It is a tough nut to crack, by all accounts. If you think becoming a chartered accountant (CA) is all about earning big bucks in quick time, think again. On the other hand, if persistence is your middle name and you dont shy away from hard work, cracking the CA exams may just be up your street. To qualify as a CA, a student has to clear three stages of examinations conducted by the Delhi-based Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), the statutory body for the regulation of the profession in India. ICAI imparts education to CA students in the distance mode. The institute also provides comprehensive study material for all subjects along with contact classes and coaching facilities in its regional offices, branches and accredited institutions.
It is true that the CA syllabus is vast and the examinations are quite tough. But a focused approach will help a student to clear the CA exams, says Ved Kumar Jain, president, ICAI. A student should lay emphasis on application-oriented problems and case studies, he adds.
This year 25 per cent of the students cleared the CA finals compared to 21 per cent last year. But the good news is that you can take your time over the course and the examinations. You can sit for the papers over and over again till you clear them. So dont let the pass figures dishearten you.
The first stage is to enrol in ICAI so that you can clear the Common Proficiency Test (CPT) which gives you admission to the CA course. You can join the institute after Class X, but you can sit for CPT only after youve cleared the Class XII board exams.
Once you have joined ICAI, it will provide the course material to enable you to clear the CPT. So if you are intent on becoming a CA, you can join the institute as a Class XI student, and prepare for the CPT while you pursue Plus Two.
The CPT is a four-hour test with two sessions of two hours each. It carries 200 marks and comprises objective-type questions with negative marking for wrong answers. The exam is designed on the pattern of an entry-level test for any professional course, though the focus is on commerce and related subjects.
It is a test of four subjects — accounting, mercantile laws, general economics and quantitative aptitude, says Nehal Sequiera, career counsellor, YoungBuzz, a career advisory centre in Mumbai. Study regularly, both in a qualitative and quantitative manner, he says. It is important to make a comprehensive and detailed study plan.
Once a student clears the CPT, he or she has to enrol in the Professional Competence Course (PCC) which has to be complemented by three and a half years of practical training (articleship, with a firm of CAs) and 100 hours of information technology (IT) training. Networking, flow charts and the Internet are important topics in the IT exam. The final online examination has 200 objective questions for 300 marks.
The PCC has two sets of examination with three subjects each. A student can study and appear in the examination groupwise or, if he or she is really well prepared, appear for both the groups together.
While preparing for the PCC examination, a student should pay attention to key areas such as business ethics, business laws, auditing, business strategies, corporate governance, cost accounting, financial management, service tax, VAT and e-governance. Update yourself on the Finance Act and income tax laws. Topics such as liquidation of companies, partnership accounts and company accounts are important.
The study material provided by ICAI is your Bible. You have to also be updated on all subjects, including amendments to different laws, capital markets and taxes. Students can also buy textbooks on various subjects for further reference and guidance.
The last leg of the CA course is the final exam, which is held twice a year, in May and November. The CA final examination will test your knowledge of financial reporting, auditing and professional ethics, taxation, corporate laws, systems control, strategic finance and advanced management accountancy.
Subjects such as law may require thorough revisions to help you memorise different sections and provisions. A combination of study material, reference books and individual notes is beneficial, especially in subjects such as auditing.
Look at your study strategy. Wrong planning can be disastrous, says Sequiera. For instance, dont leave out any subjects — in CA, the subjects are all interlinked.
The ICAI helps you along the way, providing you with test papers, special Sunday tests and by sending material through the post to help you hone your skills. Students are also provided with revision test papers. Practising the study material provided by the institute benefits students. Dont skip any topic as the pattern of examination keeps changing, warns Amit Khandelwal, a qualified CA in Delhi.
Follow a disciplined approach to studying. Use a marker to highlight important topics as and when you study them for the first time. That way, when you read your text for the second time, you can concentrate only on the highlighted part.
Group study can be helpful too. Form a group of five or six people. Thus six friends can cover six subjects. Rotate them amongst yourselves, says Sequiera. Engage in group discussions. Subjects like tax and law can be tackled better this way.
Students often get nervous before the exams. If a candidate is well prepared, those last minute blues can be avoided. Destress yourself by incorporating activities that will refresh your mind. A crossword puzzle or sudoku can help you relax during stressful periods.
Students can also take guidance from the ICAIs Board of Studies by sending an email to email@example.com. The board provides a CD containing study material on various subjects. Joining accredited coaching centres can be of help too.
The low pass percentage of CA students is because of the rigorous standards expected by the institute. So a student should not look for any short cuts, says Khandelwal. Make sure you finish the entire course and then appear for the examinations, he suggests.