Tag Archives: canada

September already!? Last minute advice for September CFE writers

First off: wishing all those writing the CFE this Wednesday, September 21 – Friday, September 23 the very best!

Whether you’ve been studying for 5-6 weeks or only squeaked a week or two, here are some final tips to get through the CFE:

  • Take a break before Wednesday. At minimum I would suggest taking Tuesday entirely off from work and study.
  • Sleep is super important. Get a good sleep before the exam and during the three days.
  • Don’t study during the exam, you need to rest in between each day to be fresh.
  • Remember, this is a three-day examination and every day counts. Don’t get discouraged if you have a bad day and think that you’ve failed so you won’t try as hard on what’s left. Most people feel terrible walking out of one or more of the exam days. Give your 100% each day. This isn’t the time to feel sorry for yourself.
  • Don’t talk about the exam until after all three days are over. There is little reward and lots of risk of getting discouraged because you missed something that somebody else had identified (correctly or not).

With that, good luck and best wishes!

May 2016 CFE Results

Update: 2016-07-29

Congratulations to Betty Xin, from Alberta, who is both the CPAWSB gold medallist and the CPA Canada gold medallist!

CFE results are upon us. Congratulations for making it through the long and tiring wait. If you’re not sure where to go to get the CFE results, below are some of the key spots to check for your results.

ONTARIO

417 Successful Writers!

Results released Friday, July 29 at 10 AM EST
Go here: CPA Ontario May 2016 CFE Results

Ontario Gold Medallist

ROMAN, Matthew Daniel
SF Partnership LLP, Toronto
University of Toronto, Mississauga, Bachelor of Commerce, 2010
University of Waterloo, Master of Taxation, 2012

 

QUEBEC

178 Successful Writers!

Results released Friday, July 29 at 9 AM EST
Go here: CPA Quebec May 2016 CFE Results

Quebec Gold Medallist

Michael Bourbonnais, a graduate of the national program (HEC Montréal), earned the Gold Medal for Quebec and a $2,500 cash prize from CPA Canada for the highest standing in Quebec

 

CPA WESTERN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

(British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon)

411 Successful Writers!

Results released Friday, July 29 at 7:00am Pacific
Go here: CPA West May 2016 CFE Results

 

CPA ATLANTIC SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

(Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Bermuda, Caribbean)

Results released Friday, July 29 – If anybody knows where else these are shared please share in the comments
Go here: CPA Atlantic Web Site (May appear in the news)

Don’t neglect studying for Day 1 of the CFE

 

The results of the first CFE in December gave us more information to work with. Something that’s becoming clear is that Day 1 of the CFE is not the breeze that some candidates thought it would be. In my discussions with candidates and from the comments on the blog, I am seeing that a lot of candidates who did not pass the full CFE did not pass because of Day 1.

So what’s up?

 

It’s new to candidates

Day 1 is something completely new and many of the CFE writers may have been used to (and worked with) the old UFE format and therefore getting less practice on Day 1 of the CFE. With the May CFE approaching, you’ve now got more information to work with so use it.

 

It’s group work but you can’t work in isolation

Day 1 of the CFE is based on your Capstone 1 module which is a large group assignment that is evaluated. An interesting observation is that many Capstone 1 groups are taking the divide and conquer approach to the case which means individual candidates may be very familiar with one area of the case and less familiar with other areas. The down side of this approach may manifest in the CFE where you have to be very familiar with the whole case. If this is your group’s approach to Capstone 1, plan for additional time to study the whole case before the CFE.

 

Understand what’s being assessed on Day 1 and how to approach it

Remember, Day 1 is focused on the soft, high-level skills of the CPA Way. The case response is judged on the whole based on these key skills:

  • Assess the situation – integrating multiple parts of the case in your overall assessment, think holistically, think about organizational goals, risks, constraints and so forth.
  • Analyze the major issues – think of the tools you can use in your analysis (qualitative, quantitative, assumptions), think about the issue and how it interrelates across multiple competencies, consider alternatives and uncertainties.
  • Conclude and advise – use the result of your analysis to conclude on the alternatives (including implications) and then provide further advise (implementation, reducing risk, etc.)
  • Communication – Write professionally and keep in mind the audience and purpose of the communication.

