Monthly Archives: January 2013

Some tips on tackling the UFE article over on CA Accounting Designation Revealed Blog

For anyone interested, I had a chance recently to write a blog post for the CA Accounting Designation Revealed blog. It’s some high level advice about some common things I’ve seen in the UFE prep space and we will be covering the topics (or have already!) in greater detail over the course of the year. I’ve followed this blog for a few years now and it’s got some other good stuff on their and interesting discussions so check it out.

January 2013 CKE Results now available

Congratulations to the 850 Ontario candidates who were successful in the January 2013 sitting of the Core Knowledge Exam (CKE)!

The CKE is a very technical exam and for many, the format as well as the content can be challenging, it was personally my worst exam out of the three. I’ve heard many say the same. If you were not successful today, you’ll get another chance to write in May and I know plenty who have passed it (often with flying colours such as with a 1st decile score) in the May sitting.

For the remainder, a sincere congratulations on getting through this, two to go!

Click here for the January 2013 CKE Results




Wishing Ontario CA candidates the best of luck for tomorrow, CKE 2013 results!

A reminder, as if you don’t already know, Ontario’s Core Knowledge Exam (CKE) results for the January sitting are out tomorrow morning at 10am. You can find the results here on the ICAO CKE site.

No doubt hundreds of nervous students are pretty anxious tonight. Hang in there, almost over for this one, and then only two to go. Good luck, friends!

Need something to read? Check out some of my comments earlier this month about the CKE. Comments are open for any and all who want to chat.

Getting organized before busy season

Today we have a guest post from Kayla Switzer’s Blog: I Failed the UFE! Now What? You can also get in touch through her web site at www.KaylaSwitzer.comFeel free to contact Kayla if you have any questions or just want to vent! Kayla has experience with the CASB program in the West.

We are coming to the end of January and busy season is in full swing for most people. If you are really busy and stressing that you don’t feel organized for the UFE, don’t worry. Stop stressing! It’s okay to forget about the UFE now for a few months while you work hard during busy season. You shouldn’t be studying now anyway, it’s too early and if you do you’ll get burned out. Especially if you are also working long hours for busy season.

You can start getting organized when busy season slows down. Most people don’t have their schedule yet so you’re not alone. There’s lots of time this summer to study and work on weaknesses, so don’t worry about that now.

One thing you can start thinking about is how much time you want to take off this summer. It’s a good idea to take time off before you start studying so you allow yourself a bit of a summer before you start studying. I took a month off in my second UFE summer! It was such a great thing for me because when I started studying I was totally relaxed and rejuvenated and ready to study instead of tired and burned out from work.

As always, if you have any questions please feel free to email me through my website or at I love hearing from you, so keep the emails coming with questions and concerns! And if you’re looking for a mentor and you’re interested in working with me, I’d love to hear from you!


Some insightful comments on a UFE plan (especially outside of Ontario!)

A few days ago, I gave some suggestions of what a go-forward plan might be for studying for the 2013 UFE. Being from Ontario, I’m not as familiar with the CASB, Quebec and other regional training that candidates receive. Some of our readers were kind of enough to share their experiences with CASB and Quebec in the comments and I thought it deserved a wider audience. Of course, UFE studying is some part an individual sport so neither my own suggestions or theirs should be taken as doctrine.

I’ll take a moment to mention that in the past, there used to be a lot of argument as to why Ontario had a lower comparative pass rate to some of the other provinces. Some thought that Ontario had a strong technical base (thanks to CKE) but was weaker with case writing skills (you only get SOA to work on it). It was thought that the length/amount of case writing in other provinces increased the amounts of people which passed there. I say this, and the comments below may add some weight to it, so that Ontario students understand that they likely have most of the technical they need already (of course there are areas to brush up on), and that the focus will be on building case writing skills.

Thanks again to all those passing along what they’ve learned to the next cohort:

From a candidate in Quebec:

Experience to the UFE studies may vary significantly from person to person. For Quebec writers, most will pass their graduate diploma in chartered accountancy by end of July, given it is a requirement by the OCAQ to write the UFE in Qubec. Most will have the same technical knowledge by then, regardless of the university they will attend, regardless of the language of studies.

The biggest difference is the month of August, like any other CA writers Canada-wide. My advice for the summer, manage your time because you still need to have fun. You need to enjoy what you do. You don’t want to study late at night or in the weekend. To put it simple, basically in August, you are writing each week a year of UFE, and debrief it… maybe some technical review but not so much. You don’t need to burn yourself out.

