Debrief Week – Getting yourself to the next level

In a bizarre UFE Blog tradition, we like to build on the success of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week by having Debrief Week right after. We’re kind enough around here not to steal all the thunder from the sharks so out of fear, we have Debrief Week the week after.

Today’s topic gives you advice on how to improve from your debrief.

Learn Now: Improving your UFE performance

We review what problems you might be having and offer suggestions on what you might do to resolve them!

Miss anything from debrief week? Click below to review!

Lesson 1: The what, the why and the when of debriefing
Lesson 2: What you should get out of a decent debrief
Lesson 3: Understand how to reach competence on the UFE
Lesson 4: Understand why you scored how you did

Debriefing Week – Understanding your score

In a bizarre UFE Blog tradition, we like to build on the success of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week by having Debrief Week right after. We’re kind enough around here not to steal all the thunder from the sharks so we take a bite out of debriefing this week instead.

Today’s topic revolves around analyzing your own response and understanding why you scored the way you did.

Learn Now: Why did you score the way you did on your UFE mock

We go through each of the marks you may have received and how you should tackle each.

Debrief Week – Reaching competence on the UFE

In a bizarre UFE Blog tradition, we like to build on the success of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week by having Debrief Week right after. We’re kind enough around here not to steal all the thunder from the sharks so we let the sharks have it last week.

Today’s lesson helps you understand how to reach competence on the UFE from the debrief.

Learn Now: Reaching Competence in your UFE Simulation

A step by step guide on how to read through a simulation solution and understand what was required to score competent. This is particularly important given the comment from the Board of Evaluators last year.


Debrief Week – What to pull out a debrief

In a bizarre UFE Blog tradition, we like to build on the success of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week by having Debrief Week right after. We’re kind enough around here not to steal all the thunder from the sharks so we always do Debrief week the week after.

Today’s topic is getting the right things out of a good debrief.

Learn now: What to get out of a solid debrief

This lesson contains an essential checklist of what you should get out of each debrief lesson: What was necessary to achieve competence, why you score the way you did, learning technical and a way to improve for your next simulation.


Debrief Week – the What, the Why and the When

In a bizarre UFE Blog tradition, we like to build on the success of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week by having Debrief Week right after. We’re kind enough around here not to steal all the thunder from the sharks so we start Debrief Week today.

Today’s topic is an introduction to debriefing. While most will already be familiar with what it is to debrief, a lot of people may still be confused about the details so it’s something you can brush up on this week.

Learn Now: The What, the Why and the When of Debriefing

In this lesson, you’ll learn what the purpose of debriefing is (deconstructing a case and your response), why you might want to do a good debrief (to learn from a case) and when it is the best time to debrief (right after you have your case marked).



Debrief Week – Improving your UFE performance

At this point you’ve reviewed the solution, figured out how to achieve competence and identified in your cases why you didn’t achieve competence. Today I’m suggesting strategies you can take in your case to further improve. It’s a bit of a monster post, sorry about that!

Big Picture first.

The way I look at it, big picture, is that there is a process that takes place which begins with reading the information and ends with the formation of your complete response. If your results are not where you’d like them, you need to figure out where in this reading-to-formation process the problem was caused and correct that problem.

