Answer by Anjali Bansod:
I don't know whether I am qualified enough to answer this question because i'm a work in progress and haven't given my final CA exam. My attempt is not yet due.
However, I can tell you about my experience till now,
After 10th, I decided to take commerce and being from Mumbai, I went to NM College of Commerce and Economics where almost 80% of the students aim to do CA. 11th and 12th was a good time, studies were fine, not too hectic, it was typical college life where the most important thing you have to do is chill with friends.
After 12th, when the CPT exam (entrance) was just 3 months away, life became very busy. For CPT, there are 4 subjects which you have to test for, those being Accounts, Law, Economics and Quantitative Analysis. A 200 marks exam in which you have to score a 100 to be eligible to proceed. My social life reduced considerably as I had classes for almost 8 to 9 hours a day where the teachers rushed to finish the portion so missing any class meant being blank for the entire topic, something which i was very uncomfortable with at that time. Suddenly all I was doing was running around to attend classes, xeroxing notes, doing previous papers barely getting any time to do anything else. That was the first CA exam I was giving and I didn't want to fail.
Once CPT was done, I had managed to do considerably fine in it, I entered FYBCom in NM and joined classes for IPCC (Inter Exam). For the first time I actually felt the brunt of the rat race. I didn't have any time at all for anything, I had college at 7am in the morning and then class from 12 noon till evening. It would be late evening by the time I reached home and I would be too exhausted to do anything after attending college and then 7 hours classes. I started losing touch with my old friends, they seemed to be having a great time in Arts and Engineering colleges and all I did was run around trying to fit everything in the day. I made some of the best friends during this time though. Being trapped in the same hectic routine as I was, we understood each other. Another thing common was that we had to give the IPCC exam which looked like a monster looming ahead of us slowly inching nearer and 9 months reduced to 6 and then to 4.
The 4 months before the IPCC exam are a blur. I have no clue what I did apart from studying. I remember going for walks in the evenings but other than that I stayed at home, fighting to finish 1 subject after another. IPCC is a 700 marks subjective exam which has 7 subjects and to clear that you have you have to score 40 marks in each and get an over all aggregate of 50% or above. IPCC has 2 groups of subjects, group 1 having Accounts, Law, Taxation and Costing&FM and group 2 has 3 which are Audit, IT&SM and Advanced Accountancy. If you get more than 60 in any subject, you get an exemption which means that if you fail, you don't have to repeat that paper in the next attempt. (Failing in a CA exam is quite common.) Since the overall passing percent ranges from 15% to 20% (20% being a very good result), failing happens to a lot of people.
After slogging and clearing the IPCC exam came the Articleship. Articleship is a 3 year long internship which you have to complete along with the Final CA exam. In this, you have to work under a qualified CA for 3 years. I started my articleship in Deloitte in the Audit Dept. Again, I was shocked by the rigid routine of work. I suddenly faced managers, deadlines, responsibilities, clients, office culture and politics. Having two and a half years till the final exam, studies took a break when office started. TYwas one board exam which i gave in the middle but in the midst of Dec Ending and March Ending clients, the exams just went by. Along with this, I experienced earning a stipend for the first time which gave rise to shopaholic tendencies. College at 7am and then rushing to office to get there at 11am sharp can be hectic but by now, if you are doing CA, you are pretty much used to having your days (and nights) packed with pending things to do.
Articleship is hard. No doubt about it. Firstly, its 3 year long and it never seems to end. Secondly, you don't get vacations like college so while all your other friends are enjoying all day long, you have to go to office and finish work-papers. The only vacations are the 3 day long weekends you get if you are lucky. If the deadline is near, you will work through weekends as well. Nonetheless, you get to learn, even though it might just be printing and xeroxing at first, the whole feel of office, the professional environment, the travelling when you have to go to various clients which might be located in parts of the city you have never heard of teaches you a lot. The workload increases as time passes.
Somewhere after the first year of your articleship is over start the Final CA classes, 8 subjects of 100 marks each, which include Accounts, Costing-OR, SFM, Audit, Direct Tax, Indirect Tax, ISCA and Law. The portion is an ocean compared to IPCC and then you are back to classes in the morning, office all day routine and by now you are so used to the hectic life that free time seems like a foreign concept to you.
I got some free time in the middle and after a some days, i hated it. Honestly, having nothing to do was weird.
This has been my journey pursuing CA till now, I have a long way to go yet, there were times when I hated it and wanted to quit, especially when it was 10 PM and I was still stuck in office having no clue when I would leave, or when it was a sunday and I had to wake up at 6 AM for classes, times like these will come, many times but its just part of the whole thing. They are unavoidable so I realized that I either had to accept it and learn to live around it or I would have a miserable time.
Another thing you learn when you reach Ca final is failing. The exam is such that anyone can fail. Absolutely anyone. Even if you've been a good scorer all your life, never having failed at anything, you might end up failing in Ca final. I failed my first attempt, it comes as a shock to you at first, because you've studied so hard and given up your life for 5 months and you've never studied so much for anything ever before. The magnitude of the portion itself is huge and you've got to know all the concepts extremely well and you've got to know every nook and corner of the portion (you never know what the institute might expect of you) and then you fail. Be it marginally or by a large margin, it hurts. Hurts like hell. Nothing is going to haunt you like the purple colour marksheet which says fail on your laptop screen. But you've got to get up, check for the amendments (you should buy the ICAI supplementary for that) and you've got to start studying again. There are about 3.5 months left and 8 subjects to study for. It's not like everyone fails, there people who clear everything in their first attempt (serious Wow to all those people) but there a lot more who struggle, give it more than once but eventually clear all of it.
Basically, you learn how to deal with failure. It makes you stronger as a person because once you've picked up yourself from It and gone and given the exam again, you've become like a 100 times more mature and mentally stronger than what you were before.
CA is tough, not only in terms of exams and portion, its a way of life that you have to adopt and hopefully it will be worth it.