This study is motivated by the increasing diversity among first-year accounting students and the increasing number of first-year accounting students whose majors are not in accounting related areas in UK universities. The main contribution of this study is that it uses student data over four consecutive academic years from a first-year accounting course at a UK university to provide empirical evidence in support of the theoretical framework proposed by Rankin et al. (2003). Our results show the effects of metacognitive knowledge and content knowledge on academic performance as well as highlighting the inclusiveness of the first-year accounting course. For instance, regardless of the choices of secondary subjects, students who have good prior academic achievement are the best performers on the first-year accounting course. The influence of content knowledge on academic performance is strongly felt when the assessments of the course changed from a 100 per cent final exam to a combination of mid-term coursework and a final exam. The results suggest that well-designed mid-term coursework is academically beneficial to accounting students, especially non-native English-speaking students.