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The new CFE Blog

Almost five years after starting this thing, I figured it should probably leave the perpetual “Beta” version we had and add some features that I hope will help future candidates.  Thanks to everybody that provided feedback on what they wanted to see.

Let’s start with what I’m about here.

Vision

Every CPA candidate has easy access to good information, resources and community support to successfully complete CPA Canada’s Common Final Examination (CFE)

Mission

CFE Blog is an independent source that provides educational information, resources and allows CPA candidates to plug into a like-minded community for advice and assistance.  Our mission is to help you successfully complete the Common Final Examination (CFE) no matter where you are from or where you work.

Site features

While a lot of the original features of the site remain, there’s been a makeover and some new features added. Here’s what you can expect immediately from CFE Blog.

  • Regular blog entries and improved categorization
  • Study partner/group searches
  • Access to community through comments and social media
  • Newsletter to throw the best content directly into your inbox
  • Information and access to mentors, markers and prep programs with reviews

… and more on the way.

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you enjoy exploring the new site. As always, your suggestions are always welcome so get in touch and let me know!

– Tom

PS: Bare with me for another few weeks while I finalize or improve portions of the site.

SOA Redux and Upcoming UFE Results

UFE Results Coming Up

It’s been long enough. The long wait is almost over and the UFE results are being released November 28th (Usually Nov 27th in Quebec). If you’re one of the many candidates out there that managed to forget about the UFE since September, it’s probably popping back into your head more and more often lately which is normal. Certainly there are a great number of you, judging by the comments, that started thinking about it more last week. Forget about all the rumours which are there every year, you’re almost through so hang in there.

November SOA

The unique November SOA is coming up November 26 and 27th for those who didn’t manage to get through last summer. This will be the opportunity to get through to the final UFE in June. The SOA Suggested Reading post is probably the best place to look for last minute tips but in the end, hopefully you’ve had enough time since the summer to workout any technical problems and it’s a stress management exercise now – so find ways to manage that stress, get help if you need to. Good luck and don’t let the repeat writer thing hurt you, in the end you end up with the same letters after you pass all this.

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!

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!

Back soon

Just a quick hello to let everybody know we’re still around!

I’ve been a lot busier than anticipated in some other projects but working on some content for next week so stay tuned 🙂

Quick note on advertising

Those who come here more regularly may notice we’ve got an advertisement up on the right side that wasn’t there before. I’m happy to say that I’ve teamed up with exaMENTOR who will be providing some sponsorship of UFE Blog. I thought this would be a good time to indicate that although I’m accepting sponsorship, it has no effect on the content I offer on this site — I’ll continue to blog independently and I won’t write anything to satisfy advertisers or that I don’t believe is in the best interest of candidates writing the UFE. I encourage you to check out exaMENTOR’s offerings as well as that of others and choose what you think is best for you.

Thanks, and now back to our regular programming.

Some tips on tackling the UFE article over on CA Accounting Designation Revealed Blog

For anyone interested, I had a chance recently to write a blog post for the CA Accounting Designation Revealed blog. It’s some high level advice about some common things I’ve seen in the UFE prep space and we will be covering the topics (or have already!) in greater detail over the course of the year. I’ve followed this blog for a few years now and it’s got some other good stuff on their and interesting discussions so check it out.

Introducing a new guest blogger!

Today I’m very happy to introduce a new contributor that brings a different perspective to UFE Blog! Kayla Switzer, author of the popular book for experienced UFE writers I Failed the UFE! Now What? A survival guide will be teaming up with me over this UFE season to bring even more great content for the 2013 UFE writers. I’m very excited to welcome Kayla and we’re both looking forward to helping the next cohort of writers.

In the coming months, we will post topics to guide writers, both first time and experienced, in the right direction. Writing the UFE is hard! But we have been there before and we are here to help you pass. The blog posts that Kayla will contribute are also available on her blog and you can contact her with questions at anytime through her website www.KaylaSwitzer.com

Here’s a little more about Kayla:

Kayla Switzer wrote the UFE and failed. She realized very quickly that experienced writers do not get the same support as first time writers, but she was determined to succeed on her second attempt. To ensure success she made phone calls, wrote emails and spoke with anyone who was willing to help her pass the UFE. After successfully completing the UFE, Kayla wrote the book “I Failed the UFE! Now What? A survival guide” because she wanted experienced writers to learn from her experiences and know that they are not alone. You are not alone!

Kayla Switzer articled with PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP in Vancouver, BC. She is a Chartered Accountant and continues to be a mentor for experienced writers.

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