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How I prepared for my CA Final exams

Rajesh Balakrishnan 
on 25 February 2011

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I have been asked many times recently, regarding how I went about with my study routine, which books I had referred to, which chapters had I omitted etc. So instead of answering each and everyone of them individually, I felt that I should write them down so that you too can refer it, whenever you feel like doing so. What I am going to say, is just my opinion & the methods I adopted and it could be possible that people who outscored me had adopted a different strategy. Try to understand your strengths and weaknesses and then plan your studies accordingly. Don't let any subject suffer at the cost of some other.  I will be brushing on all subjects and try to keep it as short as possible. It could end up being quite a boring read. So in case you aren't able to sleep even after studying some of these dry subjects, try giving this Note a read. I am sure you will succeed! I don't expect you to read it in 1 go either. In case you are feeling bored with a particular subject or in doubt as to what to read in a particular subject, you can give this note a read.

First off, this was my first attempt and I scored 456; 225 in Group-I and 231 in Group- II. I attended Professional Academy for Accounts, FM, Costing/OR and both the taxes. I managed the remaining subjects on my own. As far as classes are concerned, all of them have their pros and cons. I guess, you too realize, that in the 6-8 months of time which they get, there is a limit as to the syllabus which they can cover in that fixed time span. That's the thing about CA Final. It's not tough, it's vast.So if the classes teach you say Concept A and tell you that it is applicable in Case X, you need to realize the fact that it could also be possible that Case Y and Z may also make use of Concept A in one form or another. This, you will be able to do so only by practicing a variety of problems. However, if your concepts itself aren't clear, you won't even realize why the particular concept was used in a particular case and you tend to learn it mechanically (which by the way happened to me as well in some instances.) But I was quite satisfied with what I was taught in classes. I understood the concepts in the majority of cases. All that was left to do was to try out different types of problems. I appreciate the efforts put in by my professors, Prasad Sir and Durgesh Sir, and thank them for the same.

I will move on the subject wise discussion now. I will give my individual marks in the bracket so that you get a fair idea of how much you can rely on me! I will also comment on how my paper was vis-a-vis my preparation.

  1. Financial Reporting/Accounts - (54): Prasad Sir had covered almost everything that constituted the syllabus and so his notes were the only ones I relied on, for concepts that is. For sums, apart from the problems taught in class, I did Solved examples from the module & Past paper problems from the compilation. Paper was good for being a first paper. Many sums were taught in class. However, I didn't prepare AS 30-31-32 well and there were quite a number of questions from those standards.
  2. Strategic Financial Management - (69): Again, the classes laid a strong foundation concept-wise, especially in Capital Budgeting and FOREX which are generally dicey. Once again, you should be thorough with the problems of your classes. Theory is very important if you want to score in this subject. You will be getting anywhere between 10-40 marks of theory in this paper. I referred this book of the author, Sridhar, for theory. He has this couple of pages in the end called '100 important theory questions'. I went through them, and in the process also learnt a few concepts which were sort of corollaries to the ones taught in class. Past problems are also covered in the book, so you need not buy the Compilation book separately. Paper again was easy, compared to previous attempts.
  3. Advanced Auditing and Professional Ethics - (47): As I mentioned earlier, I did this subject on my own. I started reading from V.K Agarwal but I didn't like it much. I then switched to Surbhi Bansal which was presented in a tabular form. I liked that format. It gives you the gist and then allows you to substantiate. I also went through the Compilation to ensure that what I am reading is sufficient. Paper looked ok. First 20 marks were based on Accounting Standards. A number of other questions also were in the form of ' What is your opinion as an auditor'
  4. Corporate and Allied Laws - (55): Munish Bhandari should suffice. Regarding the Handbook, I did refer it, but unfortunately, in the exams, many questions from Company Law were not covered in the Handbook. So I would recommend the Main Book for Company Law and the Handbook for Allied Laws only. Or if you have time, make your own notes instead of getting the handbook. The paper was slightly tricky. Questions solely relying on a single line answer/sections, were asked for 8 marks. So there was no scope for 'beating around the bush'. You either knew it, or you didn't.
  5. Advanced Management Accounting/Costing: (60): I only went through the module (theory+sums). I was through with my Classes sums during the lectures itself, as we had Costing just once a week. For O.R, I referred past problems to get some practice. But mostly importantly, DON'T SKIP THEORY. Theory will often save you in this subject. Because in practical sums, there is bound to be a cost or revenue item that you are going to miss and you won't be able to score. Besides, solving sums do take a lot of time, while answering straight forward theory questions don't. The paper was off-beat. It had 40 marks of costing, 20 marks of OR and 40 marks of theory! So those who had done their theory well, would have scored well. And when I say theory, it also includes OR theory. Presentation would also be very important in this subject. If you think that a particular cost is an opportunity cost, you need to make it clear in your answer sheet. In short, your thought process should come out in your paper.
  6. Information Systems Control and Audit: (61): The make or break paper. The trump card of sorts! You will get varied opinions to prepare for this subject, and I guess everyone is right one way or the other. My recommendation is to NOT make notes for this subject. This is because the retention levels for this subject is very low, as I feel there is not much scope for understanding certain aspects and technicalities. What will happen is, you will summarize 10 lines into 5 lines and out of those 5 lines you will remember 2 in the exams! What I did was, I read the Study material as many times as I could. I think I read it 3-4 times and Devang Dalal's book's summary 3 times including twice before the day of exam. Sure nothing made sense when I was done reading it the 2nd or3rd time, but by my 4th read, I was able to anticipate what is going to come next. In short, by reading 10 lines, I could recollect 5 and  had a rough idea of what the other 5 would  be.

