How to crack CA exams: Topper reveals all
A second All India Ranker in the CA Final exam conducted in December 2011, Pawan Dilip Sarda, 21, has been an achiever all the way. Here, he tells us how he cracked the exam.
"If you want to achieve something that you have never before, you have to do something that you never did before."
Nagpur boy Pawan lives by this mantra and aced his exam by putting in 12 hours of study a day and revising 100 percent of the portions four times.
His track record prior to CA finals could give many a complex.
His achievements include: 8th Rank in PCC (May 2010), scored 98 out of 100 marks in Cost Accounting & Financial Management in PCC and 2nd Rank in CPT (June 2008) and AIR 6th Rank in CS Professional (Final) Exam (Dec 2010), 23rd Rank in CS Executive Exam (Dec 2009), 16th Rank in CS Foundation Exam (Dec 2008).
Pawan was also a brilliant student in school.
In class 12 (CBSE) he secured the first position in Vidarbha region (93.60 percent marks) and scored full marks in Mathematics.
In class 10, he obtained the second highest marks in India (98.20 percent marks), secured first position in Maharashtra and scored full marks in Mathematics, Science and Sanskrit.
He shares his success journey with Rozelle Laha.
Image: Pawan Sarda (middle) with his parents
My target was to complete at least four readings of each subject before the exams
Congratulations Pawan. What made you pick CA as a career option?
Thanks! My elder brother is a CA, and has been my inspiration right from beginning. I am also very inspired by my CA tutor Professor DG Sharma.
Tell us about your experience during articleship.
I have completed the required 3.5 years articleship at VK Surana & Co., Nagpur.
Doing an articleship sincerely did help a lot not only in developing technical understanding and conceptual clarity of the subjects we studied but also in building the confidence required to handle and sustain pressure situations and managing time effectively.
Did the alternate day schedule of CA exams work for you?
Yes, definitely the alternate day schedule helps a lot. If we have one complete day leave before the next paper we can plan the study really well.
For each paper I had made 20-hour plans so that the complete portion could be revised within the stipulated time.
So, what was your preparation strategy?
I had a single basic strategy -- to study 100 percent of the portion and solve 100 percent of the paper. The essential part was mental preparation.
Once you decide not to give up come-what-may, that determination and persistence takes you through. I planned studies well in advance.
My target was to complete at least four readings of each subject before the exams. I set a target to complete the first reading in two months time up to the end of August.
Next I completed the first revision by the end of September. In the first week of October we had Test Series at CAPS (coaching institute) which helped us a lot to find out where we stand and the areas which require special attention.
Next I tried to complete another reading (important areas) during the last 20 days before the exams. The exam days were the most crucial ones and I tried and went through the entire portion by following the 20-hour plans.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh
'Developing conceptual clarity is crucial for CA studies'
Is coaching important?
I took coaching for three practical subjects -- Accountancy, Financial Management & Costing.
For other subjects I had not taken any coaching. I feel that except for the practical subjects, self-study is the way to go. Even if you attend classes, you have to ultimately study the subjects on your own.
Do you advocate studying for long hours?
I planned my studies topic-wise. On an average I studied for 12 hours a day. I believe that if you want to achieve something that you have never before, you have to do something that you never did before.
Any tough subjects?
Initially, I found Indirect Taxes to be a challenging subject. So, I decided to tackle my fear in the best way I know -- face it, convert weakness into strength.
In the last 20 days just before the exams, I planned to study this subject daily for three hours. In the end I got tremendous confidence and scored the highest marks (86) in this subject!
CA programme is tough. Truth or myth?
It's not as difficult as it is perceived to be. It is all about holding your nerves.
One, who plays the mental game well, is the "king of the ring". It is very easy to give up but if you hold on and don't give up at the critical moment, success is bound to come.
If perceived in the right way CA exams can be enjoyed and success can be achieved.
If you do not study now, you will have to study later and that too a lot more under much more mental pressure." So give the best you can in the very first shot and challenge your limits instead of limiting your challenges.
What is your advice to future CA aspirants?
Take your articleship sincerely. A golden mantra is 'Plan your work and work your plan'.
Time management is the name of the game. Our Sir always said, try to understand everything and do not memorise anything. Developing conceptual clarity is a very crucial aspect of CA studies.