A little heads up before we begin – I became a Chartered Accountant after clearing the May 2016 exams so I’m still fairly new and I know the most up-to-date system, so you don’t need to worry. Also, I opted to take coaching for this subject, which I think helped me a lot in being able to write this article.
- Practice Manual
- JB Gupta’s AMA and OR
- The most recent three RTPs
- Last four to six Mock Papers (Conducted by ICAI)
It is pretty straight-forward. All you have to do is study from these books. Now that you know what to refer to, let me briefly tell you how to sort it all out. This is the order in which I recommend you study.
1) AMA and OR by J.B. Gupta: I used this as a substitute for the study material. You don’t require it if you’ve taken coaching and have that book to refer from. Compared to the study material, this is definitely easier to read, it covers the entire portion, the theory is convenient to memorize and the sums cover a major portion of past examination questions. All in all, this is a comprehensive material that boosts the ability of the student to complete the portion well ahead of time.
2) Practice Manual: This is a standard for every CA student. It is necessary to be thorough with the practice Manual because, not only does it cover a major chunk of the portion, it also ensures that you present your answers the right way – with the correct steps and formulae.
3) Revision Test Papers: I would suggest getting at least three RTPs and using these as exams to test how good you are at the subject. Naturally you will be solving this a week or two before the exams. But make sure that you put in equal effort in correcting your own answers and learning from your mistakes because otherwise this is a pointless exercise.
4) Mocks: I used to solve many mock papers when I studied. I never went to the institute to write them but downloaded them from the website, printed them out to get a real exam feeling, set the clock to three hours and write the papers as though they were my final exam. I suggest you to do the same. Before correcting your own paper, give a half an hour gap between writing and correction. Also, be stingy with marks. As stingy as possible. This will help you prepare for the worst.
Compiler: This is the best book to follow to get as much practice as possible. Whatever you do or don’t do, make sure you have time to complete this. The trick is to treat it the way you would handle mocks and RTPs.
It is easy to understand what you are supposed to study from but very difficult to plan how to cover everything in 3 months. I’m going to help you do just that. But please note that this period doesn’t involve coaching for this subject but rather should be the plan after the initial coaching period. I’m only guiding the self study portion.
Let us have an aim of studying for a minimum of 10 – 12 hours per day. Even if you do wake up between 5 – 6 AM and start studying, ten hours is easily achievable and a definite must if you want to cover all four subjects. So, I am going to try and split it up for you into two parts for each of AMA and OR. Major and Minor.
The ‘Major’ part under AMA covers ‘CVP Analysis (Marginal Costing)’ and ‘Standard Costing’ while the ‘Major’ part under OR consists of ‘Transportation’, ‘Linear Programming’ and ‘Simulation’. The ‘Minor’ part covers the rest of the chapters. Please note that these are falling into the ‘Minor’ portion not because of lack of importance but because they are fairly less time consuming to study. In the Minor portion of AMA, chapters like ‘Transfer Pricing’ and ‘Developments in the business environment’ are all easy but important from examination point of view. Similarly, in OR, we need to focus on ‘PERT and CPM’.
My strategy was to leave Standard Costing in the ‘Major’ part of the AMA as it is far too time consuming for the marks it is allotted. However, if you are comfortable with it, by all means, go ahead.
Try to do the ‘Major’ part at the time of the day where you are the fastest. For me it’s early morning. Find your peak time and try to finish as many pages / concepts as possible for every chapter. For the ‘Minor’ part of the portion, make sure to complete 3 – 4 chapters a day. It ideally shouldn’t take more than 0.5 – 1 hour per chapter but you go at your own comfortable pace. Don’t leave a chapter midway. That will not ensure efficiency. Start a chapter only when you know you have the time to complete it.
Your target is to complete the Practice Manual and JB Gupta in 15 to 18 days. This is achievable even while studying for other subjects. But if you prefer to study only one subject at a time, and you want to allot 10 – 12 hours per day only for this subject, then give yourself a target of 8 – 10 days only. It is easily achievable because though the portion is vast, there are less types of concepts to worry about.
RTPs (3) and Mocks (4) – Together this will take a total of 2 – 3 days. Ideally it is a last minute check on your performance to evaluate how ready you are and what chapters you will need to quickly brush up on. Again, correcting your paper is a must. I can’t reiterate enough how vital this is.
Now comes the most important part. This is one that most students neglect or don’t really take all that seriously. A lot of you believe that as long as the answers are correct and that your effort goes into the preparation, how your answer looks on the final paper doesn’t really matter. Here are some dos and don’ts you need to follow to be able to successfully complete your paper.
1) AMA is completely a practical paper. It is a combination of concepts and formulae. To make it easier and more attractive for the person correcting your paper, underline the formulae in every solution.
2) Every lengthy solution should be presented structurally in a step-wise manner so as to be logical.
3) Direct theory is very scoring. This means definitions and straightforward answers. Try to answer any theoretical questions, if any, with clarity and in bullet points.
4) Use a scale and pencil to draw the formats and lines so that it adds a neat look to your exam paper. This specially applies to assignment and transportation sums from OR.
And finally, it is absolutely alright if you haven’t been able to clear in the first shot. I mentored a lot of students so far and one beautiful thing I’ve noticed is how they are able to put in more focus and effort by following these steps. Most of you only require a sense of direction and that is what I wanted to help provide. You know what hard work means, you know what Chartered Accountancy is about. All you are unsure of is how to approach it.
Change isn’t something that comes instantly. It’s a gradual process. But once you reach the top, there is no looking back. Give it time, be patient and just give the exams your best shot. I am not going to say ‘All the Best’. Instead, I am going to say, just do your best.