The key is to make up your mind at an early stage and stick to the plan. The fact that 80% of my classmates were up to choose engineering as their future merely due to peer pressure, none of them could answer the question of why pursue it. I wanted to stay away from the crowd and also the logic of less aspirants equals less competition, paved the way for my decision. I made up my mind to pursue Chartered Accountancy as a career.
Choosing a career is a life changing decision and I realized this fact very early in life. Watching my friends taking on careers in fields they don’t like or are not very good at made me want to decide for myself. Even if it meant changing school, leaving my buddies, I was up to choose Commerce in 11th grade. The initial plan was to complete school and then move to Delhi for studying CA. However, this was a phase in my life when information was limited and guidance was unavailable. When I look back today, I realize that I made the right call by not sticking to my initial plan.
You will have to make choices since a lot of options are available. I was struck with a lot of dilemmas and could not get any useful advice. Based on my experience, I am writing this piece to help young aspirants get an insight.
CA is a professional course affiliated by the Institute of Chartered Accounts of India (ICAI). I enrolled for the course once I passed my grade 10 exams. This is the earliest that ICAI allows enrollment. Once I was done with my 12th board exams, I started preparing for the entrance exam for CA i.e. Common Proficiency Test (CPT). This test is conducted twice a year (June and December) and consists of 200 objective questions carrying 1 mark each and 4 answers as choices. The paper is divided into 4 sections: Fundamentals of Accounting (60 marks), Mercantile Laws (40 marks), Economics (50 marks) and Quantitative Aptitude (50 marks). Every incorrect answer on the CPT exam carries a 0.25 negative mark. You are required to secure a minimum of 30 per cent marks in each Section and a minimum of 50 per cent marks in aggregate. The questions are based on fundamentals you have learned in 11th and 12th grade. However, even if you have a science background you can appear for the paper and also score, given you have prepared well. Only mercantile laws is a new concept here to which I had to dedicate some extra time.
Clearing CPT is a piece of cake for people who have clear fundamentals. However, if you have not opted for mathematics in grade 11th and 12th, you may find it a bit difficult to go through with the Quantitative aptitude sections. I would advise such people to devote extra time for this section.
Once I cleared my CPT, I registered for the next level i.e. Intermediate Professional Competence Course (IPCC). I was all set to move to Delhi for studying when destiny intervened and I got the opportunity to study at Shri Ram College of Commerce in Delhi University. Although, it was not the intended plan and it meant an additional 2 years to complete CA, I grabbed the opportunity.
ICAI guidelines provide that you can appear for IPCC 9 months after passing CPT. However, I had to delay 1 attempt of IPCC since semester exams in DU and papers in IPCC tend to clash in May. Apart from this, with a regular college I could not start with my articleship (training for CA). Thus, joining a regular college costs about 2 years in CA.But it’s all worth it if the college is top ranked in Asia.
Coming to IPCC, it is a more advance test consisting of 7 papers divided into 2 groups of 4 and 3 papers respectively. New concepts of tax, cost accounting and audit are introduced at this level. The papers are of 100 marks each and subjective in nature. You can appear for papers in 1 group at a time or both groups together, which is also a choice to be made. I opted for both groups since it gave an opportunity to obtain an All India Rank. More importantly it gave me enough time to enjoy my stay in college. Opting for single group does not give this opportunity. There are other benefits to opting both groups such as set-off of marks from 1 group to another. Some benefits are psychological in nature and they would be best understood when one reaches the stage of choosing the option. However, I would suggest that opt according to your level of preparation. If you are confident enough then definitely go for both groups.
Arrived November of 2013, one of the most crucial junctures in my life, where survival was the only way out. It tests both your mental and physical abilities. Eventually I came out, not with flying colors but satisfied. I had to appear for 12 papers (7 for CA and 5 for my graduation) in a span of 28 days. And once it was over, the compensation game began. College life is the only time where you can really develop as a person and get to know yourself and what you really want from life.
I never planned to join college and it would have been a big mistake as I said earlier. Had I not joined my college, I would have never known its importance. Not only for personality development but for career growth too your college plays an important role. CA is not a graduation programme and if you want to pursue a career in the corporate world, being a graduate is the candidate’s highest virtue. Anyone who wishes to enter in the corporate finance after CA, I recommend them to join a college and complete their graduation alongside CA. Regular college is always a better choice, but in case you don’t get a credit worthy college, do opt for a correspondence under-graduation course.
Being a part of a prestigious institution, I always had the choice to opt for a job after college with placements coming from reputed companies such as McKenzie, Bain, BCG, Deutsche Bank offering as high as 16 lacs CTC but my goal was set. If you want to grow, a job after college is never the end of the road. Later on, you will feel the need to have something extra in your basket which gives you an edge over peers. The only placement interview I appeared for in college was for the first company that came to hire articles for CA. It was one of the top 4 accounting firms in the world, EY (Ernst Young). Group discussions, interviews, hours of waiting and finally the results. I was selected. This was one of the perks being a part of a prestigious institution. This was a company that did not accept articles for CA who do not have an X-factor. Apparently, SRCC turned out to be this X-factor for me.
My goal had always been to enter the corporate finance world. With the brand name of EY behind my back, this goal seemed a lot easier to score. The choice of joining a big 4 company or a medium-sized firm for articleship is another choice. I suggest that if you want to enter in the corporate world try for a firm which is ranked as the top-20 in India. If your goal is to go for your own practicing firm, then you may choose differently.
Aritcleship is the period where you get to learn what a CA actually does and it provides you an opportunity to sharpen your skills. You have the leverage of committing mistakes and getting away with it so that you learn from them. A CA in true sense is prepared in this period only and currently I am experiencing this phase.
Final exams eligibility is after 2.5 yrs of articleship, 2 groups of 4 exams each constitute the finals. There is no new concept in this one as well, only expert knowledge is the focus you put into your dreams.
CA is not the end of the road. In order to grow you need to have an edge, an edge that is above the rest of your pals. The recommended options after CA is not necessarily a job but one can also opt for MBA and CFA. A lot of my colleagues have opted Company secretary also but it’s just another degree. There’s not much you can gain from being both a CA and a CS, but never forget that you can unleash your potential in any field you chose.
B.Com (H), Sriram College of Commerce
Articleship at EnY