National external moderation summary reports

400/500 Accounting Principles - 2013 s1


This report provides a national perspective on the moderation of 400/500 Accounting Principles.

Assessment materials from 35 Tertiary Education Organisations (TEOs) were moderated for this prescription, 25 assessing NZDB400 and 10 assessing the new NZDB500 prescription.

Of the 35 submissions:

  • 18 met all key assessment requirements (13 assessing NZDB400 and 5 assessing NZDB500)
  • a further 5, met key assessment requirements overall, but require some modification before next course delivery, (4 related to NZDB400 and 1 related to NZDB500)
  • the remaining 12 did not meet key assessment requirements and modification/redevelopment and post-assessment resubmission is required (8 assessing NZDB400 and 4 assessing NZDB500).

Areas where modification or redevelopment was required were:

  • assessment activities not meeting prescription requirements, generally through not fully assessing the learning outcomes and often not at the required level (9 NZDB400 submissions and 5 NZDB500 submissions)
  • assessment activities outside the scope of the prescription (7 NZDB400 submissions and 2 NZDB500 submissions)
  • lack of detail or clarity in conditions and instructions for assessments (1 NZDB400 submission and 2 NZDB500 submissions)
  • insufficient guidance provided for assessors in assessment schedules (3 NZDB400 submissions, 1 NZDB500 submission)
  • inconsistency in assessing learner work in terms of marking and meeting prescription requirements (3 NZDB400 submissions and 1 NZDB500 submission).

Assessment tools varied but most used the traditional approach of a test, assignment (or two) and a final examination. The prescription allows assessors to determine the nature and number of assessments and mostly appropriate choices were made. However, in some instances learning outcomes were assessed below the appropriate level as they were assessed using assignments involving the questions requiring only recall and encouraging repeating textbook material without any form of application.

Presentation of assessment materials

Submissions were generally well presented, easily read and in a logical order. However, three of the submissions did not include all of the required materials. Two submissions failed to provide marking schedules, one provider did not submit learner samples from the two substantial pieces of work. Some course outlines submitted did not include a complete and unaltered version of the prescription. In the interests of transparency and fairness to learners, it is strongly recommended that the full prescription is provided to learners. With the reorganisation of key elements in the new version of the prescription this is important to ensure assessments are weighted correctly.

The requirement to have a separate booklet for learner material makes the material easier to moderate. In some cases, clear dividers between assessments and marking schedules would make the moderation process easier. The labelling of learner samples could be improved to make it more obvious which piece of assessment the sample related to and whether the sample was middle, upper or lower quartile.

A number of TEOs misinterpreted the statistical summary, showing the number of people passing rather than the percentage.

The most commonly used resources is the textbook Smart, M., Awan, N., Baxter, R., Principles of Accounting (4th ed.). Auckland, New Zealand: Pearson.

Assessment grids

A general improvement in the quality of assessment grids was apparent in this round of moderation. The best were accurate and well organised, clearly indicating both weighting and tasks for each learning outcome and key element. These grids also clearly showed any variance from prescription weightings. The submissions that require resubmission often had assessment grids that were inadequate. They were usually inaccurate, misrepresented the actual assessments, or were so complex and long they were difficult to comprehend.

NZQA has provided clear guidance how to prepare a well organised and structured grid. Providers are encouraged to refer to guidance for assessment grids on the NZQA website.

Assessment activities

The key considerations for moderators were whether tasks:

  • assessed all prescription learning outcomes, with appropriate weightings
  • were at the appropriate level.

Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes indicate assessment outcomes and specify what learners need to know and be able to do. Key elements indicate assessment coverage and specify how the related learning outcome must be evidenced. Key element assessment evidence must be provided in the context of the learning outcome, not in isolation.

As was identified in the 2010 national moderators report for NZDB400, some submissions failed to fully assess learning outcomes as they did not provide adequate evidence for some key NZDB400/NZDB500 elements. This was usually due to the failure to link key elements to the wording of the learning outcome. Most common issues in this regard were:

  • impact of GST on business is not calculating the amount of GST payable
  • function of internal control is not a list of internal controls
  • forms of business ownership within an accounting context is not a list of advantages and disadvantages
  • It is expected that the financial statements are fully classified, and that they incorporate balance day adjustments
  • NZDB400 requires the preparation of a simple trading budget - not a cash budget, nor budgets for multiple periods.

The assessment of accounting policies in both prescriptions continues to be an area which is causing issues. Learning outcome 2 of NZDB500 specifically states that learners are required to apply polices to prepare financial statements. This requires assessments which adequately demonstrate learners’ understanding of accounting policies for receivables, inventory and property, plant and equipment and how they apply to the preparation of these statements. Assessment of property, plant and equipment by requiring learners to only calculate depreciation does not make required link to the relevant policy. The calculation of doubtful debts or calculating inventory values using FIFO or Weighted Average also makes no attempt to link to the relevant policy. As was identified in the previous report inventory requires an understanding of the difference between cost and NRV.

