Interview with Nov'19 CA Final (New) AIR 1, Abhay Bajoria
The much-awaited results of CA Final November 2019 were declared by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India on January 16th, 2020. This time RANK I in the New course is shared by two candidates.
In an interview with Indigolearn, AIR-1 Abhay Bajoria of Kolkata talked about his preparation strategy.
Congratulations from the whole team of IndigoLearn on getting AIR-1.
Thank you so much!
Why did you choose CA?
It was not a constant retelling on my part that I wanted to become a CA. I have been good in academics from the very beginning. I remember when I was in Class X, we had to choose between Science and Commerce. Though I was personally in favor of Science, I was afraid that if I go for it, I will have to study 8-10 hours a day. That was the reason, I opted Commerce.
After Class XII, most of friends enrolled for CA CPT and so did I. My father was also from Commerce background pursuing CA, but he was not able to complete it due to some constraints. There was no pressure at all from my parents to pursue CA. I was totally my decision.
So how many hours did you study per day while preparing for CA?
It was a complete irony that I ended up studying 12-13 hours per day, which at times would stretch by 2-3 hours.
Had you taken up Science and joined some other course, you might not have had to study so much.
Do you think/suggest that students should study for at least 10-13 hours per day at all the levels of CA? Or does it differ for every level?
It is a gradual process. I have been receiving a lot of calls from students in class XI, XII and foundation levels asking me “what is your strategy?”, “How should I prepare for CA?”. I think it is too early for them to think so far.
I believe that even though the pressure begins from the Intermediate level, it is not that you have to study for 13-14 hours. Devoting 8-10 hours for a period of 2-3 months of self-study would be sufficient to clear the exams.
It is at the Final level, where we get 5 months of study leave which should be optimally utilized. Even in my case, the number of so-called hours of preparation did not start from day 1. It was a gradual process. Initially I started, with a target to study for 7-8 hours and later increased my pace to study for 12-13 hours.
I guess you also bagged a rank in Intermediate level.
Yes. I got AIR 16
Did you expect a rank at Intermediate level, or it came as a surprise to you?
Actually, I never had it in my mind that I need to get a rank. My only concern was to put my 110% efforts. I have always believed in CTC i.e., Control the Controllable. Because rank is a relative concept not an absolute one. It depends on performance of others which will not be in our hands. I feel my biggest competition is myself. Instead of focusing on rank, I thought of giving my 110% effort, so that there would be no regrets later.
After a rank in Inter, did you not plan for a rank in final?
No. Giving 110% efforts has always been my approach. I feel that if our approach is correct and we focus on it, the outcome will automatically come at some point. What is the point of worrying about outcome when it is not in our hands?
Where did you do your articleship?
In the first year I was in E&Y, later I took a transfer and joined Deepak & Satya Co associates.
Do you think articleship played an important role in this whole process of examinations?
Absolutely. Articleship plays a very crucial role. If we look at other courses like MBA, they only have a 1-2 months of internship. There is no other professional course like CA, where we get 2 to 3 years of practical exposure even before qualifying.
Lot people do not take articleship seriously and see it as burden as it is challenging. We have to take it seriously. The extent of practical and corporate exposure what we get in that period cannot not be achieved elsewhere.
It was a roller coaster ride for me. I had made a lot of mistakes during my articleship and also had moments of recognition for my work as well.
Can you run us through the journey of your approach, coaching and preparation for examinations?
I started my tuitions just after my 1st year of articleship with E&Y starting with SFM. The only thing I had in mind was to complete all the classes before my study leave begins. It is very important that you do self-study during that time That is something which differentiates you from others. Basically, I got 4 and a half months of time for your study leave. I have taken tuition for 4 subjects and apart from that, for IDT and Law I have seen YouTube classes.
So, you took classes for 4 subjects and for other 4 subjects it was self- study.
Yeah, Kind of. I had taken YouTube classes for certain topics which I found difficult to understand and for others I prepared on my own.
What do you think is better, online classes or physical classes in terms of understanding and preparation?
It differs from individual to individual. I personally believe online / pen drive classes are more helpful. For physical classes you will have to devote 1-2 hrs of time in travelling itself and if you miss classes like in my case due to outstation audit, you will end up missing some concepts.
That is not the case with online / pen-drive classes. We have the option to watch the classes whenever we have time, at our own place and pace. Even they have pros and cons. Some believe that they do not have that self-control to prepare and cannot do without formal environment, which is an individual call.
So, what was your favourite subject and which subject did you find difficult?
FR, SFM and Costing were my favourite subjects. Practical subjects have always been my strength, so I can say these three subjects were my cash cows. I invested less time and got maximum return from FR and SFM. Costing being new syllabus, I found ICAI study material to be really good.
Law and Auditing were a bit difficult for me, especially Audit. It was a nightmare for me. When I had completed my second revision of Audit, I was still unable to remember anything. When trying to solve a question, the suggested answer in the study material and what I thought would turn out to be completely different. Everyone suggested that the answer should be same as given in the institute material and it, kind of scared me. I as a person do not like to memorize, but try to understand in a conceptual and logical manner. So, I devoted my maximum time to these two subjects.
So, could you complete all your classes before study leave?
As I said, I took 4 classes which I completed before my study leave. And regarding the YouTube video classes, I finished them within the first month of my study leave.
How many revisions did you plan and could actually complete?
I had pre-decided that I should at least have 2-3 revisions for every subject. Devoting more time to those subjects which I found difficult rather than focusing on those which were already my strength. I had done 2-3 revisions for FR, SFM, whereas for Law and Audit I had done 4 revisions.
