10 Feb 2021 21:49 IST

‘Not in my wildest dreams did I expect the top rank’

Essakiraj Arumugam, All-India first rank in the CA final examination held November 2020

How the All-India first rank Essakiraj Arumugam aced his CA final examination

Essakiraj Arumugam, All-India first rank in the CA final examination held November 2020 (old syllabus), spoke to Pattabhi Ram on Facebook Live. Here are excerpts from the interview:

What is your background and how did you decide to do your CA?

I am from Salem in Tamil Nadu; I did my schooling in the Tamil medium and moved to English in Class XI. I did not like science subjects much. My father suggested that I enroll in CA. He taught me the basic rules of debit and credit. I am glad about the decision I made. Initially, it was pretty difficult to cope with the subjects in English. My father again came to my rescue, sat me down for an hour every day, and read out The Hindu newspaper. This helped in building a better grip over the language.

Did you expect the first rank?

Not in my wildest dreams! I cleared the CA foundation exam in my first attempt with 76 per cent marks. I passed my Integrated Professional Competency Course (IPCC), too, in the first shot scoring roughly 57 per cent. After my final exam, I estimated a score of around 500 and had no rank expectations. So when the ICAI president CA Atul Kumar Gupta, called me at 1.30 pm to let me know I had got the first rank, the thought did not sink in. Only later, when the results were published on the Net, did I digest the pleasant surprise! I ended up with 553 out of 800.

You wrote your exams well after your articleship; was it a conscious strategy?

Yes, it was a conscious choice, as I did not want to miss out on my articles. So I took my classes only after articles and started preparing for my CA final exams. I finished my articles on April 19. In my case, due to Covid-19, I got an extra six months to prepare for the exam. I capitalised on all those additional months.

How was your articleship experience?

I did my articles in Palraj & Senthil, a mid-sized firm in Salem. The firm gave me good exposure in auditing, financial statements, project finance, and direct taxation. I also had the good fortune of directly working with the partner, and he taught me the fundamentals of how decisions are made and how to solve problems. Apart from these, the audits I handled helped me in preparing for my exam. When we study for our exams, if we have dealt with a particular area in our articleship, it is easier to better understand the subject.

How did you prepare for your exams?

Everyone has their way of preparing for the exams. What is important is the planning and the execution of the same. When planning, we must devise our strategy based on our strengths and weaknesses. My approach was to complete one subject fully and then move on to the next subject. Others may look at a strategy of covering multiple subjects at the same time.

My strength lay with numbers, and my weakness lay with theory subjects. Therefore, my strategy was to start earlier on with theory and get more comfortable with them. The numerous revisions helped me in understanding the subtle nuances of the subject. It also helped me in later developing a liking for the subjects I wasn’t initially inclined to. Initially, I studied six hours a day, which gradually progressed to 8, then 10, and finally 12 hours a day.

Did you take mock tests?

Yes, I did that. People should take it at least four months before the main exam. Taking them later does not give us sufficient time to work on our weaknesses. It is better to fail in the mock exam and come back well prepared for our final exams. The day before the exam is equally important. We must make short notes and charts earlier on, and read them before the exam. These notes and maps should be comprehensive yet crisp.

What are your aspirations?

I have an interest in corporate finance and capital markets. But I would like to evaluate the options available, take guidance from credible sources and then make an informed decision. In the long run, I envision a career where I get to experience something in everything. I would also like to study at an IIM, and I have Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) on my bucket list. If not immediately, these are areas I would like to explore soon. I would like to work in a global corporation.

What are your hobbies and interests?

I like to read the annual reports of listed companies and analyse them. Reading equity research reports from various brokerage houses and the earnings call transcripts are fun. Apart from that, I am passionate about Carnatic music that I am learning from my Guru, Srimathi Sarada Sundar, Salem. If not a CA, I would have been a full-time Carnatic musician.

Who are your role models?

I have many role models in life. On the music front, it is singer Sanjay Subrahmanyan. My parents also played a significant role in my life, right from helping me choose my career, indulging me in all I requested, and never imposing anything on me right from day one. My mother is a homemaker and the greatest moral support for me. It was to her that I first told about the results. The happiness on her and my father’s face made it worth the effort.