When not studying, go out and relax. When studying, do it right, do it once. The UFE is hard, but very manageable. And, take a week off between the end of the Graduate CA program and the beginning of the UFE studies… it helps.

My advice: Have fun, manage your time, and don’t/never despair.


From a candidate with the CASB program:

The CASB students will definitely have to follow a different to route to study for UFE as most will have to pass Module around July I think.

Personally, being a CASB student and a repeat writer. I think that CASB student should not worry about technical too much.None of my friends and I touched anything related to UFE before June. All my friends passed on the first attempt.

Even as a second time writer, I never studied before July but did follow what Densmore recommend in his book, UFE success.


Lastly, Sarah, an Ontario candidate who wrote the 2012 UFE makes a good point that she took it easy in July. I agree, you’re waiting for results most of July and after SOA, you sure could use it.

Written the UFE before? Share what you did right or wrong with 2013 UFE writers in the comments!

The Road Ahead to UFE 2013

Chances are that most people are hitting their busy season now so maybe you haven’t had much time to focus on UFE recently. That’s okay and don’t worry about it. It’s too early to start stressing about that. Here’s a bit of a high level roadmap of the course you could take.

January – Brush up on your technical, this is a good time to start reviewing your tax that you probably blew off for CKE (if you’re in Ontario). Nothing too heavy but take some time on the weekends if you can and review for a few hours here and there. If it’s just not in the cards right now, don’t worry about it. If you’re the type that needs to do something, review technical because later on you won’t have nearly as much time for this.

February – Same as January.

March – Same as February, review technical, get it solidified in your head.

April – In my opinion, April is a good time to start looking at case approach and learning the basics of cases. In Ontario this means start with SOA cases. Chances are that if you’re enrolled in one of the big UFE prep programs you’ll be forced into this anyway around this time. This doesn’t mean hitting cases full steam. Do one every weekend, learn from the process. I’ll post some material on this in early April to help you out.

May – Continue practicing cases, one a week is good recommendation. Keep brushing up on any technical that these cases may expose.

June – In Ontario, you’ll have SOA which will keep you busy busy, and you’ll find yourself writing 5 SOA cases a week on average. This is a lot of cases so this is where you’ll really get your method down. Outside Ontario, I’m unfortunately not familiar with the programs, but I imagine you’ll start writing cases more often too.

July – You’ll write less cases in Ontario as you wait for your results. Good time for one last brush up on technical, there will be almost no time in August for technical so finalize it here. Go back to one or two cases a week and learn what a UFE case looks like.

August – August is when you go hard on UFE cases. Most people take the four weeks prior to the UFE an do eight hour days Monday to Friday writing simulations. These will be days of writing and debriefing simulations, you might have some time to review technical but it’s not a good time to study heavy technical so keep that in mind.

September 10 – 12, 2013 – UFE

And that’s it for the average candidate. Those who are anxious can relax a little, plenty of time remains.

UFE Study Partner Search

A reminder that there’s someone looking over in the UFE Study Partner search for a 2013 partner in Vaughan, Woodbridge and Brampton area. If anyone is interested, send them off an e-mail!

I’m currently looking for a study group or person(s) who will write 2013 SOA & UFE. Looking to start early to get technicals and case practice intact. Even if you’re writing the UFE, contact me.

Many Thanks,


What is your weakness? Know what your transcript is saying!

Today we have a guest post from Kayla Switzer’s Blog: I Failed the UFE! Now What? You can also get in touch through her web site at www.KaylaSwitzer.comFeel free to contact Kayla if you have any questions or just want to vent! 

Knowing why you failed the UFE is an important first step in moving on. I have been receiving a lot of emails from students requesting an explanation of their transcript because they are confused about what exactly it is saying. It is confusing! So let’s go through a sample in more detail and you can use it as a guide to understand your transcript better.

Transcript Sample

This is an example of a student who failed at Level 1. The sufficiency grouping of 1 means that this student was close to passing the UFE, but needed one or two more indicators at Competent to pass. A student with a sufficiency grouping of 10, which is the highest sufficiency grouping (i.e. the furthest away from passing Level 1) would have needed several more indicators at C to pass.

