What's going to be on the UFE – 2014 edition

Today is a guest blog post from Gus Patel who successfully completed the 2013 UFE

It’s that time again! If you haven’t already gotten a chance to read the 2013 UFE Report, we have and that means the yearly What’s going to be on the UFE post.

As in prior years, the theory is that the UFE tends to reflect observations made in past UFE Reports so it is a good idea to read this article in conjunction with last years’ What’s going to be on the UFE – 2013 edition.  We will again take the same approach this year and not go into specifics of each case (UFE Blog wouldn’t want to spoil the fun!) but provide some general guidance on the trends and what to look for going into the 2014 UFE.  As a disclaimer, the UFE Blog has no insider knowledge on the 2014 UFE, and it is of the discretion of the candidate to implement a balanced study plan to cover all aspects that may be tested in this year’s UFE.  It is of our opinion that the UFE Report provides some key insight and guidance on what to watch out for.

Without further delay, let’s dive in…

Overall, the introduction in the Executive Summary of the report tells us that the Board of Evaluators concluded:

  • The 2013 UFE contained 2 fewer primary indicators than 2012, but same number of primary indicators as 2011 UFE.
  • The overall level of direction provided on the 2013 UFE was comparable to 2012 UFE, and there was one less PQ indicator, however there was a highlight point that future exams will continue to have a mix of directed and non-directed indicators (thus may not be a trend).
  • Overall candidates’ performance in 2013 was weaker than in the prior year.  Funny enough, the report made several references to the 2013 UFE being easier than the 2012 UFE, being a writer of both I would tend to agree with this, but I wouldn’t take this as a trend that the 2014 UFE will be easier by any means.

Some other noteworthy points summarized:

  • Candidates are doing a better job at applying Handbook guidance to case facts and not using a “copy/pasting” approach,  however some canadidates are not recognizing the need to apply handbook guidance at all in their discussion (Page 6).
  • Consistent with 2012 UFE Report, another warning, that candidates were continuing to employ a dangerous exam-writing strategy that candidates were looking for a specific number of issues on each indicator, even though there were numerous issues outlined in the simultations (Page 6).
  • Candidates performed stronger on quantitative analysis, however were struggling when asked to quantitatively compare options (Page 7).
  • There is a lack of clarity and documentation of calculations, many candidates’ calculations were not well organized, which often resulted in omitting items from analysis and technical errors, this includes the need to document calculations and explain why items may have been excluded (Page 7).
  • Lack of comprehension and integration of case facts, there was a trend of responses to what members of the board thought were evidence of reading the simulations too quickly which resulted in misunderstanding of the simulations (Page 8).
  • The unusual roles assigned in the simulations to candidates in the 2013 UFE continued to be varied with only 2 simulations being traditional assurance roles (i.e. expect to see varied roles in 2014!) (Page 9).

What does this all mean and how should I take this going forward?

  • Remember to take the read and outline stage seriously, including understanding your role and the required. If you are in a unique role, you need to not only act and respond as if you are in that role, you need to consider your users (whether or not they are sophisticated) and as such, you need to tailor your response accordingly.
  • Don’t fall into the trap that discussing a specific number of issues only (i.e. 3 accounting issues always and move on). When outlining you need to bring all your case issues to your outline and look at how many issues there are within an indicator, it is your job to rank these issues and allocate your time to discuss a sufficient number – this could be 3 on one case or 6 on another, so do not get too comfortable with a specific number.
  • There will be a need to track calculations carefully when outlining as well as documenting them clearly so that the marker can understand how you are arriving to your conclusion, remember, the marker’s can’t read your mind or your cell calculations for that matter, so it is necessary to clearly show your work.
  • Remember, to display “competence” and get that “C” you need to have a strong technical knowledge base but also be able to apply the technical in a useful way to the users, do not just jump to conclusions for your issues.

 

Comments by Competency Area

Assurance

Candidates’ performance in Assurance was weaker than in the prior year.  The Board noted last year that candidates’ performance in 2012 was down from the previous year due to them struggling with some of the unusual roles they were given in Assurance, and the same can be said for this year (Page 9).

Here we see again another comment about the “unusual” roles, the theme here is that you really need to adapt based on the required given and consider who the end user of the information is.

… Candidates had difficulty dealing with indicators on which they were asked to look into reporting options and describe procedures that could be performed under the different reports (Page 10).

I think it’s safe to say that you should continue to expect emphasis on special reporting options along with some procedures.

Performance Measurement and Reporting

The report introduced this section stating again that candidates performed poorly in comparison to 2012 in this indicator, and discussed at length that the major issue here is to make sure you are properly analyzing an issue without just jumping to the conclusion.

The Board also noticed that some candidates avoided the more complex issues and discussed the easy ones from a technical perspective only

Remember, even though there are some challenging PMR issues presented in all UFE cases, you must rank the cases and address the major issues rather than pick and choose the ones you find easiest.

