Monthly Archives: August 2013

Free CKE, SOA and UFE Information and Study Plan Session

Today’s post is a sponsored guest post produced by PASS Professional Accounting Supplementary School.

How do I begin? Where do I start? How much do I have to study?

These and other questions confront all UFE candidates.  The truth is – these are important questions because in the final analysis, passing the UFE is as much about “the process” and “how” one studies as it is about raw intelligence.  In other words, over 90% of all candidates who get to the UFE ultimately pass!  What this demonstrates is that almost all UFE candidates have the skills to make it through.  The trick is doing it right the first time or at least figuring out how to do it right if something went wrong.

PASS is offering a free information/study plan session on Tuesday Sept. 17, in the evening.  We will review sample detailed study plans and discuss all of the exams – the CKE, SOA and the UFE.  We’ll talk about

  • study plans;
  • when to start;
  • study sources;
  • study groups;
  • technical vs. case writing split;
  • time budgeting and
  • passing stats.

At the end of the session, you should have a clear idea what you have to do to pass all 3 of the upcoming exams and feel a lot more confident that with a bit of guidance, you can definitely pass all of the exams, the first time around!

PASS has been preparing students since 1987 to pass these exams.  We have taught thousands of students over the years and have top UFE and SOA markers involved in the program.  This year we have in-class sessions, live online sessions and recorded videos, which means you can pick and choose which format works best for you and never miss a session.

From our technical CKE course where students practice on dozens of questions to our winter and spring case writing for the SOA and summer comprehensive UFE course, PASS will give you the tools to ensure you are as prepared as possible, from both a technical and case writing perspective. We are totally committed to doing everything possible to maximize your chances of success, first time around. Join us for an evening on Tuesday Sept. 17th to start the process on the right foot!

If you want to discuss your personal situation, find out more about our PASS programs or attend the free information/study plan session, go to www.passufe.ca and send us an e-mail or call us. We are happy to help!

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.

Watch for those burnout signs

You’re about three weeks into your UFE study period. Don’t be surprised if about now you’re starting to feel some of that burnout that everyone keeps talking about.

Here are two big signs of burnout that you might start noticing:

  1. The idea of writing another simulation is pretty revolting. You just can’t bring yourself to write another simulation with your best effort.
  2. Your simulation results are starting to go down. You were scoring RCs and Cs before but now it’s RCs and NCs perhaps. Or your Cs are a lot weaker than they were earlier in the week.

Both these things start happening to a lot of people in their last week or so of study period. If you’re like most, you’ve been working pretty darn hard for a while now so it’s normal and certainly not deadly. But take notice and do something about it.

If you’re feeling this way or are seeing your marks dip from previous highs, you’ve got the UFE Blog permission to take the long weekend completely off. Give it a shot if you haven’t used one of your flex days yet. Even a National Gold Medallist was feeling it around this time, so do think about it. Do something more interesting (more interesting than the UFE, you ask?) and get plenty of sleep. While enjoying a solid party night might help, try not to overdo it the whole weekend as partying too hard (unfortunately) doesn’t tend to replenish your energy but we’ve got a solid motto on the blog: know thyself and to each their own.

I hope you’ll take this advice and have a great long weekend.

Always recalculate covenants

Today’s piece of advice is simple: Always recalculate covenants.

If there’s some kind of loan/bank covenant, make sure to look at it before and after adjustments. Calculate whether they are out of bounds on the covenant before and then after any adjustments and use that in your discussion.

Chances are that these lead to a lot of discussion points and possibly an easy PQ by stating bias/dangers in reporting and where they are in terms of covenant.

The Handbook can be useful

I was a huge fan of using the Handbook during my case writing. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not that big on memorizing long criteria or rules so instead I learned how the Handbook worked and just went in there every time I needed specific criteria.

This was in a time when we could use FolioViews in the UFE. That’s changed and now it’s some sort of PDF viewer which I understand may not be as search friendly. You may have to therefore rely a little more on knowing the Handbook sections.

On the bright side, I believe you’re able to Copy-Paste now directly from the handbook. That was not something I could do and boy would it have been a time saver. We had to go back and forth between the two at the risk of crashing your computer at any moment.

All this to say, I find myself a little surprised when people tell me they don’t use the Handbook at all. If you’ve got all the rules and criteria memorized, then kudos to you but if you don’t, give it a shot, you might be surprised how useful you find it.

