Monthly Archives: May 2013

Handy SOA Tip #2

Last week I mentioned that you should bring something soft to sleep on if you’re staying the in residence. Today, I’ll suggest you bring a printer or print all the material in advance. It may seem obvious, but you’ll need to print all the practice simulations and solutions. I always liked having a paper copy of the response I’m marking as well but some people can do this well on the computer.

My experience during SOA was that anyone with a printer or a microwave was very popular!

Tracking your progress and improving

What should you track for SOA or UFE?

Tracking your progress over the course of June at SOA is important, as it is for those outside of Ontario for your practice UFE cases. It doesn’t take long to do and provides you with valuable information that you can use to improve.

How?

A good tracking system will track your results (NC/RC/C/HC) by competency for each exam. Soon after you start tracking you’ll be able to see patterns. For example, maybe you’re already at C in Assurance but you’re a mixture of NC/RC in Performance Measurement & Reporting (PMR). This is valuable information.

My philosophy has always been that you should tackle your weaknesses as soon as you can. When you’re seeing a result such as the above, it would tempt me to spend more time on my PMR weakness to try to overcome it quickly. Each case will have a number of competencies but you can quickly swap out cases with heavier PMR components to get in as much as you can.

Some people prefer to stick to their original planned schedule, which is fine, instead, you can focus on your PMR debrief more and improve through that method.

Additionally, I would also track a few other key stats. For example, did you run out of time? Did you have problems with ranking? Was it a technical deficiency? And so forth. These are just an extra column but over time will provide you with information about what other skills you may need to work on which is not obvious from your marks alone.

I will dig up + post some useful competency tools/tracking sheets later this week so check back.

 

What other tracking or tools did you find useful for SOA/UFE?

SOA Tip – Bring something to sleep on!

Now that we have 278 more writers attending the School of Accountancy (SOA) very soon I can give you this strong suggestion.

SOA is tiring. You have school all day and then you write cases into the evening. You’ll need to sleep a lot to stay at your best. If you’re one of the many students who is staying in the residence, I strongly urge you to bring something soft to sleep on because the beds are awful. It’s pretty much like sleeping on a wooden board. If you can bring some of those foam mattresses or similar to soften it a bit you’ll get a much better sleep and be at your best.

You’ve been warned 🙂 I hope everyone had a great long-weekend.

May CKE Results Today at 10am

Update

Congratulations to the 278 candidates who successfully completed the May sitting of the CKE today! Enjoy the weekend, hard work ahead 🙂

May 2013 CKE Results Bulletin

http://www.icao.on.ca/cke2013/

Today’s another nerve-wracking day for hundreds of Ontario candidates who wrote the May sitting of the Core Knowledge Exam (CKE).

Results are released at 10am at the following address. As always, it’s by last name.

Wishing everyone the best of luck in a few (probably long for many) hours. If all goes well, you’ll soon be joining the droves of other candidates at SOA in a few short weeks!

 

May 2013 CKE Results Bulletin

http://www.icao.on.ca/cke2013/

Build your UFE muscles! Start now, don’t wait till August!

Today’s post is a sponsored guest post produced by exaMENTOR.

Preparing for an intellectual, case-writing and critical-thinking marathon like the UFE is hard. That’s why you need to develop the strength to push yourself through the three-day challenge and across the finish line ahead of your competition!

So how do you prepare for this marathon? By building your UFE muscles. You need to make sure your brain is trained to withstand the pressure of time constraints and that your memory responds to every attempt at recalling your technical knowledge.

Successful studying involves addressing your weaknesses and capitalizing on your strengths. However, you also need to be realistic and understand that preparing for the UFE is not something you can do in two days. Effective preparation takes time. It’s a lot like building muscle mass; it’s impossible to do over night, but a few months of disciplined and persistent training can do wonders.

Since 2010, exaMENTOR has been assisting candidates to prepare for their UFE marathons. We are the first organized group of experienced CAs to offer both marking and coaching services. Our exaMENTOR team includes CAs with extensive UFE marking centre experience, comprehensive managerial experience and honour roll UFE writers.

We are eager to share with you our knowledge and expertise. Here are a few tips to get you started preparing for your marathon:

Tip  #1: Understand your strengths and weaknesses

Whether a new or experienced writer, we strongly recommend submitting one or two simulations to a seasoned marker and arranging for a one-on-one consultation session in May. This will help you to recognize and more deeply understand your strengths and weaknesses early on in the preparation process.

