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May 2017

Survival of the smartest in CA Exam

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The Article is written by Vikas Maheshwari, a guest author of CA Rocks. You can reach him at: vikash.maheshwari381@gmail.com

Life is no less than a battle. We have to compete in what ever we do. Darwin’s law of “survival of the fittest” can now be replaced with “Survival of the smartest”. History has witnessed battles which has been won with sheer planning & optimum use of limited resources. Strength does not come from power, it comes from confidence in one’s ability.

Almost all the examinations are meant to be tough & are no less than a battle to test the caliber of the examinee. CA examination also is no different. It is one of the toughest examination no doubt, but then no good thing comes easily. You have to earn the degree. Years of hard work & sacrifice is behind every success and no success come easy.

I have faced failures & with each failure I have learnt something. A lesson not to repeat the mistake again. Strategies are made on one’s strength. One person may be good at something and the other may be in something else. One strategy may work for one person while the other may not. But the idea is to make one. In an examination like CA, one cannot predict anything. Papers may be out of the blue, marking may be strict, passing percentage might be low. But then these are external factors, you cannot do anything about it. And when you cannot do anything about it ,then why to waste time in speculating. What’s in your hand is to keep your mind uncluttered from all this and prepare with heart & soul.

I thought of compiling few of my strategies which worked brilliantly for me which might come handy for our fellow students. But please keep in mind this was based on my strength & to suit my taste. It maynot work for you. The idea is to get the thought process going. Everyone puts in a lot of hard work and prepares, but  few make it. Even if the passing percentage is 10%, that implies 90% of the students did not make it. Some would attribute this failure to luck, some would honestly admit for not putting in enough hard work. But with every attempt, you would lose 6 months of precious time & more than that you would lose self-confidence & belief. Therefore it is very- very important to give your best shot in your every attempt. You never know what the future holds. And am sure nobody wants to look back after 5 years and regret “I was so close, had I pushed my self a bit more..life would have been different..”

The strategies which I am going to share are very general & not very subject specific. It is not Final or IPCC specific too. Am not in touch with the syllabus, but like in accounts they say “Substance is more important than form”, strategies can be molded for finals or which ever stage depending on one’s strength.

I again remind my fellow students not to blindly follow any of these . Strategies do not guarantee success, however, it can increase the probability of success. But then keep this in mind “Hard work has no substitute”.

1. Keeping the mind uncluttered: It may sound pretty simple but trust me it is very tough thing to do. With so much negativity around, it is very challenging to keep the mind free from all the hassles. You must understand that mind has its own ability to retain and store things.It’s like a bucket.Once filled,it will over flow. You must free the space by flushing out unnecessary things which take up the space. A healthy mind works and memorizes things much quickly than a depressed one. Keep yourself away from negativity. Stop talking about people & just focus on exam.Donot listen to senti songs-a strict NO NO. You become what your mind thinks of.If you are successful in training your mind to be positive, half the battle is already won. I can understand life is not so rosy. There are thousands of challenges & problems. Financial problem, family problem, health issues  and the list is never-ending. I too faced them. But faith in almighty helped me over come each obstacle. Trust me when he will see you struggling but still fighting, he will give you all the strength.

2. Too many books spoils the preparation: I find it common amongst many students to follow multiple books and refer various authors. When I was a student, I also used to feel left out when I saw my friends talking about so & so author, this book, that book. I felt as if I was missing out & their preparation was rock solid. But this is not true. Take help of your seniors and ask them for suggestion on which book to follow. Once you have zeroed upon a book, do not change it & start following another unless and until you are not at all satisfied with it. Once you get familiar with one book, it gets hitched on your mind. Believe me when I was writing my IDT paper, I could literally open the book on my mind. The more you revise, the more it gets printed on your brain.

3. Practice & practice: There is absolutely no substitute for practice. You have to gets your hands on in the practical subjects. Accuracy & speed has to be maintained and this can only come from practice. Practice with a time, see how much time you actually take to solve a problem. Write down formulas and describe the notations & use proper units. Do not just end the answer with a figure. For instance if you are asked to calculate beta of a stock, there is no harm in defining what does Beta mean & then conclude your answer may be like this “The beta of Stock A is -0.1 which indicates an inverse relationship with the market. It implies that as the broader index moves in a particular direction, the stock price will move in the opposite direction as compared to the market. It is good to have such stock in the portfolio as it provides a good hedge against unseen losses.”  This gives the examiner a strong hint that this student has done his homework pretty well . This shows the advisor quality in you as many of you will be taking of funds manger roles in coming years.

