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When exams are very near, what should the students do and focus upon?

First of all, I am sure that you have prepared well. But one of the things which the students should understand is - the mindset.  Most of the students go stressed while appearing for exams.

I would like to give my example. Prior to exams, I don't used to go through any revision. So, I used to listen music or watch movie that made me laugh. That helped me in keeping a relaxed state of mind.

Most of the students have the tension that if they are not able to clear CA in the first attempt, then again they would have to appear for it after 6 months. So, that is something which the students should refrain from thinking.

Just focus on the paper, be relaxed. Most of the students while appearing for exams are worried as to how will be the question pattern; what I would suggest is that if you have prepared everything, then you need not worry for that and just keep writing.

Most of the students are worried if they are not able to write the correct answer.

So, in this regards, I would like to share a small story with them. I am a firm example that even if the solution doesn't come, still you can secure good marks. I did my +2 and joined CA and I was very weak in Accounts subject.

So, while writing exams, I knew that I won't be able to write the correct answer, so I used to start with the presentation, writing the balance sheet nicely without mentioning any figures. But, I used to concentrate on the working notes.

So, if there was anything going on in my head about any entry. I used to write it down on the sheet. So, ultimately, my working notes were of 3 to 4 pages.

When the other students used to come of out of the exam hall and discuss the question paper, I used to sit in one corner of the hall as I knew that my answers were not correct.

But, eventually, when the results were declared, I secured 58 in a subject where none of my answers were correct.

That brings you to the point- how?

So, you realize step marking.So, you must not stress out. If you are writing the working notes and if you are able to write 80% of the paper, then you can easily secure 64 marks.

So, you must target this paper as professional smart paper, not get emotional about it. So, I would call it as the toughest finance paper in the world.

So, the takeaway here is that - there should not be fear of the unknown and the second takeaway is that there are 3 important things -

a. Preparation.

b. Presentation.

c. Time Management.

You need to complete the paper in time. There was one student who came up to me and said that he failed thrice in CA.

Each time he scored around 170 to 180 marks. So, I asked him if he was able to complete the paper and he said no, each time he wasn't able to write around 30 to 40 marks.

So, my simple solution to him was that if you attempt those 30 to 40 marks and if you are able to write even 50% of it, you can clear the paper. So looking at the CA paper evolving over the years, they have made it lengthy now; whether it is IPCC or Final, they are lengthy papers.

So, how does a student target it? See, every teacher will give their own advice like we were just discussing. My advice would be - As you are writing 100 marks paper and you have 180 minutes in hand, so you have 1.8 minutes per mark.

So, you should target to write (say) 10 marks question within 18 minutes, which you can definitely do through practice. That should be your guideline factor.

How would you analyze the important topics of DT paper in the exams?

Whatever comes in the question paper is important. For e.g, in IPCC (DT), there is one topic Sec 10 AA. I can complete that topic in class within 15 minutes.

But if a question of 8 marks from that topic comes in the paper, then that 15 minutes becomes much more important compared to the business head topics that takes 1 month time.

I look at the coverage and I analyze the paper over the years and the marks that the examiner allocates to the topics and trust me, the examiner doesn't leave any topic.

But having said that, let me analyze the IPCC paper for DT. There are certain small topics like Advance Tax, TDS, Gifts and Returns but in the paper, they will account for atleast 8 to 16 marks.

Then, again 8 to 15 marks are allotted for small topics like other sources, clubbing, set-off, deductions. So, one should definitely go through these topics.

Then, again there are other topics like business head, capital gain, house property etc. which you normally go through but usually students skip the smaller topics which shouldn't be, as there is a lot of coverage in the question paper from these smaller topics, so for IPCC level, I would suggest that.

For CA Final, if I analyze the past years, atleast 50 to 60 marks are covered from topics like - Business Heads, Returns, Appeals, Assessments, TDS, Transfer Pricing, depending on the concept. So, these are the topics which I would specifically stress on.

And specifically for IPCC - GST. It will be the 1st attempt so question paper will not be difficult. In RTP, there are 8 questions provided by the institute and questions have also been assigned in the mock-test paper. Now, those questions are not very difficult and they are typical.

So, students must definitely do that as GST covers 40 marks and even I suggest my students to focus on GST as it will take less time for preparation and you can easily score atleast 30 marks out of 40. Then again, you have your 60 marks of IT which is obviously a very huge syllabus.

But, if you have done it well, then you can definitely score 45 to 50 marks, but if you are able to attempt 30 marks each from IT and GST, then you can easily secure 60 marks. So, that's the way to target it.

