How I Passed CA Final Exams While Working at a Full Time Job at the age of 34

  • Can I pass my CA Final Exams while working a full-time job?
  • Yes, you can definitely pursue CA along with a full-time job. However, this is not easy in the absence of proper planning and right time management.
  • In fact: In this article, Rohit Singh shares the exact strategy he used to clear his CA Finals exams, CMA exams while working a full-time job.
  • Rohit is a qualified Chartered Accountant, Company Secretary, and a Cost Accountant. He has previously headed the GST Suvidha Provider (GSP) Business for Karvy Data Management Services Ltd.
  • Presently, he is the co-founder of TaxMarvel Consulting Services LLP, a niche consulting firm in GST, Corporate Laws, and Corporate Taxation.

How was my CA journey

I was always an average student in school. I wanted to pursue CA since my friends were doing the same.

Being a commerce student, I somehow believed the only path to success was becoming a Chartered Accountant or Company Secretary. I also had a phobia towards mathematics and never understood Algebra, Theorems, Geometry, etc.

To become a Chartered Accountant from ICAI, one needs to clear 3 levels:

  • CPT: Earlier it was known as CA Foundation Course. Math was one of the subjects. This level could be skipped if one a graduate.
  • IPCC: Second CA level exams. Earlier known as PE-2
  • CA Final: This is the last level. After qualifying CA Final one becomes a qualified Chartered Accountant.

There is also a mandatory three years of articles.

In 1998 when I was in class 12, CA Foundation course (CA Foundation was 1st level CA exam in the old CA course which has been replaced by CPT) had math as one of the compulsory papers.

Out of fear of math, I did not opt for CA - Foundation route for CA Course and decided to pursue CA after graduating.

Instead, I decided to pursue a Company Secretary course (CS) from ICSI. I cleared all the CS exams along with my graduation.

On graduating, I immediately enrolled in CA – Intermediate (equivalent to CA – IPCC as of today). I prepared for the exams and passed in Nov'04.

I completed my articles and started working as a Company Secretary in Kolkata.

Since I was already a qualified CS, I never felt the urgency to appear for CA Final exams (the last exam in the CA course consisting of Group 1 & Group 2) but at the bottom of my heart I always felt - Wish I could complete CA.

Days and years passed, I got married and shifted my base to Nagpur City.

I continued my corporate CS work and handled large amalgamations of listed entities etc.

Even though professionally the work was enriching but not completing CA always haunted me.

CA Final First attempt – Failed

I finally appeared for the CA Final Group 1 exams in May'10 but could not clear the exams.

Somehow, I scored 178/400 (200/400 is the min to clear) which acted as motivation.

I realized with a little more efforts I could clear Group 1.

In Sep'10 we were blessed with a baby girl. Life was amazing but hectic. CA went on hold

CA Final 2nd attempt – Cleared CA Final Group 1

Around April'12, my wife requested me to appear for CA Final exams again. I was reluctant to citing hectic office work, travel, and daughter growing up.

On her insistence, I filled the exams forms for CA Final in Nov'12.

Then started a very tough regime of juggling work, family, and studies. I always knew that managing studies for CA Final with full-time work will be nearly impossible. But I knew to achieve this, I had to do something impossible.

And the motivation was to have the two words CA before my name. After all, CA Rohit Kumar Singh will always sound sweet.

So I changed my routine, I started getting up at 4 am and studying till 7 am. Would go to the office and whatever time I used to get I studied on my laptop (Shhhhhh……without anyone knowing). After coming back I would again study from 10 pm till 1 am.

I had to rely on my books since I had no time for coaching classes.

I had broken down the entire syllabus into small targets. I had read somewhere - Failing to plan is planning to fail. I implemented this in the truest sense.

Each and every subject and topic was bifurcated and ABC Analysis was done. “A” being most important and “C” is the least important.

I also went through the questions of the past eight exams.

During that time, I also had to travel overseas for an assignment which got really tough on me and my planning. However, I used to carry my scanners and books to keep myself focused.

Since I had cleared the CS exams, I knew I could pass if I study smartly. I had to focus on my strengths and overcome my fears as well.

I gave CA Final Group 1 exams and I cleared it scoring 228/400.

CA Final 3rd attempt – Cleared Group 2 and Became a Qualified CA

I appeared for Group 2 in May'13 where I got 200/400.

I was in Patna, Bihar at my grandfather’s house when I checked the results on my mobile. The moment I saw 'PASS', I started crying, a feeling I shall cherish my entire life.

