Monthly Archives: July 2012

Debrief Week – What you will get out of a good debrief

Yesterday we discussed the What is, Why do it and When to do a debrief. Today we’ll talk about what you are trying to get out of it.

Here are four things you should get out of every debrief session.

    1. You want to know WHAT was neccessary to achieve competence.
      By the end of a good debrief you will also understand what was necessary in order to reach competence from the solution. By reading the solution, using some judgment and reading the comments from the evaluation board you should understand what was necessary to reach competence. Did you need to provide two procedures or three? Did you need to tackle four accounting issues or two? Did you tackle the most highly ranked issues? Why were they so highly ranked. The UFE solutions are very good and should give you lots of hints. Alternatively, I know there are marking guides out there, too.
    2. You want to learn WHY you scored the way you did on each indicator.
      You goal should always strive for a Competent (C) score on each indicator. If you scored NA, NC, RC or HC on an indicator you need to know why you did so. For example, if you scored NA, you need to understand why you missed the issue (were you reading too fast? did you not know what the trigger was? or was it a ranking issue?). Determining this will allow you to understand what you need to work on (slow down and outline more carefully, study what the trigger was or determine why it was ranked higher than you ranked the issue).
    3. You will learn technical.
      What a great source of UFE technical the UFE Solutions are.  You cannot find a better technical study resource than the solutions themselves, because, they are the solutions! You don’t need to go deep into books and learn everything all over again, the UFE solutions provide exactly the technical you need to know. You will get a good understanding of what level of technical is necessary, and when you think about it, it’s really not as high as some students may think.
    4. You will have a concrete strategy to improve your next simulation.
      The students that have mastered debriefing will improve with each debrief. By understanding why you scored the way you did and what is necessary to score higher you can begin to bridge the gap and move those NA, NC and RC to C.  This is the hardest part: you will have to rewrite indicators in a way that achieves competence. Nobody wants to do this part but I believe this is one of the best things you can do to improve. How do you write better cases? You’ve got to write, write and write again.

Share in the comments: What else should you get out of a good debrief?

Continuing debrief week, tomorrow’s topic is step 1 above: figuring out what you need in order to achieve competence.

Debrief Week – What, Why and When to debrief

Chances are that by now you’ve heard the term debriefing thrown around very casually. Chances are also, that you may not really have a great understanding of what exactly debriefing is. I’ll try this week to explain it better and we’ll hit the topic more in depth over the course of this week.

What is debriefing?

Debriefing is the processes that takes place after you have written and marked your simulation. It is a way to study from simulations. With simulations, you cannot just read the solution and improve significantly as you may have done in some of your University studies. Debriefing is a far more active process and this makes it difficult and hard work but this is what’s necessary in order to increase your probability of being successful on the UFE by reaching competence across the indicators.

Why debrief? As just mentioned, simulations are different types of examinations and you cannot just dump information into your simulation and expect good results. Like real life, simulations are not simple nor black or white and thinking is required. Because of these reasons, you cannot study only from the solution guide or by rereading your case after you’ve read the solution. The only way to significantly improve over the course of your study period is to debrief.

When to debrief? Debriefing is best done soon after you write and mark your case. The typical UFE study day involves writing your case first, have a study partner mark it and then debrief it on your own. You should not save debriefing for too far in the future as the simulation will not longer be fresh in your head. Although with writing comps you may have to extend the debrief over into the next day.

Please share in the comments: How has your debriefing experience been so far? Come back tomorrow when we’ll be discussing what you should learn from a good debriefing session.

Weekend Update

Thanks for all the comments and feedback received so far. Keep it coming!

I’ve updated the Getting Started with UFE Blog area for our new visitors to have a one-stop area to get started with the material so far. I’ve got a weeks worth of posts coming next week about debriefing UFE simulations, so check back on Monday if this is an area you haven’t quite grasped debriefing.

Have a great weekend!


