Sanat Biswal

As 2015 Diwali memories have clinched to our memory storehouse and with CA exams being recently concluded a few weeks back, I ponder over how tough it must have been for the guys who were battling it out in the examination hall defying all odds when others were busy celebrating, including me. Amidst all these, it’s incredible to see the commitment and dedication shown by them. I can empathize how it must have felt to miss such an occasion of joy and celebration with friends and relatives which comes once in a year, as I myself have missed such occasions for several years for the same reason. But, it is for these aspects of pursuing CA and like professional courses, which makes it a tough course and thus not all have the courage to go for it. It not only tests us academically, but also how firm is our determination to succeed in these circumstances, that imbibes a strong character in us.

After toiling hard for several months at a stretch and going through an intense and rigorous routine, it all boils down to the 3 hours in the exam hall that decides the fate of the efforts put behind it. While some get through it convincingly, others fail to do so and have to go through the same rigors of life once again for the next attempt. So, the question that needs to be addressed is what should be the approach of the 3 hours in the exam, which can decide our fate that can be the difference between a PASS or a FAIL.

In this piece I will discuss about some aspects about it based purely on my experience and hope to create a difference next time you face such an ordeal in your life.

  • First of all, it is really essential for one to have a positive mindset before the exams and appear for the exams being optimistic about the chances, no matter how the preparation has been. It is easy to say this not being on the receiving end, as the one who has been through the exams knows how tough it is to keep ones cool and remain calm during that time period. But, if you are not optimistic about your chances, how can you expect the same from ICAI.
  • Appear for the preparatory exams prior to the main exam and simulate the same kind of scenario as during exams and practice as many past exam papers as possible to improve your chances. Take the aid of sample papers or register for the tests conducted by various institutes online giving due stress to the availability of time. One can practice 2 sets of q’s everyday ideally, for at least a week before the exams and if you can cover a minimum of 2 papers for each subject, that would help immensely during the main exam and it helps on various aspects as follows:-

a. It helps to build your confidence and prepares you on how to deal with anxiety and nervousness in the exams. This is really vital, as being nervous is natural, but it can hamper your performance in the exams if you don’t remain calm. Although it is impossible to avoid being nervous no matter how good your preparation is, but you can definitely control it for a better outcome.

b. It helps you assess your performance before the exams and makes you aware of how well you fare during these exams and thus gives an idea of your chances in the main exam.

c. It helps you to make a strategy on which q’s to deal first in the exams and how to attend to all the q’s in the allotted time. It also helps you to set a benchmark of your performance and it definitely improves the no. of q’s which you attempted with each successive performance in these tests.

d. It also helps to improve your writing speed with precision and accuracy which is crucial for success in CA exams. You get to adjust your speed according to your strengths and weaknesses.

e. Most important is that it definitely has no disadvantages and makes you better prepared for the ultimate test.

  • Once you are in the exam hall, it’s better to try not to talk with anyone before exam begins, and instead keep your focus on the exam you are about to face. You can just close your eyes and just think about, “How had you toiled hard to prepare for the exams”. Just think of why are you doing all this and what did you miss in life before, for this. This in turn would give you the strength to put in best efforts and the very purpose of why you are facing such an exam.
  • The 15 mins prior to the exam must be used judiciously and should be planned well ahead in advance. One can just go through all the q’s in that time at a glance and can sort out the q’s to attempt and set the priority of such q’s. In order to identify such q’s, just use some sort of mark in the q’s paper itself, like a dot or a tick or a circle etc. This reduces your effort to search for the q’s once again when the exam begins and thus helps save time in the process. We all know that even a few mins saved can be the difference between a 39 and 40, or 50 as the case maybe.

Note: Though ICAI doesn’t encourage any use of such type of symbols, but when it comes to exams, we can do every bit possible to give a best possible attempt. But, keep it away from sight of the proctor.

While marking the q’s in the 15 mins time prior to the start of exams, make sure that you have decided properly which q’s to attempt. Don’t change your mind during the exam and thus divert from your original selections. This can create confusion and there are chances you may miss any q’s without being aware of it.

  • The moment you receive the paper from the proctor, you should focus on the paper in hand and avoid any sort of distractions that may happen during the allotted time. It becomes imperative for a proper attempt in the exam to keep yourself focused on the task in hand and not let anything get your attention. Start writing even before the clock starts ticking and make sure you utilize the full exam time properly.