I was a Chartered Accountant at the age of 34.

How I Cleared CA Final Exams and CMA Exams While Working at a Full-Time Job

Many of us give up studies when we have to work full time. I could have been one of them as well but I chose otherwise.

In my personal opinion, it is not impossible to manage your job and studies both at the same time, provided you manage your time well. Yes, time management is the key.

I cleared CA at the age of 34 and CMA at 36 while working at a full-time job.

I have come across many semi-qualified professionals who are working full time and are struggling to appear for their exams, let alone passing their exams.

The real challenge is to pass CA Final exams or any professional exams while working full time and that is why I decided to pen my story along with tips and tools to help you crack CA or any other professional exams while working.

I have followed this for both the professional exams I passed - CA from ICAI and CMA. This even helped me to crack the Fellow of Insurance Institute of India. 

These are the exact steps you can take to clear your exams while working full time:

Develop a Positive Attitude

  • You may have appeared 'n' times for the same exam. Every last time that you appeared is history (unless you got exemption in any subject).
  • Your last failed marks sheet should be a stepping stone to success rather a reminder of your failure.
  • I changed all my email id passwords, social media passwords, other passwords to “I will succeed@1” or “I will pass this time”. This will remind you of your goals.
  • You may also write one of the above messages in a piece of paper and paste in a prominent place where you may see it often. This is to remind yourself - How beautiful tomorrow will be when you qualify professional exams.

 Make an isolated place for study (preferably wall facing)

  • You should have an isolated place to study which preferably facing the walls thus avoiding distractions.
  • You can also join a  library close by and study before/ after office.
  • Once you start studying daily at a fixed place that is facing the wall, your concentration level shall increase, which will result in better output.

 Plan your Studies

  • You should plan your studies well.
  • Professional Studies Syllabus is huge and time is always short.
  • Plan your theory and practical topics. Give importance to both.
  • Even in practical subjects like Costing, Financial Management or Accounting, we have 25 to 30 marks allotted for theory. Theory can help you sail through.

Utilise your flexible hours' facility

  • Some of the offices allow flexible timings. Choose to go to the office a little late/early so that you may save traffic time as well as study more effectively at home/office.
  • Trust me every minute saved will give more for study time.

Don’t miss the fun

  • You are not at a funeral! It is one life, so even in these stressful preparations have fun and stay cool.
  • It’s fine to go for an occasional movie, catching up with friends and family, or doing whatever makes you happy.
  • In short, keep taking small breaks while you prepare.

Identify your strengths

  • For me, the theory worked well, so it was my strength.
  • Work according to your strengths, not weaknesses.

Self-study/Joint Study is the key

  • One might take private coaching but unless you SELF-STUDY nothing works.
  • If you can’t take private classes (due to office timings, financial issues, or other issues), develop a routine of self-study or joint study (not more than 3 persons).
  • Nothing better than self-study/Joint Study.
  • It gives a chance for understanding a topic better.

Buy books, scanners, Revision Test Papers, etc well in advance

  • I studied from Institute study materials only and 1 reference book max 2 nothing more.
  • Since the time is so short, chances are you may not be able to cover everything.
  • Buy your copy of reference books, scanners, revision test papers in advance.
  • Go through the last 5 to 6 term question papers. This will help you understand the pattern and distribution of marks.

 Focus on Amendments and recent developments

  • Professional exams test your skills on recent amendments and current developments, amendments in the last 6 months are most important. Make notes of recent amendments.
  • Keep reading about amendments regularly do not wait until the last minute.
  • Focus on Budget amendments for direct tax along with its practical applications. This is where attending crash courses could help, saving a lot of your time.

Attend a crash course, if possible

  • If you get a chance to attend a ½ day crash course, this helps one to grab details in a short span of time.
  • If you have studied the subject, the crash course gives you an opportunity to revise everything in the shortest possible time.
  • Do it as the exams get closer thus making your revision easier.

Anytime Study on Smart Phone or Laptop/Desktop

  • I utilized my office hours by downloading Revision Test Papers, Module and previous examination solved papers on my laptop. Whenever I got the time, I would read the same. This way I was constantly in touch with my studies
  • This also gave me additional time at home for completing the syllabus.
  • Trust me this will keep you motivated and focused.

Make a list of subjects and their contents (Tool 1)

  • Use this attached file as a reference to develop a tool for a list of subjects and their contents.
  • Ideally making this in your own handwriting (rather than a computerized list) will help to make aware of the topics in the subjects.

