Wednesday, November 19, 2008

C.A. for Dummies..

I recently encountered a rather interesting attempt by a fellow victim of C.A., to explain to a layman exactly what our life, or the lack of it, is about...

I'm pretty sure most of you guys reading this blog are techie nerds who don't have too much of a clue about what I do. I'm even more sure that you don't give a shit either. Hence I'm compelled to write this.

CA? What the hell does that mean?
Chartered Accountancy. This is the course one must pursue in order to become a shattered accountant. Er, chartered accountant. Obviously, CAs are different from your regular accountants. That's cause they're not only accountants, they're chartered.

So what do they do anyway?
They do cool financial stuff. Like awesomely cool financial type things.

Right, if I told you that the job description varies from Auditing and Assurance to Due Diligence to Strategic Management to Information Systems Audit to Valuation to Arbitration to...

I had to pause to catch my breath. In any case, did you understand any of what I just said?

Oh so you were talking in English all that time? I'm sorry, could you run that by me again?
Sigh. Actually I'd be surprised if you did have understood. Most of us CA students don't get half of that shit. I was just quoting from the prospectus. But it's like I told you. Awesomely cool financial type things.
So, which college you doing CA in?
Never ask that question to any CA student again. NEVER. CA is a course which is NOT offered in any college. CA is based on the model of distance learning. You just have to register yourself with the ICAI.

Hold on a minute. Shouldn't it be I See AN Eye?
Good Lord! ICAI, as in Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. They're the regulatory body for this course. You register with them for the exams, study for the same and then appear for the exams at the various centers authorized by the Institute. After clearing, you get to become a member of the ICAI.

Oooh, membership! Do you guys have a pool? I'm even ok with a jacuzzi.
The ICAI is not some kinda club! If it were, I would have paid the fees ages back and become a member without going through all this! Membership with the ICAI entitles you to certify the financial statements of a Company. Unless a company's accounts are certified by a member of the institute, they're pretty much invalid.

It's like our Board exams. Why are they such a big deal? Cause its not our school teachers who correct it. It's a third party, which means all that apple polishing we did for Sheela Miss was a big waste of time. A CA is like that board examiner. He is the 3rd party who expresses an opinion on your financial position. And just like its the board marks which finally stand the test of time and job interviews, its these audited and certified financial statements which hold good. Whether it 's for applying for a bank loan or for publishing in the company's annual report.

So this is called auditing and that other-fancy-word-I-can't-pronounce?
Sort of, CA's who do this sort of thing are called practising chartered accountants. They are independant chartered accountants, kinda like freelance journalists. It's the true essence of the profession and if you want to be successful in this line (other than inheriting a practice, in case your father is one), you have to drop shit cause it requires a lot of painfully painful hard work builiding a client base. Which is why lots of fresh CA's prefer jobs in the finance department of companies. Their argument is that they've already had 3 years of trauma and don't have enough mental strength to cope with more of that.

How much do these guys earn anyway?
The starting salary for a fresh CA is 6 lac per annum on an average. If you're practising, there's no actual estimation. There's no bottom limit or top limit, depends on your skill.

No limit? You mean If I'm good I can even earn...?

Sweet! So this is like a 3 year course I heard?
CA is not like college degrees - FY, SY, TY & then Bye Bye. It's like...playing Age of Empires. You have to complete a set of levels (as of now, 3 levels) before you can claim to be emperor. And everyone takes their own time to finish those levels. Level one is the Common Profiency Test which you can write after clearing your 12th. Level two comes one and a half years later, the Professional Competence Exam and one and a half years after that, the final. If you're good, you'll wrap it up in 3 and a half years, which is the minimum time possible as of now. Average students take 6 years. Some can take up to a decade.