One question is - the level of exam is declining but one exam out of the group is hardest. How can we prepare for it?

I don't agree that the level of the paper is decreasing. Rather, the level of preparation is increasing. When we were preparing for CA, there was no coaching. Today, teaching becomes one of the highest professions where a lot of people are working hard to clear the concept of the students. So, that is why the paper might seem a bit easier to you, but the level is definitely not going down.

Now-a-days, I have seen a lot of students relying on last minute summary notes which they extract from the internet or through whatsapp. This should not be the case. As far as preparation is concerned, I think questions are not important; what important is your concept. You should have faith on whatever books you have studied from and the teachers from whom you have learnt. If your concept is clear, you can definitely solve any question that comes in the paper. You should have faith on whatever you have studied.

If we discuss of how to attempt a case study - the first paragraph of any question which is a case study based, I always suggest is to -

i. First know which law or section, the situation or case study is based upon.

ii. Secondly, you should discuss that in such a situation, how the particular law is applicable.

iii. At last, you should make an analysis of what is the problem. Only, in the last one line you should write your conclusion.

Even if the conclusion doesn't match, that will take away just ½ of the mark, so that doesn't matter.

A student asked that it's not possible to complete DT and Costing paper. So, how to deal with that?

I have a way of approaching things. If I look at the mock test this time (for DT-Final), I found that the questions have been set on 20 marks question approach for 5 questions. So, first question is compulsory. And you have to do remaining 4 questions. Now, based on the new attempt, International Taxation is of 30 marks. 14 marks is set for normal DT and 6 marks is allotted for international taxation.

So how to cope up with that? Like I just said, 1 marks is to be done in 1.8 minutes, so as international taxation is of 6 marks, you need to complete it within 10 to 12 minutes. I would want you to practice that.

I would like to share what I used to do - If I wasn't able to complete my answer within 10 to 12 minutes, I used to leave that because if I again spend 3 to 5 more minutes on that same question, maximum I will gain is 1 or 2 marks. The same time if I utilize for the next question, 2 to 3 more marks can be gained. This was my approach. So, eventually, you have to fight for every mark. If you want to complete the paper, you should go by time. So, you need to practice the habit of how to complete a question within a specific time and I think this is the approach for completing the paper on time.

I myself didn't complete DT Final paper, I skipped 10 marks but still was able to secure 72 marks. And now, there are some students who come up to me and say that they have attempted 72 marks but got only 62. So again, different approaches for different people.

Again, if I look at the DT Final paper, may be the third question in the mock-test goes by - 16 marks were set for a set of 4 questions - 4 marks (each); so if I were you, I would start with that question because the first 1 hour is very important in that hall.

Now, if you are sure that within that 1 hour, you are able to attempt 15 to 20 marks, the rest 2 hours will just fly by. So, choose the first question very carefully and just don't start with the first question that is given in the paper. So, basically one needs to focus on the small denominated topics in the beginning which will boost up your confidence and help you in writing the remaining questions.

How to make a strategy to complete the Costing paper?

There are people who are good at Costing and some bad at Costing. Good at costing will be the ones who have a mathematical brain. Now, most of the people whom I have met in my CA profession, I found that most of the students find Costing to be quite hard. I myself again was very bad at Costing.

Now, how I approach the Costing paper was -

You see, you can't be good at all the 4 papers. Costing was my weak subject and the remaining theory papers were my strong subjects, so that was how I planned the strategy. I even ask my students to follow the same. If you are weak at Costing, attempt the theory portion. Again, I would say, that if you are not able to solve the answer, don't worry. You please mention the working notes in details, communicate your thoughts to the examiner and do it clearly. Don't scribble it, you will get marks for those working notes. I have checked papers long back and know that you will definitely secure marks for the working notes that you mention.

How to manage stress during exam time because we cannot revise effectively one day before the exam in CA Final?

Yeah, that's true.

This paper will definitely give you stress. But having said that, I know that it is too early to practice this, but a kind of meditation for 5 minutes helps.

Whatever relaxes you like - music will relieve you from stress. Last day before the paper, it's an eye wash. You should just go through the topics once, your sub- conscious memory has retained it, it will reproduce it when the question comes provided you have revised well during your preparations.

So, atleast 2 to 3 hours before the paper, I would recommend is - not to go through any revision. I myself used to watch a movie which used to make me laugh and I had even recorded a small clip of that video which I used to watch half an hour before each exam.

That proved to be very relaxing and post watching that, my papers went much better. So, listen music, watch movies, do whatever that relaxes you before the exam. Don't take stress and write whatever you know, while writing the paper.

