This article is to help students who have enrolled for professional course like CA, CS and CMA.
Many students face difficulties while planning for professional exams and I am sharing my experience which I have gained over past few years. Also, I have highlighted the common errors that student commit while planning.
General Preparation Time :
CS Professional : 2.5 months
CA finals :4 to 5 months
To be very honest, this is the standard time required for preparation for the professional exams and a person would not need more than this if the study is PLANNED PROPERLY.
Effective 10 - 12 hours a day should be enough in helping a student prepare for the exams.
FIRST READING IS THE BEST READING
The whole foundation for the exam preparation is laid by the first reading. First reading is the most time consuming and the most important part of the preparation, Hence the person must make sure he devotes the required time
1) This is from my experience that when I used to study , especially practical subjects, I used to highlight all the unique and new adjustments.
For Example say: I am solving Sums on Internal Reconstruction . If its my first reading I will go through all adjustments of all the sums , but at the same time will mark any new adjustment I come across which I dint face previously , thus indicating that this adjustment was first of its type. So the next time you open the book you can easily locate those unique adjustments. This helps in locating the important adjustments and one can plan accordingly during revision.
(Like the adjustments on Write offs are pretty common, so doing the same thing again and again doesn't add any value)
When it comes to preparing Theory subjects I always use to highlight the key words in the modules/Reference book, so that I can easily go through it during exam. During exams it is very difficult to revise the whole content once.
Alternatively, You could also prepare short notes during 1st reading which helps during Exam days
(Especially in CS exams where there is no gap between 2 Exams and time becomes a constraint)
2) Never set a strict Time frame for topics in 1st reading: Time Management is no doubt important but to set a very strict time frame for topics is not an Ideal way of studying during your 1st reading.
In 1st reading it is very important to explore the topics in depth (using the Highlight the unique adjustment technique as explained earlier)
What happens generally is a student sets time frame for a certain topic , but fails to complete it as planned.
The Negative impact of such technique is:
a) Student doesn't have a proper first reading of the content
b) Just for the sake of finishing the topic on time, you go through the content at a faster rate. To remember such topics become difficult in long run
c) In the Back of the mind the student always knows that he or she is not confident about the topic. (Psychological Effect)
You must understand that every topic or every subject which is part of the syllabus wouldn't be as easy as the other topic comparatively. So its very important to understand that setting a time frame in 1st reading may not be an appropriate way to prepare.
3) Trend Analysis with Pareto Analysis :You must have heard from your seniors that clearing CA is not just about hard work but also about smart work, which I believe very much. This applies not only to CA but also to CS and CMA. When I started preparing for my CS finals exams I had very few days left for the exams, but I always believed in the 80/20 rule. Students always believe that their exist a direct relationship between the no of hours studied and the mark scored in the exam, but its not always true.
How does trend analysis moves along with Pareto Analysis: Many believe that professional exams does not maintain a trend , but it is not true. Doing a Trend analysis doesn't mean that you skip a topic, but it is to arrange topics in such a way that not only your major syllabus gets covered but also you allot less time. Lets take few examples:
Example 1: In case of Financial Management, for CS-final students, there is a certain trend of asking questions from Capital Budgeting, Working Capital and Portfolio management more as compared to Derivatives and Forex, though the latter are difficult to understand compared to the Capital Budgeting, Working Cap etc. Even the content size is more compared to the Cap Budgeting, Working Cap and portfolio. If you closely look at the size, portfolio management is the smallest chapter but has a higher allocation of say roughly10-18 marks. Hence such topic needs to be covered first, followed by capital budgeting and Working Capital.
This does not mean that the other topics are to be skipped or the other topics are of lesser importance. It is just a strategy of preparing for the exams and sequencing the topics.
Hence by covering small size topics like portfolio you are left with only 2 big topics, thereby giving you ample of time to study that topics. I have come across many students who have started with big topics at first, thus by consuming more than necessary time and panicking at the end when they are left with 10-12 small topics.
Example 2: One of the vast subjects in CA final is Advanced Management Accounting. If you observe carefully, especially the Practice Manual, the content covered by Standard and marginal costing are around 45% of the total syllabus. If you see the trend it clearly shows that standard costing is not asked for more than 8-10 marks and marginal costing is asked for around 18 marks.
