Should I Leave CA If Unable To Clear Exams For A Long Time?


I was asking some of my colleagues who are giving chartered accountancy papers on the topics I should write in my blog – Amongst other topics like ‘how to study for examinations’ or ‘how to get into a good firm for articleship’, I got this topic that I felt quite important and not many students would have an answer to – “When should I leave doing CA if unable to clear papers”.

A very tough and highly sentimental topic to touch and write because whatever said and done, no one wants to hear anybody telling them to leave CA once they have cleared some papers and are left with a few. I would have met hundreds of people who, very passionately started doing CA but couldn’t complete it even after spending 5-6 years. Some of them are left with Final both the groups, some are left with one group and few are still in their IPCC/Inter hoping to see themselves chartered accountants some day. A very brave dream to have!!

The question that comes to my mind and surely would have crossed the minds of students is – “Is it worthwhile to continue”. After studying for hours and hours, and giving numerous attempts you still don’t clear the papers and simply don’t know what’s happening wrong with you. I know and have met students who do extremely well and are blue-eyed articles in their firm’s but still aren’t able to make it. They, as articles or as semi qualified would be doing much better than some of the chartered accountants around, but unfortunately are still away from the much-coveted CA degree. The question that comes to their mind – “ Kya karoon yaar…samajh hi nahin aa raha…should I leave doing CA”.

It’s a very tough question to answer and honestly, there is no single Yes or No. Or even if there is an answer, we don’t want to hear it because after giving 4-5 years of our life we don’t want to go home without any tangible result in hand. The biggest problem to my mind is not leaving CA because we can’t make it, the larger issue is we don’t want to leave because the society would make fun of us and perhaps brand us as a ‘looser’. The feeling of social dis-respect, social stigma and the feeling that I couldn’t do it make us keep going and going and going.

I am not trying to suggest that if someone is unable to clear his/her papers for a long time then he/she should leave doing CA. But at the same time one should also factor in other factors of life that are equally important and should be given due consideration. You might land yourself in a situation where you would have won the battle of clearing your papers but during that journey may have lost the battle of other important things in life. I know people who finally managed to clear CA but at an age when their friends reached a managerial position. Some cleared the papers at the cost of not pursuing any other interest or hobby or even a job. They got so engrossed or I would say emotionally so attached to the thought of clearing the papers at any cost. What a lot of students don’t realize is in this whole journey they loose some important aspects of their life, some precious moments that can be enjoyed only at a particular age. Because, time once gone never comes back.

I have always wondered but have never been able to find answers to questions like:

  1. Is it worthwhile to continue giving papers year after year without knowing the possibility of clearing the papers;
  2. Whether one should pursue other interests along with doing CA;
  3. Whether one should continue doing a job even if the company does not give enough study leaves;
  4. What kind of work should you pursue along with studies;
  5. Should I get married even if I haven’t cleared my papers?

There are numerous questions like these, which to my mind keep hovering in the minds of students but unfortunately don’t get solved and consequently, results in students getting absolutely perplexed, mentally disturbed and clueless for an answer.

Through this article I am trying to put in my views on what should people/students do whilst they are preparing for their papers and whether it makes sense to continue giving papers year after year at the cost of losing other important things in life.

  1. Age

You have crossed the average age at which generally students become chartered accountants but unfortunately haven’t cleared your papers. Although, there is no single date or day I could let you know for you to judge whether you are in the right age bracket to continue doing CA, it is important to understand how do young qualified chartered accountants rise in their career and that might give you an idea.

Generally, within a time span of 0-3 years you reach the level of an Assistant/Deputy Manager and within 5-6 years you become a Manager in a company/consulting firm. This means that if you clear your exams within 3-4 years of starting CA, you can aspire to become a manager by the age of 27-28 years. Post that it takes around 2-3 years to become senior manager, another 2-3 years to become Director and 2-3 years to become CFO/Tax Head/Partner in a good company/ consulting firm. Thus, in a span of 14-15 years from the day of starting your CA journey you can expect to be in a good position, obviously subject to your hard work, dedication and sincerity.

It is therefore, critical to understand the importance of your age whilst doing CA. Obviously, if you qualify as a CA at the age of say 28-29 or even more, then by that time your friends and colleagues who cleared earlier would have reached a managerial level, whereas you might be starting as a fresher.

What also becomes a challenge is the fact that lot of companies doesn’t want to hire a little aged people (when I say aged, it doesn’t mean 50+ but someone who is not very young typically in the age bracket of 23-25). This is because if that company has young population in the fresher’s bracket, hiring a little senior person makes his/her position awkward, as he/she may not be able to gel well with his/her peers.

If you are not clearing papers on time you are obviously loosing out on cashing in great career prospects that are enjoyed by people who clear on time. All this starts leading to frustration even when you know that you have qualified as a chartered accountant.

