Is Having a CA Critical File Really Worth the Hassle?

There is a lot of debate as to whether it makes sense to write a critical file for the CA module. The majority of CA candidates have full-time work and are under extreme time pressure. I was lucky in the sense that I had the luxury of my parents running essential household tasks where I could focus on studying. For some of my peers, they have to take care of their family! Ultimately, it does not matter if you have a critical file as it comes down to individual preferences in the end. But for my own journey, I did prepare some very brief notes (5-8pgs) that summarised the key elements of the CSG so that I did not have to waste too much time flicking through the myriad of materials during the final exam. In the end, I managed to get four merits and consecutively passed all of the modules in 18 months. Aside from the critical file, here are some of my other practical tips for passing the CA program is ease.


  1. It pays to start early. This often begins with good intentions but falls by the way side at around the start of the second week. Often having a disciplined routine will help you pace through the materials so you don’t feel stressed at the end when you are trying to cram everything.


  1. The activities and worked examples are often more important than the CSG. 80% of the module is dedicated to the final exam, which is open book and this won’t be regurgitating information from the CSG. The final exam focuses on application of materials and you need to at the very least read through the answers thoroughly to get a sense of what is happening and why it happens.


  1. Attempting at least 2 past exam papers is worth your time. The institute tends to write exam questions based on activities and worked examples along with prior exams. Getting used to the style of the questions may be very useful and sometimes you may get lucky.


  1. Join a small study group. This will help you fulfil two major roles 1) gain extra materials 2) provide you with a soundboard. I must admit this is a canny tip, but if you’re not in a Big 4, you have a serious disadvantage in accessing external support and related files. I do not work in the Big 4, but I have been lucky to have had external support from a small provider who gives out a lot of practical advice. Sometimes it is just the small hints and tips that can boost your confidence and performance in the subject. If you do not get external support, the study group can be a vehicle for sharing tips and as well as commiserating over study woes – but don’t get distracted!