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How to Crack Chartered Accountancy (CA) Exam

 Rruchi Shrimalli

Chartered Accountancy is one of the most elite and most sought-after professions in the world. Chartered Accountants are the financial watchdogs of a company, and play an essential role in keeping it in sound health. CAs will always be in demand, whether you want to specialise in financing, taxation, corporate governance, risk management, or fulfill regulatory requirements on behalf of a company.

The prestigious Chartered Accountancy (CA) exam is conducted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI). There are three steps to clear the exam:

1.CPT (Common Proficiency Test), which serves as an entrance exam,
2.IPCC (Integrated Professional Competence Course) or the Intermediate Exam, and
3.CA Final Exam.

According to the latest ICAI results, the success rate for the CA finals exam has dropped by 2.45% - from 8.25% in May 2015 to 5.75% in November 2015. However, there is no upper age limit for taking admission in Chartered Accountancy course or clearing it. If you are academically qualified for it, you can become a CA at any age.

Besides, you are allowed ample number of attempts to crack the exam. You get:
*6 attempts to clear the CPT exam (initial registration is valid for three years, after which you can re-validate it for three more years);
*8 attempts to clear the IPCC exam (initial registration is valid for four years, after which you can re-validate it for four more years); and
*10 attempts to clear the CA Finals (initial registration is valid for five years, after which you can re-validate it for five more years).

Each year, you can attempt the CPT, IPCC or CA Final exam twice. CPT exams are conducted in June and December, while IPCC and Finals are conducted in May and November.

Here is a quick guide on how to clear these professional exams and become a CA:

How to clear CPT?

You can register for the CA course after Class X. The registrations remain open throughout the year. However, you can take your CPT exam only after clearing Class XII. Though you do not require good percentage to be able to take CPT exam, you still need a passing grade to be eligible for it.

The CPT exam has two papers – each worth 100 marks. The exam includes objective multiple-choice type questions.

*Paper 1 will include Basics of Accounting (worth 60 marks), and Mercantile Laws (worth 40 marks), and
*Paper 2 will include Economics (worth 50 marks), and Quantitative Aptitude (worth 50 marks).

There is negative marking in the exam to discourage guess work. Each incorrect answer carries a negative marking of 0.25.

To clear the exams, one will have to score at least 30% in all the four sections of the exam in one sitting, and obtain at least 50% marks in aggregate.

Recently, the CPT syllabus has been amended to include six subjects, and it is now called as the Foundation Course. Two new subjects that have been added are General English and Business Communication. It has also been proposed that the CPT exam will now have 60% MCQ-type questions and 40% subjective questions.

Quick Tips to clear CPT

*The 4 textbooks and the 30 model papers you get from the ICAI are enough for your preparation. Don’t waste your time looking for the best study material everywhere.
*In Accounting, practice is as important as theory. If you know your basics well, you should be able to get through it easily. Since it is the main subject for a CA aspirant, you should be more thorough in this subject.
*Mercentile Law is the most scoring subject after Accounts. Practice it well. Try to grab the concept as many questions in the exam are not asked directly from the book. You might want to focus on the Contract Act here.
*Economics is generally considered easier than other subjects. Try to complete the Macro Economics section first, as it is more scoring. Microeconomics will be easy for you if you have studied Economics in Class 12. Just practice your graphs well, and you should be good with it.
*Not everybody is good at Quantitative Aptitude. When it comes to Mathematics, remember some topics are easier than other. Try to complete them first. Most questions are from Class 10 level. If you are not good at Maths, you may skip over more complex topics like Calculus and Series.
*In Statistics, focus on Correlation, Regression, Differentiation and Integration, and Theoretical Distribution.
After you clear CPT, you can take admission in the IPCC course.

How to clear IPCC?

Graduates can appear directly for the IPCC exams, without having to clear the CPT exam first, if they fulfill the following conditions:
*Commerce graduates should have 50% or more marks in their qualifying exam,
*Non-commerce graduates without Mathematics should have 55% or more marks in their qualifying exam, and
*Non-commerce graduates with Mathematics should have 60% or more marks in their qualifying exam.

It usually takes nine months to prepare for IPCC (after clearing the CPT exam). The exam includes subjective questions on law, audit, tax etc. After clearing the IPCC exam, one has to serve as an intern under a practicing CA for three years (which is known as Articled Training) before applying for the final exams.

The IPCC has two groups: Group A and Group B. One can appear for exams of both the groups in the same session or take group exams in different sessions. One can start Articled Training after clearing the Group A exams, and can take Group B exams during or after the training period.

