National external moderation summary reports

400 Accounting Principles - 2010 semester 1


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

Assessment materials from 34 Tertiary Education Organisations (TEOs) were moderated for this prescription.

Of the 34 submissions:

  • 8 met all key assessment requirements
  • 11 met key assessment requirements overall, but require some modification before next course delivery
  • the remaining 15 did not meet key assessment requirements and modification/redevelopment and post-assessment resubmission is required.

Key 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 an appropriate level (19 submissions)
  • lack of detail or clarity in conditions and instructions for assessments (5 submissions)
  • insufficient guidance provided for assessors in assessment schedules (13 submissions)
  • inconsistency in assessing learner work in terms of marking and meeting prescription requirements (10 submissions).

Presentation of assessment materials

Generally submissions were well presented, easy to read and in a logical order.  Eleven submissions did not include complete material required for moderation (as specified in the moderation checklist).  Some submitted course outlines 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 supplied.

The most common resources relied on were the various versions of texts written by Smart, Anwan and Bourke, and Weterman and Weterman.

Assessment grids

The assessment grid should ensure that learning outcomes and key elements are evidenced over assessment activities, with correct weighting for learning outcomes.  Assessment grids submitted were of variable quality.  Some had insufficient detail to allow moderators to confirm coverage and weightings.  A well‑organised grid breaks learning outcomes down into the key elements and, as necessary, shows how each question in each assessment activity relates to the learning outcome/key element.

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.

A number of submissions did not make this learning outcome/key element connection when assessing learning outcome 2 which requires ‘using accrual accounting’.  The preparation of financial statements and/or completion of transaction analysis should reflect common balance day adjustments, including accrued income and expenses, prepaid income and expenses, provision for doubtful debts and depreciation calculations.

Many submissions did not fully assess learning outcomes as they did not provide adequate coverage for some key elements.  This was sometimes due to inadequate attention to the wording of the key element.  Most common issues in this regard were:

  • Learning outcome 1:
    • “accounting” not “business cycle” (key element b)
    • “impact of GST on business” does not require calculating the amount of GST payable
    • “function of internal controls” is not a list of internal controls
    • “forms of business ownership within an accounting context” is not a list of advantages and disadvantages
  • Learning outcome 2:
    • prepare Statement of Cash Flows from a given list does not mean from existing financial statements
    • full accounting equation to be used (as per assessment note 3); that is, assets, liabilities, equity, income and expenses
  • Learning outcome 4:
    • prepare a simple trading budget - not a cash budget, nor budgets for multiple periods.

In assessing learning outcome 2, key element b), accounting policies, most assessments did not require a statement or explanation that adequately demonstrated learners’ understanding of accounting policies.  Assessments were reliant on the following activities without requiring any link with the relevant policy:

  • presentation in financial statements
  • calculating depreciation or doubtful debts
  • defining “contingent liabilities”
  • calculation of inventory values using FIFO or Weighted Average (LIFO is not permitted in New Zealand and should not be assessed) does not adequately show an understanding of inventory policy.  What is needed is an understanding of the difference between cost and NRV
  • discussion of perpetual versus physical inventory systems does not assess understanding of policy at all.

There was a wide variety of approaches to assessment of learning outcome 3, where learners are required to analyse and report on business performance.  In meeting this outcome, it is expected that learners will make recommendations for specific performance results of a particular business entity and not just generalised points.

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%.

Prescription weightings were generally observed although four submissions had aggregate variances outside that allowed.


Overall, assessment tasks were at the appropriate level.  Some assessments provided too much assistance in the form of partially completed templates or by the generous awarding of marks for some questions that did not require much effort from the learner.  Some learners were disadvantaged by 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 and the marks to be awarded.  Generally submissions included at least one test, one assignment and one final exam.  Learning outcome 1 and learning outcome 3 requirements for analysis, interpretation and recommendations were those most commonly used as the basis for assignments.

Assessment schedules

The key considerations for moderators were whether schedules:

  • gave examples of learner responses (e.g. model answers, and/or a range of appropriate answers, and/or quality criteria for answers) that met prescription requirements
  • provided a sufficiently detailed breakdown of marks to ensure consistent marking.

Most submissions included comprehensive marking schedules with adequate guidance given for the mark allocation.  However, many schedules were deficient in parts as they either did not give sufficient mark breakdown or did not include sufficient evidence of expected learner responses.  In either circumstance, more detail is needed to ensure consistency in marking.  The potential for inconsistency particularly increases when learners give only part answers and the marker must determine how much to allocate.  As accounting is a subject where most responses can be clearly and specifically stated, assessment schedules should also be fairly specific.

This is a level 4 prescription and it should not be necessary to give every line of learner response a mark, but expect some responses to be a given.  For example, when preparing financial statements, most learners copy the account names and amounts to the appropriate category on the statement.  Very little work is needed to determine where the more common items belong, so learners should not expect to see every line awarded a mark.  Markers should apply some discrimination when allocating marks to ensure that more complex work is rewarded with more marks.

Marking schedules should reflect good business and accounting practice in presentation and terminology and this should also be expected from learners.  A minor example, either in assessments or responses, is that all lists of monetary amounts should be right-aligned for clarity.  This is the way it is done in practice and anything else is inconsistent with professional practice.  Good practice also requires the use of modern terminology.  For example, “equity” has replaced “capital”; “property, plant and equipment” or “non-current assets” have replaced “fixed assets”.

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 assessor decisions were consistent with the marking schedule and expectations for this level.  Even where schedules were deficient, the moderators generally found no significant variance in marking.  In a few cases, the learner samples did not have marks clearly displayed, making it difficult to verify assessor decisions.  It would also be unclear to the learner as to how they were awarded marks.


The quality of submissions was highly variable and this resulted in the high number of resubmissions required.

Some TEOs are required to resubmit as they have not assessed all key elements. Preparing a comprehensive assessment grid that aligns the learning outcomes/key elements with each of the assessments will help address this problem.

Some TEOs need to ensure the assessments are at the 400 level. Asking another TEO to moderate modified assessment materials may help address this.

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