To add on as Arvind Sir said, to not take stress is not an option, how to not get affected by this, you adopt certain relaxation techniques like listening music or watching movies, playing guitar etc. One of the most important aspects is that you sleep properly before the exam. If you sleep less, your sub conscious mind and whatever you read in hastiness gets mixed up. Your mind will not be at the optimal performance level, physically also, you will get drained out.

I also compare our CA exams to the game of cricket.

Who is the out of form batsman? - Someone who has mentally got disturbed and is not physically fresh; you have to be mentally there and believe yourself. Don't develop any fear within you. Put whatever knowledge you have in the paper while writing your exams.

A student asked that she studied everything, but while writing exams, she can't present the paper properly, so what steps one should take to avoid such confusion?

Sometimes, it so happens that when you are stressed and reading the question, you are not able to understand it or absorb it properly. So, there is a way to read the question as well without wasting time. When you are reading a question, stop after every full-stop, analyze it like from which section the point has been raised, note the small points that has been asked and by the time you have finished reading the question, you already have an idea what the question is all about. Then when you start writing the answer, for e.g, if the question is about house property, you already have your own format of house property so start with that and eventually start filling the figures over there. The idea is to read the question carefully. Then just think properly and reproduce that on the paper.

How to present our answers? Is good handwriting mandatory for it?

Handwriting doesn't play any major factor. Most of the students write in English language paper. This is a CA paper, so rather than writing in paragraphs, if you can write the same in points, then handwriting doesn't matter. You have to get across your point. If you want the examiner to read a particular line, you can underline that and try leaving spaces between your lines, so that the paper is presentable, readable. If you write your answers in paragraph form, the examiner might miss one of those points, so try presenting your answers point wise. The same applies for practical papers as well; present it in a manner which the examiner can easily understand and he may even give you extra marks for that.

A student mentioned that he got exemption in 2 papers and is disappointed for the same. So, he seeks help for that?

According to me, ‘failing' is one word which the ICAI should not use. Nobody fails here. Most of the competitive exams have a percentile system. In CA, they use the word ‘Fail'. But, as far as I understand there will be top 3000 to 10,000 candidates who will pass. The others might not be able to meet the cut. But, that doesn't mean that they have failed. If you have got somewhere between 172 to 180 and if still you are not able to clear the group, one of the reasons might be that there would be lack of presentation because somewhere you are not able to present the answer in a way as ICAI wants it.

So, what needs to be done for that? ICAI provides solutions to the practice manuals. That is what needs to be matched. Your way of presenting the answers should match the way as mentioned in the practice manuals, based on which the examiner gives you marks. You can practice writing last year's question paper and match it with the ICAI material to see if it matches with its quality and what you are lagging behind. So, I think presentation might be one of the reasons for the failure. But, don't get disappointed. The degree is something worth fighting for. Even today, it is one of the few degrees that will assure you of constant growth. Some people go to the extent of saying that CA has no demand now-a-days. I disagree with that. One can become a CA at the age of 21-22 and one should value the degree and fight for it. Infact, I would say that it was one of the best decisions in my life to become a CA. So, don't give up; get motivation from within.

Is it necessary to mention sections in CA Final - DT / IDT? Does it fetch any marks?

No, the section doesn't carry any marks. There is no problem if you don't mention sections. But to make your paper sound a bit more professional, quoting of section numbers will give a good impression to the examiner. It doesn't matter if you don't remember the sub-sections or clauses.

For e.g., if you remember (say) Section 10 exemption, then write down as per relevant section 10. It's not that your marks will be deducted if you don't mention the section numbers but yes, mentioning the section will make your paper look more presentable and professional.

So, the takeaway is that the concept and presenting the concept clearly is important rather than the correct figure.

There was one student who came up to me and showed his DT paper, saying that his answer was so close (in points there was a slight difference), then why didn't I score 8 out of 10 but 4. Then, I found that he was supposed to calculate S.I, but instead he computed C.I. So, one should read the question properly. Even, if you can't calculate the correct answer, you can just note down the formula for which you will definitely get the marks.

Absolutely. I will share a story with you. There was a student named Ankur about 10-15 years back. He was a very brilliant student. Infact, if I used to say any point, he would know the answer before-hand. So, I was expecting that he is going to top. Then suddenly this guy comes up to me and showed his marks as 25. I made him write down the paper. Now, what he did was, he was writing the answers in one line. In one line, I could make out that if he has written this line, then he knows the answer. But sadly, our institute has their own marking scheme. Presentation plays an important role which helps you to secure marks. So, knowing your subject and scoring marks in it are two different things. So, you have to learn how to score the marks.