A decade? Wow, this course must be tough!
If Time Magazine ever brought together a list of the Top Ten Evil Courses in the century, CA would lead the pack followed by the-course-you-have-to-study-to-find-the-cure-for-AIDS and Swahilian Anthropology. But Time did not come up with that list.
Level one (the SAT modelled Common Proficiency Test) of the course is extremely simple, in fact its just a way for the institute to collect money. In all honesty, its a feat to fail in that exam than clear it. It's a multiple choice with negative marking test for 4 subjects - Fundamental Accounts, Mercantile Law, Quantitative Aptitude and Economics.
The second level is the PCE or Professional Competency Exam. There are 6 papers classified in 2 groups. The first group is Advanced Accountancy, Law Ethics & Communication, and Auditing. The second group consists of Cost Accounting & Financial Management, Taxation and Infotech/Strategic Management.
The Final (thankfully spared of a fancy acronym) exam has 8 papers, Financial Reporting, Strategic Financial Management, Advanced Auditing and Professional Ethics, Corporate Laws (Group 1), Advanced Managament Accounting, Information Systems Control & Audit, Direct Taxes and Indirect Taxes (Group 2). (Just in case you were wondering, yes, the Institute hires an MBA to come up with fancy acronyms for its tests and revamp the subject names so that they can sound super sexy.)
The exams are conducted twice a year, May and November, and each textbook is the size of a large pillow.
As if the humongous syllabus is not a worry, the Institute has this absurd passing criterion: You need at least 40 in every paper. Though it looks very low you will have to sell your soul to score every single mark. But that's not enough; the average score i.e. the % secured when all the subjects are combined should be minimum of 50. If you don't fulfill either of the criteria, you will fail.Another simple rule of the game is "One Down = All Out." Strange but true, if you fail in one subject, you have to give all the subjects again. However there is an exception, if you score 60 above in any subject (you have to be Einstein's accountant twin to do that) then you need not give that paper again.

Shit! But you get 3 years right? Study then.
Yeah you wish. One of the highlights of this course is making the student "Corporate Ready" by making the student go through a 3 year internship thus enabling "practical training". This is just the institute's way of saying that the student has to mandatorily enroll himself into manual labour for 3 years under the fancy tag of "articled assisstant". So most of the time we're busy slaving away, and when we're not, we're writing dumbass blog posts. Clearly, we're incredibly hard pressed for time.The cool part about this is that you get some super work-experience at the end of which you are much more confident and prepared for your first corporate job. If you join a B school, you would have an edge over freshers because you've already been learned all that shit, the hard way.

So this course is fiendishly difficult, doesn't give you any time and is pretty much social suicide. So why are so many people doing it?
It's incredibly cheap. If you don't go to any classes, the entire course won't cost you more than 30k. Even if you do go for classes, you won't spend more than 1 lakh. And the return on your investment is awesome.

Its cheap?! Ok, let me rephrase that - forget why other people are doing it, why are you doing it, miss daddy's little girl?
My father decided he had spoiled me enough and wanted to teach me the lesson "There is no free lunch in life". He could have just sent me to the Himalayas alone without any money. Instead of that, CA.

Wait a minute now. You've completed a year of this...which means you're exam is coming up in May '09! How're you preparing?

Er. Ok, How're you GOING to prepare?
With courage in my heart and the CA anthem in my head.
"Fight fight, never surrender,
After May, there is November.
Where there is a will, there is a way,
After November there is May."

Aren't you positive...
Hey, when you're in CA, you gotta be able to face the F word (Fail, you pervert!). Even the brightest of students don't clear sometimes.

That's no excuse for you to be wasting time. You have 6 months left and 6 subjects to cover. Shouldn't you be studying? sound like my mother.

That's becasue I am your mother! Enough of this nonsense! Shut the damn computer down and study! Don't you have any seriousness? You've played around all this time and....

-This information broadcast has been brought to an abrupt end due to technical difficulties. If you do have any more questions, feel free to shout back! I will get back to you after the er, technical diffulties are sorted out. YES AMMA, I'M STUDYING!-


  1. This is THE article to give people an idea about CA! Though one does get the full point with the Age of Empires analogy. (but wtf, i need hax!!!)

  2. This was really cool...
    actually all your blogs are...
    Keep up the good work :)