 

Understand what was done badly on Day 1 of the first CFE

I’ll finish off by offering the Board of Examiners commentary on Day 1 of the September, 2015 CFE:

The Board was surprised that some candidates did not provide a quantitative analysis of the
major issues presented. Candidates are reminded that Chartered Professional Accountants are
expected to perform both quantitative and qualitative analyses, as appropriate, to support their
recommendations.

A large number of candidates spent a large part of their response (one-third) on a situational
analysis. The points made were typically valid and identified many of the decision factors to be
considered. However, these points were simply listed as pros or cons, or they were part of a
SWOT analysis that was done as an independent section of the response. Many candidates
failed to then take this great up-front analysis and incorporate it into their discussions of the
specific issues and the recommendations they were making. Candidates are reminded that the
situational analysis is there to help provide a frame of reference for the decision factors they
should be bringing into their analysis of the issues in order to help them make relevant
recommendations that consider the goals, objectives, mission, vision, et cetera, of the company.

(2015 CFE Board of Examiners Report, p. 10)

Take the above advice and apply it. If the Board of Examiners shares any similarity with the previous UFE Boards then they are a lot less forgiving the second time around to candidates making the same mistakes.

Don't neglect studying for Day 1 of the CFE

 

The results of the first CFE in December gave us more information to work with. Something that’s becoming clear is that Day 1 of the CFE is not the breeze that some candidates thought it would be. In my discussions with candidates and from the comments on the blog, I am seeing that a lot of candidates who did not pass the full CFE did not pass because of Day 1.

So what’s up?

 

It’s new to candidates

Day 1 is something completely new and many of the CFE writers may have been used to (and worked with) the old UFE format and therefore getting less practice on Day 1 of the CFE. With the May CFE approaching, you’ve now got more information to work with so use it.

 

It’s group work but you can’t work in isolation

Day 1 of the CFE is based on your Capstone 1 module which is a large group assignment that is evaluated. An interesting observation is that many Capstone 1 groups are taking the divide and conquer approach to the case which means individual candidates may be very familiar with one area of the case and less familiar with other areas. The down side of this approach may manifest in the CFE where you have to be very familiar with the whole case. If this is your group’s approach to Capstone 1, plan for additional time to study the whole case before the CFE.

 

Understand what’s being assessed on Day 1 and how to approach it

Remember, Day 1 is focused on the soft, high-level skills of the CPA Way. The case response is judged on the whole based on these key skills:

  • Assess the situation – integrating multiple parts of the case in your overall assessment, think holistically, think about organizational goals, risks, constraints and so forth.
  • Analyze the major issues – think of the tools you can use in your analysis (qualitative, quantitative, assumptions), think about the issue and how it interrelates across multiple competencies, consider alternatives and uncertainties.
  • Conclude and advise – use the result of your analysis to conclude on the alternatives (including implications) and then provide further advise (implementation, reducing risk, etc.)
  • Communication – Write professionally and keep in mind the audience and purpose of the communication.

 

Understand what was done badly on Day 1 of the first CFE

I’ll finish off by offering the Board of Examiners commentary on Day 1 of the September, 2015 CFE:

The Board was surprised that some candidates did not provide a quantitative analysis of the
major issues presented. Candidates are reminded that Chartered Professional Accountants are
expected to perform both quantitative and qualitative analyses, as appropriate, to support their
recommendations.

A large number of candidates spent a large part of their response (one-third) on a situational
analysis. The points made were typically valid and identified many of the decision factors to be
considered. However, these points were simply listed as pros or cons, or they were part of a
SWOT analysis that was done as an independent section of the response. Many candidates
failed to then take this great up-front analysis and incorporate it into their discussions of the
specific issues and the recommendations they were making. Candidates are reminded that the
situational analysis is there to help provide a frame of reference for the decision factors they
should be bringing into their analysis of the issues in order to help them make relevant
recommendations that consider the goals, objectives, mission, vision, et cetera, of the company.

(2015 CFE Board of Examiners Report, p. 10)

Take the above advice and apply it. If the Board of Examiners shares any similarity with the previous UFE Boards then they are a lot less forgiving the second time around to candidates making the same mistakes.

Should I study alone for the CFE?

Should you study alone for the CFE or as part of a group? It’s around that time when you should be thinking about your study plan for the upcoming CFE.

There are a few schools of thought on the issue of study partners or study groups. The majority of people feel that they are musts and it’s non-negotiable. The remaining minority aren’t sure or prefer to work alone including several who achieved honour roll.

