This seems like a vexed question.
Some avoid it saying, "Hey! Passing itself is difficult. If I am terribly lucky, I would get a rank."
Some say, "Don't keep such aims like getting a rank. You might miserably fail"
Some even say, "Rank depends on the paper. If I prepare well, and what I have prepared comes in the paper, then I get a rank."
It is like someone touched a raw-nerve and it hurts and students say thus.
But I used to say to all of these people---"This sounds very logical, what you say. You stay with that logic but Im illogical and I still want a rank and I will get it"
The proof of the pudding lay in me getting ranks in all the attempts. No matter what anyone said any nonsense to me or no matter what the circumstance is.
No matter what--there is always a first rank, there is always a second rank, etc.
They never say such things. They have a definite plan and they work for it and internally know it will fetch them a superior rank and not a mere pass. Mere pass is for mere mortals, superior minds aim high.
Aim high in life. Indians have a slavish tendency wrought about by years of subjugation by Mughals,Britons,etcSo they fear a lot.
Then crush your time with smart work. Enjoy but stay within limits. I used to play, roam about in bike and even had time to learn Karate' but I never left my studies high and dry.
Approach studies with a fun attitude not dread and fear. Own the subject, play with it like it your buddy or mate.
Certain facts exist though, whatever be my rhetoric. I am giving the following points in no particular order(just as my mind flows):
1. Atleast 10 to 12 hours of prep is needed to get a rank for atleast 8 to 12 months before the exam. No escaping this. Maybe with very clever study techniques and an even cleverer mind one can crush this time-factor a bit.
2. Use of proper study and retention techniques is a must
3. Proper revision plan is a must.
4. Proper ammunition(books and reference material) is sinequanon for this.
5. Proper association with friends and instant dissociation with those who discourage you (be it even your CA firm) is a must.
6. Timing and exam practice is important.
7. Learning to relax well is a must. I used Taoist breathing techniques to relax myself, I used to solve sudoku and sometimes go for a swim. I had no girlfriends!(Hehe!--well, this is a distraction anyways! I still don't have time for any girl! I have so much to do, so little done! But yeah, I do have friends who are girls but not really girlfriends as such!)
8. Learning to not get distracted from the goal.
9. Learning to pep oneself up on a day-to-day basis and taking each day as the first day in the rest of your life.
10. Learning to adjust the bio-clock to the exam time. For example: If the attempt given has the exam time during afternoon, its best not to sleep during that time in study holidays. Keep the bio-clock as nature has intended it. We change it in between to our detriment.
11. Belief in God helps. I can only pity atheists because they have nothing to fall back upon. Not that atheists cant get ranks but that the stress is too much and sometimes, you just have to let-go and you can do that if you have he prop of God.
12. Judicious selection of coaching centres and Subjects for coaching. No use wasting time for useless subjects.(Commutation itself in cities is a pain in the neck with inordinate pollution levels. Its just not worth the effort)
13. Have courage but also discriminative power too. Don't jump from a building top just because you have lots of courage, that would be a foolish thing to do. Apply this statement to your prep as well. My first lesson in Kung-fu was the control of courage not elimination of fear.
14. Develop a warrior mentality inside you. Even girls should take note of this. I appreciate all girls/women in this male dominated field. You are doing great! Whether you pass the exam or not. Your effort is simply great. I bow to you all. I know how tough CAs are. If a woman decides she can move mountains.
15. Practice writing, develop a neat handwriting(don't try to act smart and camouflage your shoddy answers with an illegible handwriting, examiners are not dumbos they know every bit and every whit of what students are worth. They simply will strike out the whole thing and give a beautiful duck's egg there!)
16. Be conceptually strong.
17. Subsume problems don't let the problems while doing the course consume you. In other words, you go over the problem and consume it and not let the problem consume you.
18. Do atleast 500 problems/question in each subject. I had this target and it really helped me. Though this is not essential or there is anything set in stone thus. I repeated the 500 target over and over again and mastered the whole subject in the process and got exceptionally good marks.
19. Have 2 reference books per subject. This is my unique advice. I have spoken about the logic earlier, read it. One is a bedrock book to follow in and out and the second is kept as a reference. Study material in cases like MICS can be kept as the bedrock book.
20. Talk to someone who trusts you and encourages you, during exam time. Never talk during those times to your colleagues, your seniors in office, your teachers in the coaching centre. I followed this scrupulously. This is because, they sensitize you easily and even a stray comment will affect your prep and confidence. And prep and confidence in those last moments is everything.
21. Don't be stingy, give advices and books to your friends. Everyone is fighting a battle on his own and this is not a competitive exam and even if it, it doesn't hurt to help. I'm helping you all here. Do I get anything?--Nothing, except the pleasure that I'm helping all and my dead friend's memory.
22. Dont get too emotional. My writing sound quite emotional but I'm quite level-headed, else it would be difficult to clear all the 6 exams I mentioned above and that too in such a small age.
23. If any discourages you from your dream, run away from them, shake their words off your mind like sand off your back!
24. Revision is the key, I mentioned it one point before and I mention it again here to make you understand.
25. Take care of your health.CA is not be all and end all of your life. Take healthy foods. I'm a veggie and love being a veggie. Very rarely I used to eat an egg or two but for most part, I'm a veggie. I love eating light oil-free foods. I don't drink coffee and sustain myself in the morning with a herbal tea mixture and eat good breakfast. Lunch in the afternoon is moderate and don't sleep during the afternoon. In the night I eat chapattis and something light. I don't doze off to sleep after food. I stay awake for sometime, revise the days portions and then sleep.
I followed JNReddy's Maxexcel book for syudy tips(no need to attend his classes, though they are beneficial)The tips in the book are excellent and doable and it works like anything.
You can access his site here:http://maxacademy.net/aboutus.php
But dont waste too much time on this too.
26. Always keep a simple plan and not some big elaborate plan for the whole year. Those will fail. Only simple plans when acted upon will work. Brain cant handle too much of complexity at a time and will flounder heavily. After one passes, one can write tomes on how to pass, but whether it is applicable to all is to be seen.
27. One guy said, "I studied 17 hours per day for a year to get this 45th rank and you say 10 to 12 hours in enough?"I said, "You are lucky to be alive. But I think you are stupid and your brain is not evolved and thus you got despite your effort a mere 45th rank."I proved him utterly wrong by getting into the top-ten and my friends used to amazed seeing me always drive my bike(actually I fooled them because whenever I met them, I was in the relaxation mode, so naturally that makes me look like one cool dude!Haha! I know this sounds like boasting but the boasting has a purpose, if I can do it, so can you all. All is said in good jest and with an inspiring lofty purpose.)
28. Create memory lists and read them day in and day out. This will etch the sections and concepts in memory.
29. Use visualization techniques to create your own reality. I used creative visualization by Shakthi Gawain to produce fantastic results and also relax.
30. Be abreast with latest info in the field(without becoming paranoid about things).
31. Remember whether you pass or fail, no one superior to anyone.