The decile rankings for the Comprehensive and the Non-Comprehensives are to rank you against your peers for the three day exam. In this example, the student has a decile ranking of 7 on the Comprehensive and 8 in the Non-Comprehensive (the multis), which means that the student was was in the bottom 30% on the Comprehensive and the bottom 20% for the multis. Another way to look at it is that the honour roll students would have a decile ranking of 1, which means they would be in the top 10% of all writers.

In this example, this student passed at Level 2 and Level 3. This student only barely passed Tax at “standard marginally met”. This could mean that the student was weak in tax technical, that they didn’t notice an entire tax indicator, or maybe that the student had poor time management and always left tax to the end and didn’t tend to provide enough depth.

There is also a lot of reading between the lines to do. For example, did you focus primarily on the Level 2 requirements getting green, and then got yellow and red in Level 3? This is a time management issue because although of course you need to do well in PM and Assurance, if you don’t leave enough time for Level 3 you won’t be able to pass the UFE.

So now look at your own transcript. What is it saying? What level did you fail at? How many reds and yellows did you get? Can you read between the lines to find out what it all really means?

If you have more questions on your specific transcript please feel free to contact me through my website at I love to hear from all of you!

About the 2013 CKE results

2013 CKE Results Day

I’ll get back to more UFE-centric topics soon, but since one of our readers asked, I thought I’d say a little about the CKE results which Ontario students are now anxiously awaiting. For those who don’t already know (they exist..) the 2013 CKE results for the January sitting will be released Friday, January 25, 2013 at 10am. This will, by a somewhat arcane tradition, be done very publicly on the ICAO CKE 2013 landing site. Your firm/CATO will know the results (I believe) 30 minutes in advance.

Why they still choose to release everything so publicly I’m not sure but back in 2010 it was kind of fun (looking back..) because at around 10am you would have a thousand students clicking refresh every second which often overloaded the ICAO servers and slowed it down for everyone. This often resulted in getting choppy web site loads with missing chunks or you’d have to wait a long time while your result loaded. If you dared hit refresh again you’d lose your place in the load queue and have to wait longer. All while your hearts pounding in anticipation. It was all very stressful.

Luckily things have changed and these load issues have been resolved since then.


What the heck are they doing for three weeks?

I have no inside knowledge of the marking process but given the quality control over the SOA and UFE I suspect that the ICAO does a fair bit of analysis on these results.

What I can tell you is that the CKE is marked and compared to previous years’ CKEs. As you may be aware, the questions on the CKE are kept secret so they can be reused between years (obviously swapped around). After the comparisons are done and analyzed  I suspect that the ICAO sets a passing standard that maintains some minimum overall long-term benchmark. This typically results in a higher percentage of people passing in January than in May. This form of setting the cutoff would ensure that neither session of the CKE is easier than the other since you’re not only compared to the overall group but also to every other group that has written the CKE in the past.


What will you see in the result?

You’ll get a few pieces of information on results day.

You’ll get an overall SUCCESSFUL/NOT SUCCESSFUL result.

You’ll get an overall decile score. ICAO explains how it works here but in short, all students are split up into 10 equal groups based on their ranking. Ten is the lowest rank (bottom 10%) and One is the highest (top 10%). Anything 6-10 is below average and anything 1-5 is above average. As I’ve mentioned previously, from my experiences with people, based on mock exams, those getting in the high 50s and in the 60s are typically in the top deciles. Those in the high 40s and in the 50s are somewhere around the 3-8th decile. Of course, how you perform exam day can be different than mocks. A lot of people will be surprised by the decile ranking they get because they associated 50s with doing badly.

You’ll get a decile ranking for each competency area. This means you’ll find out how you did in PMR vs. everybody else. A lot of people blow off tax for CKE thinking that the effort (amount to cover) vs. reward (# of marks) ratio is too low so you may be surprised how you rank in tax as well. Either way, this is a good place to get to understand where your weaknesses are for SOA.

Those scoring below 5th decile will also get a warning on their result that they are below average and should brush up on things. Thanks ICAO! 🙂


Now we wait

So you’re nervous, the exam was harder than you thought and you’ve got to wait three weeks. This is just part of the cruel CA process we signed up for, it’s a three months wait for the UFE results so this is good practice. Everyone will be nervous and most people think the exam is hard so you’re in good company. In 2010, from the best of my memory, the ICAO passed people into the 9th decile so that’s a pretty decent pass rate and your odds are good.

Take away your holidays and then put many of you through ‘busy season’. SOA and UFE right after that. Accountants are cruel people, don’t you think?

Hang in there.

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