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How to make an optimum preparation for the CA exams

Sanat Biswal , Last updated: 05 November 2015  

“Chartered Accountancy”, the first thought that comes to the mind is, it is very tough to clear the exams and this becomes evident by a look at the previous pass percentage results and what we get to hear from the people surrounding us. So, we tend to think perhaps it is wise not to pursue for such a qualification as the odds of success are marginal.

The same was the case with me as well, but I took the decision to be a part of the elite profession and so set afoot in the journey of becoming a professional in life, despite knowing the chances of getting through and when many were not in favour of my decision, mainly because I had a Science background in my intermediate and the course itself being so tough.

It has been a good progress so far and I have managed to sail through the exams each time with flying colours. But, all of this has had come with a cost attached to it and sacrifices made in the past, that, I know would never return in my life ever.

To know more on my experience of clearing the CA exams,visit this links..

Clearing IPCC Exams in the first attempt!!  and
Dreams turning to reality

So, I thought of writing this piece to share my story of   “How I managed to clear the CA exams”, i.e. CPT and IPCC in the first attempt, with decent marks and what did I implement in my approach for the same.

How to have a proper preparation for CA Exams?

This q’s has been one of the most frequently asked q’s, which every CA student must have tried looking for as was the case with me as well. But, after having cleared 2 levels of the CA exams,I feel I do have a few things to share with you which can help you to find some answers to it :-

Coverage of the whole syllabus of each paper – It is really vital and essential to take care that the whole of the syllabus of any paper of any level of CA exam must be covered to make sure that nothing remains untouched prior to the exam and to increase the chances of improving the score in the exams. Many of us have a habit to cover up only those topics which have more weightage from examination point of view, but this can be very dangerous sometimes when the exam pattern differs from regular pattern. So, do make sure that the whole syllabus is in your grasp.

NOTE: Having said this, if one is unable to complete the whole syllabus in time, then do make sure that you have a strong base in 20% of the syllabus which can fetch you 80% marks. But, this is an extreme measure when the time is limited and the coverage needed is way more than that

Proper planning for preparation - This is a really crucial step for an optimum preparation taking any exam in consideration. You need to be very clear in your approach about when you should complete your first level of preparation, and then go for revisions depending on your requirements. Let me explain this taking my example:

When I was preparing for IPCC exams I found out that though I had put a lot of efforts for the exam,but I was short of confidence as I didn’t have a well laid out plan beforehand to face the exam. It was because of the very reason stated above. It was due to this I had to drop my MAY 2014 attempt and had to skip to the next attempt. Then I changed my approach and just did one simple thing:-

I took a diary and started noting down all the important q’s of each and every chapter that I had been through from any paper ,the first time. Those were such q’s which needed to be revised for sure due to the complexities involved in solving such q’s or because I couldn’t solve it the first time on my own. The q’s were accompanied by page nos. and also the source of the material from where I had encountered such a q’s. This was completely a time taking activity and needed a lot of effort as well to put it properly. But, believe me guys, it will help you channelize your efforts in a proper direction and will help you track your progress everyday. I had also set targets for each day, which inturn turned into weekly targets, that gave shape to monthly targets and ultimately helped me save me enough time for revision as well. The best part of doing this is, it keeps you always in check and the day when you don’t meet your targets makes you regret about it and makes you to work harder the next day to achieve the targets. It motivates you when you achieve the targets for the day and helps you improving your performance. The first revision can cover up those q’s mentioned in the first round rather than going through all the q’s once again and so on in the second revision as well which covers the q’s picked from the first revision.

NOTE: Everything discussed above must be in writing and shouldn’t be thought over and implemented.

Set the benchmarks and standards for your preparations - I have often heard people asking a common q’s, “How many hours did you put to clear the exams”. Well, in my view this q’s makes more sense when it’s modified into “How many effective hours did you really put to clear the exams”.

What I mean to say is that, you need to set benchmarks for yourself when you study for the exams. Suppose, you are able to solve 3 q’s within 40 mins of time and you feel its an optimum effort and can’t exceed beyond that. Then you will never ever achieve better results ahead and will remain stagnant in your approach. You must make up your mind and try to beat the previous effort and thus set a new benchmark for yourself. This is really vital to ensure you are improving and thus gain necessary skills for that.

