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Smart Planning for CA Exams with Planning Tool

Ashutosh Rathi 
on 07 March 2018


If you plan to go for a week long audit assignment, do you create an audit program?

Obviously!  You do it, right!

Now let's just compare the size, time and complexity of effort involved in Audit vs CA Exam. It's like comparing Lonavala vs Mount Everest, isn't it?

Students do plan their studies but most of the times all such plans are ad-hoc and has no scientific and logical basis. I will rephrase the famous quote by Benjamin Franklin - 'If you fail to plan 'right', you are planning to fail.'

Before I share 'the ideal' approach of planning your studies, I would like to thank CCI members for giving wonderful response for my last article - Get out of the Vicious Circle of Attempt and Failure. In that article, I have shared ideas for creating an adequate amount of time needed for the right amount of preparation. Once you create adequate time for preparation, the next step is to plan your studies in the smartest way.

The objective of planning is to optimize the investment of your scarce resource (time) across the study content in an optimal manner with a clear objective to maximize your marks.

Planning strategy differs for the ones going for the first attempt and the ones who go for repeat attempts. This article is for the ones who are going for the repeat attempt.

I have shared the Planning Tool towards the end of the article but download it only once you have understood the process of smart planning given below.

Step 1: Time assessment - what is your supply?

Determine the total no. of hours that you have for your studies. Broadly, divide the total time for

  • Plugging the gaps in your past preparation of the subject
  • Revisions
  • Paper Solving - Solve minimum 3-5 papers for each subject (your mind will resist paper solving but nothing beats this game changer strategy)

For time quantification, one should be realistic in the quantification of effective hours available for studies. Kindly make buffer to accommodate unplanned work, emergencies and recreation.

Step 2: Being completely aware that your preparation should plug the gaps

  • This is the most important awareness that one should have before he or she kicks off the planning process.
  • The biggest mistake that one does while preparing for the subject is to start the preparation in the same sequence just like he or she did in an earlier attempt. This mistake is exactly what Albert Einstein meant when he said - 'Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results'
  • For example, consider a CA Final student who prepared in earlier attempt the initial chapters of Corporate Law like Directors, Managerial Remuneration, Board Meetings, etc. in proper manner but did not prepare sufficiently for Allied Laws or later chapters of Corporate Law like Compromises, Arrangements & Amalgamations, Producer Companies, Winding up, etc.
  • Now logically think that in order to plug the gap of weak preparation of earlier attempt, what should be the sequence strategy of the student for preparation of Corporate Law?
  • Just because Directors & Managerial Remuneration are important chapters does not mean that student should necessarily start with them and invest majority of precious time in it. The common problem is that initial 70%-80% of student's time is invested in strengthening the same thing that they are very good which hardly leaves any time for plugging the gap of weak preparation. This is why result's in each attempt of many students does not show significant improvement.
  • Ideally, student should be aware that these important chapters are only worth revising and he or she should focus first on investing on topics where the preparation is weak and then revising the stronger topics.

Step 3: Steps to identify the gaps in the preparation of each subject

  • Firstly list down all the chapters in an excel sheet (create subject-wise sheets)
  • To determine importance & priority, mark ABCD on the basis of weightage (take from PM / Scanner)
  • Write down your comfort level in the chapter based on your earlier preparation
  • If you feel your comfort is 80% & above, then you need to only revise the subject
  • If you feel your comfort is lesser than 80%, then go through the chapter and identify why your gut / mind is giving score of less than 80% and make remarks in the remarks column.Take your book, skim through it and write down the gaps you observe. There may be certain topics within the chapter or certain type of problems that you find difficult. Identify them.

Step 4: Estimation of time-based on CSSI - Comfort, Size, Speed & Importance

  • Now based on four factors -i.e. your comfort for the chapter, size of the chapter, your own speed and the importance of the chapter - you need to allocate the time to the chapter.

Step 5: Determine total hours and crash the hours, if needed

  • Now, compile the total hours required for each subject and compare the supply you have for your preparation.
  • If you see demand is more than the supply, then either
    • Crash the hours wherever you can see the possibility for crashing in order to match demand and supply
    • Increase the supply of hours (you can get ideas for this from my earlier article)   

Step 6: Create weekly targets

Based on hours available in the week, create a target and ensure that you accomplish it anyhow. For example if you have 60 hours in a week, then complete 60 hours of studies as per your planner. Once you start executing the plan, you will discover your realistic speed. Update your planner with revised time estimates.

Sticking to the Plan

Most of the students find real challenge in sticking/executing the plan they create. There are two essentials for executing your plan.

First is to create realistic plan. Make buffer to accommodate ineffective days, unplanned work, emergencies and recreation.

Second is to have an extra-ordinary commitment and craziness towards your studies. These qualities are intangibles but let me give you a glimpse of how these qualities can be reflected in real life.

For example; if you decide to complete a chapter in 2 hours. In that case, make a promise to yourself that you won't get up from the study place unless you complete the chapter. Take a timer / stopwatch and race against time to accomplish your target. You need to have unflinching focus in your studies.

Switch off your mobile phone for the entire day. Inform everyone around that no one can disturb you in your study time. Don't give any reason to the mind to get distracted.

Here is my call to every student.

Make yourself very clear that nothing should come between you and your goal of becoming the Chartered Accountant.

Kill all the distractions from your life. This is your time to perform and every minute matters. 

Be a legendary student who brings the focus of every cell of the body and every breath of his or her life towards only one goal - to be 'The Chartered Accountant'.

Note that if you are just preparing to clear the exams, then you have very less chance to clear it. The best strategy is to aim for exemption in every theory subject and 70+ in every practical subject. If you are giving both the groups then get the mark sheet of AIR 1, replace your name and then make those scores as your undisputed goal.

This strategy emerges from the quote - "The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark" - Michelangelo

How much time the planning process will it take and is it worth the effort?

Each subject shall take around 60-90 minutes of time to carve out your optimal time investment strategy for right preparation & marks optimization. There cannot be 'one size that fits all' planning strategy because each student has different gaps in each subject.

This approach of smart planning shall save you from hundreds of hours that you would otherwise land up investing at wrong places.

The Planning Tool

This tool is a comprehensive planning tool. It has worksheet for each subject with list of all the chapters. The tool integrates all the dimensions of planning that has been stated in this article. Use it and give a superb shape to your studies and create success in exams. 

Click on the links below for downloading the Planner

Wish you all the very best for your preparations.

The author of this article is CA Ashutosh Rathi and creator of IGNITE - a comprehensive mentoring program for CA IPCC & Final Students. He can be reached at ignite@ashutoshrathi.com


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