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Tips for scoring in CA examination

Madhukar N Hiregange 
on 31 January 2011

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Every July and January a large number of students who have written the CA examination either at the IPCC level or the final level wonder what happened and why they have not been successful.

The ICAI publishes every year the subject wise question wise answers to enable the student to see where they have erred. In this attempt the suggested answers were on the web site before the results were announced declared.

The course requires full coverage in the studies and hard work is a part and parcel of the same. The examiners observations as well as a check list on how to excel in examination/ preparation are part of this article.

Some suggestions based on the examiners analysis have been provided hereunder which may indicate the areas where improvement is required. Students may examine which of the suggestions apply to them.

I. Examiner Observations

1.    Lack of emphasis on ICAI study material: This is the most common error and depending on the study guides of the tutorials / coaching classed maybe good to the limited extent of understanding of the concepts taught in the class is concerned. However every student should cover the study material as it is of high quality and more importantly is the official material for paper setters as well as examiners. The practice manuals would also help in understanding and practicing the problems. While reference to other books may add value the basic reference should be of the materials. The compliers/ suggested answers and other publications for students would also address the needs of the students as to how they are expected to answer.

2.    Latest updates/ amendments: Some of the students who have not fared well were not aware of the changes in the law. This maybe due to the fact that they were using old study material or were not keeping abreast of the same as announced through the students journal and web site. This should be avoided as examiners at the final stage would expect that the student is current in his understanding. This was observed in strategic FM.

3.    Lack of Understanding the Concepts: Over a period of time the examiners have been evaluating as to how much the students have understood the concepts. While studying/ getting coached it would be imperative that the student questions the teacher and is able to understand. While in practical training he/ she may see how the concepts learnt are being applied. If this were done there would be no need to read that aspect again. This has been observed in many papers to mention a few: advanced management accounting, corporate and allied laws, MICS, Cost Management.   

4.    Change in emphasis to understanding, application and analysis: Over period of time the Industry has been observing that that CA though very knowledgeable is unable to apply what he/she has learnt. Therefore the pattern of the question paper as you may have observed has changed to include that aspect. The tutorials/ coaching classes may have also changed their methodology of  teaching. If not the students should ask them to spend more time on the same. Working out the problems independently may also be a solution whether at home or at the classes.

5.    Lack of Preparation: It is observed that some students do not concentrate on the difficult subjects ( for them) and spend more time on the easy subjects. Such students may fare badly as they have to clear all papers in a group. It maybe advisable that they first deal with the difficult one and ensure that they can get through that. Subjects where this was observed in MAFA and MICS.

6.    Low level of knowledge of Acts/ Rules: In the law subjects not knowing the basic provisions can be a reason for low marks. The reading of the bare act could be a solution. The subject where this was observed was direct taxes, indirect taxes and corporate and allied laws.

7.    Lack of practice: The papers where the problems are provided require practice of the same. Reading the study material/ practice manuals  may not be enough. It is suggested that students may work out the problems to understand them. The subjects where there was a lack of practice were financial reporting and indirect taxes.

8.    Common Mistakes at the time of examination: There are a number of common mistakes which have been observed. Students may pick  the one/s which are applicable to them.

a.    Illegible handwriting: If an examiner cannot read, student could end up with zero.

b.    Legible handwriting in main paper but Illegible working notes. Since working notes also carry marks, chance of losing that.

c.    Incorrect English language and grammar can confound the examiner who may have to read repeatedly.

d.    At times not reading the question properly lead to answering totally incorrectly. Some time maybe spent to confirm what is being asked.

e.    Leaving margin for the examiner to enter the marks may also be advisable.

f.     Long answers to short answer questions. Vague answers to short answers would not get marks. Specific / brief answers sufficient for such questions. [ some correlation with the marks maybe maintained.]

Making it difficult for the examiner to evaluate does not help in getting additional marks and may lead to a marginal loss of marks.

 

II.            Note on How to Excel in CA Exam

 

Sr. No.

