Views from the Marker: 30 years in the business
Peter Stockdale, a retired chartered accountant has been an internal marker of mock exams and project papers for Reed Business School for 30 years. We caught up with him to […]
Peter Stockdale, a retired chartered accountant has been an internal marker of mock exams and project papers for Reed Business School for 30 years. We caught up with him to find out what he looks for in exam papers and what’s changed in the world of accounting since he began.
Peter studied for his ACCA qualification in the 1960s, through the solitary correspondence method – the most viable option in those days – where he got sent study material in the post, bought his own books, and had to use his annual leave entitlement for exams.
Fast forward to 1986 Peter, while working as an accountant, made a connection with the Reed Business school and began marking for us. Thirty years on he’s still going strong, though having retired from his work as an accountant. Peter takes real pleasure in his work in supporting students to be the best they can be and helping them up the ladder.
Get the basics right
Accounts are accounts, Peter says, and the fundamental aspects of accounting (calculating assets and liabilities; compiling balance sheets and P&L statements) are exactly as they were 50 years ago, and are unlikely to ever change. Therefore he believes it is crucial for students to have a thorough understanding of these basics and be able to do their calculations correctly and clearly in every exam scenario. He says that up to half of the marks on such questions are awarded for the calculations and analysis of figures, so these should always be shown in full, even if you run out of time to complete the “front page” element.
For questions that require discussion in order to come to a particular decision or recommendation, Peter’s most frequent comments on the papers he marks are “make sure you consider all the factors.” He says the students that do well are very thorough in their analysis, going into great detail, whereas those that don’t do as well skip or gloss over some aspects which might be important.
Mind your handwriting!
With the advent of computers, Peter has noticed over the years that handwriting in exams is getting poorer, often making it difficult for him to decipher the scripts. He encourages all students to make sure their papers are as legible as possible.
Learning from feedback
Peter admits that what he finds really pleasing is how students progress over the course of their studies. In their early papers they often give fairly basic responses to the questions, but when he sees them develop in accordance with his feedback and their course of learning to give much better responses on their later attempts, it can be really rewarding.
When it comes to giving feedback, Peter always tries to be supportive and helpful with his advice, rather than simply giving marks. Often that advice is around encouraging students to expand on their ideas and to show their calculations and assumptions on the paper.
Completing the cycle
Occasionally, when a batch of papers come in to him to mark that perhaps all miss a key aspect of learning, Peter is straight on the phone to the school to check what has been taught so far, in case any gaps are missed. By completing this diligent feedback cycle with the School, we can ensure that all students get a really comprehensive training programme and that standards never slip.
So what’s changed in 30 years?
As previously mentioned, Peter believes the basics of accounting haven’t and will never change. However, there are now some terminologies and presentation differences that never existed when he was a student. For example the term “statement of financial position” is now more commonly used to identify what was only ever known as the balance sheet in his day. This document includes all the same figures, but is just known under another name, while Peter also mentions that the notion of net assets is still relatively new: assets and liabilities used to be kept very separate.
He also believes some “americanised” terminology is starting to creep in, for example KPIs, which he has only ever known as ratios. But, he says, changes are always going to happen as things progress, which is partly why he loves his job. As the industry evolves, so must we all keep up with new developments, and we look forward to working with Peter for many more years ahead.