Getting through tax if it's your weakness

If you’re like me, you may have a certain distaste for tax. I never found tax to be as intuitive as other competencies and perhaps it’s because I have an overall aversion to memorizing rules and regulations in general. This, of course, led me to spend a lot of time studying tax out of the fear that I’d be the one guy to fail because I couldn’t score that one or two RC in tax. Luckily I was not. Here are some ideas to keep in mind and to help mitigate the damage.

You only need an RC

The rule is you always strive for the C. But a handy thing to keep in mind is that in reality, if worst case scenario happens, you can get away with only scoring an RC in tax in order to pass. I’ve generally found that there is at least one indicator where you can get an RC in tax, even if it’s your weakness. Again, I’ll remind that something like 96% of people pass at this Level so from that you can see that there has always been a reasonable way to pass tax.

Remember to use your time well

Many that feel weak in tax tend to invest too much time when they write tax competencies. Remember that your overall response has to be good and you don’t want to spend outrageous amounts of time on one aspect of it. Like I said above, there is usually at least one place where you can get a reasonable tax mark.

This goes as well for tax experts. Remember this is the UFE so you don’t need to show off everything you know about tax. Stay focused and respond to what’s necessary and move on.

Go back to basics when in trouble

If you start getting into trouble and you have no idea what to write, go back to basics. Often you just need to id issues in tax to grab an RC. Recognize that there is tax issue and offer basic advice from what you know.

Tax Act?

I hate going into this thing but if it’s an issue you could easily search then use those keywords and see if you can quickly get anything that might help out of there.

Maybe it was the once in a blue moon, but I remember I was able to dig up rules around Personal Use Property (PUP) and Listed Personal Property (LPP) on SOA/UFE. There are a number of such issues that could potentially arise.

 

What other tips do you have to get through tax?

Getting through tax if it’s your weakness

If you’re like me, you may have a certain distaste for tax. I never found tax to be as intuitive as other competencies and perhaps it’s because I have an overall aversion to memorizing rules and regulations in general. This, of course, led me to spend a lot of time studying tax out of the fear that I’d be the one guy to fail because I couldn’t score that one or two RC in tax. Luckily I was not. Here are some ideas to keep in mind and to help mitigate the damage.

You only need an RC

The rule is you always strive for the C. But a handy thing to keep in mind is that in reality, if worst case scenario happens, you can get away with only scoring an RC in tax in order to pass. I’ve generally found that there is at least one indicator where you can get an RC in tax, even if it’s your weakness. Again, I’ll remind that something like 96% of people pass at this Level so from that you can see that there has always been a reasonable way to pass tax.

Remember to use your time well

Many that feel weak in tax tend to invest too much time when they write tax competencies. Remember that your overall response has to be good and you don’t want to spend outrageous amounts of time on one aspect of it. Like I said above, there is usually at least one place where you can get a reasonable tax mark.

This goes as well for tax experts. Remember this is the UFE so you don’t need to show off everything you know about tax. Stay focused and respond to what’s necessary and move on.

Go back to basics when in trouble

If you start getting into trouble and you have no idea what to write, go back to basics. Often you just need to id issues in tax to grab an RC. Recognize that there is tax issue and offer basic advice from what you know.

Tax Act?

I hate going into this thing but if it’s an issue you could easily search then use those keywords and see if you can quickly get anything that might help out of there.

Maybe it was the once in a blue moon, but I remember I was able to dig up rules around Personal Use Property (PUP) and Listed Personal Property (LPP) on SOA/UFE. There are a number of such issues that could potentially arise.

 

What other tips do you have to get through tax?

When unsure, go back to first principles

As you’ll likely encounter in your simulations, at some point you may have to go back to first principles  in your analysis or discussions. There isn’t always clear guidance on an accounting issue or perhaps you just can’t find it. Your best bet at that point is to go back to first principles and analyze or discuss using them. When lost or panicking, go back to the basics, often times keeping that calm and starting with the basics, you’ll stir something makes you remember more detail.

While not a thorough list, and keep in mind there are some differences between IFRS and ASPE, here’s a start to some basic tools you should have in your tool box. These are of course in the Handbook.