A 10% aggregate variance is allowed in assessment weightings. That is, the percentage variation in total across all learning outcomes should not be more than 10%. The majority of submissions correctly calculated variances. Those that did not generally had poor assessment grids which were not at the required standard.


Overall, assessment tasks were at the appropriate level. Learning outcome 1 in NZDB500 identifies a list of key elements which must be assessed as part of the purpose of accounting and its relationship to the New Zealand business environment. It is not appropriate at this level to assess these elements using a list of question which assess only recall type questions, for example only requiring questions that require learners’ to define, state, describe and list. It is expected at this level that students will apply their knowledge to the New Zealand business environment.

Learning outcome 3 requires learners to analyse and report on the financial performance of a sole trader or small company. Some submissions were not at the appropriate level as they awarded significant marks towards the calculations or ratios and percentages and very little marks to the analysis and recommendations. This learning outcome continues to be assessed by the majority in the form of an assignment. For those submissions that assessed this outcome in an exam, it is appropriate to provide the learners with the required ratio formulae.

Some assessments were not at the appropriate level as they provide too much assistance in the form of partially completed templates or allowing financial statements which were not fully classified. Some submissions allowed the generous awarding of marks for some questions that did not require much effort from the learner. It is important to ensure that within an assessment, the respective marks awarded should reflect the effort required by the learner.

Some learners were disadvantaged with not being awarded sufficient marks to reflect the time and effort required.

Assessment conditions and instructions

The key consideration for moderators was whether assessment conditions and instructions were clear, appropriate and fair to learners.

Most assessments gave very clear instructions as to what was required, the marks to be awarded and the weighting of the assessment in relation to the overall course mark. It is important if assessment from previous years are used that dates in questions and marking guides are updated to reflect good practice.

Assessment schedules

The key considerations for moderators were whether schedules:

  • provided statements that specify evidence expectations that meet prescription requirements (e.g. sample answers and/or a range of appropriate answers, and/or quality criteria for answers)
  • provided a sufficiently detailed breakdown of marks to ensure consistent marking.

It is pleasing to note an improvement in the overall quality of marking schedules from previous moderation rounds, especially in providing sufficient details in the breakdown of marks. Accounting is a subject where most responses can be clearly and specifically stated. Therefore, the marking schemes can also be specific. However, a small number of submissions contained extremely detailed marking schedules, with many marking indicators, which can also create problems in ensuring consistent marking and often does not reflect actual marking practice. An extreme example of this was an assessment that was marked using 1/8 and ¼ marks. This issue was particularly noticeable in marking financial statements, where it seemed common to award marks for every figure and/or every line. It is possible to allocate an appropriate total mark for an overall answer (or answer category) and deduct marks from the maximum available if errors are made. This approach would require the types of potential errors and the associated penalties to be clearly stated - for example 'deduct 'x' marks for an incorrect figure, 'y' marks for an incorrect classification'.

Marking schedules should reflect good business and accounting practice in presentation and terminology and this should also be expected from learners. Examples include the right alignment of all lists of monetary amounts, use of correct terms such as property plant and equipment, and consistency in the naming of financial statements.

Assessor decisions

The key considerations for moderators were whether:

  • marking rewarded a similar quality of work with similar marks
  • marking rewarded learner work in a manner consistent with prescription requirements.

Most assessors’ decisions were consistent with the marking schedule and expectation for this level. There is a clear relationship between well-organised marking schedules and consistent marking. In some cases, it was difficult to verify assessor decisions due to poor marking schedules coupled with a lack of marking indicators and/or marks awarded for each question. It is strongly recommended that assessors clearly show the marks awarded for the benefit of the learners and to ensure accuracy and consistency.


There has been an improvement in the number of submissions meeting all key assessment requirements or only requiring modification before the next course delivery.

Those requiring resubmission need to ensure learning outcomes are fully assessed and ensure assessments are at the appropriate level. Preparing a comprehensive assessment grid that aligns the learning outcomes/key elements with each of the assessments before delivery may help address some of these issues. Assessment activities should contain full and correct information for learners, and marking schedules should have accurate solutions that reflect the needs of owners/management for reliable information.

NZDB400 expires on 31 October 2014 and the move to NZDB500 should help eliminate some of the issues with the structure of the NZDB400 prescription. However, any of the issues identified within submissions for NZDB400 need to be applied to the new prescription so TEO’s need to ensure they make changes identified prior to resubmission.

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