  • Reading: The first part of the process is reading the simulation and understanding the issues. In the reading stage you doing much of the heavy work because here you have to recognize the issues and highlight/note them to get put on your outline. If you are weak in the reading stage it will impact your entire response because you may be missing required issues (NA) or missing important information to include in your response(weakens your point/weak use of case facts). You can identify problems in the reading stage if you did not see a required (missed an indicator altogether) or didn’t provide enough case facts to support your point (might also be an outlining problem).My advice, if you are having problems at the reading stage, is first, don’t rush the reading. It may be beneficial, if you are still missing requireds or important information, to slow it down and catch the important information. Second, if it is a knowledge thing, make sure to review the technical in the solution and then rewrite that one indicator with this new found knowledge to the C level. Give yourself as much time as you’d normally take for this issue on a real simulation. Third, if you knew the technical but just missed the trigger then go back to your original simulation paper and underlight/highlight the sentence or words (they may be scattered throughout) which should have triggered the issue for you, and again, rewrite the indicator to a C in a timed way.
  • Outlinining: The second part of the process is summarizing/compiling the important information. Some people like to outline on the question sheet but I prefer a separate paper outline. Whichever way you prefer, you’ll have to at some point develop a way to rank issues quickly, understand your role and any timeline information in the simulation, allocate your time and have a way to point yourself to the case facts quickly. You’ll identify some of the problems in the outlining stage by improper ranking, running out of time or missing case facts.From your outline, there are basically three main problems you could be having: incorrectly allocating time, incorrect ranking or not including information properly on your outline. These issues can be tough to tackle because often it just takes practice to get a feel for them. Here are some tips: for ranking issues, go back to solution and determine why issues were ranked the way they were (was it pervasiveness of the issue, was it a material amount, etc.) and then go back to your outline, what thinking process did you follow when ranking? Was there information missing for you to make the same decision of the solution? Now go back one more step to the original simulation paper and find the information there that should have triggered you to rank the issue differently. If the problem you had was not including information on your outline then adjust your outlining method to more clearly point to issues. If time allocation was the issue then once again, go back to your original simulation and reread it, get a feel for how much time must go into tackling this issue to a C level. Time allocation is often closely interlinked with ranking so think about these things together. As always, if possible, rewrite indicators to a C with your newly learned knowledge at this stage.
  • Forming a response: The third part of the process is clearly presenting your response. Once you have read and thought about your simulation, put all the important information on your outline and linked it to the reading, the writing part should just communicate your outline in a more formal and thorough way. The problems you might encounter here are running out of time (you are too wordy, tackling too much or you have taken too long in the other stages) or your are not conveying your thoughts/outline clearly. My advice at this stage is to rewrite indicators to a C. If conveying your thoughts is a problem (you had the info in your outline/case highlighted), only practice can improve your writing and if you need to do it slowly at first then so be it but work on speed eventually, understand the minimum you need to put down on paper to score your C and keep practicing writing it in this way.
This is of course not an exhaustive list of all the possible problems you might encounter but my point is that you must determine where you are having the problem (reading, outlining or writing) and often work your way backward to the original simulation paper to find the trigger or consciously adjust your strategy to cope with the problem.

And now, some of the more common specific problems include…

  1. You are not identifying required issues. Go back to the original simulation paper and your outline/response. Figure out which words and sentence trigger the required. Study the technical/issue in the solution. Rewrite the indicator with this new knowledge.
  2. Time Management. These issues can arise for many reasons and can also be tough to get a handle on. Some improvement will just come with practice, the more cases you write the more knowledge you’ll have and the quicker you’ll tackle familiar issues. Practice using The Handbook when you write each mock to get familiar where the guidance is so that by the time you write the UFE, you’ll know where to find criteria very quickly. If you are getting HCs in some indicators and NCs or RCs in others, you are not managing your time evenly and need to learn when to stop an issue.  Quants often cause time management issues too. Remember that you need to get across everything, so know when to drop a quant, even if it’s half complete you are better of tackling other issues.
  3. Ranking Issues. Ranking is important in the UFE and also impacts time management. The UFE is designed to force you to rank so understanding how and why issues are ranked is important. Specifically asked for information/issues are of course ranked highest, material amounts are ranked high, pervasive issues are always ranked high (issues which impact more than one area), impacts on cash flow, future existence of the entity, fraud and so forth. You need to be aware of all these things and how they rank. The best way to improve is to examine your outline and response after the fact, understand why each issue was ranked the way it was (from the solution) and then rerank and rewrite certain indicators with the new information. It will stick better.
  4. Poor Analysis. Poor analysis often has to do with poor time management, ranking, a lack of knowledge about the topic (you are afraid of its complexity) or bad outline. If your understanding was poor, learn the technical from the solution, then rewrite that indicator.
  5. Poor Writings/Case Fact Integration. The UFE is a writing exam as much as it is an accounting exam, you have to be able to get across your knowledge and thoughts clearly. Early on, case fact integration is usually poor. The best way to improve is to write, write and do more writing. Rewrite the indicators after the fact, properly integrating case facts appropriately.

I hope those tips help and we’ll keep praciticing with real examples as we go on so we’ll come back to things. If you are a high performer and your cases are looking good already, try analyzing your case. Figure out what you wrote that was good and what was useless. Eliminate the useless stuff to save time and give you more time to get HCs if that’s what you’d like to do.

Some of the main themes this week:

  • Spend time reading the solution and linking the solution back to the original case. Understand how it all links together and how each word or sentence in the paper triggers the solution.
  • Understand what is required in order to reach competence from the UFE solutions and understand why you fell short.
  • Rewrite indicators after they have been marked and studied. This improves almost every skill that is necessary for UFE success and helps you reach competence.