Remember nobody cares who does what inside the exam hall. The proctors will get their remuneration for their job and would snatch away the papers when the time is up. They wouldn’t give any time beyond that to let you write a few more lines which can be decisive of your chances to get through. Similarly other examinees around you wouldn’t care to know how did you do in the exam and would grin once they make it through and leave you to sit for another attempt.

Note: The bottom line of what I wanted to say to you is that, once you are in the exam hall, everyone sitting around you is your competitor and you don’t know anyone, it can even be your best friend. Make sure that you avoid any sort of eye contact with anyone apart from the paper in hand and remain ignorant of what’s happening around you. After all it’s those 3 hours for which you have worked so hard relentlessly which decides your fate.

  • After an exam is over, try to avoid any sort of discussion with anyone, be it friends or with any senior. The outcome of such discussions can be fatal from examination point of view and can be the major factor behind drop in your confidence and positive mindset for the rest of the exams. If your answers conflicts with other’s answers you tend to feel disappointed with yourself and feel low in confidence, even if your answer might be the right one. So, it’s better to avoid any such discussion and rather get yourself to focus on the next paper. I used to assess my performance in the exam that I had appeared and would try to reach at a score which I may achieve in that paper. In this way I would set the minimum score that I had to score for the next paper and thus would increase my efforts in the process to attain it. It has always helped me immensely during the exams.

Note: The above said process may have negative repercussions in some cases, as it all depends how you use such a thing and thus act on its outcome. So, if you are not sure about it during the exams it’s better to avoid it.

  • Below are some other aspects that I would like to share:-

a. Have a neat writing and make sure your answers are legible.

b. Mention the q’s number properly and clearly visible at the top of answer sheet and avoid using any half-written page of any answer to begin the next q’s in the same page.

c. Don’t begin a new q’s when you have completed, let’s say 2 sub questions of a particular q’s while more sub questions still remain unanswered. If this is not done, the evaluator may assume that you have left the 2 sub questions and may not take those into consideration while you may write it somewhere else.

d. Try to attempt for 100 marks, it’s simply because the more you attempt the more are your chances of scoring.

e. Write the exam giving due stress to the time for each q’s, don’t spend more time on a particular q’s than required and in the process try to attempt all the q’s by keeping a watch over the time available and time reqd. for a qs. This makes sure you don’t miss out any q’s. After all an attempt of 100 marks improperly has a better chance to improve your score than a proper attempt of 70 marks.

f. Always mention the working notes wherever applicable as these have a due weightage for marks along with the main answer. If your main answer is wrong, but your working notes are correct, then be assured to secure at least 50% of the total marks for that q’s. As far as the theory papers are concerned follow the practice manual approach, i.e. to state your answer point wise which is always helpful for evaluator to evaluate your paper. Mention relevant points to the q’s and avoid writing any vague answer. In case of law and audit paper, one must quote the relevant section number along with the provisions in the answer, however if you are not sure about the section number then it’s always better to avoid it as mentioning a wrong section number can give a bad impression to the paper evaluator and thus you would lose marks for it eventually.

  • Face all the exams and don’t leave any paper, due to the reason that any of the previous paper didn’t go as per your expectations or any other reason. You must not let any such thing deter yourself. Miracles can happen and who knows the worst paper can turn out to be the best one whose result was unexpected. If you don’t turn up for an exam midway you can’t claim any exemption of any paper and the worst part is it would be simply be a waste of an attempt and money. So, do make sure you turn up for all the exams and face it with a fighting spirit. Similarly stay in the exam hall for the full duration of the time allotted for the exam and try your best to hang on, write anything that you can recollect and remember but not leave the hall midway during the exam is in progress. Remember, “QUITTERS NEVER WIN AND WINNERS NEVER QUIT”.

I would like to share about what had happened with me during my IPCC exams. My law paper didn’t go well as per my expectations and I was worried about not clearing it although I kept my hopes alive and appeared for the remaining papers of the 1st group. I hoped for a mere 40. But, to my surprise I found a 60 in the mark sheet which was completely unexpected. Had I not given the rest of the papers, the consequences would have been worse. Similarly in the 2nd group, the most feared paper ITSM didn’t go well and I was worried to get even pass marks in it and I had to spend the rest of the time till the results in anxiety and being tensed. But, I scored 69 and it was my highest among the 3 papers of the 2nd group which was unexpected yet again. So, what I wanted to say is that never ever let go your hopes to get through no matter how tough the circumstances are.

I hope I could be of any service to you and would like hear from you about your opinions for the cause for which I have written this piece.

P.S. – I am a CA finalist and have developed a passion for blogging lately. You can reach me at sanat.witty@gmail.com.

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