Q: Which steps in the accounting cycle require the most thought and judgement by the accountant: (a) preparing a trial balance, (b) posting adjusting, and closing entries, or (c) analyzing and recording transactions? Explain your answer.
A: In my opinion, I'd say (b) or (c) but definitely not (a).
The reason for definitely not (a) preparing a trial balance is that almost all businesses these days have computerized accounting systems. Which means that once the journals are entered (which is (c) above), the T-accounts, trial balance and financial reports are automatically generated by the accounting package with zero errors (unless you made an error when initially recording a transaction).
Both (b) posting adjusting, and closing entries and (c) analyzing and recording transactions require quite a bit of thought and judgement by the accountant. However, if you are a good accountant or have a good accountant then both these functions should be fairly easy.
(c) Analyzing and recording transactions is actually the first step one would do - looking at the transaction, working it out and recording it. Sometimes easy, sometimes not.
(b) Posting adjusting and closing entries is done most often at the end of a cycle, which is usually at the end of the year. Adjusting entries can be tricky if there are a lot of things to correct. Closing entries can be tricky too if you don't know what you're doing.
(FYI lessons on adjusting and closing entries are not covered on this site but are included in my basic accounting book)
If you have experience with accounting/bookkeeping work and are reading this, please let us know what you think about this and which step/s you feel require the most thought and judgement and why... Thank you!