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19 year old Nandini made headlines when she became the youngest CA to ever get an AIR-1. In an exclusive conversation with CAclubindia, she throws some light on the importance of consistency, believing in yourself and her journey from a 15 year old to a Chartered Accountant.

Here is the detailed interview of Nandini with CAclubIndia

Welcome to CAclubindia Nandini and congratulations from the entire team of CAclubIndia on securing AIR 1

Thank you so much!

So Nandini, tell us something about yourself, like I mentioned that you are only 19, so how did you manage to become a CA at the age of 19?

So I think probably almost everyone knows about me now because I'm all over the news. I'm from Morena, Madhya Pradesh. I've done my schooling from Morena only. I cleared my CPT in July 2017 and I cleared my CA intermediate in May 2018 with AIR 31 and finally, in July 2021, I cleared CA final with AIR 1.

Like you asked, how did I manage to do it at the age of 19. So, I skipped some of the classes during my early schooling by giving promotional tests, like in early schooling, I skipped some of the classes. So basically, it was a skip. I did it by giving a promotional test. I skipped nursery, finished my KG in one year and was directly promoted to class second after that.

That's great. And at what age did you start pursuing CA?

I was 15 at that time.

And how did you manage to take such a big decision in your career at such a young age?

Since the seventh standard only it was in my mind that I want to do CA but yes, 7th class is a very young age to make that decision. However, when I cleared the 10th standard I researched what CA is, which sector it comes under and how the financial sector is growing. That grew my interest in the field and also, my father is a tax practitioner and my grandfather is an LLB so it was kind of in the family. But none of them is a Chartered  Accountant. So that's how I decided to do CA.

So what exactly attracted you regarding the course?

I would say there are two things. First, there are no reservations in this course. Second, in this, you can start your own practice. If you consider other courses like IIT, they might have to do a job their entire life. So I had this philosophy that if we are studying so much then why should we work under someone else. We have our own talent, so let's make our own name. So that was my idea at that time.


That's great! What was the immediate reaction when you found out that you've secured AIR 1? How did you find out actually, that you have secured AIR 1?

My brother also got AIR 18. So we have a ritual in our family where only he will check the results for the both of us. So first he checked his result and then he checked mine. So when I got to know that I have secured AIR 1, I was literally screaming and jumping in the whole house. My parents and I had tears in our eyes. This was my immediate reaction at that time. I couldn't believe it for the first two days that I got AIR 1. It took me a week to believe that okay it has finally happened. Yes, I have got AIR 1.

Did you also receive a call from the president of ICAI?

No, I think from January 2021 they have discontinued that.

When you're AIR 1 and at such a young age like yours, you must have had someone at home or in your friends who motivated you throughout the entire study period and everything. So who was that one motivator or one idol that you always lived up to?

I would say that it was not a particular person. When I was in the seventh standard, it was my parents' dream that I should do CA. So after 10th class, this dream materialized when I took commerce with math. Then I did CPT and then CA intermediate.

So after securing AIR 31 in intermediate exams everyone around me started telling me that if I managed to secure a rank this one time then I can do it again. So it's kind of a pressure also. But actually, it also motivates us to do better and to do the best.

Also, my brother and I study together so we make up for each other's study partners and also for the competitive feeling that is needed sometimes. We both studied together so that was a very positive point for us because we always tried to do our best by seeing each other.

Were there any subjects that you struggled with in CA Finals? Or if we talk about CA Inter or CA Foundation, any subject that you struggled with the most? Also, how did you manage to overcome it?

So in CA Inter I would say I struggled with Audit for some time but with mock test paper practice and ICAI RTPs I overcame the difficulty that I was having. If I talk about CA Finals it was SFM with which I was struggling because of the fact that in November 2020 and January 2021 the papers were very difficult.

So there was this fear that I don't know what kind of paper is going to come and even on the day of the exam we were very tense like how the paper is going to be. But if we talk about how I overcame it, then again by practising again and again. So I did almost four to five revisions of the SFM compiler.