Make an overall List as well as a list of daily topics to be covered (Tool 2)

  • Make an overall list of the whole syllabus (Tool 2A) and a daily routine for each topic (Tool 2B) for your study.
  • Break your month in week and week in a day. Also, break each day in hours.
  • Allocate topics for each hour. See if you are moving as per your plan.
  • Make small weekly goals.
  • Be realistic and make achievable targets.
  • Keep buffer for spillovers.
  • Your plans may not always click, you may have some unfinished topics, off days and days when you are not in the mood to study.
  • Nothing to worry or feel guilty of …. Take a break and again come back again.
  • But yes, additional topics are to be accommodated in the same balance routine.

Do an ABC analysis of subjects and their topics (Tool 1)

  • Thoroughly analyze the last 5 to 6 term papers will make you realize that always not the hard work but smart study will help you sail through any professional exams.
  • By this I mean that analyze the subject and topics and distribute it into A (Least time to cover for max marks), B (Medium time and medium coverage) and C (Maximum time for least marks).
  • Identify your A’s and target those in initial phases.
  • Try to cover B’s and cover scanner or 5 term papers for the topics in C’s.

This example will make it clear for you - In Indirect taxes for the final course – GST – 75 marks and Customs and FTP – 25 marks.

Computation of GST Liability shall cover 20 to 30% of 75 marks (i.e. 15-20 marks). This is done when we cover the theory of various topics. The effort taken will be comparatively less compared to other topics. Hence this may be categorized as A for ABC Analysis.

Even Demand and recovery, offenses and penalties, Advance Ruling and Appeals & revisions cover 10-30% (Which means 10 to 20 marks). It should not take more than 1/2 days to cover these aspects. Hence this should be classified as A for ABC Analysis.

Even in Financial Management, theory covers 30 to 40 marks. We often ignore theory.

If we cover theory (which is 15% of the subject and take approx 10% time) you cover 30 marks.

Even Quantitate Theory (QT) will get you 20-30 marks (which will take the other 20% time). So by spending 30 to 35% of the time, you expect to cover 50 to 60 marks. A similar analysis holds good for all subjects.

For subjects which are divided into 2 to 3 Sections – like Section I, Section II, etc, you should identify which section has the least time to cover but has more marks. Cover this first and go for rest later on.

Take a break from social media and other distractions

  • Social media like WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, snap chat and whatnot. They are BIG distractions.
  • They steal precious moments.
  • Come out of social media syndrome if you seriously wish to pass a professional exam.
  • Trust me social media fasting for 6 months will get you a professional qualification.
  • It worked for me and am sure it should work for everyone including you.

 Eat healthily and get enough sleep

  • Eat healthily and get yourself enough sleep (if you are working, I am sorry you may not get enough sleep).
  • By enough sleep, I mean 7-8 hours sleep (either at a single stretch or 2 counts of 5-6/2 hours-Night/Day).

 Power naps do help

  • Make a habit of taking a power nap of 15 minutes (2 times a day).
  • I have this skill to take a small power nap to refresh myself.

Revise, revise and revise

  • You should revise what you have covered.
  • Revision may be in form of the notes you made earlier, scribbling on the books/module or just highlighted a portion of your module (I used a highlighter to highlight important portions) to revise it later.
  • Allocate or keep separate time for revision.

 Writing Practice

  • Since I was working and out of writing practice, I used to solve as many questions as I could. Now that does not mean I solve all the questions by writing but at least 30% I tried solving.
  • Now Mock papers also try writing a few here and there.
  • You might not get the time to solve a lot of mock appears but at least one paper a subject could help. It gives us an idea of how well the exam day feel like.

 Do not try to mug up everything

  • Mugging never helps. It betrays your memory when you need it the most!
  • Understand and then retain, also you can use your own words but using technical words as mentioned in the study material is also important.

Make notes for Last Minute Revision (LMR)

  • Make your own notes and bullet pointers for exam day study.
  • Make sure to have your own notes for LMR. On the exam day revising your entire syllabus is not possible.
  • This will save you from panicking when you try to cover or revise everything in 10-12 hours.
  • Click pictures of notes or LMR on your mobile so that you may read it anytime.