The paper deserves a separate para by itself. It was a shocker. No one had a clue as to what we were expected to write on. It was a very vague paper. "What do you think/feel/suggest etc. as an IS Auditor" And believe me, I was in no position to think nor feel nor suggest anything. For 15 minutes I just sat and read the question paper trying to build up points for the answers, as I knew that I would have to choose and pick them from various chapters. 45 minutes into the paper, the class was half empty. I guess everyone was going through the same scenario. I realized that this was going to be a 'relative paper'. How good would your paper be, compared to say 5 people whose papers would be corrected before you. It was not about writing the correct answers, it was about writing relevant stuff better than your fellow examinees. Start this subject early, invest more time on it. It will reward you richly. If you don't believe me, check the result of roll no. 48515.

7+8  Direct and Indirect Taxes: (49 & 61 respectively): I gave ( read as wasted) half of my total study leave time for Direct Taxes, and it was my worst paper of the lot! The thing is, I focused too much on learning the provisions and in the process I failed to apply the same. Ask me to quote a provision, and I would do ti without a hiccup. Ask me to solve a a sum involving a number of sections overlapping each other and I would fumble. So, when you learn the provisions, ensure that you are also solving sums relating to the same simultaneously. This is more so in case of  PGBP, Deductions, DTAA.The books I referred were Classes+VK Gupta+Case Law book of the Institute (do this well). Apart from that, in May attempts, they focus a lot on recent amendments, so do the Amendments book of the Institute as well. The RTPs also have recent circulars/notifications at the end of the book and sometimes questions are asked from it as well (like it was in our attempt in IDT.) The paper again was quite unorthodox. 1st question was the usual 20 mark PGBP problem but rather a collection of 5 mark problems from chapters like clubbing, capital gains(which accounted for 30 marks of the paper), salaries etc. Assessment Procedures which I focused on the most, was only asked for 20 marks while I was expecting somewhere close to 35 marks. The paper had me relying too much on my PCC knowledge.

Indirect Tax is again about understanding what the provision is trying to convey. A misinterpretation of the provision will land you in all sorts of problems. The questions asked are of an easier level as compared to DT, provided you know the concepts well. Once again I referred Classes+Case Law book & Bangar (for sums).Again, be thorough with the amendments. After the nightmares of ISCA and DT, this paper seemed easy.

I guess that sums it up. This was more than a summary, I guess. But I hope I got my point across. There will be many who will not agree with some things I have mentioned here, and I fully appreciate that. In fact, I would like others to comment below as to how they prepared for their papers as well. It would act as a nice guide for all those planning to attempt in the future. I will sign off by saying that have faith in your abilities. You need to be patient.  Be confident, but not over confident. Because if you are over confident and fly high, you will fall so hard, you might have a hard time getting up again!

Best of Luck!

Rajesh Balakrishnan




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