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Interview: Siddhant Bhandari AIR-1, CA Final Nov 2018 (New Course) in an Exclusive talk with CAclubindia

CCI Team , Last updated: 06 April 2020  

CA Final Nov 2018 results have been released. And as the tradition goes, we are happy to bring to you the exclusive interview with the CA Final Nov 2018 toppers. 

Meet Siddhant Bhandari from Jodhpur- All India Rank 1, CA Final November 2018 (New Course). In this exclusive interview, he shares his journey of becoming a Chartered Accountant, his struggles, and his complete studying strategy for the CA Final exams.
Congratulations Siddhant from the entire team of CAclubindia !!

What is the feeling of securing AIR-1? What is your parents' reaction?
Too good, on cloud 9 now. I just reached my hometown, now I am in Jodhpur. My articleship and all is going on in Bombay. My parents are feeling great and partying and everyone is treating me like a celebrity at home. I am attending the calls only of all the relatives.

Was it already on your mind that you are going to secure AIR 1?
No, not the first rank. I had doubts about the audit paper. I was sure about clearing the exams but I was expecting a rank more than 500. But, after seeing my marks, I was completely surprised and happy at the same time. I couldn't believe it initially, because usually the President or the Vice President of ICAI calls the rank holders. So, around 5:30, I received a call from the Vice President of ICAI who informed that I have secured AIR 1 rank, after which I was confirmed about my rank. It was a great feeling. 

Who is the source of your inspiration?
Everyone around me inspired me in a way or other - family, parents, teachers, office colleagues and friends. If I had to mention one person that would be my father. He has always supported me in my decisions, even when I wanted to move to Mumbai for my studies to complete the graduation and CA course.

Tell us about your journey
My journey started from Dec'14, by CPT, IPCC and then I started CA articleship in Deloitte in the audit department - 1 year I was there, for the next 2 years I was in KPMG in the mergers & acquisitions.

How did you manage your CA Final studies with articleship in a big 4?
It is always manageable. Mostly, I used to study in the office itself as I did not get time to study after office. My seniors were very supportive and studying in the office used to be good, studying in silence, with friends. Most of the time, me and my friends used to study from the office. So, the main target of the day was to revise the topics which were taught during the CA coaching classes.

What was your day like? Any specific routine which you followed?
No time. It was very-very hectic. I had no time for myself. In the morning it used to be the office and classes, then study in the office, then again studies after reaching home till late midnight and then sleep. So, that was the routine for one and a half year after which I went for CA final study leaves. I used to go to the gym for exercise but as exams approached, I stopped going to the gym, and stopped the exercise and all during the preparation leaves. I used to sleep for 6 hours and studied on an average of 14-15 hours in a day.

What was your strategy and planning for the final exams?
For strategy, I had prepared a timetable for myself and I had proper time management. When I went on study leave, my coaching was pending for a few subjects. I had to go for the study plus my ITT training which also was pending and it was compulsory to complete. So, I had to manage all those for which I had prepared a complete time-table. I had a detailed daily and weekly study chart where I had planned what I am going to study every day. I followed my time-table religiously. It helped me keep a track of the timeline as in by when will I be able to complete the course and how much time I will have for revision, how many times will I be able to revise etc. So, it all went according to the plan. 

The most crucial month is the last month before the exams i.e. October, where one has to revise the entire syllabus for all the subjects in 2-3 days and plan how to revise the entire syllabus just a day before the exam. Last month was 18 hours of study but it was okay. I used to count the number of hours of sleep, and the rest of the hours were obvious studying. I kept 4-6 hours of sleeping every day, remaining I utilized for studying. It was just for the last month though. I also use to eat well and in breaks and no junk at all.  

I had a very casual study plan and I basically did what worked for me. I studied during the night only. Initially, I tried studying in the morning but it didn't work for me so I switched back to studying at night. One should learn to adapt to the circumstances so I slept from 7:00 am to 12:00 pm during the day time and then study for the rest of the day till late at night. 

So, how did you divide your study planning - coaching, practice manual and all?
My teacher had told me that during the first 2 months, give 15 days to 2 subjects, so I didn't pick more than 2 subjects per day for self-study. So, I kept practical and theory always together. Mostly all the subjects were practical but law and audit were theories. I consider Audit as theory mostly. Audit was my weakest subject, so I studied that properly. I also took a 7-8 day crash course for the Law and Audit which helped me. The 15 days plan used to get stretched to 17-18 days but then I used to cover it up.

How did you balance coaching and self-studies? With the study material, RTP, coaching material, Mock Test etc. how did you manage to go through all of it?
Practice Manual was removed from the New Course. I had the printouts of RTPs. So, while studying I kept going through the questions from RTPs. I made a point to cover all the RTPs by October. I had marked all the important questions in RTPs. And I had referred to all the Mock Test questions but it was similar to RTPs. I didn't sit for the Mock Test because my time management and speed on completing the paper was already very good. I never ran out of time in any exam. I even managed to complete my first paper before time. The only point that I focused on was completing the syllabus.

Initially, I started with coaching material then I referred the study material during my revision to check if I had missed anything and I used to cover that. It is very important to refer the Study Material. I used to make notes for everything. I kept shortening my notes as the time passed. Initially, I made lengthy notes but with every revision, my notes became shorter and more concise.

