I passed the CA Final exam quite unexpectedly in Nov 2010. The pass % in May 2010 was 7% which increased to 9% in November 2010. I'm pretty sure I'm part of the extra 2% of students that ICAI felt bad for and let pass.
This article is meant for students who either don't have time to study, or want to work only as much as is required. If you want a rank, I have only one piece of advice : Study EVERYTHING properly and do a few mock tests under exam conditions.
First off, let me advise you not to take advice from a guy who barely just passed his exams. So don't blame me if you follow my tips and flunk. Also, I don't know much about the Old Syllabus, so I'm talking about the New Syllabus here.
1. For God's sake, follow only one book (apart from study materials) for each subject. If you're currently following two books, chuck one of them. It's really not worth it. It just gets you confused and anxious.
2. Your study material is your Bible. The quality may be poor and outdated (Apparently, a good ERP package must be Y2K compatible), but your study material is what ICAI uses as a base for question papers. Go through the material at least once or twice now, and definitely once just before your exams. So remove it from your closet, dust it off and start reading it! You can skip the ICAI material for Auditing, DT and IDT though.
Here are the subject-wise tips:
I left consolidation because i knew it would come as a choice. I know, it is a very important topic but I never really attended classes and it seemed pretty complicated when I tried to study it on my own. You could try that, but it's quite a risky strategy.
There will usually be 7 questions of which you would need to answer 6. The questions would likely be as follows:
1. Accounting Standards.
2. Accounting Standards.
6. Miscellaneous topics
7. Miscellaneous topics
See your study materials for a list of miscellaneous topics. Sadly for me, I opened my study material a little too late and ended up panicking a little too much.
It's almost guaranteed that there will be a numerical from AS 30,31,32 for around 8 marks. Make sure you also study the other topics like Share Based Payments etc. These are REALLY simple topics and can end up counting for almost 30% of your paper. Also study the theory aspects.
We got a question that asked "What do you mean by valuation of liabilities?". I still can't figure out how I managed to fill one whole page for that answer. I got back home and checked my study material, and there it was. This question was lifted straight from the study material.
I used D.S Rawat for Accounting Standards. His book is simple, and ICAI loves to lift problems from there. MPV's book is great for understanding etc, but it's way too much to study for the exams. You can safely assume that ICAI will not go beyond what is there in Rawat's book.
Valuation is pure common sense. Use your study material as the base for this topic.
You would have studied Amalgamation in IPCC/PCC. Final is just one small step above that, so there cannot be any excuses here. You could probably get 8 out of 16 marks here just on the back of your PCC knowledge.
If you actually did a few audits during the course of your articleship, this paper should be fairly easy. If you did your articleship in any of the larger firms, there is absolutely no reason for you to get less than 50 here.
Good writing skills = atleast 10% more marks in this paper. My dad has a theory that the only reason I passed is because i write decently well. In a way, it could be true because my auditing paper had quite a lot of nonsense. I just rambled on and on using those auditing words and phrases like "sufficient and appropriate audit evidence" and "ensure audit comfort by addressing key assertions". I even cracked a small joke in one of the general questions. So if you have good writing skills, you are at an advantage.
Make a list of Auditing phrases like the ones i mentioned before, and keep using those phrases. Every time you need to say "evidence" in your answer, don't just write "evidence". Always write "sufficient and appropriate audit evidence".
16 marks - Ethics - This is purely conceptual, so don't waste too much time memorizing the Clause numbers. Go through the past papers and jot down points. The questions that they ask in the exam are fairly straightforward.
There are a few specific topics like Company Audits, Bank and Insurance Audits etc, so you'll need to study these properly. For the questions on Auditing Standards, you would be easily able to crack it without studying too much, provided you took your articleship seriously.
This has got to be the easiest of all papers in terms of complexity. It's mostly common sense with some theory thrown in between.
Theory -For theory, do the past question papers first (go as far back as you can). If you are generally well informed about developments in the world economy, you can score a bonus by mentioning latest stuff along with your answer. If you have time after that, go through the study material.
For Problems- STUDY MATERIAL! - I can give it to you in writing that most of the problems will be based on study material problems. The good part is that there aren't too many problems in your study material. So do ALL the study material problems at least once. Follow your study material first and then follow your favorite author.
Use Munish Bhandari for Directors and for problems. Use your study material for the rest.
There could be a few bouncers in law. So make sure you use your study material to cover stuff that isn't covered in Munish Bhandari (like MCA for instance).
Some of the important topics in company law (which are also small) are:
1. Directors remuneration.
2. Accounts of a company.
3. Related party transactions (part of Directors)
5. Disqualification of directors.
6. Oppression and Mismanagement.
7. Board Meetings.
8. Powers of directors.
As far as the other laws are concerned, there really is no way to figure out what may or may not come. Just touch up on everything so that you would atleast be able to make an honest attempt at an answer. Don't forget that ICAI knows that the 'other laws' are too many for too few marks, so the questions that are asked from the other laws are generally direct and important i.e. they don't get into too much detail.
