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CAF 03 – Business Law; stuck in reverse?

Written by: Huzaifa Usman 

A student pursuing Chartered Accountancy has a decent early student life. Most students find AFC rather easy and the majority of them clear all four papers in their first attempt while some of them only get stuck in AFC 03 – Quantitative Methods.

When the results come out, students are usually content with their results and now believe they really have the aptitude of CA. Many of them go on to say that CA is the easiest profession in the world not realizing that AFC is just the first step into the profession. With their cheery moods and positive attitudes, they enter CAF opting for the first three subjects. The first couple of weeks are all right, little to no pressure of studies, no stress of any upcoming results, the classes are smooth and the syllabi are moving at a rather slow pace.

But within the next couple of weeks, teachers shift to next gear with quizzes, tests, midterms also enhancing the pace of studies. It is then that the students realize why their seniors have lost their lively attitudes for even they were also the overly ambitious students who had just cleared AFC. Out of the first three subjects, students usually manage to cover the first two but it is Business Law that has terrified students since the late 20th Century – not exaggerating, my dad still does not remember Mercantile Law in nice words.

Out of the CAF subjects, Business Law has always been a puzzling subject for students. Even the finest students are never sure about Law after appearing for it and they have every reason to doubt themselves. For example, the examiner comments are never a message of hope for prospective students. In September 2018, the result was the lowest of all time at approx. 14% and in the previous attempt, it was a meager 18%.

Reasons for failure:

1: Selective study:

If you look at the syllabus outline and you dig a little deeper, you can figure out a major reason for poor performance, selective studying. The syllabus weight implies that if you focus on some elements of the syllabus and prepare well, you can clear the paper with selective studying. This results in students leaving out the Contract Act focusing on the remaining 75% of the syllabus trying to score a little over 50. However, this method has the potential to backfire with a chance that one will fail on the borderline. Such students usually find out that they could have passed had they attempted the entire paper.

2: Endless syllabus: 

The reason for selective studying is also an endless syllabus. The Contract Act constitutes 25% of the syllabus and is spread over fifteen chapters while the remaining mercantile law is only spread over three chapters. But does this imply a student should pursue selective studying? Definitely not!

You are eliminating your choice by selective study, so if you want it to work for you anyway, you would have to perform 100% for the selected portion that you cover and that’s a bit unrealistic.

3: Rote learning:

Another reason for failure is that students believe if they rote-learn the laws and the provisions, they can pass the examination. While this is true for the definitions which require the students to write the definition as it is, this methodology does not work with legal problems where the examiner is looking for the application of the laws. Thus, the student will not gain marks by quoting the law instead they are required to apply the law to the given scenario and answer as if the parties in the question have requested their guidance.

4: Poor drafting skills: 

Next, drafting skills. Many a time, students are aware of the laws and know the answer as well but they struggle because of their weak drafting skills. The poor drafting skills are also partly because of AFC 01. Clearing AFC 01 in the first attempt feels right but it does not mean you do not need any more practice or that you can comfortably write essays.

What to do for improvement? 

The first step in converting failure to success is understanding the causes behind it. A bright student will figure these out but only after appearing for the first time. Thus, to all the first-timers, you need to understand this before it gets too late. So, what can one do to improve the chances of clearing the subject? The solutions are many but a few generalized ones are as follows:

1: Attend the Classes

Do not skip classes! That is not an option. You skip one class and you will start slacking off. Attend the classes, make notes during the lectures, highlight important points in the study text and most importantly, ask questions when you are confused. Do not let the teacher move ahead unless you are clear about the topic being discussed.

2: No Selective Studying

As appealing as it seems, selective studying is off the table. Cover the entire syllabus. Yes, Contract Law is too vast and there is a lot to learn. Regardless, you need to study it thoroughly. Your chances of scoring above 50 increase exponentially if you attempt the entire paper. And if you are in the 40s, a couple of marks here and there will eventually drag you above 50. 

3: Start Studying from The First Day

You know yourself best. Make a study plan and follow it religiously. Do not skip a day like you would not skip the prayer.

4: Practice Writing Answers

Once you feel like you have a grip on a topic, practice writing the answers of past paper questions and get them checked from your teachers or a senior who has cleared the paper. The sooner you start practicing and the more you practice, the better you will get at it. Do not stall it till the last few weeks, especially the second attempters. This will improve your drafting skills as well, increasing the chance to pass substantially.

5: Study Text is your Bible for Business Law

Study text is your ultimate source of knowledge for the exam. The examiner has gone as far as using the examples of the book to create legal problems in the paper. Hence, go through it multiple times. Write your own short notes for quick revision.  

6: Take a Break

Once in a while, take a break, watch football, play FIFA or PUBG, hang out with friends but maintain a balance. Let off some steam and get to studying again.

There might be many other solutions to the problems which you can add to the list and if you can think of some, Amazing! Start applying them right now before it gets too late.

A note for teachers and seniors:

Apart from the students, there are two other parties that can play an important role; teachers and seniors. First and foremost, both parties need to eradicate this fear of the subject and not add to it. Rather than one-liners like, ‘ICAP will invite you again in the next attempt’, they need to calm students down and tell them it is okay to be a little under pressure because that will keep the student going. These one-liners are funny when said in the class but when a student ponders over it, the fear of not passing the subject further hampers the productivity who then frets over the completion of the syllabus and never gets anything done. 

The teachers need to encourage students and force them to form a habit of constant practice. Yes, we are way over the age of spoon-feeding but a little spoon-feeding does not hurt. The seniors should use their experiences and translate them to the current students for their benefits. It is vital the students realize the effects of delayed studying and no one can guide them better than the ones who have already gone through this phase.

All in all, it is only a subject and doable. There are students who appear for FAR 2 and Law on the same day and clear both. It requires persistence and dedication and if you give it both, you will be on the good side of the subject. So, if you are appearing in September 2019, start studying, ask questions, make notes and give your best.

And while you are doing all of that, pray that me and hundreds of other students like me, clear Law when the result comes out on May 14th.

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