NOTE: Develop your own set of approach for the exams and compare your own performance with your previous one. Please don’t compare it with your peers as it is you who knows best of your own capabilities and thus can work on improving it.

Don’t ignore the ICAI Study materials-Be sure to go through the ICAI study materials thoroughly atleast twice before you appear for the exams. This is extremely important as I have seen many who tend to avoid ICAI study materials because they find it of no value as compared to other reference books and publications available in the market. I am not against any other authors as I myself have referred to other books and relied more on it at times for conceptual clarity. So, I do have a neutral view in such regard.

But, I have never ignored covering practice manual q’s, RTP’S, mock tests, past papers. It makes sense that ICAI would definitely like the students to present their answers the way ICAI has always recommended to present through various publications like suggested answers , RTP’S or practice manual. The practice manual and RTP q’s are of utmost importance from the exam point of view and needs to be practised several times for scoring better marks.

NOTE: Having said as above, it is upto the person’s choice of whether to go for ICAI materials or any other material in which they are comfortable with. Other reference books do present a good presentation style for the answers and are also easy to understand.

Group Discussions – Group discussions help a lot in improving various skills such as interpersonal skills, communication skills, leadership skills etc. I know these things are irrelevant from examination point of view, but they do help you a long way in grooming your personality as well. It helps to mitigate your shortcomings in any subject where you face difficulty and also helps you to build a strong concept in the subject which you are comfortable with. So, it is always a WIN-WIN situation provided its properly implemented.

I remember when I had stepped into CA, and had my CPT exams approaching I found out that I was poor in accounts paper which is a core subject for CA. Being from a science background in my intermediate, I had absolutely zero knowledge in that paper, but I was quite strong in the QT section and was really confident in that. So, I discussed about this problem with my friends and we unanimously decided to conduct GD’s regularly during every weekend where we discussed various topics from each paper and thus, in the process we helped each other to learn and grow. We all used to set the topic for discussion beforehand and everybody used to stick to it and discuss about the topics in the GD’s. The best thing was I found out that I was improving in the accounts section and also my friends who were poor in QT were doing pretty well by that time. This boosted our confidence very much and we all were happy to have such sessions. But, we couldn’t conduct any GD’s during IPCC as we were always short of time to study, due to intense workload of studies.

Visit this link for my experience at the Orientation Programme and role of GD’s in it.

Orientation Programme

NOTE: It is really important that GD’s must be restricted only on discussion about studies. Gossips must not be a part of it, otherwise it would simply turn out to be waste of time .Initially you may feel that the other people in the group are not reciprocating properly and are not sincere in their approach, but slowly they will realise the effectiveness of such GD’s and will also try to add value and be a productive part of the group.

Be regular and sincere in your studies – It’s really essential to be always regular in your studies and try to be in touch with the books always. I have been through such instances in my preparations where even a few days gap from studies has been fatal and has always broken the flow of preparations and I had to face many difficulties. So, always try to minimise breaks and distractions as much as possible to maintain the preparations on a regular basis.

Mock tests and past papers – To acclaim the taste of victory of the real battle, one should put himself to test through dummy like battle scenario. The mock tests and past papers do exactly that.It becomes very easy on our part to solve q’s when we take one q’s at a time but the same would create a problem when we are put to solve numerous q’s in a 100 marks paper in exam and we are unable to solve it to our best in time though we know the answers to it.

As it’s said, “Practice makes a man perfect”, the same statement would be perfectly justified if we sit for mock tests and practice the past papers. Here’s a look at what I did in my case:-

It was SEP 2014 and the NOV 2014 IPCC exam was approaching. Although I had made a preparation beyond my capabilities in the best possible manner, I was still lack of confidence as I had never been put to test in real like exam scenario before as the NOV attempt was my first. It’s when ICAI declared mock tests were about to be conducted soon and so I thought this would probably help me to optimise my performance and help me regain confidence for the exams. Surprisingly we were only a handful of students who had registered for the exams among a crowd of many who had to appear for the exams. I sat for the mocks and found out that I had scored merely 41,33,40,41 respectively in the four papers of the first group. I started to doubt on myself and q’s hovered in my mind whether I would clear the exams or not. I stepped up my efforts and studied really hard without any break to get through. I HAD MADE A PROMISE TO MYSELF EARLIER THAT I WILL NOT SIT FOR ANOTHER SIX MONTHS AT ANY COST TO CLEAR THE IPCC EXAMS AND WILL GIVE EVERYTHING TO THE PREPARATION IN THE FIRST ATTEMPT ITSELF.