Taxation

The Board noticed a slight decrease in the overall performance of taxation responses (Page 11).

Once again, candidates have a tendency to deal with the easy issues and leave the more complex ones aside, instead of taking the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge through a discussion of issues requiring more depth of analysis (Page 12).

I completely empathize here, Tax was not my strong point by any means, but sometimes the UFE forces you to discuss these issues regardless of your strengths or weaknesses – if you are noticing yourself running out of things to discuss within a tax indicator, chances are you are addressing the more minor issues and ignoring the major ones.

Management Decision-Making

Without giving case specifics away, there was a note that there was a lack of quantitative analysis within one of the indicators, and candidates often struggled with how to incorporate facts into quantitative analysis.

It is important to keep in mind that integration is important on the UFE, including integrating some of your previous calculations into your next ones since the results of one calculation can feed the input of another.

Finance

Canadidates struggled with two main elements (in Finance).  First, they had a difficult time providing consistent calculations.  Many candidates included elements that applied to both options in their calculation for only one of the options, or they included elements that applied to only one option in their calculation for both options.  Second, candidates had a difficult time accounting for the time value of money (Page 13).

It is important to outline properly and ensure that you are “slotting” case facts to the right indicator, and in this case, to the right calculations.  Without mentioning specifics, time value of money was a funny comment, as it was mentioned twice in the report. I took another look at the specific case which had this issue and no surprise that the writers’ results here were dismal.  Luckily enough most of you will take on this case prior to the 2014 UFE as part of your study program, when you do, make sure you debrief the indicator well.

Another comment from the above is to make sure that you apply case facts consistently when making comparisons. You cannot compare two options if you include/exclude different items from each.

Governance, Strategy, and Risk Management

Candidates seemed comfortable discussing the risks and drawing on case facts to support their discussions.  However, there was still room for improvement, as candidates sometimes had difficulty explaining the implication to the company of the risk they had identified or providing a viable recommendation to address the risk identified (Page 13).

Remember, it is always necessary to discuss why the company cares that you’ve identified this weakness by linking it to either a key success factor or a financial or non-financial indicator that the company is concerned about. Make sure to develop reasonable recommendations that would cover off the control weakness and also take into account the size and nature of the company (i.e. do not make grand recommendations that a big company could do if who you are reporting to is a family run business).

Pervasive  Qualities and Skills

This year, candidates seemed to do a better job of identifying the issues; however, they had difficulty discussing them in enough depth (Page 14)… they didn’t always support their suspicion or provide a recommendation of what the next course of action should be (Page 14).

Recurring theme in the PQ section, writers are getting better at seeing the big picture but are not always supporting their identification of the issue or providing a recommendation.  A good way to format these discussions are using issue, implication, reccomendation format, being sure to provide more than one supporting point to back up the issue.

If you haven’t yet, do go and read the 2013 edition as this is rumored to also heavily influence content on the UFE. Happy studying!

26 comments

  1. A question for you UFE blogger…I want to ask how our scores should be looking right now. I have not yet gotten a C on any UFE case. I feel as if I am behind everyone else who is writing. This is week 3 of my case writing and I am getting few RCs, NCs and even NAs.

  2. It’s tough to give you a definitive answer on where ‘your’ scores should be right now.

    Keep in mind that you have approximately 2 1/2 more weeks of study time, which is still plenty in order to move your sufficiency ratings from mostly RC’s and NC’s to mostly C’s and RC’s.

    Everyone throughout this process undoubtedly has an ‘ah ha’ moment in which you start to get it. What I mean by that is you will start to see trends for particular areas and what you would need to score competent. This point for everyone is different, but it is quite common for this to happen in the 2nd to last or even last week based on what I’ve heard.

    I wouldn’t necessarily worry or compare yourself to other writers, but focus heavily on the debrief process. If you are finding yourself still hitting NC’s and NA’s, you really need to debrief carefully and understand what mistakes you made on that particular case, and what strategies you can implement to ensure that you are not making the same errors on future cases.

    Hope this helps.

  3. Hey,

    I’m writing the 2014 ufe as well. I started hitting RCs during the first week of self study, obviously there were a few NCs too as I was rusty and my time management was way off. During the second week I noticed a jump whereby I was consistently getting RCs. This week I can see way more Cs than previously as I feel as I am able to articulate my thoughts on the computer faster and In a more concise manner.

    I know I’m improving but is it true that one must be consistently hitting C’s during the last week . I ask this because sometimes I feel it is impossible to address all the issues in depth as I seem to just not have enough time.

    Your feed back will be much appreciated.

    • Hi Shayan,

      Great to hear that you are moving along in this process. I think the ultimate goal is to strive for consistent C’s.

      The reality is on the actual UFE, you will strive for C’s, you will get some RC’s and maybe even a few NC’s.