Particulars

Remarks

1.

Planning & Time Allocation for Study

Planning is the key to the success. Right plan and right decision ultimately results in success. There is no alternative for hard work. Set your own target based on your capacity and expectation

 

 

 

 

2.

Time Allocation ‘ Time and Tide wait for no one’

Devote time for daily studies, must find the time for it even if your schedule may be tight due to the coaching classes and the articleship training.

Set your target to study at least 2-3 hours in a day before 1 and half year of your CA exam

If you face difficulty in terms of forgetting in theory subjects, see to that you read only one chapter in a day and also allot time to revise the chapter in a fast-track before beginning the new chapter

Make use of your travel/commute time for study & revision

 

 

 

 

3.

Prepare Time table

Do prepare a time table as well as portion to be covered per subject. Always use to follow your time table and identify deviation from time table and try to gap the deviation. Following time table is very difficult but you must adhere to that.

Study regularly and consistently. It does not matter how many hours you study, but how much you understand. Effective study is important.

On Sunday, visit library for studies and study especially along with people who are preparing for the very next attempt

Your time-table should be such that the entire syllabus should be completed at least once before the commencement of study leave

During exam leave period one has to ensure at least complete Ist revision with in the first one and half month of leave period.

Study so much only that one’s mind can digest and retain. Take break in between studies when feeling exhausted. Then start again, but the breaks should not be too long.

 

 

 

 

4.

Read Student Journal & CA Journal

Read Student Journal & CA Journal issued by the Institute on regular basis. It helps you to keep yourself updated. Always Keep track of the new developments in all the subjects i.e. accounting standards (new standards, revision of old ones, interpretations, etc.) standard on auditing, amendments to company law and other laws, Finance Act and Income-Tax law.

 

 

 

 

5.

1.      Study Material/Modules issued by Board of Studies (ICAI)

2.       

Study material is the most important. It is mandatory to go through the institute’s study material at least once since, at times, sums are picked straight from the study material. Supplement study material with one good standard text-book as base book in case of theory subjects.

Use only one extra book for reference purposes – Too many cooks spoil the broth – Similarly, too many books just leads to confusion.

Always choose the reference book which is suitable to you, like, language used, summarisation of chapters, use of diagrams, flowcharts, table, illustrations, etc

When using reference book, consider your book to be the best covering everything. After buying the reference book don't get confused by peers saying that, ‘ you should have bought book of XYZ author’ 

 

 

3.       

 

6.

4.      Use of Practical knowledge during Articleship Training period

During your articleship training you get an opportunity to study Corporate Law, SEBI Rules & Regulations, Direct Tax, Accounting Standards (AS), Standard on Auditing (SA’s) , Guidance Notes & Statements issued by ICAI, Insurance Regulations, Banking Regulations, etc. Learn more out of these study by applying it practiclally on the job training. This would increase your self confidence. Also keep notes of live examples for your reference which are technically very critical (without disclosing the client name) e.g valuation of inventory, Verification process in Bank & Insurance Audit. At least your Audit, Corporate Law, Taxation, Accounts are substantially gets covered during your articleship training period 

 

 

5.       

 

7.

6.      Coaching classes/Tuitions

7.       

8.      We should not over fully depend on classes/tuitions. For a professional, self-study and getting to the root of the subject is essential. Concept clearance of subject matter must be prima facie motto of joining classes or tutorials.

9.       

Don’t place too much reliance on your coaching classes since coaching classes usually tend to omit/cover improperly small chapters and this could affect your score

Further during coaching period at classes just compare the sub topics of a particular chapter which is being covered presently with institutes publication to ensure nothing important is being missed

 

 

 

10.    

 

8.

11.                   Use Right study method

12.                    

Method of studying plays a critical role for clearing CA Exam

Normally everyone adopt reading style, but we should understand the things while reading and then note it down in proper manner what we have understood in a note.

A note may not be containing points or bullet items, a better note contains the main content of the subject.

