2018 CFE Results: Things You Need to Keep In Mind

Hey everyone,

That time of the year that CPA candidates across Canada have been anxiously waiting for has now arrived – the results from the 2018 Common Final Exam (CFE). Depending on when you’re reading this, you may have already received your results. Or, you are still playing the waiting game.

Being a former (repeat) CFE writer myself, I’ve seen both sides of the coin; i.e. what it is like to get successful results, and what it’s like to get unsuccessful results. If you want to learn more about my story in “bouncing back”, check out the blog post I made last year: http://www.cfeblog.ca/2017/12/03/bounced-back-failing-2016-cfe/

What I want to address in this blog are things you should keep in mind whether you are successful or unsuccessful this year.



If You Passed the 2018 CFE


Congratulations! You have successfully reached a milestone in your professional career. I highly encourage you to celebrate with ones close to you. Many senior people in the accounting profession I have spoken to over the years have told me that the joy you’re experiencing is a lasting memory. So don’t cut yourself short of indulging in something that you deserve.

After celebrating your success, please keep the following in mind:


1) Know the rules.

You are nearing completion of becoming a Chartered Professional Accountant. I emphasize the word “professional” because you will soon be required to adhere to the CPA Code of Professional Conduct, the CPAO Act (2017), and the CPA Ontario By-law and Regulations; if you’re outside of Ontario, your member body will have similar codes & bylaws. As a student right now, you are already responsible for abiding to your member body’s “Student Code”, along with Rule 204 of the CPA Code of Professional Conduct (the Independence Standard). With this all being said, if you are found to be breach of any of these rules that you signed up for, you can be susceptible to being de-registered from the profession, not to mention other consequences – and CPA Canada heavily enforces these rules on a regular basis. Why risk losing something you worked hard for over something silly and easily avoidable? I’m not trying to be “Mr. CPA-Cop” here, but I think it’s worth being aware of these rules before you officially earn your letters. If you haven’t looked at all these rules already, I recommend that you take the time to do so sooner rather than later.

Here is a link to the rules I’m talking about:


2) Weed out the noise.

You may find that your success is downplayed by other people in your circles, including other coworkers, family members, friends of friends, etc. They may say that you should not make such a big deal about your CFE success based on pass rates, number of writers, “easy exam settings”, etc. I cannot stress more enough that people who downplay your success are either (1) entirely misinformed about how difficult the process really is, or (2) they are trying really hard to make themselves feel good. In my humble opinion, you know what it took to get to where you are, and you are responsible for writing your own story – don’t let these kind of people make you believe in something that is false.


3) Offer to help those in need.

While you are celebrating your success, be cognizant of other people you know who did not make the passing grade this year. One thing I strongly encourage you to do is to reach out to them when you feel the time is right. If you read my blog post on “How I Bounced Back after Failing the 2016 CFE”, you will see that I got a lot of support from others during 2017, which played a big part in my success the following year. Throughout 2018, I decided to pay-it-forward to students writing this year, through coaching, case marking, and assisting with webinars – I can say with confidence that doing this kind of stuff is very self-fulfilling for the soul. If you want to get into the giving-mood for the upcoming Holiday Season, start here.



If You Did Not Pass the 2018 CFE


It’s perfectly fine to feel like absolute crap for a little while. Getting a failing grade on something you worked hard for is hard for anyone to accept, myself included.

While you will probably feel a mix of different emotions over the next few days, I think you should keep the following in mind:


1) Things don’t “end” here.

Whether you are writing for first time, or even a second time, you should not set an attempt-limit on yourself, contrary to what others around you may advise. Instead, you should take the time to reflect on why you were unsuccessful – was it because you studied too little? Or maybe it was because you studied too much? (This is equally as dangerous, by the way). After reflection, set a game plan on what you will do next year to make your next attempt a successful one.

If you are in the situation where you failed after your third attempt, CPA does note that they do have the ability to reregister you in the program if they find that extraordinary circumstances existed. Before pursuing this route, I recommend that you reach out to myself and/or an advisor at your regional CPA body.


2) Don’t be shy to ask for help.

Without a doubt, it will be a hard journey to get back up on your feet and into study-mode next year. But it will be harder if you take that journey alone. The good thing about the CPA exam process are that there are lot of writers each year, which further means that there are a lot of resources available – whether it be study buddies, coaches, mock exam markers, mock cases, and technical material. By being involved in the “CPA education space” throughout 2017 & 2018, I have a lot of these resources available, so in case you’re still looking for the “right” person to reach out to, my door is open.


3) Do not immediately jump to appealing your results.

After you receive your exam results, you may receive notifications from CPA explaining how to appeal and/or request a Performance Analysis Report (PAR). This does not mean that you should proceed with appealing your results – appealing your results costs a lot of money and may be of little value to you. Instead, feel free to reach out to me so I can point you in the right direction as you make this difficult decision.


I really hope that this blog post helps you calm your nerves a little during this tense time. If you want to reach out to me personally, please give me a shout at stevenp2c@gmail.com.