The emotional aspect of the UFE tends to be high. On top of pressure felt from various personal and professional sources, the competitive nature of most CA students results in them putting a lot of pressure on themselves which often means that the stress level of many students get out of control as the UFE approaches.

That’s not to say you should take this exam lightly or slack off but many people need to take it easy a little more. It could mean the difference between a success and a failure and I’d argue that for many people it means exactly that. I think by now we’ve all seen the stress take students down.

Here’s a few suggestions of things that helped me manage the stress. For some more ideas you can always go here.

  • Social Activity – We’re social creatures so get out, have fun and try to get some laughs in which is another stress reducer. It’ll also help you live longer!
  • Exercise – In between SOA and finishing UFE I gained more pounds than I want to admit to, this was a big mistake. Exercise is good for your body and brain and will help you through this tough time. Get out there are do some good exercise!
  • Time Management – I find having a solid and flexible schedule reduces my stress level. I like to be in control and nothing increases my stress more than being disorganized or not having enough time. This is one of the reasons I believe it’s worth spending time thinking carefully about your study schedule.
  • Pets/Kids – If you’ve got pets of children, take them out for a walk and play with them.
My summer during the UFE was one of the best summers I have had so it’s possible to study for the UFE and have a great time.

What’s your favourite way to manage stress?


Developing a UFE Study Schedule – Setting up a calendar

We’ve previously discussed which exams you should choose in your writing. Today you can get a copy of a sample study schedule which covers 3 comps and 24 multis. In my opinion, as I’ve previously stated, this is the absolute maximum you should write. When I wrote in 2010, I only ended up doing two comps properly from start to finish and probably around 20 multis so this is on average what I’d recommend. There are, of course, people who wrote both many less and many more, who passed and did not, so it’s not an exact science. This is a similar study schedule to what some of the large accounting firms use and also implements some ideas I’ve picked up from my Densmore Course a few years back.

Here is a pre-filled calendar template you can use to setup your schedule: UFE Study Schedule – 2012

Here’s some additional tips and thoughts:

  • Comp day is flexible – I like Monday because I’m the freshest and have the most energy so it’s easier to plow through a 5 hour exam on Monday for me. I’ve known many who also like Wednesday to break up the week. I also think that Thursday is a valid alternative since you could write thursday and finish debriefing on Friday and take the afternoons off. I don’t recommend Friday because you cannot complete the full write and debrief without going into the weekend or coming back two days later. Which brings me to…
  • Weekends off – Your brain and body need time to recover.
  • Use “Flex Days” if necessary. You are, at some point, going to get sick of writing, find your performance diminishing or just can’t stand writing another exams, these are all signs of burnout. Monitor this carefully and adjust. Plan to write 24 and 3 comps but understand that you may only be able to write 20 or even 18 multis and 2 comps. Do some light review those burnout days or even better, just take the afternoon or day off. You need to be healthy and not burned out on September 11, 12 and 13.
  • Stick to regular hours. Although it’s ideal to match the 9-1 or 9-2 exam writing times I don’t personally find this to be a big deal but stick to something consistent and know yourself best. I wouldn’t be risking starting at 6 or 8pm everyday at this point.

What’s worked for you in the past? What are your plans for setting up a study schedule?


Update on Folioviews

In a previous post, Why Folioviews is great, I discussed why you should rely on using The Handbook within Folioviews during the UFE. One of our readers tonight informed us in the comments that beginning this year, the UFE will use a PDF viewer to access reference material instead of Folioviews. Our reader informed us that the search within the PDF viewer is more difficult to work with and therefore candidates should be aware of this and get sufficient practice using this new version of SecureExam.

I haven’t used this PDF viewer before so at the moment, until I try it out, I can’t give any advice on it. Thanks again!

Developing a UFE Study Schedule – Which exams to write

The most critical time for the UFE is your August study schedule which leads up to the UFE on September 11, 12 and 13 of 2012. During this time you should be focusing on writing simulations, marking them with a study partner or group and then debriefing them yourself. We’ll tackle all these things individually in the future but for now, I’ll just throw some stuff at you to consider when making up your study schedule.