If you are an experienced writer, you absolutely must get your PAR reviewed by a professional marker. We strongly discourage you from solely relying on a self-analysis of your PAR. Depend on professionals who are capable of providing you with an estimate of your ranking on the UFE. Also, our experienced markers will help you create a personalized study plan that will offer a range of simulations to give you opportunities to train your weaker areas. For instance, if you are spending too much time on quantitative analysis, your mentor will suggest practice simulations that include more quantitative analysis and coach you on how to approach various quantitative indicators. We strongly urge you to not wait until August; by then, it may be too late to improve your case writing skills. Remember, it takes time to train your muscles, whether it’s your biceps, triceps or brain muscle!

Tip  #2: Come up with a plan

If you’re a repeat writer we strongly encourage you to re-evaluate your study strategy. If you have taken a preparation course in the past, consider whether personalized tutoring and marking would be a better option this year.

If you’re a new writer, we recommend that you take a preparation course in combination with personalized tutoring and marking. Private tutoring and marking offers multiple benefits to candidates. Professionals with UFE and provincial institute exam marking experience will mark your papers and provide valuable feedback, which will help you assess your own performance. A professional marker is able to identify exactly what you need to do to pass the UFE. In fact, with an experienced marker, you don’t need to worry if you don’t have a study buddy. You will receive better feedback by submitting your simulations to a professional marker than you would to a fellow candidate. In addition, one-on-one discussions with your mentor that assess your performance is an effective stress management technique. Your personal coach is also able to track your performance and compare it to other candidates. This will help you to stay on the right track during your preparation. Most importantly, it will give you confidence that you are on the right track and will stop you from falling victim to a lethal panic.

Tip  #3: Create time and come up with a budget

Ensure that you make the necessary arrangements with your employer so that you have sufficient time to properly prepare for the UFE. It is recommended that you not work during August as the challenge of studying and writing the UFE requires you to be mentally and physically energetic and alert. Remember, building muscles means having the time and energy to go to the gym and work out.

Make a budget as to how to finance your extra help. We find a long-term relationship with a marker and mentor to be far much more beneficial than sporadically submitting work to be marked. An investment in your preparation is a sure path to success.

If possible, plan a short getaway towards the end of July. It’s a good idea to clear your mind and relax before the key study period begins in August.

Tip  #4: Review your technical

Make sure that you are comfortable with your technical knowledge before August. Do not leave this element of your preparation until then. Of course, we strongly advise you to have a solid grip on the technical rules to ensure you are capable of providing in-depth discussions, but you want to use August to perfect your case-writing skills and not for acquiring technical knowledge. Your coach will help you to stay on track and confirm that your knowledge base is adequate.

Take the time to plan out your summer and start your first muscle-building exercises today! Visit our website – www.exaMENTOR.ca – to find out more. 

Sponsored posts are content that has been produced by a company, which is either paying for the post or has a business relationship with UFE Blog, and they’re always clearly marked. The content of regular posts produced by UFE Blog are never influenced by advertisers or sponsors in any way.

Formulating a Case Response on the SOA and UFE

Please don’t be fooled by the SOA/UFE Solutions provided. You’re not expected or required to present your responses in such beautiful prose. The Sample Responses provided are a lot closer to the real deal in terms of format/style but they, too, are very high quality which most candidates will never reach. It’s important to understand that your response will be more direct and point-form style without going to the extreme of that.

If you’ve done a fantastic outline, the way your formulate your response should be very easy and should make it easy for the marker to follow.

Always title your report/response

Your goal is to make your responses very easy to follow and read for the marker. If they can’t find what they’re looking for, they may not start looking for it. Don’t tempt fate. Always title your report (of which you may have many if the simulation demands it).

Report To / Audit Planning Memo / Memo To : and give a name of the partner, company, etc.

Use clear headings and subheadings in a logical way

I was always a fan of bolding and indenting.

Required #1 (Heading)

  • Issue #1a
    • Analysis
    • Analysis
  • Issue #1b
    • Analysis

Required #2 (Heading)

  • Issue #2a
    • Analysis
    • Analysis
    • Analysis

Conclusion/Recommendation: (if warranted)

  • Based on x, y and z the appropriate treatment/etc. is z.

And so forth as necessary. Of course you can make some modification here but your responses should have a similar flow.

Quants should be done separately (unless very short) in the spreadsheet software and then only referenced to in the analysis. More to come here.

Here’s an example of this format:

Identification of Accounting Issues at XYZ Corp.