That's a really good strategy to excel at something that you struggle with. However, what were the subjects that you actually loved the most during the CA Inter and Final?

FR, DT, IDT, law, and I would say audit. I used to understand what it is saying, whatever the standards of auditing are saying, but the thing is, we have to learn it, then only get the marks. So I would say I was more interested in FR, law DT and IDT.

Did you also, during your study period, end up being more focused on these subjects or was it the subjects that you struggled with the most that you thought that I should give more time to?

I would say I have given almost equal importance to each of the subjects. It was only the elective ones that I just studied for almost 11 to 12 hours in the entire CA Final journey. For the rest of the subjects I gave equal importance.

So what did your schedule look like? How did you manage your time between so many subjects, and you say that you've given equal importance to all of them?

I would say this journey started from articleship only. So during articleship, it was like in the morning, I used to watch 1 to 1.5 hours class. Then when I came back from my office, I used to watch again, like half an hour or one hour class, so that is how I used to manage two hours of study during my articleship because there were also times when I had to work overtime.

So in those cases also I tried to study for at least half an hour because consistency is very important. Some of the seniors had also advised me, even if you get very busy with your work, still take out some time, maybe like 15 to 20 minutes because the habit of studying should not go away.

During the last four to five months my schedule was fully packed. So I used to wake up at eight in the morning because I am not a morning person, I am a night owl. So I used to wake up at eight and after doing all of my morning stuff, I would sit down to study.

I took breaks during mealtimes and we had snack time around 53:0 to 6 in the evening. So this is how I managed my time. Even if I had to take a break to refresh my mood I would do that during my mealtimes only. So I didn't take any separate time to refresh my mood.

Right. And what made it easier to follow that jam-packed schedule like did you go for walks or did you listen to music, or was it Netflix in your me-time obviously that made it a little easier?

So during winters, it was badminton and during summers it was music. And overall I would say it was me and my brother, we both were there for each other. Yeah, so like if he was studying I had this feeling that okay, I should also study and vice versa. So that was the thing.

Okay, that's a very good motivating factor actually. So Nandini what all study material or faculty material did you refer to while preparing for the exams?

I would say that the ICAI study material is the Bible. But to understand the concepts, I took classes for all seven subjects, except for the elective. I just used to watch videos for electives and for first reading, I used to prefer the reference books of teachers from whom I had taken the classes. But from the second revision, I strictly adhered to ICAI study material.

Nandini you can prepare for as long as you want, but it is just those three years where you have to present all your learnings in an effective manner to secure the marks. So what do you think are some of the key points or key factors that come into play while writing your answer if we talk separately about practical and theory?

So there are only three hours and in total there are five questions, except the elective one in which there are only four questions of 25 each. So you have to have a habit of thinking what are the important points that you're going to write because they should cover the important points that are asked in the question. So for that, I would say that it's important to do multiple practices of MTPs, RTPs and test series.

I believe that it's good to have multiple attempts in MTPs at home to avoid multiple attempts in the CA final

So it's better that you give multiple attempts at home for MTP, RTP, and whatever practice you are doing.

See, there are two different things, learning is a different thing and then presenting is a different thing. I think we all are good at learning, but where some people lack is the presentation part during the exams, for which we have only one solution that is multiple practices at home.

It's good to take a single test series from any other teacher because when they evaluate our answer sheets, we get to know where we lack and what we should change in our writing style. So that's my advice on that.

Nandini, you know, the July 2021 exams, whatever the students went through in terms of the second wave of COVID-19, the PIL, the constant supreme court hearings, did you also feel demotivated or felt that somewhere deep down the exams might get cancelled so I shouldn't study. Did you ever get those kinds of feelings? And how did you pass and you know, kick all of them and still stay strong?

So there were two points, like in April, our exam was postponed for an uncertain period of time. The notification said that they will notify us before 21 days of exams. So at that point of time, we were like, okay, it is so uncertain. So at that time, I took a two days break. I was like let's enjoy, let's see, whatever happens, will happen.

