I had a dream the other night that I was back in managerial accounting. A few of my classmates back then would call it a nightmare. It was second semester of my sophomore year and somehow this general business course was harder than the first intermediate accounting that I was also taking at the time.
I’m not exaggerating—at least 15% to 20% of the people who were in our class dropped it halfway through the semester. Hardly anyone, including me, could even pass the quizzes let alone part one of the two-part midterm. The only thing that kept me going (I think) was that I had a buddy who was also struggling pretty badly. The two of us had been studying together and I think there was an unspoken plan to do our best or fail trying.
Read the chapter
One thing that our professor kept hammering into our heads was that we really needed to read the chapter of our textbooks where the lessons were focused. As far back as I can remember, I rarely did this in any class. I was a “pay attention, take notes, and work the practice problems” kind of person.
That had to change
After bombing our first midterm in early March, the idea that I needed to change something finally sunk in. Plus, the professor really did keep telling us to read the chapter, especially during office hours whenever we went to beg him for the secret to at least a “C.”
Next wave was coming
There were about two weeks until the second midterm. Scratch that, more like a week and a half to account for a few days to recover from the first one. My classmate and I figured it couldn’t hurt to block out two or three hours to finally read the chapters it covered.
For me at least, this was more challenging than it looked. Because I have one of those squirrel brains, I also had to put in ear buds with the best motivational speeches I could find to avoid zoning out after reading two sentences. It worked well enough and I managed to read through all the material, although it didn’t seem like I absorbed much.
It wasn’t looking great
We also did the standard practice problems, practice test, and reviewed notes from class during the next few days. When the exam rolled around, I felt about the same as I had for any of the other ones. The clock started and I was stuck pretty early on problem No. 1.
Then I was stuck on problems 2, 3, and 4. Not good. But something happened later on in the test. Toward one of the last problems (after skipping a bunch) I actually got an answer that was correct. Then another one and another after that.
The tide was turning
Pretty soon, I was jumping back to the first questions that seemed impossible and others I’d skipped. It was like I took some magic accounting pill before the test and it was just kicking in. I was OK with that. A few days later, our scores came back. *Dun dun dun*
A lot of people still bombed it, unfortunately, but mine came back a 95%. It was a bit of a step up from the 30%-ish I got on the last one.
It’s tough to say if the reading made a difference, but doing the same thing for the rest of the semester pulled me up from a D- to a B+ by the end. It also worked for the guy I was studying with.
According to Paul Reber, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University, the human brain’s memory capacity is practically limitless. It does have a limit, but it’s close to something like a million gigabytes of space. That makes me think that even though I can’t remember it now, all the content from that managerial accounting book is probably still somewhere in my head to this day.
I know it was just my experience, so take it for what it’s worth. But you might see a better score if you just read the chapter!
About the author:
Bob Buckley is a 2021 CPA exam candidate who likes writing about business in his spare time.