Chartered Accountancy is definitely one of the most sought after professions in the country. Clearing CA Exams is not everyone's cup of tea. It requires consistency, perseverance, hard work and most importantly patience. In your journey to becoming a Chartered Accountant, you will often find yourself caught up in a dilemma. Coaching Or self-study? Big4 or a small-sized firm? Single group/both the groups? Every CA student deals with these confusions. To clear the clouds and enable you to see the clear path ahead, we asked experts to answer the 10 most common questions that every CA student has. Here are the answers from not one, not two but three AIR-1s. These questions have been answered by Siddhant Bhandari(AIR-1, CA Final, Nov'18), Akshat Goyal(AIR-1, CA Inter May'19), and Deepa Jain(AIR-1,CA Inter, May'18)
1. Should CA students necessarily take coachings?
Deepa Jain: I definitely feel that taking coaching is necessary because it helps in inculcating discipline which is very much important for clearing CA exams. I won't say take coaching for every subject, there are time constraints which I understand. But my suggestion is to go for satellite or face to face classes for the first subject because going daily would help you become more disciplined and focused on studies. Thereafter, go for a mix of live, pen drive and self-study. Pen drive classes are available for almost every subject these days and it offers flexibility and you can view these classes at your own convenience.
2. Is there any thumb rule to study for 12 or 14 hours a day?
Akshat Goyal: There is no rule of thumb as to how many hours to be studied. For some persons 7 hours may be sufficient, for someone else even 12 hours may not be sufficient.
My strategy was to divide the available days/months into a number of revisions and among all subjects. For e.g.: a subject is allotted 7 days. Now divide the subject into 7 days so as to form daily targets; like I have to do these 2 chapters today, these 3 chapters tomorrow and so on. Now when you know your daily targets, you would automatically give sufficient study hours. But ensure that the target is challenging, achievable, and in line with the overall study plan.
Targets should not be formed in terms of 'I have to study these many hours today', but should be as 'I have to complete these many chapters today'. Keeping such targets results in greater efficiency, as well as provides motivation to complete your target. If you have decided to study for 10 hours, you would be studying only for the sake of completing those hours, resulting in less productivity.
But also keep buffer days (5-8 days) at the end of your plan for any urgent/unexpected event which may occur and you can extend your plan of study without panicking.
It is not mandatory to study for long hours. It should not be study, study, and study. You need to take breaks, relax - play some sport, music, dance, watch a show, or whatever relaxes you - it will increase your effectiveness. Also, do not sacrifice sleep. 6-8 hours of sleep is minimum to ensure the proper state of mind.
3. How can students manage their studies with college?
Deepa Jain: No task is an easy one and managing college with IPCC was definitely a task. A hard one but not something impossible. There are common subjects in Inter and College, so in a way, it actually helped me as some subjects were done twice this day.
4. How to prepare for a rank in CA Exams?
Siddhant Bhandari: People ask me this question often when they get to know that I am a gold medalist. I was in contemplation as to what was actually going on in my mind when I was studying. I realized that I was never really thinking about Rank 1. I mean, yes every CA aspirant would want nothing less, but at the end of the day, if I would have thought of Rank 1 then there would have been huge pressure on me. Considering myself of not having a history of getting any rank, thinking of rank 1 directly could be considered to be highly optimistic. But yes of course, when I was preparing I was surely preparing for a rank. Perhaps that was decided long when I was in my articleship period. And for that one thing most important is to have confidence in yourself and you don't share your plans with anyone. It's important to believe in yourself that you have what it takes. It is well said "Work hard in silence, let success make the noise"
5. How can a student make the best of those 3 hours while writing his/her paper?
Deepa Jain: Those three hours is the most important time for each one of us. I have interacted with many students and the majority of them said that we knew the correct answer but couldn't attempt in the paper. There is no point in regretting afterward, you have to give your best in those three hours. And the only way you can do this is by ensuring that you take proper sleep before your exam day. It's very important that your mind is fresh before sitting for exams. Many of us don't understand it's the importance and this is the major reason for committing silly mistakes in exam time.
That's why I make sure to get proper sleep before exam day.
Another strategy that I would like to share is that during the reading time, rate the questions like "A" for questions you are most confident about, "B" for not completely sure but you think you could do it and then "C" for the questions you are not at all confident about. First attempt "A" category questions in exams because it would boost your morale and confidence and you would be able to perform better.
Another point is time management. Do give one mock paper before, so that you can analyze your time management skills and accordingly improve upon it. If you are not able to solve a question in an exam, don't stick upon that question only because we have limited time and you have to make the most out of it.
6. Do mediocre/small-sized firms offer growth and learning opportunities like Big4 firms?
Akshat Goyal: This is a dilemma everyone faces. This gave me sleepless nights right from the day of my result till the day I got registered in my mid-size firm. So there are many factors that need to be considered:
• Big4 provides you a brand that provides you leverage when you go for jobs.
• But Big4 offers experience in only 1 field - either Direct Tax, Indirect Tax, Internal audit or statutory Audit. Whereas Mid-size firms offer you overall exposure in all these fields. So If you plan to go for practice after becoming a CA, Mid-size firms would be preferable.
• In Big4s, there is a skewed Article-CA ratio i.e. too many CAs for a single article. You might face a situation where you are the only article in a team along with 2-3 CAs.