Stop studying 2 hours before exams

  • I did not carry any book or notes or any other reading material when I left home for the examination center.
  • I have often seen everyone reading until the last minute of the commencement of exams. This might not help. This triggers panic and pressure. Oh, I could not cover that topic!, Oh I did not study that topic!, OMG.. he is reading that.. etc, etc.
  • The fact is if you could not study anything in last 2 months chances are you may not cover anything in 10 minutes.
  • Give a break to your mind.
  • Drink 2 glasses of water (It fills the brain with the oxygen it needs) and chill!!

The above worked for me and should work for you.

Tool – 1

Contents and ABC Analysis

Chapter No.ContentsWeightage by ICAIABC Analysis
Part – I – Goods and Services Tax75 marks
1Taxable event – Supply25% - 35%B
2Charge of GST
3Exemptions from GST
4Place of Supply
5Time of Supply
6Value of Supply
7Input Tax Credit
Not in syllabusComputation of GST Liability (based on all topics)20% - 30%A
8Registration10% - 30%B
9Tax Invoice, Credit and Debit Notes
10Accounts and Records
11Payment of Tax
14Job Work
15Electronic Commerce
16Liability to Pay Tax in Certain Cases
17Demands and Recovery10% - 25%A
18Offenses and Penalties
19Appeals and Revision
20Advance Ruling
21Constitutional Aspects & Introduction to GST5% - 10%C
22Assessment and Audit
23Inspection, Search, Seizure, and Arrest
24Miscellaneous Provisions
25Transitional Provisions
Part – II – Customs & FTP25 marks
26Levy of and Exemptions from Customs Duty20% - 40%B
27Types of Duty
28Classification of Imported and Export Goods
29Valuation under the Customs Act, 1962
30Importation, Exportation and Transportation of Goods40% - 70%C
32Duty Drawback
33Demand and Recovery
35Provisions Relating to Illegal Import, Illegal Export, Confiscation, Penalty & Allied Provisions
36Appeals and Revision
37Settlement Commission
38Advance Ruling
39Miscellaneous Provisions10% - 20%B
40Foreign Trade Policy


Tool -2A

Planned Study Tracker – Planned (For ones attending office) Group 2 Only

1.03.2018 to 10.03.2018Indirect TaxesCompleted/ Part - Completed/ Carry ForwardPractical to be covered as well
11.03.2018 to 17.03.2018Information Systems Control and AuditCompleted/ Part - Completed/ Carry ForwardRTP to be completed
18.03.2018 to 05.04.2018Direct TaxesCompleted/ Part - Completed/ Carry ForwardLast 5 term paper solved. Amendments to be covered
05.04.2018 to 10.04.2018International taxationCompleted/ Part - Completed/ Carry ForwardSpecial focus on Sec 92E
11.04.2018 to 18.04.2018Financial Services & Capital MarketCompleted/ Part - Completed/ Carry ForwardSpecial focus on Venture Capital
18.04.2018 to 28.04.2018Advanced Management AccountingCompleted/ Part - Completed/ Carry ForwardSpecial focus on small topics with practical
28.04.2018 to 03.05.2018Last 5 Term papers Solved, revision Test papers and Model Test papersCompleted/ Part - Completed/ Carry Forward--
04.05.2018 to 07.05.2018Revision – 1 day each for each subjectCompleted/ Part - Completed/ Carry Forward
08.05.2018 to 09.05.2018Advanced Management Accounting – RevisionFocus only on revision and no new topic to be touched

Note – Above is just an illustration for giving an idea. Develop your own routine.

Tool -2B

Daily Routine Tracker – Actual (For ones attending office) -

6 AM to 8 AMIndirect tax – Theory – Input Tax creditCompleted/ Part - Completed/ Carry ForwardReversal provisions pending
6.15 PM to 9.00 PMIndirect Tax – Practical – various ChaptersCompleted/ Part - Completed/ Carry ForwardPlace of supply pending
10 PM – 12 AMIndirect tax – Theory – valuation, Place of supply and Time of supplyCompleted/ Part - Completed/ Carry ForwardPlace of supply Completed

Note – Above is just an illustration for giving an idea. Develop your own routine.

To Conclude...

CA has given some valuable lessons for life:

  • Nothing is impossible if you are determined.
  • It’s never late to start. You can always start, no matter how old you are!
  • There is no shortcut to success. Go the grind and you will be a good human being.
  • Always follow your heart since it’s never wrong. I always follow my heart and results have been so fascinating.
  • Be true and give your 100%. Results can never be as expected but you will not have any regrets as well.

Now It's Your Turn!!!

Have you studied full time while working?

What has been your experience?

Share in your comments. You can connect to Rohit on LinkedIn - Rohit Kumar.

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