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A touch of creativity

Nury Vittachi

 Hong Kong’s humorist on the many unique ways one can answer an accounting entry examination question


There was an interesting question on discussion website Reddit the other day. “I’m a typical liberal arts student,” wrote one young man. “Should I do a second degree in accounting?”

It triggered a discussion about all the terrifying number-crunching exams he’d have to do, which all agreed would be tough for someone from the creative sector, used to making art out of pasta pieces and glitter paint, etc.

I mentioned this to friends, and one pointed out that this very column had earlier declared that the hardest exam in the world was not a mathematics one, but a creative one, the All Souls College Examination Fellowships in Oxford, United Kingdom.

That got us all thinking. What if we organized accounting entry exams for students of any discipline, and accepted creative answers, as well as mathematically correct ones?

For example, the question could be: “What is two times two?”

We’d surely get a wide range of answers.

First year accounting student: “Four? No, wait, this is a trick question, right?”

Second year accounting student: “Assuming compound interest at current rates over a year, 4.0375.”

Third year accounting student: “Three, after my fees are paid, ha ha.”

Literature student: “Two twos? Or not two twos? That is the question.”

Music student: “A polka, obviously.”

Architecture student: “Two twos are a pair of duplex semis.”

Finance student: “Oh, at least 28, considering the margin I can get you.”

Forensic accounting student: “Well, I’d need to know how you come to be in possession of the two items in the first place.”

Languages student: “Deux fois deus. Dos veces dos. Zwei mal zwei.”

M&A student: “Two point five, after consolidation and getting rid of the dead wood.”

“What if we organized accounting entry exams for students of any discipline, and accepted creative answers, as well as mathematically correct ones?”

Philosophy student: “It depends on whether the numbers exist, or indeed, whether the questioner exists.”

CFO trainee: “Look, we can’t afford two anythings, we’re over budget.”

Computer studies student: “That’s easy, it’s 01010101.”

Financial planning student: “It allll depends on the pension plan you chose. Now let’s consider the following options.” [Opens laptop.]

Mathematics student: “Are we talking positive or negative integers? In a binary universe or base-4?”

Tax accounting student: “Three point five, unless we feed it through a shell company in the Caymans.”

Physics student: “Does the word ‘time’ in your question refer to the space-time continuum or fourth-dimensional spacetime?”

Exchange student: “Alors, monsieur, imperial quatre ounce would be metric 113.398 grams, oui?”

Cost accounting student: “Depends whether we’re talking payables, bills or payroll.”

Chemistry student: “Since two molecules of CO2 are generated for each acetyl CoA molecule introduced into the citric acid cycle, the answer is a pair of acetyl CoA molecules.”

Internal auditing student: “But which department is doubling whose asset?”

Digital media student: “I have no idea what the answer is, but give me a week, and I can make a three-dimensional image of the question spin around at funny angles.”

Student of Zen Buddhism: “A tree.”

Kindergarten student: “Four.” 


Nury Vittachi is a bestselling author, columnist, lecturer and TV host. He wrote three storybooks for the Institute, May Moon and the Secrets of the CPAs, May Moon Rescues the World Economy and May Moon’s Book of Choices