Crock of a CA Critical File and CA Study Tips

One thing I have never understood during my now nearly two years of CA study is that the institute (‘ICAA’) has always harped on about the importance of the Critical File. Seriously, who genuinely has the time to do a Critical File? A majority of CA candidates (students) have full-time work, where some do not have the luxury of a parent running the household and cooking for them. Some even have to take care of a whole family! Luckily, I did have the luxury. However, I still never had the time or bothered to ever make a Critical File. And I passed every technical module in succession, as well as achieving one Merit! Everyone has their own style, but below I will share my tips on passing your CA – without creating a Critical File! 

The aim of every CA module is just to pass the module. Currently, the examination is worth 80%, so your focus should be passing on the exam! Honestly, anything more than a pass is really just a bonus. If you do achieve a Merit, congratulations! However, besides a certificate, bragging rights, maybe a trophy and a token gift from your organisation (if lucky), there’s really not much else to show for it… At the end of the day, potential employers just want to see the two letters after your name: “, CA”. Yes, focus on passing the exam!

Now that I have passed all my technical modules, let me share you my tips for passing your CA.

During the trimester

  1. Start early. I know this can usually begin with good intentions and fall by the way side at the 2 week mark, but it’s worth it. To be honest though, I usually hit a wall [too]…
  2. Don’t bother with a Critical File… if it’s not your style. As mentioned above, the institute always harp on about creating Critical Files, but it just didn’t work for me. Personally, instead of wasting precious time re-writing everything again(!), I prefer to know where the topics are in the CLP. This means knowing in an instance, which is the relevant unit, section, activity and worked example for a topic.
  3. Do your activities… or at the very least read through the answers really thoroughly. Know your activities (and worked examples) well.
  4. Print the official answers out to take in the exam. The institute tends to write exam questions based on activities
    (and worked examples) from the CLP, but will change just a few facts. This can be a blessing and/or a trick, depending how careful you are…
  5. Join a study group, for the almost sole purpose of just gathering extra files. I admit this is a shrewd tip, but if you’re not in a Big 4, you have a serious disadvantage in accessing external support and related files. I am not in the Big 4, but I have been lucky to have had external support by a small provider who gives out a lot of practical advice. Sometimes it is just the small hints and tips that can boost your morale 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!

During the exam

  1. Attempt every question.
  2. Read the question and make sure you answer everything the question is
    asking for; not more, not less and not something else.
  3. Write down all relevant facts in your answer. The institute does consequential marking.
  4. If they say use a table, use the [suggested] table.
  5. Keep your writing legible, but don’t write silly notes like “Sorry, hope you forgive the bad writing “. You won’t get sympathy marks. Just a waste of time.
  6. Markers read every page, so don’t worry about “PTO” notes. Just make sure you clearly label which question you are answering in your script book.

Note: I am currently studying EBA. This is my last module and was known as the “integrative” module as it examines on all four previous technical modules. I completed MAA (Merit), TAX, AAA and FIN in succession. I do not work in an accounting firm and my role does not directly specialise in any of the above module areas, so I do not have a competitive advantage either.

Posted in CA

19 thoughts on “Crock of a CA Critical File and CA Study Tips

      1. Hi Yasir. Guidance in relation to the CA study materials or the accounting work-field? I recently became a qualified CA member so I am now allowed to be a CA mentor.

  1. Thanks for your reply. Do you mind to become a mentor? I have worked under a CA for a year for which he will give me a note.

    I would like to start before the next study period starts. I have syllabus for all the modules. I want to start reading through the recommended books as I take longer to grasp the concepts presented in Financial and Management accounting. Tax, Audit and EB I would do just fine. Hopefully 🙂

    I rang CA and they said I can sit two modules while I am out of work or working in a job other than accounting field. I am moving back from Queensland to NSW. I hope to get an accounting job asap. Have 1.5 yrs experience in public practice :).

    So if you would not mind becoming a mentor and if you could please provide some valuable info on how to tackle CA, I would like to get in contact with you.