I’ll start by saying that I’ve seen people fail due to having the wrong study group and I’ve also seen people do well without a study group. So the bottom line is that both situations are possible. This doesn’t mean that you can’t tip the odds in your favour.

 

Pros of a study group

  • You get independent appraisal of your cases. This is the single most important reason I would recommend a study group.On your own, you cannot be completely unbiased since you know what you meant when you wrote something. Although you may know what you meant, that’s not what may come across on your case. By working with a group you will get feedback about what you actually wrote in your case from someone that doesn’t know what you meant to say. This is very valuable feedback.
  • You are accountable to somebody else. It’s easier to say ‘Screw it, I’m not doing this today’ to yourself, but it’s harder when there is another person counting on you.
  • You have someone there who is going through the same thing. This can help you stay on track, not get discouraged and maintain perspective.
  • You have someone available to discuss tricky topics or get a different perspective on an issue.
  • You get to see what a realistic response looks like by marking your study partners/groups papers. Those sample responses you may have seen (or from the old UFE reports) are nowhere near what an average candidate might write and you might put undue stress on yourself if you think they are.

 

Cons of a study group

  • Your study group or partner may not be the right fit. I’ve seen it happen where a group is dysfunctional and it detracts from performance. This is more of a reason to choose wisely rather than not have a study group/partner at all.
  • When skill levels are different it can be discouraging for the person at the lower skill level and it can hinder improvement for the superior writer. Again, this is more of a reason to choose wisely rather than study alone.
  • Study partners/groups may become too much of a social gathering and waste your time.
  • You could end up with a study partner who is too emotional or stressed out and it could unnecessarily stress you out. I’ve heard of study groups which ended in tears many days for both parties, not even joking.

 

How big should your study group be?

This is another debateable issue. Most people I talk to believe that the smaller the group the better, with the ideal being just one study partner. I personally worked very well in a group of four where everyone would swap partners each simulation. I got three different perspectives from a variety of skill and progress levels. Everyone was decent at following the schedule, and if someone wanted a day off, you still had two other study partners left to discuss with. This might not work for everyone but I was good friends with my study buddies and we worked well as a group.

That said, there are of course pros and cons of smaller and larger groups so you will have to decide what is best for you. The possibility of problems tends to rise with larger groups, especially if they are dominated by any particular person.

 

In conclusion

I am strongly recommending some form of study group or a study partner, even if it’s just part time.

Remember, if you choose to have a study partner/group, it is only one part of a balanced study approach where you still need to put in the hard word writing and debriefing simulations. There is no avoiding that, no matter how good your study group is.

 

Need to find a study partner or group? Try out our Study Partner Search feature.

What does it take to pass the CFE? Understanding Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4

The pass/fail system on the CFE is not just mark X passes and mark Y fails. On the CFE, you need to demonstrate enough depth and enough breadth in order to pass.

Day 1 of the CFE is a pass/fail mark only while Days 2-3 are marked using the level 1-4 system described below. To completely pass the CFE you must pass Day 1 and then pass Days 2-3 under the level 1-4 criteria below.

Let’s explore what the level 1-4 criteria are.

 

Level 1 – Your response is sufficient in scope (your overall score is high enough)

Level 1 takes your overall score and compares it to other scores and what was expected from the Board of Evaluators (BOE). This is how you might expect your average exam to be marked. At level 1 on the CFE, if you fall below the cut-off you will not pass and if you are above the cut-off then you do pass… level 1 that is. That’s great but you aren’t out of the woods yet. Your response will need to also pass at level 2.

Don’t forget, not all marks are worth something. Make sure you understand how to score on the CFE.

Bottom line: Your goal is to score high enough that your overall CFE score is above the cut-off to pass level 1.

Most people fail at level 1 (historically on the UFE – we will see if this trend continues on the CFE).

 

Level 2 – Demonstrate depth in Financial Accounting/Reporting and Management Accounting

This level applies to Financial Accounting (FA) and Management Accounting (MA) ONLY.

This level requires that you demonstrate depth on enough FA or MA assessment opportunities. Assessment opportunities to tackle FA and MA are provided on Day 2 and 3.

What does depth mean?

It means the number of Competent (C-level) responses you give on FA and MA indicators. Therefore, if you score only RC on all FA and MA indicators you will not pass at level 2.