4. One subject one week: This was more of a last month strategy. I never took tuitions for any theory subject. I believe it’s not so beneficial to take tuitions for every subject. Too much of spoon-feeding takes away the fighter spirit. However I always took guidance from my seniors & learnt from their experiences. During my PE2 ,I started studying Auditing in September and my examination was due in November. I had less time & too many things to cover. But I never panicked. Panicking never helps. On the contrary it takes away all the confidence. I got 20 terms of solved paper and studied 5 terms in one day. Along with that I studied Auditing standards and divided them equally so as to complete them in my stipulated time. When I studied Audit, I never thought of any other subject. This way my mind could concentrate 100% on Audit only. During examination, I made it a point to state the standards when ever required. Examiner will not know how much you know unless you show it.

5. Linking practical life boosts your chances of scoring higher than your peers. Keep an eye on the recent developments and use those when ever you can fit them. For instance if there is a question on Anti-dumping duty or safe guarding duty, do not forget to mention how government has recently imposed anti dumping duty on stainless steel. There is no harm in elaborating further on what led the government to take those measures. How fed policy is going to impact interest rates in India can be explained if there’s a question on Interest rate Parity, real life example adds weightage to your answers

6. RTPs are a must. You must not forget the basics. RTPs give a strong practice ground. Even though boring, you have to go through them because boredom is not an option. It is not at all necessary that if in one term there was no hint of any questions from RTP, the trend will hold true in the next too. You must be prepared 100%.

7. Keep testing your brain: Make short notes & list of formulas and keep referring them. Test your brain at odd times, may be while watching tv or while taking shower. This helps to keep your brain on its toes. And during the actual examination when your mind is under so much stress , it can easily recall those ,thanks to your odd recalling techniques.

8. Prepare for the big day: Without revision, it is almost impossible to remember everything. Prepare your notes in such a way that you can easily revise atleast 2-3 times a day before the actual exam. The more you revise, the more it gets imprinted on your brain. During your studying period itself highlight important things so that you can refer them a day before the actual exam. Proper revision of Amendments, case studies, formulas are a must.

9. Sound sleep: Brain is also a muscle. It needs proper rest. Do not stress it too much. 7-8 hours of sound sleep is a must to increase your productivity. I had read some where that 20 minutes of power nap works wonder & boosts the thinking capacity of the mind. Even big personalities like Winston Churchill,Thomas Edison, Ronald Reagan and the likes used to take a quick power nap from their busy schedule. Many students burn mid night oil and prefer to study in the night. May be because it’s peaceful and they can focus more. But I preferred morning hours. Mind is fresh and at peace. I would take regular breaks and sing a song to boost my morale and then get back to studies. I also made it a point to sleep for 20 minutes to recharge my brain. Following regular routine helps the mind to set the biological clock. Hence stick to one habit, either study at night or early in the morning but make sure to give proper rest to the brain.

10. Both groups at a time: I can understand for many it is quite stressful preparing for both the groups. Managing time is pretty difficult. But I never appeared in a single group. Reason was simple mathematical calculation. For instance if I was to appear for IPCC  and I was just giving one group at a time, I would have to score 50 marks on an average to pass in all the subjects, that meant 150 in each group…now if I appear in both the group..I can score 40 each in Group 1 that’s 160 and remaining 240 from the remaining…(you can do the permutation & combination but getting 40 in each subject)… This actually worked for me in PE2.

Gr 1 Acc-42,Law-46,Audit-78..Gr2 Cost-53,Tax-58,IT-51….this may sound a simple strategy…but do you see the cushion I got because of Audit…similarly, …we are not good in all the subjects, but then you have to target one subject at which you will be the best…you must aspire to get 70+ and that will catapult your chances of clearing.

11. Concise & precise: One blunder we all do is thinking volume is what matters. In this way we compromise with quality. During PE2, the girl who was sitting besides me took extra sheets in almost all the papers. This got me quite nervous. I thought to myself ,” I am not even able to fill the entire given sheet & there she is taking extra sheets “. But when results were declared, I purposefully checked her result too just to confirm if “quantity “ really over powered everything else. To my surprise, marks allotted to her were very nominal & she did not make it. You must understand CA examination is not any other B.com examination where marks is given on the weight of the paper. Quality of answer counts here. Be precise & keep your answers point to point. I mean if some one asks you “ What’s your name? “ do you simply state your name or reply back with “ My name is …my father’s name is … I live in …My hobbies are…I study in …”.I can understand you have prepared well and want to show it to the examiner.But please understand this, examiner has 100s of copies to check. He doesn’t have time to filter the information you have provided unless it is concise and to the point. Too much information may be detrimental to your marking. Keep the right blend.