What other tips do you have for improving your cases? What has worked and not worked for you? Please share in the comments!

Debrief Week – Why did you score the way you did on your UFE mock

With your marked response in hand, you received information about how you scored. Now the hard work of figuring out why begins.

If you scored NA

If you scored NA this means you either missed the indicator or ranked it too low to address. Both of these are concerning since an NA is worth nothing and you have lost valuable points. Good debriefing requires that you understand why you received an NA.

Go back to the solution and read and understand why this was an issue and required to be addressed. Next, go to the original simulation and your outline/response. Was it on your outline? If not, figure out why not and if it was then figure out why you didn’t rank it high enough to address. Was your time management bad or was it really a ranking issue? On the original simulation, identify the actual words and sentences that should trigger the issue in your mind. Think about it and understand why this is a trigger. This sounds long and tedious, and it is, but with each time you do it you’ll understand better how issues are triggered and why they are ranked high or low. Eventually you’ll be scoring more Cs and will do less of this as you focus on your NA, NC and RC.

If you scored NC

If you scored NC this is still worth zero points and is not where you want to be. At first you’ll want to bring your NCs up to RCs and then up to Cs by the end of your study period (or hopefully earlier!)

NC means that you identified the issue, which is excellent, but you did not address it appropriately. The way you can think about the NC is that you did not reach an RC which is the way it is presented in the simulation solution. As discussed yesterday, you’ll understand what was necessary to get an RC and C at this point. Again, return to your outline and your original simulation and response. Identify if it was any triggers you missed in the original paper, or was it a ranking issue? Understand why it was ranked that way and what triggered it. Or was it a writing or technical issue, where maybe you aren’t getting your thoughts across clearly? Write down that you’ll need to rewrite this indicator and practice writing the technical out.

If you scored RC

Great! You’ve got some points which will help with Level 1 but you want to get that C. At the RC level you are identifying the issue and having some discussion surrounding it. You’ll be on your way to competence. From your analysis of what is required for the indicator, you’ll see most often that the difference between reaching competent and competent is attempted discussion vs. discussed which might indicate some technical shortfalls, you didn’t discuss enough issues, you ran out of time, and so forth. The problems here can be varied but your approach is the same. Understand why you scored RC and not C from the original simulation, from the solution and from your outline/response. Time and writing issues begin to show up here so figure out where you may have spent too much time and where you didn’t spend enough.

You rarely feel great at this point as things can get ambiguous, this is normal. Simulations are unique and with practice and the debriefing exercise you’ll get a sense of how to allocate time. You’ll learn better of why issues are ranked the way they are and so forth.

If you scored HC

I don’t want to discourage people from striving for honour roll or a medal but an HC can indicate you spent too much time on that indicator if your other indicators are below a C.


In the comments: What kind of issues are you having in your simulations?

Tomorrow: Taking steps to improve.

Debrief Week – How to reach competence on the UFE

You’ve received your marked response back and now the hard work begins. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, understanding how to reach competence on the UFE is a critical step in a useful UFE debrief.

The first step is thoroughly reading through the simulation solution. The simulation solution consists of several parts.

  1. The actual solution text or example report. This text is excellent to study from but is not even close to what’s expected from you in a real response so please understand that this is the ideal solution if you had days to write it. It is thorough in order to be useful to study from.
  2. The Evaluation Board’s comments throughout. In italics after the solution to each indicator you will find the Evaluation Board’s comments mixed in. These comments are extremely useful because they give the boards overall impression of how candidates did on specific issues. They will often provide great insight into what was expected, what was received and should give you an idea of how much the board expected. On a side note, these are often very amusing to read since I sometimes find the Evaluation Board to actually be pretty harsh in this area.
  3. A Table summarizing student performance. Below items 1 and 2 above you’ll find another useful goodie which is the table of how students performed on this indicator and a brief description of what was necessary to achieve each ranking. You’ll see words in here like identifies, attempts, performs, discusses, thoroughly discusses, recommends and so forth. All these mean something and are an indicator of what was necessary to achieve each rank. This is very important as each word here implies different requirements. If you only discussed an issue but to reach C required discussion and recommendation than you did not reach C and you will now understand why you did not reach C.
  4. The Evaluation Board’s comments on overall student performance. At the end, after the performance table, you’ll find a paragraph or two about how the Evaluation Board felt about student performance on this indicator. You’ll very often get more specific information about what the board wanted here in order to reach competent. The information about requirements here will often be very specific, “The board expected candidates to calculate x, y and z and provide meaningful analysis.”. If the Board expected something then you most likely needed to provide it in order to achieve C. Based on the summary of student performance table and this written summary, you should get a good idea of what was required for RC and C.
Next, you’ll want to take a step back. Chances are you’ve been reading everything in detail and gotten down to really specific issues. This is good and you will hopefully understand what each indicator needs in order to achieve C. One added step that may help you now is to understand that the ideal solution is not possible in an exam environment. You must consider ranking which is intentionally tested on the UFE. You must recognize which issues are important and why the must be addressed vs. the issues which are not as important and can be ignored. Look again at which issues you had to discuss in order to achieve C and which are played down in the evaluation guide. Determine why. It’s most often a materiality or pervasiveness thing.

