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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations to all of you for attempting one of the most difficult exams in the world!
Steven Pitucci, CPA, CA