A student says that he got distressed of giving so many attempts and not able to concentrate on his studies for the repeated failures and studying the same thing every time. How to cope with such a situation and motivate oneself?

There have been students who come up to me after 5 attempts. They say of giving up.

Give up if you have tried everything and didn't find the answer as to why you failed. Try to find the reason of your failure first, in what aspects you are lagging behind - in concepts or not being able to present the paper properly or not able to complete the paper on time.

That's why I sit with the students and discuss their problems and believe me, once you are able to find the reason, you can definitely come out of it and succeed.

There was a friend of mine during the batch of 1996 when he was doing CA with us. He couldn't clear any attempt by the time we finished CA. He kept giving and eventually became a CA at the age of 41. Now, I look at his persistence and say wow. So, don't give up and have the patience; if you are determined to become a CA, you can surely crack it. There was one student of mine who cleared CA at the 1st attempt. Then he gave attempt for IAS and spent 4 years but didn't clear it. But, he didn't give up and now he has cleared it. So, you have to develop that passion and keep the single mind dedication for doing CA. It's one of the best degrees to have, don't even for a minute think that it's not worth it. Trust me, I have 3 CAs in my family. It's a very good degree to have. It will always give you bread, butter and respect. But, you will also have to give it that respect. Try to overcome your failure and reach that level and there are ways, means and people who can help you to reach that level.

One student said that he has left CA because of lots of unsuccessful attempts. Last he attended May 2016 attempt, so how can he restart as he is missing doing CA?

Make up your mind. If you have cleared IPCC, then there is no reason that you cannot clear CA Final. You have to give it your all.

So, how do you pick it up?

First, you make up your mind that this time when I pick it up, then I shouldn't leave it. Pick up the books and start studying. Make a plan. I always believe in making the plan. If you want to make sure, you gonna clear, then there are 4 stages to do it:

1. First is, when you read the syllabus for the first time.

2. The second stage is, when you are remembering it. So, that is, I call it - Study - Phase I.

3. Thirdly, when you would revise the same thing within one day. I used to sit with my DT modules, close my eyes and remember each module in my mind to see if I haven't missed anything.

4. Lastly, when you find that you are in a stage where you have remembered all the modules, then I think, you are good enough to appear for the paper. If you have worked hard enough and referred to the ICAI case studies and RTPs, then you cannot fail.

What I believe is that our entire memory is made up of images. So, that's the reason when I provide the notes, I give handwritten notes along with the text. Handwritten Charts are easy to memorize. So, I make sure that the student has looked at the image of the chart. You have to be careful preparing the charts so that no point gets missed and it proves to be helpful for the students. You have to visualize what you are doing - the image of what you remember.

Why is it so difficult to score even 40 in CA Final Audit?

The marking scheme of CA has been retained in that way. So, I suggest following the practice manual of Auditing provided by the institute; look at one question and write down your answer. Compare your answer to what the ICAI has given because the marks have been assigned according to the points mentioned in the practice manual. Now, there is no negative marking in CA. But, if you haven't mentioned the point as per the study material provided by the institute, then you will not get the marks accordingly. So, understand the marking scheme; how the paper comes; how the marking happens because that will help you pass. You know, everybody has one or two friends, whom they thought of having less knowledge compared to them, but inspite of that, they secure more marks in the exams. The reason is - that particular person knew how to present his answer in the paper. You have to approach the CA as a smart paper. You have to actually analyze it, plan it and then there is no reason why you can't do it. In your CA journey, no doubt, you will have to encounter stress, but if once, you are able to complete CA, there would be no fear and you will definitely be successful no matter wherever you go, because you have learnt the art of focussing and working hard.

Give some valuable tips about tax for the IPCC level?

I would just say that in this particular attempt, concentrate on GST. You can get 30 out of 40 in GST. Go through the ICAI questions on GST. Revise GST very well, do the smart study. When you go for exams, you may pick GST first; now for 40 marks questions, ideally you have 1 hour 20 minutes to do it but I would want you to do it in 1 hour because IT part is going to take much longer time. Plan it smartly when you are writing the paper because you will have two sections to do. Try to complete one section and then proceed with the next.

Is it worth to skip an attempt if you feel that you are not well prepared for it?

No, I won't suggest it. If you have prepared hard, then you shouldn't let this stage to go. If you had to skip the attempt, then you could have decided 2 months before the exams. So, I would just advice to go and give the attempt. Go with the idea that I will give my best. I have met people, who were hesitant to appear for their exams initially, but subsequently they passed so, you should definitely give it a try.