It needn’t be point wise but also explanatory manner. Whatever it may be, it should be capable of replacing our bulky text books at the time of revision.

A note which has written in our imagination would be more effective than a note which is just copy and paste from text. But it is not an easy task.

Notes can be in form of separate sheets or within the reference books as per ones convenience.

Try to cover maximum course content

A successful CA cleared student will have two things – Strong fundamentals and cracking speed. Understand the concept or fundamentals clearly – This will help you in solving any twists and turns in a given problem.

Consider the following important points to strengthen your study:

   Mugging up doesn’t work. Period

   Getting practical knowledge of certain aspects of theory subject helps in learning the same

   Use tables, flowcharts, diagrammatic format, etc to help in studies

   Reading the section without knowing the content is as good as not writing the answer at all – Therefore, when you try to remember sections, make sure you read the content of the section properly

   Remember – You need to have an expert knowledge of Accounting Standard and a considerable level of knowledge of Standard on Auditing, Company Law, Taxation

   Don’t omit theory of any practical subject – Theory is a scoring aspect of practical oriented subject

   Refer bare acts

 

 

 

 

9.

13.   Develop writing practice

14.    

Develop practice of writing and solving the practical problem, this will help you to complete your exam paper within three hours time.  

15.   Now a day’s normally in accounts, cost management and other theory papers students are not able to attend more than 80-85 marks papers. We should develop writing practice and skills so as to achieve 100% paper and not leaving any questions unanswered

16.    

17.   One has to ensure time management in the crucial 3 hours time because only time management will help to complete paper within a set time.

 

What we read will prove futile if we cannot reproduce it on the exam day.

Writing practice should be developed with pen that one is going to use in examination so as to maintain same writing speed

 

 

 

 

10.

Periodic Revision

Whatever you study in a week has to be revised in the very weekend.

Also allot time to revise the chapter in a fast-track before beginning the new chapter. Keep in mind the following points for revision:

a)    Make sure that whatever you study can be thoroughly revised on exam days as we cannot remember what we have read 1 month ago. Whatever we have revised during exam day will only be in our mind

b)    Note the important catch points which we think are important on a separate paper to revise at the final revision time before the exams.

c)    Identify some problems which we want to practice on the last day before exam because it is not possible to revise all the problems on the last day

d)    List out what we want to revise on the last day and make sure to revise them

 

 

 

 

 

11.

Approaches to Practical problems

For Accounts and Costing the concepts play a major role. Try to understand the concepts at the root level.

How to go root level, that is lies on the concept part of problem paper. Normally we are not able to apply the concepts while solving problems. We are just mugging the concepts and problems. What happened that if the ditto questions are in the exam we can clear else we keep on writing the exam as a procession.

If anybody failing only in costing or accounts then please remember they are mugging the problem without understanding any concepts.

While solving a problem in costing or accounts try to solve it without referring the solution, it will let you a chance to commit the mistake, you may commit blunder also, it may be erode your confidence also, but in such a situation try to understand your mistake to resolve the problem and be firm and sure that next time you will not commit same mistake

Try practical problems (solved illustrations) without seeing solutions and then compare answers to evaluate your performance and take steps to remove shortcomings.

 

Try practical problems with different variations. This will help to solve problems with twists in examination

 

 

 

 

12.

Concentration

Study with proper concentration on the subject helps a lot.

There are many things which may affect the concentration. Like interruption by family members, social attendance and gathering, noise pollution created through T V, loud speakers and music system etc. Try to overcome the factors affecting your concentration.

 

 

 

 

13.

Dedication and sacrifice

If you think that you are doing the level best of you, then what will prevent you for getting the CA? Dedication is the right thing. Give your soul and body to CA and CA only The Student stage is just like the stages of sage. We will have to sacrifice whole mind and body for studies. This is called dedication. In sum, dedication and right attitude and dedication is a strong foundation and good quality of a CA student

‘No man can think clearly when his fists are clenched.’

