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You need not take two or three attempts to understand what it takes to achieve success in CA exam. Just spend 10 minutes to read the article.

This article is about my views and experience on cracking the CA examination, especially at the final level. Some points which are stated below may not be completely agreed by some Rank Holders or First attempt qualifiers. Though I do not feel proud to say that I am neither a Rank Holder nor a First attempt qualifier, I can give more of what one should not do rather than what one should do, which I believe not many people will aware of.

Basic Points:

Paper is for 100 marks and 180 minutes. So for every mark, time to be spent is 1.5 minutes with buffer time 30 minutes. Answers to be given, assuming the paper value has very limited knowledge on the subject (say, he is “dumb”)

One cannot be much educated on the content of answers he/she should write in the exam as this quality will come only if one has thorough knowledge about the subject. For instance, in Indirect Tax paper, I was asked to write about export procedures for 3 marks. People knowing about the subject, will know that we can write at least 2-3 pages on that question. So for 3 marks we can spend max 5 minutes which in turn means we can write around 6-7 points. Now there isn’t any particular set of points which all students can be expected to answer. Hence one needs to apply his mind to create an impression on the minds of the evaluator that he has thorough knowledge on the subject. I answered the question quoting form nos. used in export activities.

Handwriting – Legible and fast

FAQ: I have given 3 attempts and I am unable to get more than 35 marks in auditing. I doubt the text book. Can you suggest me a better book please?

First appreciate the fact that what we study is substantially more than what we actually write in the examination when the same question is asked. We study pages, and we write only paragraphs. I have done research work on whether one book has more quality content than another book of the same subject and the result was that the variation was not more than 5%. So the advantage may be 5 more percent, but reading a new book, although on the same subject, will not give the same feel of revision which the original book would have given. It will appear to a certain extent as if we are starting from the scratch.

If you are able to write only 5 points for a 3 mark question, then try to write that extra one or two points which will fetch you that extra mark. If that extra mark is obtained for 6 questions, then 6 extra marks, so Auditing passed!!! How to increase the handwriting speed? Not many of us, for theory subjects have the habit of writing answers for selected questions once we finish studying that. Similarly, for practical subjects such as costing, it is better to practice sums as if we are writing that in the main exam (I want you to understand that drawing columns, lines after the answer and also underlining the heading should be practiced at home). Some have the habit of reading and ticking the solutions to costing and accounts problems (some call that auditing of solutions), which I believe won’t be of much help in the exam. It provides comfort only for preparation and not in the ultimate exam and what one is more concerned about is the main exam and not the preparation time (I know a rank holder who admits that he too does only reading of solutions, but exceptions can’t be considered as examples, so stop this right away or call yourself lazy!!)

FAQ: You give me so many suggestions, then why you did not get a rank?

I started working on my handwriting; I could not improve it to its optimal level. I should have dedicated more time to correct the inconsistencies in the alphabets, improve the flow and increase the speed. Although this may not have necessarily got me a rank, I would have at least improved my total by say 20 marks. Since I have already stated that this article is based on the mistakes I committed while preparing for exam, stop asking this question..

Understand the mind set of paper evaluator

I had the experience of correcting answer papers during school days so I remember certain points which I noted when awarding marks. To begin with, neat handwriting, which I already discussed above. I do remember that when I award marks I search for what is there extra in this answer sheet when compared with those I valued previously. I know this bias doesn’t affect much in CA paper valuation as I am told that paper valuers are advised to value each paper and each question on a standalone basis without affecting the marks of the previous or subsequent answers. But practical application of this is difficult. What to write extra? Consider a question on MICS/ISCA “What are the methods of conversion from manual to computerized accounting?”. If there are say 5 methods, instead of starting the answer like “the 5 methods of system conversions are..” , you can start the question by writing what system conversion means and then give the 5 methods. You can very well avoid writing a point in the one of the method which in most cases will be a repeated point. This way it creates an impression as if you have written that extra point and deserves more marks.

You may have put your heart and soul for 3 months before the exam and would not have got the marks which your effort deserves. Unfortunately, the paper corrector is no way related to you to understand your personal problems. All those months of effort is perceived in just a few minutes when your paper is valued. So if you are lethargic to prepare in the manner stated above, then think about the efforts getting wasted. Just a little more effort, for the original effort to be fruitful, simple.

Model Exams – Required?

There are differing views about this and even though one of my lecturers considers it as waste of time, it certainly worked for me. How? I am uncomfortable to see a fail mark even in a mock test, so I prepared with seriousness for the model exam just to avoid getting marks below 40. Whether I passed in that test or rather did I ever get those papers corrected is secondary. I tried to do one complete revision on one single day one month before the main exam, and ended up revising at least 3/4th of the entire syllabus. This gave me the pace and made me understand the particular areas where I was weak. All of sudden, the remaining one month which was initially scary small for preparation, then looked abundant.