After those two days, I thought, it's a good chance to level up my preparation so that was a time when I really solved many MTPs and RTPs. I think that was also one of the reasons that I've been able to improve my writing skills so much. And there was a second time during July.

A PIL was filed for the cancellation of exams to be held in July. So that was a very uncertain time when we were waiting for the notification to come which might say that the exams have been cancelled.

But at that point in time, I was like, okay, let's do our best because what if exams take place, then we would regret not studying well. So I would say I maintained consistency my entire four to five months, during the periods of uncertainty as well. I think that was the thing that really helped me to be here, wherever I am today.

That's actually very good advice. From our conversation, I can make out that consistency is the key in terms of CA preparation. Okay, so now what are your plans for the future?

You mentioned earlier that this is the profession wherein you can start your practice. So do you wish to start your own practice or do you want to work at a CA firm for a couple of years? What are your plans in general?

I would say it's very uncertain at this point of time because I've been getting advice from a lot of people because they are like this is not an age to work at a job or practice by yourself. So that's what I'm evaluating.

But one of the pieces of advice that I really liked is to do what your heart says. So I'm gonna do that only. So I would just do whatever my heart says, but yeah, I can tell that at this point of time, I am not going to go into practice because practice is like settling down. It's a permanent decision. You can't reverse it once you open your practice. So I'm not going to do that at this point in time.

Okay. Are you having thoughts about studying further as well like CPA, CFA, or any other finance course?

Yeah, that is also one of the thoughts.

Nandini as a CA student, as a CA aspirant, how did you manage to overcome the burden in terms of mental health because we all know the importance of mental health, so at some point did the pressure get to you?

So I would say that okay, let's see what will happen, we will just do our best because if you do good, people will come to you, they will come with you, and if you don't perform well then people don't care about you.

And I would say family support is the most important thing because my parents have never forced me to study this or do that. They're always like do whatever makes you happy, just give your best and don't worry about the results because there has been a point in my life where I was expecting more from my results and I had given like 100, even 200 percent of mine but I didn't get the desired result.

So from that point, I have learned that what you can do is just karma and you don't have control over the results because there is something called destiny or luck as well. So I can overcome that pressure because I have that philosophy in my mind.

Nandini all our users are very keen on understanding the mantra to secure all India rank one, so if you can throw some light on that

There is no fixed formula for AIR 1 because I didn't know I'm going to get AIR 1 before the results were out. I would say be consistent, disciplined, hardworking, and please, please enjoy your life.

Don't be like always studying because I will tell you what happens when you have given your 100 percent and when you don't get the desired result you are like, okay, I should have enjoyed that time, I have lost that time as well.

So during my articleship, during my CA final journey I enjoyed whenever the time came, but yes, during those four to five minutes you should be focused and take very good sleep. It was only like one or two months where I compromised my one or two hours of sleep but for the last two to three months I took a full seven to eight hours of sleep.

That really helps us to keep our mind fresh and to stay relaxed.

And what is the one thing, one piece of advice that all CA aspirants must follow when it comes to studying or in terms of maintaining their mental health in general?

For maintaining mental health, I would say have faith in yourself. At no point in life, you should feel that I am lesser than others because see I'm from Morena, Madhya Pradesh and it's not a very big city or it's not a metro city, it's a small town and you must know about an exam called GATE and for that AIR 1 was from Morena only.

So there are many kids and God has given the same things to all, it's just that some have faith in themselves and some don't. So have faith in yourself.

You can do it, you will do it. 

So that's the only advice that I would like to give to all aspirants, whether it be CA or anything else.

That's really nice and kind of you Nandini. So this brings us to the end of our conversation. So thank you so much for this insightful conversation and I'm very sure that your advice is going to help a lot of CA aspirants. And once again, a big congratulations to you for securing AIR 1 and we wish you all the best for all your future endeavours

Thank you for having me. It was really my pleasure to be of help to other aspirants!

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