Always remember that for Law, you don't need to remember Section numbers, nor do you need to remember exact words. It's enough if you understand the concept well.
STUDY MATERIAL- Costing, you don't need to even go beyond your study material and past papers. Of course, you can use an author's book (Ok, I know that all books have authors, but you get what I mean) for past papers since the institute doesn't really explain solutions well in the Suggested Answers.
For Theory you can expect the paper to carry atleast one question from each Chapter. By Chapter, I mean chapter as per the study material, not as per your author's book.
1. ABC Costing - 10 marks.
2. Marginal costing and CVP- 10 Marks.
3. Standard Costing - 10 marks.
4. Decision making- 10 marks
5. Rest of Costing - Rest of the marks.
OR will carry 30 marks of which 10 will be theory. They will likely cover all the topics even in the theory part. OR is really simple and mechanical, so there's no way you will not be able to attempt it well.
This has got to be the most frustrating subject in the syllabus. That's what I thought while studying for the exams. While I was waiting for my results, I had to explain to someone what an ERP was, among other computer related topics. I told him what I remembered and he was impressed that I 'knew so much'. So it wasn't a total waste, this subject!
The MOST important tip I can give you for this subject is : NEVER TOUCH ANYTHING OTHER THAN YOUR STUDY MATERIAL!
'Why? Because the person who evaluates your paper probably doesn't know much about computers, so he/she will follow the solution key which is based on the study material. Simple. So even if you write something that is absolutely correct, you probably won't get marks if it's not what appears in the solution key. So simply study what is there in your book, and be as thorough as possible. Remember as many points as possible.
Study the chapters (chapters as per the study material) in the following order to maximize your marks attempted while causing least irritation.
I know I am repeating myself but please do not touch any book other than your study material. If you do have any book other than your study material, donate it to charity immediately.
Our future bread and butter. Statutory Audit as a function is going to soon become a non-value add (if it isn't already). Income Tax is where CA's can score over every other profession. So forget exams, you really need to be good at Direct Taxes.
But still, you first need to pass your exams. So here are tips for DT:
Use only one book. I find T.N. Manoharan's book to be comprehensive enough. I took a look at Singhania and got scared. I quickly changed my priorities from "be an expert in tax" to "it's enough if I pass the exams, I can become an expert later". So T.N Manoharan's book, although it covers less than Singhania, is MORE than enough for your exams.
The tentative break up will be like this:
Total Income problem - around 15-20 marks.
Wealth Tax - 10 marks (this is easy to score. Make sure you study the theory part of Wealth tax too, not just the valuation rules. And focus your theory study on where Wealth Tax differs from Income Tax because thats where questions will come from).
IT Authorities,Assessment, and Appeals - 15 marks.
Assessment of Companies - 10 marks.
The others will be sort of evenly spread out. e.g you can expect around 4-5 marks each from Salaries, IHP, Capital Gains etc.
Don't worry about getting into too much detail.
MOST IMPORTANT - Study the Recent Amendments and Notifications properly. Around 25-30 marks worth will be asked from there. ICAI has given you an exit option for Income tax in the form of Amendments so make sure you use it! And go through the recent case laws.
This paper is the savior for all your past non-performances. Getting a 60 in this paper should be child's play.
I'm pretty sure (don't hold this against me), that your paper will be as follows. Remember, ICAI has been following a verrrrrry similar marks weightage for the New Syllabus. There's obviously no rule that they should follow the same pattern for you, but I'm just saying, if I was a betting man, I would bet that they would.
Amendments and Case Laws will cover atleast 40 marks in this paper. A full 40 marks.
So the probable weightage is:
Excise Valuation - 5 marks.
Customs Valuation - 5 marks
VAT computation - 5 marks
Service Tax Computation - 5 marks.
Even if you have never seen your book before, you can study for these 20 marks within a few hours.
CENVAT Credit - 5 marks.
SSI - 5 marks
Excise penalties - 5 marks.
VAT - another 10 marks (VAT is just some 10 pages, whichever book you follow, so it's almost like free marks).
Service Tax - another 15 marks. Here, focus on recent changes.
Case Laws will cover around 20 marks atleast.
This is just a very tentative estimate.
I can almost guarantee that this question will come - 'Name a few new services that were added recently'
Anyway, that's that. I hope this helps!
All the best for your exams :)
And if you need anything at all, don't hesitate to contact me at samvitdurga at g-m-a-i-l
(Samvit Durga is the co-founder of a CA Learning Centre in Hyderabad called SHAPE Academy. He wants to get into investment banking M&A. So if you know someone working in a bulge bracket bank, please put him through to your contact.)