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Preparing for Professional Examinations

(also relevant for any other examination)

While probing into the causes of poor performance of the students in the examinations, I have observed a few lacunae in the preparation styles and methods.

�Study for knowledge?� or �study for examinations?� is the most important aspect. I would not want to outright blame those who study for examinations. But studying �only� for examinations is a disastrous approach! The fact is that both are equally important.

At the initial stage of preparation, which I call �casual study�, studying for knowledge is very essential. This is the time when the mind should be kept open and you should keep exploring. All the research work, be it from reference books or from the internet, must be done at this stage itself to ensure that you have understood the concepts and logic of what you are studying. Keep questioning yourself until you are absolutely clear on the topic. For instance, you are studying �Time Value of Money� � do all your homework on what is time value of money, why is it important, what are its ingredients, what are the various methods of considering time value of time, which method is most logical, how are the computations done, how are the formulas derived, what are its practical applications, rather than just learning how to compute present value and mugging up the formula. Another example, while studying �Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act� gather all information on when were the amendments made, whether you are updated with the latest amendments, what the pecuniary limits involved in the Act, what are the relevant landmark judgments. Do all kind of �what-if� analysis at this stage. Gather all the resources.

This is lacking in 90% of the students. Usually, this stage of studying is either totally missing, or from the very beginning, students have an examination approach towards studying. Solving scanner, studying from guideline/suggested answers, studying only what is taught at coaching classes, all these things make the mind dull and kill power of expression at examination.

I acknowledge the fact that at the revision stage, you would not have time to recapitulate all that you had researched, but believe me, you will find your assimilation and expression skills of the topic enhanced multifold because of the initial effort that you had put in.

The second stage of studying, which is usually called �routine study�, as I mentioned above, is often the first stage of the studying for majority candidates. However, this is the time when you must start organizing and planning your studies. From the resources gathered and insight gained from stage one, you will be at a much better position to decide what to study, how to study and from where to study. Chalk out your study plan and strategies. Identify your areas of strengths and weaknesses and according assign weightage to the subjects/topics. At this stage, studying for examinations becomes equally important. Find out the level of knowledge expected in the examination in different topics. For this purpose, firstly, refer to the syllabus mentioned in the Study Material of the Institute. It clearly mentions whether basic, working or expert knowledge is expected for the subject. You may then move on to your calculations with the past papers trends. [However, this is not a suggested tool as professional examination papers seldom have any trend and sudden diversion from trend is also common.]

In a nutshell, design your study system at this stage. A very significant piece of advice at this point is that do not leave away any topic in its entirety (unless it is outdated and redundant); get a basic idea of all topics so that you are in a position to write at least something about it, if asked for.

Also, make your own concise notes for complicated topics incorporating all the information gathered. [You would not get time for this later and all the research work would be in vain!]

Stage three is time for �serious study� and memorizing. The emphasis shifts more towards the examination style of studying. Since you are to appear for examination (and CA and CS examinations are not open book examinations!), just knowing the source information, unlike Einstein�s famous saying, would not solve the purpose. You must invest time in retaining things in your memory. It is commonly seen that while students study for the whole term, at the end, they find themselves in a mess when they discover that they have forgotten almost 40% of what was read earlier. This creates a strong negative effect on the morale of the students which often becomes a cause for failure. To help your memory help you, you must practise memorizing from stage two itself. Just like physical exercise keeps your body active, exercising your memory would help you optimally utilize its potential. [Remember every person has a same level of memory as any other, no more or less. It is just a matter of utilizing the same.] Use the famous �linking technique� for quick memorizing and long retention.

Also remember � out of sight, out of mind! Keep revising what you have read. [Ideally, the first revision should be within 24 hours of initial reading, the second within 1 week of initial reading, third within 1 month, fourth within 6 months and fifth within 1 year.] You must REVISE what you learnt atleast thrice before your final revision. Many of the readers must be frowning reading this � 3 revisions! I know that. I very well understand that every student, till the day of examination, feels that he/she has not been able to complete the syllabus, what say of revision! But that is what revision does; it is a part of completing the syllabus. Without revision, you will always keep forgetting things and you would never be able to complete the syllabus. I hope this takes your frown away.

Poor writing and presentation skills are yet another cause for fetching poor grades especially in theory papers. Thus, even students with fair knowledge and clarity of the subject fail to express themselves well in the answer sheets. Use of improper words, unnecessarily long sentences and paragraphs, lack of coherence and natural flow in the answers have been commonly observed. Hence, at this stage, you must also do at least some practice of answering in written.

In the last fortnight before exams, try not to study anything new unless it is something really important that you skipped. Remember, if you try to manage everything, you end up managing nothing.

In the final stage, i.e. during the exams, the most important advise is �do not panic�. It�s natural for the students to feel that he/she remembers not a single word [even I have had similar experiences], but this is �just a feeling� because of the tiredness that the mind has due to continued efforts put in over the past months. Relax and try to revise things quickly but calmly. Remember, you can never expect to revise each and every topic before the examination day. Trying to do so is putting yourself under undue pressure. Don�t let your morale go down unnecessarily.

These were a pieces of advice to my dear friends, out of my own experience and from observation of others. I would be glad if it helps any of the readers. If you find it useful, do shoot a mail to me at

I would write some other day on �Writing in the Professional Examinations�. Good Luck.

About the Author

Ankit Mathran, a Chartered Accountant and a Company Secretary, has made a respectable place for himself on the merit lists at all the levels of professional examinations he has appeared for. Accountancy and law being his strength and competency, he has always secured distinction in these subjects.

Ankit has been mentoring candidates for CA and CS examinations for the past two years. An eloquent speaker with an amicable personality, he makes the learning process interesting and easy. His explanation skills have always fetched him kudos amongst students and peers.

Being a meritorious student and a rank-holder during his academic life and being a mentor thereafter, Ankit has always been asked by friends and students as to what are factors that should be taken care of while preparing for professional examinations?

With this article Ankit wishes to share his view on �What is?� and �What should be?� the approach while preparing for professional examinations.

To know more about Mr. Ankit Mathran, visit

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