It is very important to realize our strengths and weaknesses so that we can focus more on our weakness. Because if we fail even in one subject, we will not clear the exams; it is important to realize in which subject we are prone to fail.
Did you write Mock tests?
No. I did not write any mock tests. But I have gone through all the MTP’s and RTP’s starting from May 2018. I was confident about my writing skills, so I did not go with the conventional way of sitting for 3 hours, writing mock exams. As I have not taken up ant mock test, it is not that other students should do the same. It differs from person to person. But I did go through questions in Law and Auditing. I would compare my answers with the suggested answers from ICAI and also track the time taken.
We get 1.8 minute for every mark, that means we get 9 minutes for a 5 marks question. Once you start writing an answer, it is difficult to control how much to write and would eventually end up unable to complete it. We should have that self-control for what to write and what not to, for that I practiced 4-5 questions in Law n and Auditing.
Whom do you think played an important role in mentoring you for your CA exams?
Both my parents are an inspiration for me and played an integral role in my journey. My father passed away before my CA inter examinations. Since then my mother played a very crucial role in my entire CA journey. She is my strength. Apart from them, my friend has also supported me.
How did you handle your personnel life, work stress and exam preparation?
I am into the habit of humming and love to sing a lot. So, whether I am working at office or studying at home I always used to hum. That was a stress buster for me. And, apart from that we also get used to the habit of going out for work daily during the period of our articleship. But when you are sitting at home, 4 -5 months preparing for examinations it would eventually affect your health.
So, for that, I used to walk for 15-20 minutes on my terrace every morning/evening. Apart from that, I am a huge cricket maniac and also am a movies buff. So, whenever I would get some time, I would watch movies or web series. That small break of 30 minutes or 1 hour will really refresh you. You would be sitting at home preparing, cutting yourself away from social media and friends which is not easy. It is important to give such small breaks to your mind so that it can work more effectively.
So, did you cut off yourself from social media or you just avoided them during those 4-5 months of preparation? How did you manage it?
I was completely into social media before. It was a conscious decision on my part to disassociate myself from Facebook. After articleship I left WhatsApp. But I was using Instagram for 15-20 minutes a day. I was highly disciplined while using social media because I knew that I would easily get distracted by it. So, I told my-self that I will have to isolate myself from all these distractions. But, I had a closed group of 3-4 people who were giving exams along with me and I used to be in contact only with them
If you must list down must do’s and must don’ts by students preparing for CA exam, what would they be?
Most important Do’s would be:
CA being such a dynamic course where the syllabus is huge, and things get tense people tend to get demotivated every now and then. It is bound to happen that you lose your confidence.
Don’t try to imitate anyone. If something works for me, it is not that it would work for others as well. You must do a SWOT analysis to analyze your strengths and weakness and plan accordingly.
It is very important. I have seen my peers opting selective studies. Especially at Final level I would recommend not to go for it. Don’t try to over analyze the paper. The only predictability about ICAI paper is its unpredictability. If there is a question of 20 marks which you don’t know, it will have an impact on the remaining questions that you are going to attempt during the 3 hours.
Most important Don’ts would be:
People start panicking too much especially during the last 2 months of preparation. They start taking a lot of pressure and lose balance. I believe that this is not a 100 meters sprint that you completely burnout yourself and will win. This is a marathon race, so maintain that balance and prepare accordingly. If you have a 5 months of study leave, during the first month itself try not to be too slow nor too fast, burning yourself out.
This is something which most of the students do not do. As I said, I used to take a walk for 15-20 minutes in morning/evening. Don’t neglect your health. Put your health first above all, as it plays a crucial role in your preparation.
So, what was your strategy for the 3hours & 15 minutes in the examination hall?
It is very important for everyone to see the exam is for 3 hours & 15 minutes. Those 15 minutes play a crucial role. I used to read all the questions excluding the compulsory one as that is something which you have to attempt regardless of what the question is. Out of the remaining 5 questions, I used to eliminate that question which I was least confident of. So, for first 10 odd minutes I would decide which question I was not going to attempt and the next 4-5 minutes on the first question which I was going to attempt. As we know, first impression is the best impression, we have to impress the examiner. So, I would mark the question which I was completely aware of and could score well by framing the first few lines of the answer.
In case of theoretical papers like Law, Audit, DT and IDT which have MCQ’s, I would ensure that I attempt MCQ’s first. We get 54 minutes to attempt MCQ. I would plan in a way to attempt those in the first 30-35 minutes so that I could get 15-20 minutes extra for attempting the descriptive part.
So, could you manage to complete the MCQ’s in those 30-35 minutes?
Yes. More or less, I could complete them within 35-40 minutes. What happened is, if I got struck at one or two questions, I used to leave them and try to solve them at the end. So, it is very important not to waste our time on the questions which we don’t know.
Are you done with your articleship? What is your plan after that?
No, my articleship would be over by March 31, 2020. I am also pursuing CFA. Level 3 exams are due in June,2020. Apart from that I am looking to get into Investment banking or Management consultancy. There is also YLT (Youth Leadership Programs) for high-level corporate management training at which I am looking into.
So, five years down the line I would like to do Executive MBA. It was always there in my wish list and I am definitely going to pursue it. In fact, I was confused even after I gave my Intermediate exam and got an AIR -16 whether to continue with CA or to go for CAT.
Thanks, Abhay for this wonderful conversation and all the very best for your future.
(The telephonic interview was conducted by CA Suraj Lakhotia ( AIR 1, 4, 2), Co-founder & Head of Content at IndigoLearn.com on January 29, 2020)