Ten “Must-Knows” for the MBA Aspiring Chartered Accountant
Updated: May 29, 2020
As a CA myself, (in case that’s news to you then definitely check out this article first), I understand the plethora of unanswered questions that pop up in your head anytime the letters M, B and A are mentioned in succession.
Having been there, done that, I wanted to debunk certain (popular) assumptions & answer the questions that a lot (a lot lot) of you have asked me!
Shameless plug: If you are a Chartered Accountant, Lawyer, Economics or Commerce graduate who wants to make it to the B-School of your dreams, don't forget to subscribe to The Uncoventional MBA!
Disclaimer: The answers which read “Opinion” are exactly that. My personal opinion!
So, please take that with a pinch of salt & feel free to connect with as many more people as you can to form your own view about it! In fact, I highly recommend it!
1. Do CAs have a percentile relaxation when it comes to getting shortlisted? What is the minimum percentile needed for a call?
Yes, going by past trends, CAs do get percentile relaxations for the purpose of interview shortlists. In fact, all non-engineers do - it's called academic diversity!
This is because the number of CAs attempting the exam is fewer than more mainstream courses, i.e. engineering.
BUT Simran, what is that magic “minimum percentile” to guarantee a call?
You might as well just ask me the formula for Coca-Cola or why is the alphabet in that specific order?!
I don’t know. No-one knows.
But, it does not and should not matter.
Aim for the moon. Try not to land on the stars.
It depends on the number of CAs who scored a higher percentile than you, your Xth, XIIth, undergraduation AND your CA marks (Average of IPCC + Final marks). Now which criteria has more weight varies from college to college as well.
There will also be score points for work-experience and Gender diversity marks will come into play for women.
So I would suggest not getting influenced by hearing about “That one CA who got a IIM-A call at 95th percentile” – Maybe he was a ranker with killer acads and great work ex!
Side-note - Once you get an interview call, your marks & your CAT percentile hardly matter, it’s your interview performance that does.
2. Does the Article-ship of three years count as work experience?
It does not. What counts is full time work-ex and article-ship would not meet that criteria. (and that’s irrespective of the firm be it Big 4 or otherwise)
It also doesn’t count as work-ex for the purpose of summers & final placements after joining the B-school.
Now can it at least be discussed in the interviews?
Absolutely! Any learnings (and I’m sure there are plenty) can be highlighted during the interviews.
You can talk about what you’ve learned on the technical front or the way it shaped your personality and helped you develop traits like leadership and teamwork. This is even more important for CA freshers.
3. Is it true that only rank holders or Big 4 article-ship holders end up at the IIMs?
I am a non-ranker (no rank at any level) and I’m all set to join IIM-Ahmedabad!
Further, many CAs make it to their desired B-schools (including the holy trinity IIM ABC) after doing their article-ship from non-Big 4s.
But does that mean CA scores do not matter at all?
I would not go as far as to say they do not matter at all. There is weight-age given to CA percentages in the shortlist process as well, along with minimum percentage requirements.
In case you want to know my marks -
IPCC – 65% & Final – 61%.
4. Do the number of attempts taken to clear CA final matter in selection?
I have spoken to many CAs who made it to their dream colleges and enough of them had not cleared the CA finals in their maiden attempt.
Now before I say that it doesn’t matter at all, please understand that there are many other parameters such as academic profile and work experience that do come into play.
5. What degrees are considered "professional"? Is CFA included?
The CAT application form considers the following three degrees as professional –
Chartered Accountants (CA)
Company Secretaryship (CS)
Cost Accountants (CMA/ICWA)
Now CFA is not included in this list and won’t show up in the drop down menu when you're filling in the CAT form.
You can still mention it during the PI round! Colleges require you to fill out another form at this stage and you will get the chance highlight your CFA level.
You can talk about it in your interviews as well as it shows your inclination towards finance.
6. Does undergrad through distance education render me ineligible to apply to CAT?
I did my under-graduation from IGNOU through distance learning and still got selected.
Further, I wrote to IIM-A after my 12th boards and confirmed if regular college was a pre-requisite to admission and they confirmed that was not the case.
7. How does a low under-graduation percentage affect my chances?
Although distance education undergrad does not affect eligibility, the marks scored in that mode are usually lower & the lack of extra-curriculars that other regular college students might rake up do play a role.
Moreover, many CAs who go through the regular college route manage to have 8+ CGPAs.
The chance of your undergrad marks affecting the shortlist depends on how much weightage the particular college places on undergrad marks.
This criteria is set out by the college every year (In July/August mostly) and may vary from one year to the next.
8. Should we fill both marks of CA and B.Com in the CAT form or only one?
9. Was CAT harder or clearing CA final? Is the preparation different than that of CA final?
Clearing CA final is a battle for most people and I think very few things in life will compare to the rigour, discipline and consistent hard-work it takes to clear those 8 giant subjects.
To me, CAT appeared to be an easier, albeit vastly different, exam to ace.
CA final is more memory driven and the focus is on covering topics across a broad domain & mastering them in fair depth. CAT is about knowing which fights to pick & strategize to win.
But that’s just my opinion!
10. When is the right time to attempt the CAT if you are a CA final student (Not qualified yet)? And what if you are a freshly qualified CA (May attempts)?
If you are a qualified CA in the May attempts, you would have the result by July end (Unless we have elections or, you know, a global pandemic).
I strongly recommend writing the CAT that very November with as much preparation as possible. Even if you do not believe it to be your serious attempt, DO WRITE IT! I have heard so many success stories of people who made it in their “Not so serious attempt”.
I really wish someone had told me this when I qualified in May 2018!
In case you’re a CA final student who wants to do an MBA instead of CA, your credentials will be B.Com + IPCC and you won’t get the percentile/minimum undergrad score relaxations that a CA would get. So take your call accordingly!
Best of luck!
In case you want to check out my IIM-A interview experience or learn about how to up your QA game, click on the links below!
A Chartered Accountant's IIM-A Interview experience
How a 99.76 percentiler's brain works at the QA section
Write to me here.