Today’s topic is which exams to write and in what order.

From what I’ve seen, most people tend to stick to the last three years of cases but a completely full schedule could allow you four years which is up to 24 multis and up to 3 comps which is around the ideal maximum amount that you would want to write in your study period. Writing 3 comps can be a bit daunting so I might replace one of the comps with another couple of multis which you can draw from the 2008 pile of cases. I think if you are planning on writing any more than this you risk peaking and your performance sliding so do so with caution.

My recommended strategy for which cases to write in order has to do with which competencies you feel you need the most work on. For most students, I think their weak areas tend to be tax and PMR so therefore, if this applies to you, I would develop a study schedule that is heavy on those two competencies early on so that you focus and improve right away. As time goes on you’ll gradually reduce the amount of PMR and tax (if this applies to you) and see more of the other competencies. I would also save the PQs for as late as you can as I recommend it be the last thing you try to master.

That said, I’m including below info about which competency is tested on each exam so you can use it to help devise a schedule. You can also find an Excel: UFE Competencies Tested By Exam – 2007-2011, which goes back all the way to 2007. What strategies do you have for building an exam schedule?

x = tested once; xx = tested twice.

Exam PMR Assurance Taxation Finance MDM GSRM PQ
2009 I xx xx x x x x
2009 II-1 xx x x x
2009 II-2 xx x
2009 II-3 x xx x
2009 III-1 xx x x
2009 III-2 x x
2009 III-3 x x x x
2010 I xx x x xx x x
2010 II-1 x x x
2010 II-2 x x x x
2010 II-3 x x x
2010 III-1 x x x
2010 III-2 x x x
2010 III-3 x xx x
2011 I xx x x x x x x
2011 II-1 x x x x
2011 II-2 x x x x
2011 II-3 x x x
2011 III-1 x x x
2011 III-2 xx x x
2011 III-3 x x x


How to study during your UFE study period

CA Students love to study technical. I don’t know why, but it seems that when a bad case is written, or in almost every other situation surrounding the UFE, everyone just wants to hide away somewhere and study technical. My best guess as to why is that either people feel lazy or just perpetually weak in technical. I say lazy because it’s easier to sit around and read technical rather than do the hard work of writing another case and debriefing it properly. You can convince yourself that your are still studying and being productive this way, which you are, but it’s not optimal.

This is a mistake and the level of technical required for the UFE is exaggerated and for the more technical subjects you have the Handbook available to use. Except for taxation, I did not study anymore technical after the CKE except for the simulations and the occasional reference lookup. If you still insist on having something, I recommend (it’s the only one I used so this is not an opinion about the other material out there) Densmore’s Competency Map Study Notes which cover the material in appropriate detail for the UFE.

What You Should be Doing

  1. Write simulations! Lots of them. The UFE puts you in business simulations (with a heavy tilt to accounting) and it is largely a writing exam. The best way to get good at this and reach competence on the UFE is to practice lots of exams and debrief them. This is hard work and there is no avoiding it. 
  2. For highly technical issues, you should be aware of what triggers these issues in the simulation, roughly where you can find the issue in the Handbook and then use The Handbook to find the criteria. Finding the triggers is often the toughest part and the only way to develop this is through writing and debriefing lots of cases.
  3. The solutions to the UFE Simulations contain all the technical you need to know so don’t spend a lot of time going even more in depth after debriefing. These are the solutions already! They don’t need anymore from you in order to reach competency.
  4. Many important things on the UFE to reach competence such as writing procedures, ranking issues and identifying PQ indicators come with practice and cannot be studied. Don’t overlook these, so I’ll repeat one last time, write lots of simulations!