What do you mean by smart study?

If I say that you concentrate on certain topics in a certain way - now if I look at CA Final, there is a chapter named Authority for Advance Ruling. Now, it's not a very important chapter paper wise; otherwise it's a very important practical chapter. For theory, once in a while, a question may come of only 4 marks. Now, if I spend (may be) 3 hours in doing that, then it doesn't make sense. So, when I say smart study, you analyze the paper's importance - importance of topics. Even, the institute this time has given important weightage of marks for topics - both for IPCC and Final.

So, summarizing,

  • First comes your concept, i.e. the study phase.
  • Second is the presentation which you can still look at, in the practice manuals provided by ICAI.
  • Third is the time; you complete the paper on time.

And one more important thing is choosing the right question.

I am sharing my own experience. In the costing paper, long time back, I still remember, the first question was of 20 marks and I started with it. I spent 45 minutes on it and after 45 minutes, I was nowhere. Then I picked up the second question, which was also difficult. I couldn't solve even that. So, 1 hour passed in that way and I knew that I had no marks. I lost my confidence. The next time, I made sure that whichever paper I went to, the first hour is very important. And I would attempt first, small 3 to 5 marks questions so that in the first 1 hour, I could gain 15 to 20 marks. After that the rest 2 hours can be managed accordingly because you know that you are going to pass.

A student asked that she cleared her 1st group but couldn't clear the 2nd group. Post that, her parents decided to get her married; she tried again giving the attempt, but couldn't succeed. So, what should she do now?

Marriage has its own distractions. You are one step to go. There is no point in giving up. I don't think you should give up. If you are through with the initials before your marriage, give this another 3 to 4 months, seek support of your husband because you are just there. Once you are clear, you will be supporting them. And the most important thing is that you will be supporting yourself throughout your life; so why to give up when you are just on the crossing line. Don't give up, just put in some extra effort, you can definitely do it.

How to manage 8 subjects for CA Final in 3 months and also in last 10 days of the exam?

How I look at it is, when you do it for the first time, some students are going in the mere task of finishing the coaching. They finish their coaching within 3 months and then start their studies. In my view, that is wrong. Your first phase is - where you actually understand it, remember it and then study it at home.

I am a firm believer of a plan. If I used to start studying, I used to make a long-term plan and then a daily plan with the hours divided. So, once you have gone through coaching, you need to do self-study.

Last minute revision tips, if you can share?

I believe many students make the mistake of revising the entire syllabus day before the exams. It is not possible and is not even required. Just go through the points once. Some students make the mistake of picking up random last minute revision notes from internet and doing it. That should be avoided. Go through only those notes or books which you have referred to before and revise them. For IPCC candidates, GST is a must and for finals, go through the case studies and practice manual papers provided by the institute.

When 20 to 30 mark question comes tricky in exams, students consider the paper as difficult so does it mean that the remaining 70 to 80 marks come from the practice manuals?

I don't agree with that. Paper is tough if you don't know it. Paper is easy if you prepared well for it. But in anyway, even if you have gone there prepared, that paper is going to make you use your brain. Don't go to the exam hall with a B.Com paper mindset. Just remember that the paper will be tricky but if you have prepared well, you will be able to answer it. Don't write the paper with the stress in mind that you will fail if you are not able to complete the paper. Just mention your working notes and all will be well.

A student questioned that even after a long preparation, he is getting tensed. So is it possible to complete the whole syllabus during the exam days?

It is quite normal to get tensed in CA. If you are tensed, that means you are prepared, in my view. You are thinking about revising it, which is a good sign. So, don't take stress. Andas I just said, on the last day, just go through whatever you have studied. The knowledge you had gathered is already stored in your subconscious mind which will help you to recollect better and you can reproduce it while writing the paper.

Last few tips from my side will be, discuss it with your parents, get motivation, rework on the anxiety thing and not take stress.

Motivation, I have a firm belief is something which should be gathered from within. So, from here on, you will be responsible for your life; not your parents. That is motivation enough whether you are going to become a CA or not and then the level of what you earn may change. Not that, it's a hard and fast rule. But, if you are a CA, you know well that you are in a particular trajectory which is going to earn you, your money and respect.

Lastly, best of luck for your exams. Go to the hall without fear and treat those 3 hours as your international paper. You have to perform on that day. So, make sure, you are not tired during the exams and are not thinking of finishing the paper. You should be ready and excited to go into the hall, to write the answer, get your knowledge across to the examiner. So, go fresh and go there to give your best.

Best of luck to all the students for your exams and thanks for joining us in this online session!! Thank you!!


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