bit further, you’ll see “Other Accounting resources”. While this information may seem a little complicated, it does provide some really helpful information for students wanting a more in-depth understanding of requirements at each level of NCEA Accounting.
However, remember there is no magic bullet. You will need to simply go through the classwork until you understand the topic.
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