12. Small things matter: It is always good to have list of good vocabularies in your armory. It gives an impression of a professional . But also keep in mind that vocabulary is to express & not to impress. A simple sentence “ Due to the current market condition and due to lots of uncertainty in the global market, RBI has decided not to change the interest rate but to help to stable the rupee since India will soon become a manufacturing hub.” Can be rephrased “Taking view of the recent volatility in the global markets, RBI has decided to refrain from further lowering the interest rates and focus more on stabilizing the exchange rates as India looks forward to become a manufacturing hub in the near future.” Although the essence of both the sentence is the same, the latter one looks more precise & professional.

13. Don’t forget the basics: I always made it a point to squeeze in the basics. For instance, in a question related to any accounting standard, I would make it a point to write one or two basic principles of accounting. If there was a question related to let’s say, Revenue recognition, after answering the given question,  I would not shy away from concluding that “ Prudence is a key accounting principle and we should not account for future gains but anticipated losses should be accounted for. It is at most important to show the true & fair picture of books & records and facilitate comparability.” Principles like materiality, Prudence ,Substance over form, matching principle and assumptions like going concern, consistency and accrual can be used like a golden spear and it definitely adds weightage to your answers. As we grow and learn we become more focused on complex things but examiner will surely appreciate your answers if you keep it simple & relate to basics.

14. Presentation matters: During my school days, my handwriting was pathetic. On report card day, my teacher would call my parents and complain on how unreadable my handwriting was and show a sample of my answer sheets. This would justify my low marks. I couldnot argue any further. I mean who would spend time figuring out if what I had written was “S” or “5”.During my vacation, I made it a point to practice hard and improve upon my writing. I would write essays. This helped me in two ways, my handwriting improved of course but this also helped me to stimulate my thinking process. Similarly, you must understand that the examiner has 1000s of copies to check. If you do not write clearly , he will mark it accordingly. You must think from an examiner’s point of view. He is also under a lot of stress, may be work related or other wise. If he is presented with cluttered and “all over the place “ answer sheet, he will not waste time reviewing it properly. So if you really wish your hard work does not go unnoticed, make it a point to write beautifully. You don’t have to be all flowery- flowery but keep it beautiful & most important- Readable.

15. 80-20 Principle: I can understand it is not possible to cover 100% of the syllabus. Here you must take calculated risk. Do not put in much effort in chapters which you know has very less probability of coming in exam. A quick read through should suffice just in case you are not left with any choice but to attempt the question. Here while preparing you can follow 80-20 principle.You can take judgmental calls. But in exam ,make sure you attempt 100% of the questions. Its pure mathematics. Imagine there are 2 students-A&B. Both appear for Accounting in CA final examination.Both have prepared well. Now in the examination , there are 5 questions of 20 marks each. Student A attempts 4 questions but with great accuracy & precision and answers best to his knowledge and student B attempts all 5 but his answers are average. Now as we all know that it is very very tough to score full marks in all the attempted questions even though if answered correctly. Examiner will seldom award full marks, there is always a room for improvement.This implies that even though Student A answered 4 questions to the best of his capacity, at max he would score 80,infact his score would always be less than 80 where as student B has probability of scoring more than 80 even if the examiner cuts marks marginally.I always made it a point to attempt 100%. My target was by the time I am done with the exams and sit to evaluate the papers, I should mark myself atleast out of 750+( For finals) and no less.

16. No discussion: Once done with a paper, refrain yourself from comparing your answer with your friends. I know you are all excited & anxious but this can adversely affect your upcoming exams.You have all the time in the world to compare & introspect the papers after the exams are over. Infact once the exams are over, you should revisit the papers and see what you could have done better and where you went wrong. How better you could have managed your time and attempted more.

17. Be positive: Again and again, I mention to keep your spirits high & motivate your self. Do not look for motivation out side. No one knows you better than you yourself. Trick your brain to be happy and that would reflect in your behavior. Doing CA requires a lot of hardship. I have myself  fallen into depression many a times. It is very difficult to keep your mood positive all the time but then one thing I understood, being sad & depressed does not help either. I would visualize the day I would pass the exam and dream about it day & night. This got into my system. I would write my heart out in a piece of paper and keep the burning desire on. We all have our own lives and circumstances, but all I would say is be positive & be a fighter, keep telling yourself “I am a winner”. Count your blessings and keep your morale up and stop burdening yourself with too much expecations.

I hope these few things would guide you in your preparation. But I repeat once again, hard work has no substitute. These strategies are like fancy designs of a high rise building but the foundation has to be strong . Never compromise on hard work. But have a goal in mind. It’s sometimes beneficial to think out of the box. 100s are referring to the same book, to the same author,taking classes from the same teacher, ask your self how can you do it differently.

Once again I wish you all the best for your preparations. If I could help you in any matter what’s so ever, do not hesitate to inbox me, I will try to the best of my capacity to guide you.

Stay positive, keep working hard!!

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