Was there any strategy while you prepared notes?
I just kept in my mind that I need to complete the revision within one day - so based on that I used to prepare my notes. I wasn't very strong in Audit and as the examiner usually don't give marks more than 50% in audit, I was sure that I would pass in all the subjects but there was a little fear in my mind regarding the Audit subject. The audit paper was good this time - but in aggregate, I was sure enough that I would definitely pass.

Which was your favourite or strong subject and weak subject?
As I said, I was fearful of Audit subject though I found Law to be interesting. FR was my strong subject which was taught by Mr Praveen Sharma Sir to me, so I wasn't doubting about the same. SFM was also strong as it was a practical subject. Costing was a new subject as the entire course had changed. I followed the study material as there was nothing else to study. International Tax was also good and very interesting as again it was a practical subject. IDT was also one of my favourite subjects as my teacher had taught everything practically and I also secured the highest marks in this subject.

I gave more attention to the Audit subject as I was weak in it and tried to revise the same within 15 days. During the last 4 days before the exams, I dedicated my entire time to the Audit subject and for the rest of the subjects, I allotted 2 days time for the revision. So, overall, I studied mostly Audit as I found it to be a bit difficult compared to the other theory subjects. It had to be memorized a lot, so I gave more time to Audit subject. But I also suggest that students should not get overconfident on the subjects they are good. It is a balancing act where you make your strong subjects stronger and work on your weakness that you manage to sail through.
How did you plan your studies one day before the exams?
I was always in contact with only one friend of mine with whom I had discussed the strategy. I think students should not be in touch with many people as the more the suggestions are the more confusion it creates. Basically, my notes were already prepared - I used to revise only the important points which I had noted earlier. Then I used to cover up the other topics, depending on the time left. Discussion with one friend really uses to help me but that too for a limited time and without taking much of his time. 

How did you go through the amendments?
I had covered up most of the amendments beforehand. RTP is also important which one should follow before the exams. Most of the amendments which came in the exam were from RTPs. Revising the RTPs helped me to recall the answers instantly in the time of writing the paper. So, following this strategy, my revision went proper.

As you said that you never missed any question during exams, so how did you make that planning during the 3 hours time?
I did not pay much attention to the first question, I started from the second question only and then followed the sequence. I attempted the first questions only for FR and SFM, for rest of the subjects, I started writing from the second question. I never used to see the 1st question except for FR and SFM papers, where the first question was relatable which I knew I had prepared one day before the exam. For rest of the papers, I attempted from the second question. So, I decided that within those 15 minutes time. DT and Audit had all different questions, so it became important to choose the questions according to that. And as I shared earlier because of my good writing speed I completed all the papers in time- in fact, FR I completed half an hour early and rest of the subjects 15 minutes early. 

Did you follow question pattern also?
Yes, I had studied the pattern and planned accordingly. I had followed a rough analysis of the mock paper also which helped me to have an idea of the question pattern.

Did the Articleship help you in understanding the practical concepts? 
Yes, the first statutory audit which I did from Deloitte helped me a lot. In fact, I chose the International Taxation subject for the very same reason because I was doing international taxation work in my office. I didn't have to take any coaching classes also for this particular subject; I had gone through the study material only which helped me and I was confident enough. So, articleship plays a very important role in CA students life. In-fact, I worked with my manager also on treaties and some case studies which helped me in understanding the concepts practically.

How did you cope up with the mental stress?
I never take stress on myself. Every Friday we used to play football or cricket. My manager was also good as he always pushed me to study first and was very cooperative in providing me leave for studies. He considered the study to be more important than work. So, he was the one who boosted this confidence in me. Infact, apart from my family, he was the one who motivated me and was also helpful. Sometimes I used to miss the morning classes which was rescheduled during the evening time, so whenever required he allowed me to leave early so that I can attend those classes. So, eventually, everything got managed. People around you really make a positive difference in your mental health and strength so it is very important to choose the right friends, right CA firm and boss and someone who can guide you regularly. 

Any incident where you emotionally felt low and someone who motivated you during that time?
Whenever I felt so, I watched online motivational videos which kept me going. There are always times when you feel low but watching the motivational videos helped me to get back up and start studying again.

Have you ever visited the website of CAclubindia?
Yes, I have visited CAclubindia. It is an informational website and I referred to the Articles and other sections like interviews of CA toppers.

Any message which you would like to share with the students who will be appearing for the upcoming attempts?
Whatever you think is right is right. Make your schedule as per your comfort. Don't follow blindly what others do. In my case, I used to maintain an excel sheet which I used to update after every 15 days. Don't waste your time on social media and all - I used to go through the news so as to keep myself updated as to what's happening in the industry and the outside world. During exams, I stayed in contact with only one person with whom I was doing CA and discussed our plans which helped us to remain focused.

Any technical tips which you feel will be helpful for the other students?
You should complete the entire course, keep on practising the practical subjects and also try to prepare handwritten notes - these are the points which I found to be useful.

Thank you Siddhant!! It was great talking to you!!
Thank you so much, Prerna!!

This interview is taken exclusively on CAclubindia.com by Prerna Saraogi, Assistant Editor, CAclubindia. You can write her at editorial@CAclubindia.com or prerna@CAclubindia.com

Also Read:

  • Interview of AIR-1, CA Final Nov 2018 (Old Course) - Shadab Hussain: Click Here
  • Interview of AIR-2, CA Final Nov 2018 (New Course) - Rohit Kumar Soni: Click Here
  • Interview of AIR-2, CA Final Nov 2018 (Old Course) - Shahid Husen Shokat Memon: Click Here

Published by

CCI Team
(Finance Professional)
Category Students   Report

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