Bottom line: Score enough Cs in either FA or MA.

Alright, so you’re having a good day, you’ve survived the level 1 cut-off and you’ve got enough Cs in FA or MA. Can you walk away with that coveted CFE success letter? No, you’ve got two more hoops to jump through.

 

Level 3 – Demonstrate depth in your elective ROLE competency

All CPAs are expected to demonstrate sufficient competency in their elective ROLE competency.

This level requires that you demonstrate depth in your elective competency (Assurance, Finance, Taxation or Performance Management). Opportunities to do this are provided on Day 2.

What does depth mean?

It means the number of Competent (C-level) responses you give on elective role response indicators.

Bottom line: Score enough Cs in your elective competency.

If you’ve survived the level 1, 2 and 3 cut-offs there is still one final level you must pass to successfully complete Days 2 and 3 of the CFE.

 

Level 4 – Demonstrate breadth

This level applies to all six competency areas and essentially means that you cannot skip any single competency.

You must score sufficiently on each and all six of the above indicators in order to be successful at level 4. What does sufficiently mean? It means you have to score RC or higher enough times on each of the six competency areas. Opportunities to do this are provided in Day 2 (sometimes) and 3 (always).

Again, we don’t know how many RCs that means but I suspect it’s at least one each.

Bottom line: Don’t skip any competencies. You must score at least enough RCs in the remaining competencies.

 

In conclusion

The key takeaways:

Level 1 – Score well enough overall

Level 2 – Get enough Cs in either Financial Accounting or Management Accounting

Level 3 – Get enough Cs in your elective role

Level 4 – Don’t skip any single competency and get enough RCs in all six competencies

 

You can learn more about this from CPA Canada here.

Anything still confusing you about how the CFE is marked? Ask your questions in the comments below!

How does CFE scoring work?

Scoring on the CFE is on an “assessment opportunity” (indicator) basis. Each assessment opportunity is given a mark between NA and CD with only the RC, C and CD worth points.

How you score

For each assessment opportunity (indicator) you’ll score one of the NA – CD scores.

  • Not Addressed (NA) – You did not identify the issue in the case
  • Nominal Competence (NC) – You identified the issue but only covered it superficially. Not much (if any) value added. No evidence of competence demonstrated
  • Reaching Competence (RC) – You identified the issue and covered it, but it was not sufficiently covered to achieve a C
  • Competent (C) – You discussed the issue in a sufficient level to meet expectations.
  • Competent with Distinction (CD) – Your discussion was above what was required. An exceptional response.

You are marked on the number of RC and C scores you obtain, therefore, there is no advantage for the common candidate to strive for better than C. I believe this only becomes a factor if you’re going for a medal so unless you’re pretty certain your medalist calibre this is not something to strive for. You’ll be wasting time that you could be spending getting other Cs.

What are assessment opportunities?

Assessment opportunities try to break down the case into distinct requirements by competency. In each case, the Board of Evaluators asks “What would a competent CPA do?” after which they set the standard and evaluate each candidates performance on each assessment opportunioty. This was similarly defined for the old UFE in the UFE Reports, primary indicators are defined as: Primary indicators of competence [assessment opportunities] answer the question: “What would a competent CA do in these circumstances?” If the issues identified in primary indicators are not adequately addressed, the CA could, in real life, be placed in professional jeopardy or could place the client in jeopardy.”

In conclusion

You have assessment opportunities that test individual competencies. On each assessment opportunity, you score somewhere between NA – CD depending on how you respond. Your overall response is compared against what a competent CPA would do and given a pass/fail depending on how you score. Next step: You should understand how the CFE is marked.

How each day of the CFE works

The Common Final Examination (CFE) is a nationally administered examination by CPA Canada and the provincial institutes. Candidates challenging the CFE are required to successfully complete the examination in order to complete their education component of becoming a Chartered Professional Account (CPA) in Canada. The CFE is a three day examination. Here’s what to expect.

