Book Review: Understanding Accounting Principles (4th ed.)

Reviewer: Susan Jackman, Christchurch College of Education

This well-established text is written to cover the learning outcomes in the New Zealand Diploma in Business prescription for DB100 – Accounting Principles. The fourth edition sees the text updated to reflect the prescription changes for this paper.

The text is divided into six sections that make for a smooth flow between topics as the instructor and the learner progress through the topics. Each topic has several “checkpoints” which enable reinforcement of learning objectives before progressing to the text point. In addition, each chapter is highlighted by recent newspaper articles and excerpts from relevant financial statements. Learning is further enhanced by the use of a concise summary of “keywords” in each chapter and the extensive use of actual financial reports to emphasize the real-world nature of accounting as well as the user perspective. Students are also encouraged to use new technologies such as the internet and MYOB (mind your own business) by way of case studies and exercises.

of particular appeal to students and instructors alike is the readability of this book. It is written in a style that is very easy to read, and it seems to do the impossible – it makes accounting interesting. One comment regarding student and instructor interest is the overall ascetics of this book. There is minimal use of colour and illustrations throughout the text, making it look, at a glance, not particularly interesting. I would like to see the addition of illustrations in future editions to break up the text. On a positive note, this text is very manageable in terms of size. At 470 pages it is on the smaller side for an accounting text, and it is a credit to the authors that they have managed to cover the material they have in such a concise manner.

All solutions to the short answer questions and the discussion questions at the end of each chapter are provided immediately following the questions. Without getting into a pedagogical debate about the merits of providing all solutions to students prior to undertaking an exercise, I do mention this point as this method of teaching and learning will not suit all people.

For many years, the often-fruitless search for an appropriate text to accompany Accounting Principles has occupied countless hours of precious instructor time. Understanding Accounting Principles may not be the end of the search for all people. However it should be seriously considered by those still looking for a New Zealand text, that does cover the prescription, does not cover irrelevant topics, is very readable and uses real world examples.