Group A includes four subjects – Accounting; Business Laws, Ethics and Communication; Cost Accounting and Financial Management; and Taxation. Group B includes three subjects – Advanced Accounting; Auditing and Assurance; and Information Technology and Strategic Management.

Quick Tips to clear IPCC Group A exam

*In Accounting, you should be conceptually very strong. You must understand how to apply the concepts you have learnt, and the formats of different statements.
*Ethics and Communication is easier and can easily fetch you more marks in less time.
*In Business Laws, try to differentiate between the content and logic behind each problem. Remember major acts like Companies Act 2013, Bonus Act, EPF Act etc. and their applications too.
*In Costing, theory is as important as solving problems. Also, learn to apply formulas correctly. If you are good at application of concepts, you will surely do well in Financial Management part too.
*In Taxation, flow charts can help you learn the concepts ore easily.
Quick Tips to clear IPCC Group B exam
*In Advanced Accounting, focus on topics like Partnership, Branch Accountants, and format-oriented topics like Bank Accounts, Electricity Company, Insurance Firm etc.

*In IT & SM, IT part is quite theoretical and needs frequent revisions. Flash cards may help you remember facts easily in this case. In SM, try linking concepts with real-life examples for clear understanding. Short answers with valuable points give you better shot at fetching more marks in this case.

*Auditing is quite easy - only if you know how to approach it. Read the objectives on Standards of Auditing first. Focus on topics like Vouching, Verification, Company Audit I & II, and the Special Audit. The presentation of your answers can make all the difference to your marks in this case.

According to the latest reports, the intermediate exam may have eight papers from now on. Business Laws, Communication, and Ethics papers may be replaced by a single paper called ‘Corporate Laws and other Laws’ which may be worth 100 marks. Cost Accounting may carry 100 marks (instead of 50 marks as per present practice). Business Economic Environment (worth 40 marks) may also be added to the Intermediate exam syllabus soon.

To clear the group exams of IPCC, one has to obtain at least 40% marks in each subject of the group, and 50% in aggregate (for one group or both the groups together) in one sitting.

How to clear CA Finals?

The final step to becoming a CA is to clear the CA Final Examination, which is considered one of the toughest and most rigorous exams in the world. It has two group exams, each having four papers:

*Group A has Financial Reporting, Strategic Financial Management, Advanced Auditing and Professional Ethics, and Corporate and Allied Laws.
*Group B has Advanced Management Accounting, Information Systems Control and Audit, Direct Tax Laws, and Indirect Tax Laws.

Quick Tips to clear IPCC Group B exam

*The ICAI President recently said that the CA exams will be tough from 2017. To clear the exam, you need to have strong conceptual knowledge along wth effective presentation skills. Usually, successful CA aspirants study for at least two hours daily during their training period, and for 14 to 16 hours when they are on leave.
*Avoid social media and mobile phones during exam preparation. Poor time management is one of the biggest reasons why most people fail in their CA exams. Plan your time wisely, and stick to your study schedule.
*In Law papers, it is extremely important to cite correct Sections and their provisions. If you are not sure about the Section Number, avoid writing it at all.
*Do solve the mock papers, and then compare your answers to the given solutions. This will help you hone your presentation skills.
*ICAI study material, revision test papers, and practice manuals should be your Gita, Quran or Bible. Use other books for reference - only when you need to clarify a point.
*Only you can decide whether you want to clear IPCC and CA finals group by group, or attempt both groups together.
*Hone your presentation skills. In practical problems, start your answer with Yes or No - only if you are 100% sure about it. Otherwise, first mention the relevant provisions, discuss them, and show how you reach a particular conclusion.

-In questions where you have to make distinctions, note down each point separately. For example:

I.Fixed charge is created in the specific property on the other hand floating charge is created on the class of property.
II.Fixed charge clutch the property whereas floating charge floats over the property.
*Use only blue or black pen to write your answers.
*Frame your answers first, and then start writing.

The other new subjects that may be added to the Intermediate exam syllabus are Financial and Capital Market Services, and International Taxation (worth 30 marks).

Other things you should know about

*CA examinations are conducted in all the major cities of India, as well as in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in UAE and in Kathmandu in Nepal.
*The article ship or training can only be done under Chartered Accountancy firms recognised by the ICAI. During the last year of article ship, a student may opt for industrial training for 9 to 12 months under the supervision of a CA who is working at a financial, commercial or industrial organisation.
*One has to do two 15-day mandatory courses on General Management and Communication Skills (GMCS) – one in first year of Articleship, and one after 18 months of the Articleship – to obtain membership of the society.
*Before appearing for the CA Finals, you also have to complete the Advanced Information Technology Training (ITT).

(The author is a career counsellor. Email:

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