CFE study group or partner best practices

Your CFE study partner or study group is one of the more important choices you’ll have to make early on. As with much of social interaction, results can vary.

I mentioned in a previous post, I do recommend studying with a partner or group.

My own study buddy/group experience is an example of how you could handle various kinds of situations. Under the previous exam structure in Ontario we had two exams needed to get through – the School of Accountancy (SOA) during the summer and then the Uniform Evaluation (UFE) in September. During SOA in June I lived with and also worked according to a common schedule with a single study buddy. It worked very well throughout June at SOA because we lived in the same place and it was easy to write an exam or two after classes, take it up and then debrief on our own.

This changed during my August UFE study period when commuting became a factor and it was more difficult to reliably follow a schedule. Within a week I could tell it wasn’t working for me or my study buddy and we parted ways. What works in one situation doesn’t work in another so it’s best to cut your losses. I ended up doing simulations with miscellaneous friends for another week in order to align my study schedule with another group I was planning to join the following week. I ended up doing some exams on my own as well which was naturally stressing me out a bit. Finally, for weeks 3 and 4 in August/September I joined a group of three others to form a four-member study group. For the last two weeks this worked extremely well and the four of us were successful.

Here are some things to consider before and during your study period. You might think of them as best practices.

Are you all sticking to a schedule where everyone is happy and moving forward?
Study partners or groups that are constantly late are wasting your time and energy. Buddies that are a bad influence on you by offering distractions, temptations, etc. may also not be suitable for this one month.

Are you all in the same skill league in terms of writing simulations?
When one writer is vastly superior to the others both of you are not benefiting. On one hand, the superior writer is probably not going to improve and on the other, you may be discouraged by the superior writer who is above average whereas you should be comparing yourself to the average.

Are you enjoying spending the day with your group or study buddy?
You are probably spending up to 8 hours a day with this person or group, so you want this time to be as enjoyable as possible. The writing and debriefing process can be difficult and stressful and you want to ensure you study with the right personality type to handle this. Maybe that is somebody who can make a joke out of a bad exam or maybe you need someone that takes it seriously all the time. Preferences vary.

Are you getting good feedback from your study buddy/group or are you just being used for yours?
Make sure that you are providing good feedback and getting it. The hard work is in debriefing but your partner needs to have some use by providing good feedback on exactly how your case reads to someone independent.

Are you and your group improving at all? If not, what might be the cause?
The purpose of the study partner or study group is to improve your simulations. If it’s been two weeks and you aren’t improving, find out quickly what the problem is. Are you debriefing badly? Is your group not providing any good feedback? Two weeks in is probably your last opportunity to fix the problem.

Fun Facts

The 2010 National UFE Gold Medallist Vicky Au studied with her boyfriend as part of her study group, who also made the honour roll. The 2011 National UFE Gold Medallist Juliana Yuen also had a boyfriend who wrote the 2009 UFE as her UFE mentor. Not sure I’d recommend this path but maybe they’re on to something!

Still need to find a study partner or group? Try out our Study Partner Search.

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Commenting Guidelines

I love open conversations. Casual is fine, professional is fine, but this is a community so anything abusive, demeaning or annoying will be removed at my discretion. Below is a guide to help keep you on the straight and narrow.

  1. 1. Use a name or alias. I understand wanting to keep your name personal, so make something clever up and stick to it. We can't tell each other apart if everybody is "Anon".
  2. 2. Remember the point. This is a community to discuss, debate and assist each other to pass the CFE or discuss other CPA things. Let's act like we're all the intelligent professionals that we are supposed to be.
  3. 3. No personal attacks. It's okay to disagree with opinions or advice but argue the point, not the person.
  4. 4. Don't be obnoxious. You should be proud if you are the next honour roll writer or work for a prestigious firm but don't be obnoxious by using it to feel better than others.


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