One of the most valuable skills I have acquired is the ability to problem solve effectively.  The reason for this is that most data entry, bookkeeping work is routine.  Even the reconciliation and report preparing work can be routine.  What changes it are when new systems or processes need to come into to effect OR I need to work out why I didn’t get the answer I thought I would (in the case of reconciliations) or things are not working the way they should (in the case of systems and processes).

So while you may not be concerned with any of this while studying, you should be developing your problem solving skills.  For example, if you do a balance sheet and it doesn’t balance at the end, you need to know how you can work out where you went wrong so you can fix it.  If you don’t have those skills, in an exam when you get stuck, you won’t know what to do.

How do you develop problem solving skills?

Develop a step by step process of how you can find the most likely problem and work towards processes where the problem is unusual.

For example, in a case of a balance sheet not balancing, divide the amount you are out by 2 and see if it matches to any account that had to be transferred to the balance sheet.

If it does, you’ve most likely posted a debit amount as a credit amount.  In the case of balance sheet errors, this is the most likely culprit.

The second most likely problem, is that you’ve left an account out of the balance sheet.  To check this, go through and check that all your accounts are included by ticking them off against the balance sheet.  If you find one missing then great, you’ve found your problem.

This is how you problem solve in balance sheets but it can be applied to any area of accounting and if you have to concentrate on developing any skill while at university or school, it is to develop your problem solving skills so that you can solve problems on your own rather than relying on your teacher or marker to do it for you.

Remember, once you finish your education, you won’t have someone to find your errors for you, you will have to do it yourself, so start getting into the habit of problem solving now.

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