That thought process worked in my favour and I even gave 3-4 past papers of all subjects just a week prior to the exams. The process was simple , I locked myself in a room, set the timer for 3 hours and started to write the past papers when the timer started backward counting. It helped me in several ways as mentioned below:-

  1. It improved my writing speed as I had to race against time to complete the paper in time.
  2. It helped me to make a strategy of how to attempt the q’s, i.e. which q’s to attempt in priority over others.
  3. It helped me immensely to remain calm during exams and utilise the 3 hours to the best possible extent.
  4. Most importantly it helped me to regain my confidence back.

NOTE: Try to give the mocks and past papers during the end period of your preparations during the last 2 weeks prior to the exams as you will be completely prepared for the exams and can benefit immensely from it. Also do make sure to self-evaluate the papers yourself and give marks to yourself being the checker and try to find out the range where you score to assess your performance. Also you can register yourself at various websites which provide you q’s papers and also send your scores and help you to assess your performance.

Avoid wasting time in unnecessary activities- Try to reduce the no. of hours spent on various unnecessary activities which reduces your day’s effectiveness and this includes a range of activities such as using FB, chatting on Whatsapp or other kind of distractions. I am not against any use of such media, rather they are essential in today’s digital age. But, these will be effective only when we use it for the purpose for which I am writing this piece and rather wasting time in such websites doesn’t help in any way. Remember you will have enough time once the exams are over.

NOTE: Use various professional websites and try to participate in various forum discussions and be a part of it. It definitely helps you very much to improve your concepts learnt and also makes you a better individual. It helps to scale up your learning experience and clarify many things.

Try to find some very powerful inspirational statements or quotes and write it down in all the books or copies which you are using in your preparations. It works wonders and stimulates a positive energy in your body to work for your goals.

Write down your name with the addition of prefix of CA in it in all the books and copies. You will definitely be motivated to work for your goals and would never think of deviating from your objectives. Try to have a look at it at least once in a day, you can feel the difference in yourself.

Visualize being a chartered accountant and the dreams you always have aspired for yourself from the profession , before you sleep. Try to write down in a diary about the activities done by you throughout the day which took you a step closer to your goal, before you sleep.

Try to talk to your peers, discuss the problems with them where you don’t understand something, take the help of seniors, teachers or anyone else with whom you feel comfortable. Never ever let a doubt remain as a doubt and try your best to find answers to it.

In the end find a reason to associate yourself to,of why are you working so hard to be a part of this profession. Be sincere in your approach and you will always find several reasons to cherish about your sincerity. Take the guidance from those who already have made it and learn from it to compare your strategies with theirs, never hesitate to communicate in such regard.

I would like to conclude this piece by reciprocating a statement once said by my teacher and role model, “DIL ME HAMESHA CA BANNE KI AAG JALAYE RAKHNA, JAB TAK YE AAG JALTI RAHEGI TABTAK TUM USI AUR APNI KOSHISH JARI RAKHOGE” (Keep the desires of becoming of CA in your heart alive always, as long as you are passionate about it you will always be inclined to work on it).

Having said all of the above, I do have many more things to say, but I guess these are sufficient for the cause for which I am writing this piece. I would definitely like to get your feedbacks , comments and suggestions for improving this article further to help each other associate ourselves for the common cause.

I hope I have been of any service to you and could help you in anyway through this piece.

Visit this link for my other articles

My next article would be on “How to write the CA exams”. Stay connected for next update. My best wishes are with you for your future endeavours.

P.S - I am a CA Finalist and you can reach me at sanat.witty@gmail.com. Feel free to write to me for any help and I would be glad to be of any service to you. Hope to hear from you soon.

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Sanat Biswal
(Chartered Accountant)
Category Exams   Report

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