  2. Your Tips are excellent. Actually i have just enrolled this semester for Audit and Assurance module. I was trying to read through my CLP and was very confuse about how to make Critical file. Your tips gave me clear instructions about how to approach CA studies. Thanks for that. I am still confused about how to write answers for Activities. When i read the Section and try to answer the Activity question, it seems that i tend to know the whole answer but don’t know how to frame the answer in correct format. Could you please guide me on this? When the CLP says, for e.g. APES 110, should be reading and remembering the whole thing which is more than 100 page? how should i go about this. I would really appreciate your help. My personal email is Thanks again.

    1. Thanks Andy.

      I know I’ve already replied to you directly via email, but I thought I would paste my response to help others that might be looking at my blog.

      Use the suggested answers from the CA as a guide to set out your own answers. During exams, since time is critical, dot points are okay, but make sure you have the right key words in your dot points.

      When the CLP mentions APES110 for example, if I recall correctly, there are only particular sections you have to be aware. Therefore, no, you aren’t required to remember the whole thing! Please remember the exams are open book, so you don’t have to remember everything and you can bring in the whole APES110 with you if want – I would just recommend that you highlight/flag those particular sections though.

      Read through your CLP materials again and it should point you to the right direction. Otherwise, check with your focus session leader or the Peer Discussion Board.

  3. Hi there

    In terms of being able to identify which unit, section, activity & worked example is relevant to a topic, how detailed should our drilldown be?

    I.e. should I make a separate note of important paragraphs from the standards or will it be easy in the exam to find the right one (from the standard guide, assuming i have broad knowledge of the standard).

    How did you ensure that you ‘knew’ which unit, section etc to refer to? Did you have a tabbed colour coded system for your CLP/standards book? Did you group related standards?

    I’m just having difficulty in figuring out how i should prepare for the exam without making separate detailed notes but while ensuring that i won’t waste time flicking between pages searching for information.

    I really appreciate any tips you have for me.


    1. Hi Annabelle,

      How detailed depends on your familiarity of the unit, section, activity and worked examples. Before you get to the exam you should have at least a rough idea of which topics relate to which unit, and then further, which activities and worked examples. Personally, I would just make notes within your CLP notes, assuming you will be bringing your CLP to the exam!

      Yes, I did have a tabbed colour coded system for my CLP and textbooks. You could use same colour tabs for similar groupings of topics.

      Some people find that having a summary/contents page might help with organising their time during the exam, so you’re not wasting time flicking between pages.

      Good luck!

  4. Hi There,

    Just wondering what sort of notes did you normally take into the exam? Just the CLP and answers as you said above or much more? I’ve never normally been a good note taker and thus the critical file was pretty unappealing to me though I dont want to go into the exam under prepared. How did you determine what you brought into the exam / do you have any examples for AAA in particular?

    Any help is much appreciated.


  5. Hi tanoshiki,
    Could you please assist me with your advise?
    I m enrolled in MAAF now , I m seeking for pass year exam papers , and useful notes.
    I m absolutely agree with you that activities and worked examples have to been gone though many times. I don’t have an access to CLP at all, how can I get it ?
    They changed the style of MAAF now , we have online activities and worked examples but not CLP or Kaplan
    My emal is

    1. Given the changes to ICAA program, I don’t know the details of the changes. When I did CA, the CLP was physically posted out to all candidates just before the start of the trimester and was also accessible on the online myCA, as it was called back then.

  6. Hi Tanoshiiki,
    I’m attempting the EBA module in October 2013. Can you please give me some practical tips on how to prepare?

    1. My practical tips are really those outlined in this blog post. It’s been a while since I’ve done EBA and I’m not sure how much it has now changed, but I would think this blog post would still be relevant for today’s EBA. Depending on when the last major change of EBA, in addition to the blog post, I would advise that you ask other candidates if they have access to past exams.

      Good luck!

  7. Hi

    I really apprecaite this post as I have just commenced my CA with Auditing.

    Im hoping to revive this blog. I’m currently doing AAA module and was wondering if anyone had past papers please?

    My email is



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