How to clear CA – Final Paper 7: Direct Tax Laws

Exams are always around the corner for aspiring Chartered Accountants, aren’t they? That’s why I thought I would share this post, tell you what I learnt through my journey and maybe help you find a way through the awful month of May / November.


A little heads up before we begin – I became a Chartered Accountant after clearing the May 2016 exams so though I’m still fairly new and I know the most up-to-date system, this article is for the students who are attempting their examinations under the old scheme.  Also, I opted to self-study for this subject, which I think helped me a lot in being able to write this article.


So, without further ado, let’s get into the plan, shall we?


How to clear your Direct Tax Laws paper:


Let’s divide this into three parts so that it’s clear and I can cover everything without confusing you. The first part is the REFERENCE MATERIAL, the second part is the TIME MANAGEMENT and the third part is the PAPER PRESENTATION. I believe that it is the combined implementation of these three that helps a student write the exam successfully.




Logically, it makes sense to me that since the suggested answers / answer key is coming from the institute, naturally so should the material you study from. This is what I tell everyone who ever asks me for advice about clearing not only this subject, but any subject. However, for DTL, it is difficult to refer to the study material because of how complex it is. Please note that I am not going to depend the basis of my plan on whether you went for coaching or not. Regardless of that, here are my suggestions:


  • Guides (More details below)
  • Practice Manual
  • The most recent two 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) Guides: This is the book that is going to give you the complete understanding about the subject. You will need to read theory, practice sums and memorize case laws from this book. So choose wisely. Some famous options are Vinod Gupta and TN Manoharan. I opted for the latter, simply because I found the structure better in the sense that there was more clarity within the content bifurcation. Other than these two, there is a third book ‘RCC for CA Final Direct Taxes’ by CA Ravi Chhawchharia that is really picking up these days. So you can use any of these three for your attempt.

2) Practice Manual: For DTL, the PM is very useful because of how in-depth and detailed this subject is. This book will help you focus more on the important questions and chapters once you are done reading the guide above. Don’t think that studying just the practice manual will get you through for sure. This book is ONLY for revision.

3) Revision Test Papers: I would suggest getting at least two 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 examination kind of feeling, set the alarm 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.


It is easy to understand what you are supposed to study from but very difficult to plan how to cover everything in 3 months, especially when there are other subjects to cover as well. I’m going to help you do just that. But please note that this period of three months should not involve coaching for this subject but rather should be the plan after the initial coaching period. I’m only guiding the self study portion. DTL is one of the larger and more time consuming subjects. Here is how you can try your best to cover as much as possible:

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 subjects.  So, I am going to try and split it up for you into two parts. Major and Minor.

The ‘Major’ part under DTL covers ‘PGBP’, ‘Capital Gains’, ‘Assessment Procedures’, ‘Collection and Recovery of taxes’ and ‘Company Assessment’ while 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.

My strategy was to create short notes as I was studying each chapter. The way I did this was to read a certain page or two, create a table, flowchart or even write in words the important part and then use it later just before the examination. The key here is to condense 50 pages of a chapter to 5 pages of short notes. Alternatively, buy a highlighter and highlight the keywords within the book itself.

Try to do the ‘Major’ part at the time of the day where your brain is completely awake! For me it’s early morning. Find your peak time and try to finish as many pages / concepts as possible for every chapter. 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 Guide 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, so don’t worry. Take a grace day or two if required.

RTPs (2) and Mocks (4) – Together this will take a total of 4 – 5 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. There is no use to solving a mock paper or an RTP if you don’t take the time to correct your papers.


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) DTL has both practical and theoretical components to it. Underline the sub-headings in every answer.

2) Use bullet points and split lengthy answers into paragraphs as much as is possible

3) Definitions are very scoring but also tricky to answer if you don’t remember keywords. Present those well.

4) Provide appropriate conclusions, workings and calculations within your answer sheet.

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.

So, that’s all I have for you today.
Coming up next is my tips for INDIRECT TAXATION.
I hope you have a wonderful day.

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