When it’s okay to study technical

  1. For taxation related issues. Taxation is extremely rule based and the tax act is hard to navigate. It may be prudent to work some taxation technical into your study schedule if this is a weak area of yours. Keep in my that it’s only part of your entire study schedule so don’t go overboard. You don’t want to have the best taxation response in the world at the expense of all the others.
  2. For PMR, You should have a general awareness of a broad range of accounting issues so if you don’t even know what non-monetary transactions, capital leases or financial instruments are then you won’t even identify the issues and get NAs. I still recommend you start by writing cases but if you are getting a lot of NAs at this point you are missing issues and will need to brush up on technical.

Chances are that the UFE is a different kind of exam from your University days so it’s important to change the way you play the game.

Let us know in the comments: How have you been studying and do you have any other advice that’s worked?

UFE Study Buddy or Group

Your UFE study partner or study group is one of the important choices you’ll have to make early on. As with much of social interaction, results can vary.

As discussed previously, I do recommend a study partner or study group.

My own study buddy experience is an example of how you could handle various kinds of situations. During SOA in June I lived with and also worked on a common schedule with a single study buddy. It worked very well throughout June at SOA because we lived in the same place and it was easy to write an exam or two after classes, take it up and then debrief on our own.

This changed during my August UFE study period when commuting became a factor and it was more difficult to reliably follow a schedule. Within a week I could tell it wasn’t working for me or my study buddy and we parted ways. What works in one situation doesn’t work in another so it’s best to cut your losses. I ended up doing simulations with miscellaneous friends for another week in order to align my study schedule with another group I was planning to join the following week. I ended up doing some exams on my own as well which was naturally stressing me out a bit. Finally, for week 3 and 4 I joined a group of three and we formed our group of four study group. For the last two weeks this worked extremely well and the four of us were successful.

So, here’s some things to consider before and during your study period.

  1. Are you all sticking to a schedule where everyone is happy and moving forward?
    Study partners or groups that are constantly late are wasting your time and energy. Buddies that are a bad influence on you by offering distractions, temptations, etc. may also not be suitable for this one month.
  2. Are you all in the same skill league in terms of writing simulations?
    When one writer is vastly superior to the others both of you are not benefiting. In one case the superior writer is probably not going to improve, in the other, you may be discouraged by the superior writer who is just above average whereas you should be comparing yourself to the average.
  3. Are you enjoying spending the day with your group or study buddy?
    You are probably spending upto 8 hours a day with this person or group, so you want this time to be as enjoyable as possible. 2011 National UFE Gold Medallist Juliana Yuen expressed the same sentiment: “My study group was also invaluable – we worked hard when we needed to, but we made sure to have fun too!”
  4. Are you getting good feedback from your study buddy/group or are you just being used for yours?
    Make sure that you are providing good feedback and getting it. The hard work is in debriefing but your partner needs to have some use by providing good feedback on exactly how your case reads to someone independent.
  5. Are you and your group improving at all? If not, what might be the cause?
    The purpose of the study partner or study group is to improve your simulations. If it’s been two weeks and you aren’t improving, find out quickly what the problem is. Are you debriefing badly? Is your group not providing any good feedback? Two weeks in is probably your last opportunity to fix the problem.
Fun Facts: The 2010 National UFE Gold Medallist Vicky Au studied with her boyfriend as part of her study group, who also made the honour roll. The 2011 National UFE Gold Medallist Juliana Yuen also had a boyfriend who wrote the 2009 UFE as her mentor. Not sure I’d recommend this path but maybe they’re on to something!

Past writers, please share in the comments: What are some of your study buddy experiences like? What’s your advice?

For this year’s writers: What are some of your questions or concerns about study buddies/groups?

UFE Study Buddy Search is up!

As you can see on the top menu, I’ve added a little classifieds section where you can post and view ads for people still looking to join a study buddy group, virtual studdy buddy (remote) and looking for one study buddy. As we’ve discussed previously, I recommend working with at least one studdy buddy, so if you’re still searching for someone to work with feel free to use this classifieds section. I will leave it up until the UFE in case anybody needs a new study buddy midway through. Good luck!

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