 

 

 

 

14.

Cultivate a right attitude

For achieving CA you should have to go ahead systematically with right attitude approach. Don’t indulge in prediction and guessworks.

Always remember, ‘What happened yesterday is history. What happens tomorrow is a mystery. What we do today makes a difference - the precious present moment.’

 

‘Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.’

CA exam is a mental strength tester. Maintain positive attitude

Well said by someone, ‘If you have all the success in your present, you may have failures in future but if you have faced failure at present, you will have courage, strength and attitude to avoid such failures in future.’

 

 

 

 

15.

Other Activities

Each of us has hobbies. Spare some time for that. This will help you unwind. It increases productivity. Develop certain hobbies and pursue them. A light game, for instance, or a crossword puzzle. At the same time, know when to stop. Get your priorities right. A student should be physically fit, spiritually sound and mentally alert. Also, spare some time for fitness. You should be strong enough to withstand the stress and strain of hard work. Endurance is important.

‘What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.’

 

 

 

 

16.

Other action points to be kept in mind

 

 

Take initiative in what you learn – After all, this will be your livelihood in the end – Therefore, mechanical approach to studies is a strict no-no

Aim to become the master in everything you learn

Use the same calculator during exam time you use while preparing

Workout old papers and gets the same corrected from your friends/professors – It serves as both reading as well as writing practice. Read the entire paper and start answering the questions that you know very well – Always remember that the very first question is usually tough, therefore don’t panic

Self introspection and self motivation is a necessity

Read “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne and listen to “I can do it” audio

Keep the company of a well - wisher and a positive friend – Avoid pessimistic friends at least during the preparation and exam time

Distraction is the main culprit for failure – Avoid all forms of distractions while studying – Mobile needs to be switched off, Avoid watching television and using internet

Physical exercise refreshes and rejuvenates both body and mind – Go for a brisk walk or jogging

Presentation of the paper in the allotted 3 hours is an important skill to master. One should write legibly and neatly and answer the questions in a concise manner

Don’t get nervous and don’t take any tension at the exam hall – Keep thinking of happy things and remain positive

In case of answers to theory questions, present the answer properly – Follow the format of Introduction, body and Conclusion

How to answer case studies – Assume the position of a judge and provide your verdict

If your paper is for 100 marks, spread it for 3 hours which is ideally 35 marks in a hour and remaining for final touches

Quote principles in case of theory questions

Try to grasp the technical words as much as possible since quoting the same gives you an edge

Do provide instances and the knowledge you have gained from your article ship experience while answering the paper

Misinterpretation of questions – If you feel you have written your paper very well but when results are declared, you are shocked by your marks. Sounds familiar? - Certain questions are pretty similar and may have difference only in the aspect of how or why – In case of such questions, pick up words and remember them as hints – Also, go through suggested answers to understand what the examiners expect from you

Stop the blame-game – End of the day, its you have to study – Instead of whining or blaming, try finding the solution to your problems

When failure occurs, don’t ask “why me”! Rather, take it up as a challenge

If you fail then think that you did some mistake, work harder than previous attempt. Don’t be frustrate the failure, because it is a by product of success. Failure is required you to improve.

Jack of all trades but master of none – This concept clearly leads to failure – Aim to become the master in everything you learn

Common external problems – Avoid all the following ill feelings:

°  Unable to complete paper in time leading to depressed feeling

°  Pretty confident but gets nervous or tensed at exam hall due to conversations with fellow colleagues

°  Family and well wisher’s expectation leading to undue pressure

Try to avoid discussing papers immediately after completion of paper because different people will be giving different versions, leading to confusion and may affect one’s confidence for next paper. After completion of all papers only discuss with others.

 

 

 

This is to acknowledge the contribution of the check list on how to excel in examination  which was prepared and used in Khimji Kunverji & Co, Mumbai.

Best of luck in the preparation for your examination as well as best of luck in your next one. May you come out victorious.

Madhukar N Hiregange FCA




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