Do you know why are you taking NCEA accounting? Chances are that it's not because you have a particular love of numbers, which is helpful because numbers are such a minor part of accounting. There are no complicated algebraic equations, but if you want to open doors passing NCEA Accounts is a great way to do so.

Whether you see yourself in a financial role helping a charity, investigating big businesses trying to avoid paying taxes, improving accounting systems to allow businesses to grow or just want to be able to manage the books for your own small business in the future, NCEA Accounting is one of the best ways to get the knowledge you need to grow your financial literacy.

However, there is more to accounting than just learning to read a balance sheet or a profit and loss statement - although these things are incredibly valuable to be able to understand. Whether you are working with a huge organization where you are a team of accountants or if you are working by yourself and your entrepreneurship, understanding where your money goes and where it comes from can be the difference between success and failure in a business.

Students studying NCEA Accounting can take several Achievement Standards, some of which are internally assessed such as Level 3 “Lead an area of production in an entertainment and event technology context” or Level 2” Demonstrate understanding of accounting processing using accounting software”, while others are externally assessed and come with an end of year exam, such as “Demonstrate understanding of company financial statement preparation” or “Demonstrate understanding of management accounting to inform decision-making”.

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An Easy pass of NCEA Literacy and Numeracy Credits

One thing to be aware of with the NCEA syllabus is that all students need to achieve 10 credits of a literacy standard and 10 credits of a numeracy standard. However, all level 1 accounting achievement standards count towards your literacy credits, and many of the level 2 and level 3 accounting standards will count towards your numeracy credits. Meaning that if you pass the range of NCEA accounting topics you don’t need to worry about achieving additional standards for numeracy and literacy.

What you learn in NCEA Accounting

When you start Level 1 NCEA Accounting you will be focused on small business accounting. Part of this will be learning about the personal qualities that are required to work within financial sectors. This means that you will stand up as being a person of integrity who can show they are not only honest but ethical.

At the first level, the focus is on small businesses and sole traders, while at Level 2 you will look more at groups and small organisations, and then at Level 3 the focus is more on large corporations and touches on international trade.

While students do learn how to manage the New Zealand tax system, this is also a small part of what they will be learning. One of the key ideas is being able to understand the information they are reading, and how to communicate that information to others.

This could look like understanding how the personal income tax brackets work in the New Zealand tax system and explaining why the manager at their after-school job earning $75,000 pays ~$16,000 in income tax not ~$25,000.  Or explaining the importance of keeping receipts to players in their sports team.

Communicating Accounting Ideas

Yes, there will be spreadsheets, charts, and graphs in NCEA Accounting. This is partially because there are international conventions for accounting which means anyone who understands how to read something like a Profit and Loss statement will be able to understand the same document anywhere in the world, in any language. While graphs are an excellent way to present complicated information in a clear and easy to understand manner.

However, with communicating ideas there is also consideration given to ensure the accuracy of any impression you are creating. Generating a graph that shows a huge decline in sales may create a company to change its business strategy, but what if the chart is only showing sales from a particularly busy period (e.g., Christmas), through to a notoriously slow period (e.g., Mid-Winter)? If the graph had instead shown sales from the last two years, there might be a better understanding of the pattern in sales rise and fall.

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Future Paths from NCEA Accounting

While some students who take Accounting at high school will certainly go on to become Chartered Accountants and earn an excellent living, University and certification aren’t the paths to follow. One of the directives from the teaching curriculum is to ensure that while students do have the knowledge and capabilities to go on to further accounting and business based tertiary education if they choose, this is not the only option pushed in the classroom.

The NCEA Accounting curriculum allows students to learn how bookkeeping, financial literacy and accounting practices can be used in a variety of workplaces, volunteer organisations, and to manage their personal finances. Whether that is calculating personal superannuation or mortgage payments, being able to cost and produce an event or creating a financial plan that will allow a product to go from development to market, the learning standards within the New Zealand curriculum allow for a variety of opportunities to be explored.

Getting Ahead with Upcoming Curriculum Changes

In 2023 Accounting will no longer be offered as an NCEA Level 1 subject. While there is a lot of discussion around this within academic and business circles, for students it means a broader knowledge base before going into NCEA Accounting Level 2.

As the curriculum changes and develops to provide a more diverse understanding of business students working with a tutor will need to ensure that they are working with someone who can adapt their teaching to cover the new curriculum. Because these changes will mean that the first students to go through this achievement standard will not have access to past papers your tutor will need to be experienced in business and accounting systems, have a strong understanding of what is required at the NCEA level of study, and be able to work through the curriculum for the achievement standard to ensure you are on the right track.

Achieving your Accounting Goals

Whether you want to become a fully qualified and certified Chartered Accountant or are looking at NCEA Accounting as a way to manage your finances better, your aim should be to obtain an Excellence.

While the saying “Cs get degrees” may be accurate, it also limits your options. In terms of NCEA, producing work that allows you to be awarded with an Excellence grade can make it easier to get into further educational institutes, but it can also provide you with financial rewards.

Fewer than 25% of students sitting NCEA achieve Merit or Excellence – so it is not easy, but it is a way to ensure that you stand out. To have your NCEA Accounting endorsed with Excellence, you need to achieve 14 or more credits (at least 4 achievement standards) that receive an Excellence.

When you go through the accounting exemplars on the NZQA website you will be able to see what standard students who achieve Excellence are working at. In addition, you will be able to see comments from the assessors as to how they could have improved or why their work deserved the Excellence grade.

For example, in the Level 3 unit that focuses on preparing a company financial statement you need to demonstrate “comprehensive understanding” to achieve Excellence. This can be done by ensuring you focus on the correct information and language, e.g. “income accrued from last accounting period”, and showing that you understand which numerical data you should be working with. You do not necessarily need to be a whizz at mathematics, as you will be allowed to use a calculator, but you do need to show that you understand how to perform the appropriate calculations. This is a prime example of “show your working”.

The shortcut to understanding NCEA Accounting

In NCEA Accounting there shouldn’t be hidden answers – everything should be completely transparent and presented in such a way that anyone with accounting knowledge will be able to understand how you came to your conclusions.

However, it’s not just students that are transparent. The curriculum is clearly laid out and freely available on the NZQA website. You can access past accounting exams, notes from markers about trends in errors they have seen, student examples of work (at all levels, including students that didn’t pass), and the recommended curriculum big ideas that the teachers are working towards.

Understanding the accounting practices such as processing financial information, creating reports and interpreting financial data is only a part of what is learnt through studying NCEA Accounting. Students should come away confident in their own financial and digital literacy, but they should also hold themselves to high ethical standards, confident in their ability to choose a path of integrity in everything they do.

Problem solving and perseverance are just two of the skills that students develop through completing NCEA Accounting, yet these are skills that will serve them throughout life, no matter what tax systems they end up using.

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Alison