Debrief Week – Improving your UFE performance

At this point you’ve reviewed the solution, figured out how to achieve competence and identified in your cases why you didn’t achieve competence. Today I’m suggesting strategies you can take in your case to further improve. It’s a bit of a monster post, sorry about that!

Big Picture first.

The way I look at it, big picture, is that there is a process that takes place which begins with reading the information and ends with the formation of your complete response. If your results are not where you’d like them, you need to figure out where in this reading-to-formation process the problem was caused and correct that problem.

  • Reading: The first part of the process is reading the simulation and understanding the issues. In the reading stage you doing much of the heavy work because here you have to recognize the issues and highlight/note them to get put on your outline. If you are weak in the reading stage it will impact your entire response because you may be missing required issues (NA) or missing important information to include in your response(weakens your point/weak use of case facts). You can identify problems in the reading stage if you did not see a required (missed an indicator altogether) or didn’t provide enough case facts to support your point (might also be an outlining problem).My advice, if you are having problems at the reading stage, is first, don’t rush the reading. It may be beneficial, if you are still missing requireds or important information, to slow it down and catch the important information. Second, if it is a knowledge thing, make sure to review the technical in the solution and then rewrite that one indicator with this new found knowledge to the C level. Give yourself as much time as you’d normally take for this issue on a real simulation. Third, if you knew the technical but just missed the trigger then go back to your original simulation paper and underlight/highlight the sentence or words (they may be scattered throughout) which should have triggered the issue for you, and again, rewrite the indicator to a C in a timed way.
  • Outlinining: The second part of the process is summarizing/compiling the important information. Some people like to outline on the question sheet but I prefer a separate paper outline. Whichever way you prefer, you’ll have to at some point develop a way to rank issues quickly, understand your role and any timeline information in the simulation, allocate your time and have a way to point yourself to the case facts quickly. You’ll identify some of the problems in the outlining stage by improper ranking, running out of time or missing case facts.From your outline, there are basically three main problems you could be having: incorrectly allocating time, incorrect ranking or not including information properly on your outline. These issues can be tough to tackle because often it just takes practice to get a feel for them. Here are some tips: for ranking issues, go back to solution and determine why issues were ranked the way they were (was it pervasiveness of the issue, was it a material amount, etc.) and then go back to your outline, what thinking process did you follow when ranking? Was there information missing for you to make the same decision of the solution? Now go back one more step to the original simulation paper and find the information there that should have triggered you to rank the issue differently. If the problem you had was not including information on your outline then adjust your outlining method to more clearly point to issues. If time allocation was the issue then once again, go back to your original simulation and reread it, get a feel for how much time must go into tackling this issue to a C level. Time allocation is often closely interlinked with ranking so think about these things together. As always, if possible, rewrite indicators to a C with your newly learned knowledge at this stage.
  • Forming a response: The third part of the process is clearly presenting your response. Once you have read and thought about your simulation, put all the important information on your outline and linked it to the reading, the writing part should just communicate your outline in a more formal and thorough way. The problems you might encounter here are running out of time (you are too wordy, tackling too much or you have taken too long in the other stages) or your are not conveying your thoughts/outline clearly. My advice at this stage is to rewrite indicators to a C. If conveying your thoughts is a problem (you had the info in your outline/case highlighted), only practice can improve your writing and if you need to do it slowly at first then so be it but work on speed eventually, understand the minimum you need to put down on paper to score your C and keep practicing writing it in this way.
This is of course not an exhaustive list of all the possible problems you might encounter but my point is that you must determine where you are having the problem (reading, outlining or writing) and often work your way backward to the original simulation paper to find the trigger or consciously adjust your strategy to cope with the problem.

And now, some of the more common specific problems include…

  1. You are not identifying required issues. Go back to the original simulation paper and your outline/response. Figure out which words and sentence trigger the required. Study the technical/issue in the solution. Rewrite the indicator with this new knowledge.
  2. Time Management. These issues can arise for many reasons and can also be tough to get a handle on. Some improvement will just come with practice, the more cases you write the more knowledge you’ll have and the quicker you’ll tackle familiar issues. Practice using The Handbook when you write each mock to get familiar where the guidance is so that by the time you write the UFE, you’ll know where to find criteria very quickly. If you are getting HCs in some indicators and NCs or RCs in others, you are not managing your time evenly and need to learn when to stop an issue.  Quants often cause time management issues too. Remember that you need to get across everything, so know when to drop a quant, even if it’s half complete you are better of tackling other issues.
  3. Ranking Issues. Ranking is important in the UFE and also impacts time management. The UFE is designed to force you to rank so understanding how and why issues are ranked is important. Specifically asked for information/issues are of course ranked highest, material amounts are ranked high, pervasive issues are always ranked high (issues which impact more than one area), impacts on cash flow, future existence of the entity, fraud and so forth. You need to be aware of all these things and how they rank. The best way to improve is to examine your outline and response after the fact, understand why each issue was ranked the way it was (from the solution) and then rerank and rewrite certain indicators with the new information. It will stick better.
  4. Poor Analysis. Poor analysis often has to do with poor time management, ranking, a lack of knowledge about the topic (you are afraid of its complexity) or bad outline. If your understanding was poor, learn the technical from the solution, then rewrite that indicator.
  5. Poor Writings/Case Fact Integration. The UFE is a writing exam as much as it is an accounting exam, you have to be able to get across your knowledge and thoughts clearly. Early on, case fact integration is usually poor. The best way to improve is to write, write and do more writing. Rewrite the indicators after the fact, properly integrating case facts appropriately.

I hope those tips help and we’ll keep praciticing with real examples as we go on so we’ll come back to things. If you are a high performer and your cases are looking good already, try analyzing your case. Figure out what you wrote that was good and what was useless. Eliminate the useless stuff to save time and give you more time to get HCs if that’s what you’d like to do.

Some of the main themes this week:

  • Spend time reading the solution and linking the solution back to the original case. Understand how it all links together and how each word or sentence in the paper triggers the solution.
  • Understand what is required in order to reach competence from the UFE solutions and understand why you fell short.
  • Rewrite indicators after they have been marked and studied. This improves almost every skill that is necessary for UFE success and helps you reach competence.


What other tips do you have for improving your cases? What has worked and not worked for you? Please share in the comments!


  1. One thing which I find useful in debriefing is highlighting only ( only – repeated for emphasis ) the case facts in the Evaluation guide. This considerably shortens the reading from the evaluation guide at the same time helps in understanding how case facts are used in evaluation

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