  • New Machine in Use
    • Given the circumstances and IFRS requirements, the new machine will need to be tested for signs of impairment on a regular basis. Under IFRS the method to test for impairment is to discount the future cashflows that the machine will generate and compare to the current balance sheet value. If the discounted cash flows are less than the current value, the machine must be written down (impaired) to the present value of the discounted cash flows.
    • In this case the PV (at 7% discount rate) is $1.1M x 15 Year Life Discounted at 7% and compared to the book value of $1.5M. This will not be impaired this year.
  • Next Issue
    • Analysis on that issue.

(I just pulled this out of an old case so pay attention to style, not content!)

This is not a rule. The point here is that it’s important to be clear in your flow and discussion going through. Simulation responses that are all over the place and difficult to follow not only annoys markers but makes it very difficult in some cases to understand your arguments and discussion. I find organizing the response in ways such as these helps to clarify it both for yourself and for the marker.

 

What are some of the other tips/suggestions past or present writers have when formulating a response?

Case Writing Basics: Analysis

You’ve finished reading the case and maybe you’ve done a great outline. Now comes the thinking part where you analyze the case.

I was going to write up another post on case analysis but I actually think this one is pretty good which didn’t receive enough love. It applies pretty well to SOA and to UFE.

When writing your first SOA cases you’ll find that you might be missing some very big things that were easily visible if you had only known. For example, in my first case I missed a pretty big gross-vs-net issue in the case. I don’t remember what I wrote about, but it sure wasn’t gross-vs-net. With enough time and practice you’ll begin to see similar issues pop up.

One issue that I’ll point out is very popular for SOA (but not so much on the UFE) is the issue of business valuation. If you don’t know the different valuation methods it’s something you should review prior to SOA. You’ll soon run into them during your mock exams.

Remember also that the required run the case. Avoid deviating too far from those when analyzing your response.

 

 

An understanding of how SOA works

In my opinion, SOA is a bit of a strangely placed part of the Ontario CA candidate curriculum. If you don’t have someone explain it, you’d more than likely fail the final exam at the very end.

It’s strange because you go to school during the day (8-4pm if I remember right) doing a sort of accounting school. Yet, I’d say the bulk of what you learn, isn’t all that useful for the SOA final exam. I’m sure some disagree but I’m sticking to the opinion that the SOA is out of place in the whole process. It would be much better served having such a thing after the UFE is written.

Anyway, the point is that you have to go through these classes but, more importantly, you have to get the practice and skills in to pass the SOA final exam at the end. Therefore you’ve got dual mandates. One which is not talked about nearly enough but more important.

Some also tout SOA as a great networking opportunity. I don’t really agree but that’s for another post!

So, what should you do?

Many students blow off the classroom part since there is no marks involved there. I’d say, if you can, you might as well get as much out of it as you can. Some of it will even be helpful as good technical review, especially in tax since you have a whole week dedicated to tax. Attendance is mandatory and it’s actually facilitated well so you can learn if you choose to.

Most importantly, focus on writing one case 5 days a week. Make sure you get at least one extra comprehensive simulation in there for practice. Given that you’re in school all day, you only have the evenings to get this in. Keep your energy level in mind. This doesn’t seem that bad during week 1 but the more it goes on the more you’ll get tired.

Therefore, in summary:

Priority #1 – Focus on practicing as much simulation writing as you can after classes. Keep at least one weekend day off to get a break. You’re marked on your two days of simulations at the end of SOA, nothing else.

Priority #2 – Get what you can out of the classes.

 

What other SOA advice would you guys give?

CKE to SOA Switch

Congratulations to all those who finished the CKE in Ontario today. 

Now, unfortunately, not much time to break. I strongly urge candidates to get introduced to case writing and the SOA, especially if you’ve put it off until now.

You should go into SOA with the following:

  • An understanding of how SOA works – what the purpose of the school is and how you’re tested at the end
  • An understanding of how SOA simulations work – how they are written, marked and how to learn from them
  • You should have written at least 2-3 SOA simulations prior to starting

We’ll cover these things on here as well but a reminder that the real work will come on your end from putting it into practice!

For those that don’t yet know, the SOA stretch is an extremely busy period with long days. It’s important to stay focused since attendance is mandatory and the only time you have to practice exams is after class each day (and each Friday of course)

So once again, congratulations to Ontario writers on finishing today. I recommend getting started on SOA before you receive your CKE results.

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