  1. Experience whilst doing CA

One of the biggest blunders that I feel happens with students doing CA during their quest to clear is not longing for enough work experience. I meet students who tell me that they are doing CA and because the company/firm where they work does not give them enough study leave, they either don’t work at all or work in some small firms or companies that allow them study leaves but obviously don’t offer enough good work experience.

Now this situation creates numerous problems later on. One, you are loosing on your age. Second, you are not working and because of that your work experience is not getting counted. Imagine a situation when you clear your papers quite late in your age but don’t have relevant experience. In such a situation, for any job opening who would be preferred, you or a CA who has relevant work experience. I think it’s going to be him/her and not you.

What we need to understand is that chartered accountancy is not only about clearing papers and getting a degree. It’s much more. It is all about your knowledge on accounting, finance, tax and audit. The moment you tell anyone that you are a CA, there is an immediate perception in their minds about your deemed knowledge on the above areas and therefore, if you flounder in your conversation on the above topics, there is a big problem. And that’s exactly what happens with people who don’t have enough experience but have a degree.

  1. Social commitments

The other area that seems to get neglected consciously or unconsciously is fulfilling your social commitments. Once you start to re-appear in papers you start to loose confidence in facing people and that makes you less social. I know many people who stop meeting people with the fear of answering the same question again and again- “did you clear your papers”. And that’s the worst thing to happen with a CA student because people don’t know how difficult it is to clear those papers. Only those who have traveled in the boat called ‘CA’ know the roughness of the tides and the fact sailing through them is a nightmare.

The other practical thing is getting married which also gets delayed because you are still not qualified. For boys it might still be ok to delay for sometime but for girls I know becomes difficult. You obviously don’t want to get married unless you have eaten this egg called CA but the family pressures makes it impossible. All this takes time and the entire process gets delayed. Even for boys after a point of time it becomes difficult and the parents are also not clear of what to do.

Though the above issues are highly practical and there may not be one single answer to let you know whether you are right or wrong in continuing to give papers for a long period of time, there are few things which I feel are of utmost importance and should be asked by the students to themselves and seek an honest answer:

  • Do you really have interest in the topics that CA teaches

A bold question to ask and seek an answer from yourself. You might find accounting and audit and tax interesting to work upon, but when it comes to preparing for papers, students sometimes feel almost lost. And then begins the journey of giving papers again and again. What you don’t realize is why the hell are you not able to clear papers despite having an interest in the subject.

The answer can be two fold – One, you don’t like the subjects but since you have invested so much time, there is no way you can now take a u-turn. Consequently, you would continue giving papers knowing that clearing them is a distant dream.

Second answer can be that you like the papers but still unable to clear the papers. That’s because a lot of students do not prepare from an examination perspective, rather they prepare from the perspective of reading all the books and material and gaining all the knowledge. Gaining knowledge is important but what is more important is to identify the examination trend and see which types of questions are asked and how should they be answered. The technique to answer the questions is very important.

  • Do you have the aptitude to clear these difficult papers

Again a very difficult question to ask yourself and the answer may be more difficult. Asking yourself your own capability is putting yourself in a very unique situation.

I can share a real incident with you. One of my colleagues was doing CA for the last 8 years and had cleared only IPCC. He was unable to clear final for the last 3 years. When he met me I asked him the same question and told him to find the answer, and an honest answer. He was never expecting such a question but then it kind of forced him to introspect and find the answer. He finally told me that he is perhaps not made to do CA and would rather do something else. And he finally decided to leave CA and joined a business management course. He is an extremely happy person now because he is relieved from the burden of clearing those papers that were perhaps beyond his IQ.

  • Are you doing CA for yourself or to please the society

This is the most crucial question. A lot of times because we have taken a decision to complete something, we take a vow to complete it at any cost. But then the cost is too heavy to manage later.

Be honest to yourself while answering this question. There is no point satisfying the society because the society is not going to fee you or your family. It is only you who can do that and by cheating yourself, you would do yourself more harm.

  • Is it really worthwhile?

The final question – Is it really worthwhile to spend the most precious young life into examinations without knowing the result? Is it worthwhile to sacrifice other better prospects in life? Is it worthwhile to sacrifice parent’s happiness on marriage and other social commitments? Is it worthwhile to be sad throughout the period when you are giving papers without any hope of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel?

Well, there is no definitive answer to the above questions and you need to take a call listening to your heart and gut feel. Because, your heart would never tell you wrong thing, it would always guide you towards something that is right in all aspects. What’s important is to live a happy life and not a life which if full of distress and gloom.

In the end I would like to quote:

“If you want to be happy, just be. Don’t bother about people, don’t bother about society and don’t bother about criticism. Because if you are happy doing what you want to do and find your dreams come true, your success would bring those very people and society to love you again, actually much more”