Financial Information/Statements Principles – Could enlighten your discussion

  • Always think about users of the financial statements and how they can impact their decision making.
  • Fundamental Qualitative Characteristics
    • Relevance – capable of making a difference in a decision.
    • Materiality – Entity specific, the amount that could affect a decision.
    • Faithful Representation – Faithfully represents what is happening economically.
    • Enhanced Qualitative Characteristics
      • Comparability – Between years for the same entity and among other entities.
      • Verifiability – Different people should reach similar/same conclusions.
      • Timeliness – Having information in time to make decisions.
      • Understandability – Clear and concise to the extent possible.
      • Cost constraint – Benefits should justify the costs
      • Going concern assumption – Accounting changes if the entity is not a going concern.

And, most useful, don’t forget the definitions of these…

Assets

Usually you want to talk about such things as the future benefit, does the entity control the asset, has the event occurred to give ownership of the asset and other substance over form type arguments. Consider whether the asset is measurable and collection is likely.

Liabilities

You can discuss things like whether the entity has incurred a liability or can it possibly avoid it? Has the event occurred to give rise to the liability? Is the amount measurable?

Revenues (more in IAS 18 / HB S3400)

Discuss whether performance is complete (this is usually the big one!)

Expenses

Don’t forget about bias. Profit-oriented enterprises could be bias to:

  • Maximize revenues, minimize expenses
  • Maximize assets, minimize liabilities

Make sure expenses are not being deferred improperly.

Taking a Stab at PQs

Many of you are no doubt getting frustrated when you miss that PQ…again.

Fear not, because it’s quite normal to miss them, even during the actual UFE. If you review the past UFE Reports you’ll see that there are still plenty of candidates that don’t score competent on the PQ indicators. In other words, you’re in good company. Here’s how candidates scored last year:

Sim NA NC RC C HC
Comp 0.00% 51.50% 36.80% 11.70% 0.00%
II-1 46.90% 19.60% 21.10% 12.30% 0.10%
II-2 25.50% 20.40% 40.00% 14.10% 0.00%
II-3 10.10% 20.90% 16.00% 52.90% 0.10%
III-1 0.80% 3.10% 38.70% 56.40% 1.00%

You’ll notice that although candidates did well in two of the indicators, in three others most candidates fell below a C and in some cases well below a C. This seems to be fairly typical year to year. PQs are difficult.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be trying to improve.

As mentioned in the UFE Report, the Board of Evaluators (BOE) is constantly asking candidates to improve their ability to see the bigger picture and bigger issues and they’ve hinted that there will continue to be plenty of undirected indicators to tackle.

I’ve discussed PQs before so do give that a read but I’m going to share with you today one additional tip that might help you out.

In all but the extremely time crunched cases (and certainly all comps) take at least 3-5 minutes to write a potential PQ – anything you can think of.

You’re asking me to take a guess at a PQ on every case?

Well… sort of. I’m asking you to get into the habit of taking some time on each case to think about the bigger picture. Look at your outline, look at your response and mull it over for a couple of minutes. Think about the big things like motivations, what the company is trying to accomplish, about stakeholders, and so forth and then just write a quick paragraph summarizing any big picture issues.

I think that the more you do this, the more you’ll get into the habit of thinking about the issues and the higher the probability of you actually catching one.

There is no negative marking on the UFE so if you write about an issue that doesn’t exist you’ve wasted a little time but you won’t otherwise be penalized for it.

Good luck.

Do you have any tips for writing PQs?

A quick note about the Sample Solutions

Just a quick note today: You’re not expected to write anything near the UFE Report solutions on the UFE.

Another one: You’re probably not going to write anything near the Sample Solution, either.

This is one of the reasons it’s important to work with a study partner or group. You want to see what other real people are writing in the given amount of time.

The solutions there are to give you a thorough, readable way to mark your response.

The sample solutions are there to give you an example of a perfect, or near perfect response from an honour roll level writer. Most candidates fall a ways behind these pros.

How to use these things

Use the solution, along with a marking guide if you have it (marking guide: is a nice to have but is not necessary!) to mark your case but understand that your response will be much more direct and less wordy. The important thing is to hit the issues and use case facts to back them up in the discussion. This is where you can look at the sample solution to see how others.

Use the sample solution to improve your technique. This is a good example of how a pro writer tackles these issues quickly and effectively. You can learn some great techniques from the sample solutions.

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