I’ll have some future posts where we break down this process on a real simulation so stay tuned. In the mean time, tell us in the comments how you’ve been debriefing!

Tomorrow: comparing your response to what was required and learning from it.

Debrief Week – What you will get out of a good debrief

Yesterday we discussed the What is, Why do it and When to do a debrief. Today we’ll talk about what you are trying to get out of it.

Here are four things you should get out of every debrief session.

    1. You want to know WHAT was neccessary to achieve competence.
      By the end of a good debrief you will also understand what was necessary in order to reach competence from the solution. By reading the solution, using some judgment and reading the comments from the evaluation board you should understand what was necessary to reach competence. Did you need to provide two procedures or three? Did you need to tackle four accounting issues or two? Did you tackle the most highly ranked issues? Why were they so highly ranked. The UFE solutions are very good and should give you lots of hints. Alternatively, I know there are marking guides out there, too.
    2. You want to learn WHY you scored the way you did on each indicator.
      You goal should always strive for a Competent (C) score on each indicator. If you scored NA, NC, RC or HC on an indicator you need to know why you did so. For example, if you scored NA, you need to understand why you missed the issue (were you reading too fast? did you not know what the trigger was? or was it a ranking issue?). Determining this will allow you to understand what you need to work on (slow down and outline more carefully, study what the trigger was or determine why it was ranked higher than you ranked the issue).
    3. You will learn technical.
      What a great source of UFE technical the UFE Solutions are.  You cannot find a better technical study resource than the solutions themselves, because, they are the solutions! You don’t need to go deep into books and learn everything all over again, the UFE solutions provide exactly the technical you need to know. You will get a good understanding of what level of technical is necessary, and when you think about it, it’s really not as high as some students may think.
    4. You will have a concrete strategy to improve your next simulation.
      The students that have mastered debriefing will improve with each debrief. By understanding why you scored the way you did and what is necessary to score higher you can begin to bridge the gap and move those NA, NC and RC to C.  This is the hardest part: you will have to rewrite indicators in a way that achieves competence. Nobody wants to do this part but I believe this is one of the best things you can do to improve. How do you write better cases? You’ve got to write, write and write again.

Share in the comments: What else should you get out of a good debrief?

Continuing debrief week, tomorrow’s topic is step 1 above: figuring out what you need in order to achieve competence.

Debrief Week – What, Why and When to debrief

Chances are that by now you’ve heard the term debriefing thrown around very casually. Chances are also, that you may not really have a great understanding of what exactly debriefing is. I’ll try this week to explain it better and we’ll hit the topic more in depth over the course of this week.

What is debriefing?

Debriefing is the processes that takes place after you have written and marked your simulation. It is a way to study from simulations. With simulations, you cannot just read the solution and improve significantly as you may have done in some of your University studies. Debriefing is a far more active process and this makes it difficult and hard work but this is what’s necessary in order to increase your probability of being successful on the UFE by reaching competence across the indicators.

Why debrief? As just mentioned, simulations are different types of examinations and you cannot just dump information into your simulation and expect good results. Like real life, simulations are not simple nor black or white and thinking is required. Because of these reasons, you cannot study only from the solution guide or by rereading your case after you’ve read the solution. The only way to significantly improve over the course of your study period is to debrief.

When to debrief? Debriefing is best done soon after you write and mark your case. The typical UFE study day involves writing your case first, have a study partner mark it and then debrief it on your own. You should not save debriefing for too far in the future as the simulation will not longer be fresh in your head. Although with writing comps you may have to extend the debrief over into the next day.

Please share in the comments: How has your debriefing experience been so far? Come back tomorrow when we’ll be discussing what you should learn from a good debriefing session.

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