 

Day 1 – Evaluating your soft / professional skills (4 hours)

The first day of the CFE is a Pass/Fail mark treated separately and distinctly from Day 2 or 3. You can pass or fail Day 1 regardless of how you do on Day 2 and Day 3. Similarly, if you fail Day 1, you need to re-do, and successfully complete Day 1 regardless of how you did in Day 2 or 3. Day 1 is linked to the Capstone 1 module with the case being directly tied to your Capstone 1 case. Likely a situation where you are a few years later and things have changed. You are provided with the original Capstone 1 case (not your solution) and the updated information on your CFE case. Day 1 tests your soft/professional skills, also described as “board room and senior management” level of discussion.  You are not expected to discuss accounting or other technical competencies in any great detail but focus on the ‘enabling competencies’. Tips:

  • Know your Capstone 1 case inside and out ahead of time
  • Broad thinking and integration of case facts into a holistic discussion
  • Decision making
  • Professional judgment
  • Assess the situation and what needs to be done
  • Analyze the major issues
  • Conclude and provide useful advice
  • Ensure your communication is clear

 

Day 2 – Comprehensive Case evaluating depth in your role and breadth in remainder (5 hours)

The second day of the CFE is comprised of a single case with a number of indicators which are related to technical competencies. Each indicator is linked to one of the technical competencies and is marked on a scale of NA (Not Addressed), NC (Not competent), RC (Reaching Competent), C (Competent) and CD (Competent with distinction). Day 2 is independent from any previous Capstone and the case will be original and new to you. You will have selected the elective role you want to play in the case (Finance, Tax, Assurance of Performance Management). You will receive the same case and four separate appendices each related to the role mentioned above. The requireds in this case should be very directed so you should understand what is being asked of you. Day 2 tests your technical skills with depth required from your elective role selection and the remainder of the technical competencies tested at a core level. Tips:

  • Ensure you answer in depth (C level) for your elective competency
  • Focus on technical competencies and ensure you cover enough of your non-elective competencies at the RC level
  • Wrap up with an executive summary
  • Avoid skipping any competencies

 

Day 3 – Small cases (usually three) testing core and enabling competencies only evaluating depth and breadth (4 hours)

The third day of the CFE is three to four (usually three) multi-competency cases testing the common core competencies and could also test the enabling competencies. Cases will range from 45 minutes – 90 minutes for a combined 4 hours. Same as in Day 2, each case has multiple indicators which are individually marked on the NA-CD scale. Everybody gets the same cases in Day 2. You will be required to answer certain competencies in depth and others in a more breadth fashion. You will have to show a higher level of judgment and integration than in your previous Core modules and likely have to do ranking of issues to make it in the allotted time. Day 3 tests your technical skills (and likely ranking) and will require you to answer in enough depth for Financial Reporting and Management Accounting (meaning to a C-level enough times) and breadth in all other areas (sufficient RCs) Tips:

  • Lots of practice with cases in advance
  • Try to answer to a C level and not more
  • Time management and outlining will be important
  • Don’t skip competencies

Upcoming Common Final Examination Dates

The first Common Final Examination (CFE) was held Sep 16-18 in 2015 which is similar to how the old Uniform Evaluation (UFE) was held. In 2016, there is an added offering of the CFE in May, see below.

Capstones

The Capstone modules will precede each offering of the CFE and like the CFE, will be offered twice in 2016 and only be offered once in 2017 and onward. The current dates set are listed below per the national calendar.

2016 CFE Schedule

May Capstone Module Dates September Capstone Module Dates
Sat, Apr 2, 2016 to Fri, May 20, 2016 Sat, Jul 30, 2016 to Fri, Sep 16, 2016
Thu, May 26, 2016 Thu, Sep 22, 2016
Fri, May 27, 2016 Fri, Sep 23, 2016
May CFE Offering September CFE Offering
Wed, May 25, 2016 Wed, Sep 21, 2016
Thu, May 26, 2016 Thu, Sep 22, 2016
Fri, May 27, 2016 Fri, Sep 23, 2016
CFE Results CFE Results
August 5, 2016 December 9, 2016

 

You can see the 2016 schedule on the CPA Canada CPA Canada CFE Schedule.

 

2017 CFE Schedule

It is expected that the CFE will only be offered once per year going forward in September which aligns with how to former UFE was held.

2017 Capstone Module Dates
Sat, Jul 22, 2017 to Fri, Sep 8, 2017
September Offering
Wed, Sep 13, 2017
Thu, Sep 14, 2017
Fri, Sep 15, 2017
CFE Results
TBD

 

CPA Quebec has indicated the dates of the 2017 CFE Dates.

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.

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