Hence it is always advisable to finish all other topics first, including OR, so as to cover 50% or more of the syllabus and left out with only 2 topics to cover. Many of the students fail to spot this and end up with a huge chunk of material to cover.
I always remember what Brian Tracy always said,
"One of the very worst uses of time is to do something very well that need not be done at all "
4) Revision During 1st Reading:
This is a vital part of preparation, which 80% of students don't apply and actually becomes a major problem during the 1st revision. During your main reading or solving, we come across many different concepts and the Brain cant remember 100%of everything. There is a great level of satisfaction when you understand the concept but you tend to forget those concepts quickly than you realize, which means that your Revision time ought to take more time than it should actually take.
In order to retain maximum of what you have learnt , you must schedule a revision on 2nd Day and the 8th Day after a New Topic has been prepared. Lets understand this with an Example:
Example: So if suppose today is 1st April and you start with Banking Regulation Act, so whatever you have studied (without setting time frame technique and in depth as explained above) you should have 1/2 an hour revision time allotted on 3rd April and 9th April. Similarly, concepts studied on 2nd April would have a revision scheduled on 4th April and 10th April. This technique helps in retaining more of what you have learnt in depth in your 1st study and helps you understanding the concept in a better way.
Please make sure that your revision schedule should only be of 1/2 an hr and the same should be done before starting with the new topic for that day. So in a day there would be 1 hr of revision followed by new topic preparation.
5) Maintaining Daily Time frame per subject:
In my continuous efforts to guide students and colleagues over this year, what I have observed is studying one subject for the whole day doesnt enable the mind to give its best in those 10-12 hours effective time. At the same time, there are people who do manage it well.. My view is that opting for 2 or 3 subjects in a day enables to get the best out of the individual and doesnt become MONOTONOUS. I have always been using a combination of one practical and one theory subject throughout my CS course and in CA IPCC as well. You should break the study session in sessions of 3 hours each in order to give your brain some time to rest.
When you follow the study pattern stated above, it becomes very easy to revise the content. Revision takes very less time than it takes for a person who did not have a planned strategy during his first read. This ensures that the whole schedule is not disturbed. If this pattern of first reading is followed, you need not even lay a time frame for revision, as the revision is done in smooth manner. Also this enables you to identify critical areas where you need to work more and preparing you for the SEMI FINAL i.e MOCK TEST
One of the most important tests which gives you the reality check of your preparation and the area you need to work on is mock test. I always have maintained 2 formulas in respect of Exam preparation,
1. Modules, PM and RTP is a must for all subjects
2. Mock Test
Mock test also helps you know the time management of 3 hours. Mostly mock test conducted by the institute or classes are designed in the way the real exam is and that too without breaks. It makes your preparation even better.
Few Important things apart from studies that needs to be taken care of :-
1. 7-8 Hours sleep is a must during your preparation. Any sacrifice in relation to sleep might affect your total performance, especially day before exam
2. Studying in night always doesnt help as it means that your normal schedule is changed.
3. People have a myth that only mental strength is needed to write exam, which is completely wrong. It is very important there is time for exercise, yoga etc during your daily routine. The time table is prepared taking into account everything.
4. Find that time in the dat when your senses are totally active and you can grasp very well. I was always comfortable during 7-10 in the morning and I used to be very fresh during that time.
This are the few psychological factors that matters and has helped many students in their preparation schedule. I am willing to discuss more on this and the other myths in my other article which I will be sharing with you all. I will also come up with detailed discussion on books and notes that are used and helpful as well as an article based on SELF STUDY.
Many students would think that the preparation time is very less or I am not smart enough to finish things in such a less time, But believe me its more than enough. There are students who have passed with 2 months of leave and there are students who have failed with 6 months of leave. It all depends on how well you prepare and not how much you slog. Always remember this line,
Everybody is born intelligent, But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, Then it will spend its whole life believing it is stupid
Thank you for reading.. Keep sharing and spread Knowledge
Contrasting Views are welcome.
BEST OF LUCK
AUTHORED BY VIGNESH IYER, a qualified company secretary who is passionate about guiding students and Teaching. Vignesh is an Expert with caclubindia.com and his area of expertise are Corp Fin, Direct Tax, Information Technology, Audit. He currently works with a C.A firm in Mumbai.