Common CFE Terminology (or a CFE Dictionary)

With the Common Final Examination (CFE) still being new, the jargon will change so we’ll keep updating this with your suggestions. You’ll hear all kinds of terms thrown around this year. Here are the translations for those who aren’t familiar yet with the CFE terminology:

  • .. Case / Simulation / Exam– These are just all the same terms for a ‘CFE business case’. The UFE typically called these ‘simulations’ which is why you might hear the term still used but most of the official CFE material has gone back to using ‘case’. There are no differences between any of these terms.
  • Multis (multi-competency) are shorter cases which range from 45-90 minutes. They may test around 3-5 competencies at a time. During the CFE, these are written on Day 3. Multis are usually easier to write because they are shorter and easier to manage all the information. The time-crunch level of multis varies.
  • Comps– or Comprehensive cases are the large five hour cases. These are large cases with a lot of information and their own problems/strategies. On the CFE these are written on day one of the exam.
  • NA, NC, RC, C and CD – These are how you are marked on the CFE during days two and three. While each mark is attached a numeric value, your feedback will not include a final score and only a mark ranging from NA to CD. For more description, see here.
    • NA = Not Addressed
    • NC = Nominal Competence
    • RC = Reaching Competence
    • C = Competent
    • CD = Competent with Distinction
  • Assessment Opportunity (Indicator)– An assessment opportunity is a term for a competency being tested. You might hear it referred to as competency indicator as well which means the same thing. An assessment opportunity is a specific requirement within the case that you are required to respond to. So if you’re expected to do an audit planning memo, you would have an assurance indicator that required you to create an audit planning memo. If you’re expected to identify incorrect accounting treatments, you would have a financial accounting indicator that required this. You would then receive a mark of NA to CD for each indicator.
  • Depth– Depth means the amount of detail and meaningful, thorough discussion you have about a specific topic. A superficial discussion without a lot of detail is said to lack depth because you are not exploring enough sides of the issue or not being thorough enough in your discussion. In some contexts, you are also said not have enough depth if you level of discussion within an assessment opportunity is at the RC level (rather than C)
  • Breadth Breadth refers to getting across indicators or issues and talking less thoroughly. If you don’t have enough breadth, it means you are not talking about enough indicators or issues within a single indicator and focusing too much on a single indicator or issue.
  • SecureExam– The software in which the CFE is written. This is a secure, built in word processor, spreadsheet, and reference look up software. You’re advised to start using this as soon as it’s available as it is considered more cumbersome to use than Word and Excel.
  • RAMP-– This acronym stands for Risk, Approach, Materiality and Procedures:  a strategy to tackle audit planning memos.
  • Required – Refers to what you are expected to answer/discuss in the case. This will usually come in the form of somebody asking you to do something as part of the case. Each required is linked to an assessment opportunity.
  • Core (Technical) Competency – The abilities expected of CPA in practice which specifically include Financial Reporting (accounting), Strategy and Governance, Management Accounting, Audit and Assurance, Taxation and Finance.
  • Enabling Competency – The soft skills around being ethical, decision-making, problem-solving, communication, self-management and teamwork and leadership.
  • Integration – Integration is a reference to incorporating multiple elements, usually from multiple competencies, within your case response. It is a bigger-picture, higher-order view of the case with your response discussing how the different portions of the case inter-relate with a view of adding significantly more value in your response than in a competency-specific analysis only.
  • Technical – The term technical is in reference to skills and abilities you need within the core competencies such as financial accounting or management accounting. For example, you need to be able to understand and apply accounting rules from the CPA Handbook – this is a technical skill.
  • Level 1-4 – To pass the CFE you have two pass four separate levels. Learn more here.
  • UFE (Uniform Evaluation) – The quasi-predecessor to the CFE. The UFE was the 3-day case-based qualifying exam for the Chartered Accountant profession prior to 2016.
  • BOE (Board of Evaluators) – The BOE is responsible for setting the passing standards around the Common Final Examination (CFE) and then for ensuring that the standard is held to during examination creation and marking.
  • Short forms for Competencies:
    • FA – Financial accounting and reporting
    • MA – Management accounting
    • Tax – Anything in the taxation competency


Heard any other terms that confuse you? Let us know in the comments and we’ll keep updating the dictionary!

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