• The exposure is, no doubt, much better in Big4s, which provides you with corporate culture and dealing with bigger clients. But there is high work pressure and long working hours in Big4, which leaves you with no time to study. However, this pressure makes you so strong so as to manage your study when exams come.
So it is a matter of your priorities and perception. Both are different routes to the same objective to become a good Chartered Accountant.
7. How to manage work and studies during Articleship?
Siddhant Bhandari: It is very important to create a balance in your work and studies. It's important to understand that when you start your articleship, your work supersedes studies. What you learn on the job will help you land what you want after putting that CA tag in front of your name. Having said that, it's necessary to plan out how your studies will go out. I have seen a lot of students who just join tuitions right after they start their articleship. Why are you in so much hurry? Don't follow the herd mentality. You won't even remember that after 2.5 years. My suggestion would be to get yourself settled at work for the first 4-5 months, then start with your coaching.
8. What is the right time to start preparing for CA Finals?
Siddhant Bhandari: Once you have both the things going simultaneously, that is the real test of your strength. And don't feel bogged down that you can't do it. Remember there are lacs of students like you going through the same routine of morning classes, then working late, then coming back home and revising the topics a little and crashing on the bed after fully exhausting themselves. Don't go to sleep when you are tired, go when you are done for the day. And this is really preparing yourself for the future. No other course gives you this opportunity of getting exposed to work at the age of 19. Try to embrace it.
You may want to crib it a little but don't ever think of giving up.
I used to revise whatever I studied in my classes on the same day itself.
Concept clarity is more important now. Our institute has a flood of questions to ask. Mugging up won't work so from the very beginning, clear your concepts. It might take a lot of time right now, but if you do it properly you'll remember it in and out.
Also, keep your notes properly in order because these are the weapons that will make you ultimately win the battle. If you get time after work to study in the office, do that. Even if you get free at 10 pm, study for one hour and then leave. You need to be the person who badly wants something. You should be ready to sacrifice certain things. Stay away from negative people. Don't let any person waste your time twice.
Well, definitely CA is a course that exposes students to extreme pressure at the age of 19 only. Well, it is rightly said:
'Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do. '
9. How to cope up with peer pressure of exams while preparing for CA Exams?
Deepa Jain: There were times where I felt very low and there were stages where I felt that it's very hard and maybe I won't be able to clear it. But then these were just stages i.e. few phases of life. So what I did to overcome that was I made a daily schedule for studies. It really helped me in staying positive because if you follow the schedule, you will feel that you are doing good and you get a positive vibe.
So I would suggest each and every one of you to plan your day properly, make the study schedule daily and make sure if not a hundred percent, you are doing more than what you did the previous day.
There is one more strategy I would like to share and that is whenever you feel low, just imagine the result day and all the efforts you have put in to date. Just because one day you couldn't study well, don't let that make you feel low because you know how much hard work you have put in. Just don't over pressurize yourself. Keep the target of doing slightly more than what you are capable of.
10. How to bounce back after failure in CA Exam?
Akshat Goyal: Failure is a part of life; some people get it early in life, some late. More important is to learn from failure and improve next time.
For those who could not make it this time, and are preparing for the next attempt, don't just start studying directly. First, try to understand what went wrong the previous time. It is necessary to diagnose what the problem was, in order to provide a solution for it.
• In case you find that you could not complete the syllabus in the last 1.5 days, then try to summarize the material to be studied - eliminate the unnecessary books, cancel repetitive questions, so that you can complete the course in 1.5 days.
• In case you could not complete the paper in 3 hours, then try giving mock tests, increase writing speed, and manage time in the paper by dividing time among questions.
• Get your certified copies from ICAI to assess why you did not get marks, and where you can improve. Show them to your teacher for better analysis. It is possible that you wrote too little, or maybe you wrote too much, that the examiner could not find the relevant portion of the answer - in that case, try to write to the point answers. Maybe there was some issue with the presentation, so see the suggested answers to get an idea of the expected presentation. Maybe you knew the concept but wrote it in oversimplified language and did not use the required legal terminology.
• Some questions require to be presented in a certain manner or order. Ex - In Law answers, first we need to write issues, then relevant provisions of law, then explanation relating it to the question and then the conclusion. If you have not written in that way, you will not get marks.
Do you think qualified CAs should also focus on becoming better leaders and not just better auditors?
Siddhant Bhandari: Absolutely. Every CA has a technical proficiency and he knows what work exactly is to be done and how to go about it. But when you go up the ladder of becoming a leader and when there are people working under you, then the onus of a leader is to get the work done. Having said that you cannot get the work done if you don't know how to do the work yourself. All the CAs need to develop leadership skills in them and that can be when right from the beginning you start taking responsibilities of the work. Show your seniors that you are not just an intern, you have what it takes to become a leader. As an article or even after qualifying don't take any work or part of the job lightly. You should know something as small as printing properly because you cannot expect yourself to be a partner at a firm but you need the help of your employees to do your printing. This is just an example where I want to say no work is small. Try to learn a lot from your team, colleagues, and people from different departments.
'Before you become a leader success is all about growing yourself after you become a leader success is all about growing others'.
PS: Above is an excerpt from the Rankers Rostrum Panel Discussion powered by CAclubindia at SRCC CA Confluence
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