The CA Final open book exam.
The pitfall of many a student.
You may think that an open book exam is easy. You may think that you don’t need to study as hard. You cannot be more wrong.
That’s why, the CA Final open book exam introduced by ICAI, in their updated syllabus causes students a lot of problems. Because they underestimate the amount of study they would need.
As you might be aware already, all the elective subjects are open book exams. As a quick recap, the elective papers in the CA Final Exam are:
- Paper 6A: Risk Management
- Paper 6B: Financial Services and Capital Markets
- Paper 6C: International Taxation
- Paper 6D: Economic Laws
- Paper 6E: Global Financial Reporting Standards
- Paper 6F: Multi-disciplinary Case Study
As you can see, these CA Final Elective papers cover a wide range of topics. In another post, we will talk in detail about what each paper contains. And which paper to choose.
For now, we will just focus on how to tackle the exam. We will speak in generalities so that you can apply our tips to any sort of open book exam.
Before we go into detail on how to prepare, let’s figure out what such exams are.
What is an open book exam? What kinds of open book exams are there?
You can classify open book exams into two broad categories:
- The take home exam
- Exams that take place in one sitting
Let’s see, in brief, what each type of exam entails.
- The take home exam
A take home exam is an exam that your instructor allows you to take home. You’ll have access to any kind of material out there. Questions on this type of test are typically open-ended. You’ll not be able to find answers anywhere. Even on the internet! These are probably the toughest type of open book exams.
- Exams that take place in one sitting
Here, you’ll typically be in a class or exam hall. You’ll have limited time to complete your exam. You can bring in notes or your text book or any allowed material. Normally, you’ll not have access to the internet or anything else. So, you might be forbidden from bringing in devices like mobile phones and the like. Sometimes, you are expected to collaborate with your peers. Other times, you may not be able to talk or consult with your neighbours.
The CA Final open book exam is of this type. That is, you’ll have to go to the exam hall and attempt the paper. You can bring any study material, books and notes into the exam hall that you see fit. But you’ll not be allowed to converse with your neighbours. Nor bring any electronic devices that connect to the internet. (Like mobile phones, smart watches, laptops, etc.) The trick is to know what sort of material to bring. And how to study. That’s why, you should know, roughly, what kind of questions are likely to be on the exam.
What type of questions are likely to be on open book exams?
Now, the question paper setter knows that you’ve got your notes in front of you. So, they’ll probably not ask you questions that test your recall of facts.
Generally, questions ask you to analyse, apply, evaluate and synthesise your knowledge to new situations.
You might be given a scenario or situation and you’ll have to apply knowledge from different areas of the course to arrive at an answer.
In professional courses like in the CA course, the open book exam is case study based. You’ll be given a scenario, and you’ll have to draw your own conclusions based on the facts of the case and case law. In your answer, try to cover the applicable provisions instead of directly copy pasting case laws. We’ll talk more about this later.
How should I prepare?
Keep the following points in mind while you prepare:
- Prepare as thoroughly as you would for any other type of exam. That way you’ll shorten the time to look up relevant information from your study material
- Find out what sort of material you are allowed to bring. The ICAI website gives you a nice outline of the kind of material you can bring. Take a look here
- When deciding what to bring, do:
- Find out what topics are given more weightage. Go through past papers, if available, to get an idea of the breakdown
- Bring your own set of organised notes if allowed. Topic-wise and weightage wise
- Prepare a set of summarised notes. Refer to page numbers of the textbooks(s) you’ll carry. If you need to use formulae, prepare a single set of notes with all important formulae
- Bring notes in the form of mind maps or concept maps. That way, you’ll see how different parts of the course connect together. (Look at this post for more info on what mind maps and concept maps are)
- Bring a set of the most important textbooks. If allowed, some sample papers as well
- Try not to bring too much material. It’ll serve to distract and confuse you
- Get enough sleep and eat well. These are generic tips for clearing exams that everybody knows. But it’s a good idea to keep repeating. And for more general tips suitable for every type of exam, look at this post
- Practice writing fast and neatly. You don’t need to have a calligrapher’s handwriting. But make sure your handwriting is not illegible. And try writing at speed
What should I do during the CA Final open book exam?
During the exam,
- Don’t waste time as time is a luxury you don’t have. Answer questions that you know very well. That way you’ll not have to worry about constant, time-wasting referrals to your material
- Don’t refer to materials to learn something new. You should have done this in your prep. Instead, use your materials as a basic reference. Looking up relevant formulae and/or laws. That’s the extent of it
- Don’t copy and paste from your notes. Frame own words and draw conclusions. For example, quote from applicable provisions of case laws instead of a generic copy paste. You’ll save time that way
- Try for concise, well-supported answers. Instead of long, rambling ones
- Don’t leave any question. Make some sort of genuine attempt. Leave the hard questions for the end
- If you have time for review, check your notes/textbooks to uncover additional points or to ensure your answers are as accurate as possible
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