Congratulations to all of you for attempting one of the most difficult exams in the world!



Steven Pitucci, CPA, CA

Future of CFE Blog

Thanks to everybody stopping by, leaving comments, talking about the exam and for the nice feedback I get sometimes. The blog will soon be getting a makeover and I’ll be working to beef up the content and cater it towards the Common Final Examination – the CFE – now that we’ve seen one.

I’ve got my ideas of where this is going to go but since this blog is for youwhat do you want to see? You can assume we’ll stick with at least the status quo  plus but new material. Tell me in the comments or e-mail me with your ideas.

Thanks and let’s help the next generation of CPAs.

The first CFE

Today writers across Canada finished their first day of the brand new Common Final Examination (CFE) for the new CPA designation. Said to be as challenging as the UFE, the CFE is a three day case based exam and I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of differences appear, if any.

To those writers who managed their way through the first day, the advice is always the same:

  • Avoid talking about the exam because it will only hurt your confidence – everybody things they did bad.
  • Don’t burden yourself with more studying between days because your brain needs rest right now.
  • Get plenty of sleep and go in everyday giving 100% because you just don’t know how well you did in comparison to everybody else.

Good luck over the next two days!

Final UFE Results Today

A warm congratulations goes out today to those passing (or soon to be passing) the final sitting of the UFE. Judging from the comments, there are plenty of nervous people and most of you will get good results today if past trends continue.  Now hit the comments and let us know that you passed!

As always, thanks to the many readers and numerous commenters who have come to discuss and offer advice along the way.

With the results today we say good-bye to the UFE and bring on the CFE.

Do I have to remember everything from University in order to write the UFE?

The answer is to some extent yes, and to some extent no.

Yes – many of the University topics you would have learned for accounting are in some way covered by the UFE. You can see the specific topic coverage in the UFE competency map (This version is for the 2012 UFE but a new one will be out soon and should be similar).

 No – In University you would have likely learned them in far more detail than is covered in the UFE. Your responses in University would have also likely had to be to a higher degree of accuracy than they are on the UFE. 

If you are writing in 2013, you’ve got almost a year now to get yourself ready for the UFE. Step 1 is to review technical and give yourself a solid technical base because come next summer your entire focus will be on learning to write and debrief simulations and perfect your ability to write a solid response to a business case.

I’ll tell you right now: the number one fear of UFE writers is that they are not technically sound. This feeling seems to persist even up to the UFE and many students spend too much time on technical close to the UFE and not enough time writing simulations and debriefing them properly.

I’ll be working on some technical guides as we lead up to the CKE and next summer so keep coming back as we continue our march to the 2013 UFE.

What do previous writers think? How much technical from University did you need and to what extent?

To outline or not to outline on the UFE

This is one of those issues that can have strong opinions on both sides. On the one side, some say the outline is critical in organizing your thoughts and response and on the other, people consider it a waste of time since you can just take notes on the simulation sheet.

For comprehensive simulations I say the outline is critical and you cannot go on without it. For multis I’ve seen people go both ways and write fine cases so it’s a personal choice but I recommend using one. I found it helpful to stay organized and help with ranking and time management.

What is on a good outline?

A good outline will have the following elements:

  • A purpose and role. So you never forget what your role in the simulation is, and I like to have a purpose to all quants on the outline so that you understand why you need this quant. It helps avoid starting a quant and later realizing you didn’t need it or went in the wrong direction.
  • Who you are addressing and what kind of communication is it? You may have to do an audit memo to a partner on one hand and a report about a tax situation to the client on the other hand.
  • A timeline should be used unless dates are not an issue in the simulation. Write down every date you are given and keep track of where you are in proximity on a timeline.
  • A diagram or organisational chart to keep straight who owns what or works where. This is often an issue in taxation indicators and will help keep things straight.
  • A list of the required for the case which ensures that you address everything that was asked of you. If it helps, indicate which are primary indicators and which are secondary. Most people recommend you write these out almost word for word so you don’t misunderstand what is being asked of you.
  • Identify issues in the simulations. This is not the same as writing down case facts which should not be written down on your outline but referenced. Write down the issues you identify and then indicate on your outline which page they come from (could be many) and refer back to them once you are writing your response.
  • You’ll want quant information easily available if there is a lot of it. Consider having a separate page full of quant information so you can easily refer back to it rather than searching (and possibly missing) the data in your question sheet.
  • Finally, after all is said and done, rank the issues and allocate time to them. You are going to need to know which issues you’ll be dropping and which you’ll be tackling before you begin writing and it’s best done when you have the whole case in front of you on an outline.

How long should an outline take?

I’ve heard some people dedicate up to 1/3 of the time to outlining which is probably a good maximum. You don’t want to let it start impacting your actual case but it is where a lot of the hard work of composing your response goes on so don’t fly over it either. For a comp I don’t think its unreasonable to outline for upto 1.5 hours.

Also: Check out Kayla Switzer’s post on the topic over on her blog.

For the comments: To outline or not to outline, what do you think? How has it worked for you?

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