Selective Study – Which areas to concentrate?

I studied accounting standards 16-20, 22, 9, 26 thoroughly based on past exam analysis. What happened in the exam? I got 8 marks questions each from depreciation accounting, investment accounting and other simple chapters. Although I had a fair idea of them having studied in the inter level itself, I could not do justice while answering given how easy the questions appeared to be. For people who concentrate on particular topics, like what I did, continue to do it, but do not ignore the other topics completely. If you do 4 revisions on the important topics, you should do at least 2 revisions on the other chapters, thereby not being blank on what those topics deal with.

Day before exam – Highly rated

No matter how effectively one prepares for the exam 3 or 4 month before, if he/she is unable to do one complete revision on the day before exam, then definitely the performance at the exam cannot be optimum. Due to lack of proper planning, I was able to study only the 3 main chapters in Accounts, the day before exam, namely consolidation, amalgamation and valuation. I wont say that I was unable to answer the other chapters, rather it took quite some time for me to recollect and produce points. So now you will understand that a little more effort (planning) will make the original effort (preparation) more fruitful (I believe I would have got at least 10 marks more had I not wasted time!)

I divide the eight subjects into practical(accounts, mafa and costing) and theory to mention my preparation techniques.

Practical: I used the stopwatch in my mobile to monitor how long I take to complete the solution. If the question is for 20 marks, then I have to complete it within 20 X 1.5 = 30 minutes.

Use a book which has numerous problems from past examinations.At the cost of repetition, do the sums as if you do it in the main exam, tally the balance sheet, draw lines etc.

Remember that steps for solving the problem in the exam gives you the major share of marks and not your final answer. So even if you don’t complete a sum within the time allowed, abandon it and go to the next sum.

Theory: Prepare notes with the help of diagrams, subheadings, charts. Your big textbook will turn into an extremely small notebook written by you, from which you can revise 3 times faster than textbook. (I will try to get my law notes on Directors Chapter in soft copy very soon)

Use abbreviations to remember subheadings for subjects such as MICS (eg. FILER-Flexibiliy, Integrated, Lay-out, Economical and Reporting)

I conclude this article with few suggestions for preparing, subject – wise:

1. Accounts: Concentrate equally on all chapters as the big chapters mentioned above cover not more than 45 marks but they consume a lot of time for revision.

2. Audit: Quote the SAs, CARO Clause no., Accounting Standard No. Companies Act important section nos. Some may feel this is hard, but let me tell you it takes not more than an hour to remember all.This is one point which many of us oversee and with regard to the creation of impression on the valuers mind, this will do a lot of good. For instance, if a case law is asked on related party, points to be included are Loan clause in CARO, AS 18, Sec.300, 301 of Companies Act and the relevant SAs. Note that all general questions asked in auditing paper has to be linked with SAs and the quoting of the exact SA is what is expected.

3. Mafa: I found this subject interesting but the most difficult to revise. Too simple concepts but too many concept s!!! Do not keep the theory to be read at the last, and finish the entire chapter (theory and sums) before going to the next.

4. Law: Get an overall idea of all the chapters and don’t concentrate only on the important parts such as “directors, meetings”. Quoting section numbers work. Breaking the answer into issue, inference and conclusion for case law related questions is advisable.

5. Costing: Some feel that completing the costing paper within the allotted 3 hours is a myth! I cant second that, as in my first attempt I felt that time available should be made to 4 hours at least, whereas in the next attempt I completed within 2.5 hrs! So it all depends upon your luck. Proper allocation of time for each question and executing the same is the challenge here.

6. ISCA: I prepared introduction paragraphs for each chapter for about 3 lines. When a question is asked on a particular chapter I will first right the paragraph which I have prepared and then write the main answer, which gives an impression that I have constructed the answer well.

7. Direct and Indirect Tax: Latest amendments and case laws should be given priority for revising on the day before exams. In my Direct Tax paper, except for the question on computation of tax (20 marks), each and every question contained latest amendment and case law. Sometimes people may not be so lucky to get so much weightage in latest amendments, but still on an average this is allotted around 40 marks.

I have not touched on the topic of which chapters to study in this article as many people are aware of that through websites such as or groups such as costing by Parag Gupta in yahoo groups from where I have gained substantial knowledge.

Last but not the least, the best way of learning is?? Answer: Teaching someone. You may feel that it does only little good to the other person but at the same time wastes your own time. But let me tell you if both do it sincerely, you learn at least 3 times more than the other person, what you teach. (Most important). Try it 2-3 times and you will love it the next time.

The tips given above are illustrative and not exhaustive. In fact, I might have even missed few important techniques of answering the paper. However, this article was made by me, to put forth especially one point, that there are many more things to be considered while preparing for CA examinations rather than just studying hard for months before the exam. If you feel any of the above suggestions are of little help, please pass it on!!

For any suggestions, queries or improvements email me

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(Chartered Accountant)
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