      Mike Katsevman in his webinars says it the the most accurate, in order to pass the UFE you need to have more C’s than N’s. Best of luck!

  4. Thanks Gus!I appreciate it. I am finding that my NCs are usually in PM and the bulk of my RCs are in MDM and Finance. I definitely have a long way to go to be ready and I would rather peak at the UFE than too soon(as long as I peak when it really matters).

    • No problems Anon.

      If you find yourself consistently getting NC’s on PM, I’d reccomend as part of your debriefing process to do “timed” re-runs at the just the PMR indicators to give you some more practice writing to what a “C” should be.

  5. Hi there,

    Can you tell me tentatively how many C or RC are required to pass level 1 in UFE (if there are 28 indicators.

    I will appreciate your response.

    Thanks
    Pankaj

    • Hi Pankaj,

      I cannot say exactly how many C’s or RC’s would be required to pass Level 1 in the UFE. The standard for “sufficient” changes every year as deemed by the Board of Evaluators.

      I would take a good look at Exhibit 1 (The Decision Model in any of the UFE reports) to understand how the UFE is marked.

      I would also not reccomend attempting to game the UFE by aiming for a particular number of C’s to Pass Level 1. Instead aim at giving yourself the best possible chance at EVERY indicator to score a C.

  6. Do our SOA results get released to our firms ?

    • The UFE results would be disclosed if you’ve selected that option as apart of the registration process with CPA Ontario.

      I believe most firms will also acknowledge through formal disclosure request as well.

  7. Hello,

    Odd question, I wrote the comp today, but there was a good 20-25 minutes where I lost focus and felt tired while writing. Is there a technique or food or something that can help you stay on the ball during the comp? I don’t have the trouble during noncomps, probably because of the shorter amount of time.

    Thanks,

    T

    • Hey T,

      It is quite natural to feel like that during the beginning of comp writing as you are still adjusting to writing long exams.

      Chances are if you lose focus and are feeling tired during writing you might be going on “auto-pilot”, try to stay actively engaged within each required, ensure that you are timing each required, using your outline, thinking actively about what you are writing within each indicator and hopefully that can help you to focus.

      Sometimes it is a good idea right after reading and outlining to eat some food. A lot of students neglect the physical aspect regarding the exam, i.e. you are sitting for 5 hours writing, you should be having some snacks and drinking water during the 5 hours.

      Hope this helps.

  8. Wow, today seemed to drag on. I’m in my fourth week of ufe study and I have to admit , I’m getting exhausted by this process. Is this common amongst ufe writers ? And how do I tackle this fatigue?

    • It seems you have started a little too early – you shouldn’t be on week 4 already!

      That said – slow down and relax a bit. That’s the best way to handle it. Don’t be afraid to take a day off here and there, you need it for your brain to recover. Having too much of the same stress constantly will not help your results. It’s first and foremost important to be 100% (or close) on the UFE writing days. If you go in exhausted you will not be at full potential right from the get go.

    • I’m with UFE Blogger here, if you are finding yourself a little worn down – I would definitely recommend a day off studying as opposed to forcing yourself to do another case which would likely end up being more detrimental to the point where you will waste the time and not learn from debriefing properly.

      It is common at this point in the process to feel a little tired from the process, UFE study is like training for a marathon, but you need to be adequately recovered before the big day.

      Best of luck.

  9. Thanks guys!

    I find that writing a case first thing in the morning provides you with an energy boost that keeps you going for the remainder of the day.

    I felt exhausted this Monday as I decided to work on my weak areas-PMR . I’m still stuck on RCs . I’m finding it hard to get that depth in my PMR discussions. Hopefully ,I’ll see some improvements this week.

    Once again thanks for all your support 🙂

    Oh yeah one last thing… I’m noticing some typos and spelling errors since I’m writing so fast. My opinion is that this is common amongst writers since once is so time constrained and that a few typos here and there shouldn’t make a difference ….. Correct ?

    • Use the PMR drills as a debrief if you find yourself weak in PMR.

      Typos is an interesting question, if it is a few here and there it is no big deal, this is very common in case writing, and I wouldn’t recommend trying to spell check on the actual exam.

      If it is so many spelling mistakes to the point of where it becomes difficult to understand what you are typing – then there might be an issue!

  10. UFE IN A COUPLE OF DAYS WAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

  11. Awww yeeeeah, I just want to get it over with at this point.

  12. Yesssirrrrrr

  13. Planning what to do on thursday, 2pm… What shall I do…

  14. Good luck to all!

  15. Agree with what everyone is saying, sick of the cases, been doing these since July ie Prepformula prep plus Ufe prep, enough! Just want to write this exam and move on with life.

  16. Time to RAMP the hell out of this exam.

  17. What’s RAMP? Kidding…
    I’ve already had dreams about the exam. It’s time to write it and start… ‘summer’

  18. Y’all gonna make me lose my mind.

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