Tag Archives: depth

Common CFE Terminology (or a CFE Dictionary)

With the Common Final Examination (CFE) still being new, the jargon will change so we’ll keep updating this with your suggestions. You’ll hear all kinds of terms thrown around this year. Here are the translations for those who aren’t familiar yet with the CFE terminology:

  • .. Case / Simulation / Exam– These are just all the same terms for a ‘CFE business case’. The UFE typically called these ‘simulations’ which is why you might hear the term still used but most of the official CFE material has gone back to using ‘case’. There are no differences between any of these terms.
  • Multis (multi-competency) are shorter cases which range from 45-90 minutes. They may test around 3-5 competencies at a time. During the CFE, these are written on Day 3. Multis are usually easier to write because they are shorter and easier to manage all the information. The time-crunch level of multis varies.
  • Comps– or Comprehensive cases are the large five hour cases. These are large cases with a lot of information and their own problems/strategies. On the CFE these are written on day one of the exam.
  • NA, NC, RC, C and CD – These are how you are marked on the CFE during days two and three. While each mark is attached a numeric value, your feedback will not include a final score and only a mark ranging from NA to CD. For more description, see here.
    • NA = Not Addressed
    • NC = Nominal Competence
    • RC = Reaching Competence
    • C = Competent
    • CD = Competent with Distinction
  • Assessment Opportunity (Indicator)– An assessment opportunity is a term for a competency being tested. You might hear it referred to as competency indicator as well which means the same thing. An assessment opportunity is a specific requirement within the case that you are required to respond to. So if you’re expected to do an audit planning memo, you would have an assurance indicator that required you to create an audit planning memo. If you’re expected to identify incorrect accounting treatments, you would have a financial accounting indicator that required this. You would then receive a mark of NA to CD for each indicator.
  • Depth– Depth means the amount of detail and meaningful, thorough discussion you have about a specific topic. A superficial discussion without a lot of detail is said to lack depth because you are not exploring enough sides of the issue or not being thorough enough in your discussion. In some contexts, you are also said not have enough depth if you level of discussion within an assessment opportunity is at the RC level (rather than C)
  • Breadth Breadth refers to getting across indicators or issues and talking less thoroughly. If you don’t have enough breadth, it means you are not talking about enough indicators or issues within a single indicator and focusing too much on a single indicator or issue.
  • SecureExam– The software in which the CFE is written. This is a secure, built in word processor, spreadsheet, and reference look up software. You’re advised to start using this as soon as it’s available as it is considered more cumbersome to use than Word and Excel.
  • RAMP-– This acronym stands for Risk, Approach, Materiality and Procedures:  a strategy to tackle audit planning memos.
  • Required – Refers to what you are expected to answer/discuss in the case. This will usually come in the form of somebody asking you to do something as part of the case. Each required is linked to an assessment opportunity.
  • Core (Technical) Competency – The abilities expected of CPA in practice which specifically include Financial Reporting (accounting), Strategy and Governance, Management Accounting, Audit and Assurance, Taxation and Finance.
  • Enabling Competency – The soft skills around being ethical, decision-making, problem-solving, communication, self-management and teamwork and leadership.
  • Integration – Integration is a reference to incorporating multiple elements, usually from multiple competencies, within your case response. It is a bigger-picture, higher-order view of the case with your response discussing how the different portions of the case inter-relate with a view of adding significantly more value in your response than in a competency-specific analysis only.
  • Technical – The term technical is in reference to skills and abilities you need within the core competencies such as financial accounting or management accounting. For example, you need to be able to understand and apply accounting rules from the CPA Handbook – this is a technical skill.
  • Level 1-4 – To pass the CFE you have two pass four separate levels. Learn more here.
  • UFE (Uniform Evaluation) – The quasi-predecessor to the CFE. The UFE was the 3-day case-based qualifying exam for the Chartered Accountant profession prior to 2016.
  • BOE (Board of Evaluators) – The BOE is responsible for setting the passing standards around the Common Final Examination (CFE) and then for ensuring that the standard is held to during examination creation and marking.
  • Short forms for Competencies:
    • FA – Financial accounting and reporting
    • MA – Management accounting
    • Tax – Anything in the taxation competency


Heard any other terms that confuse you? Let us know in the comments and we’ll keep updating the dictionary!

Understanding the School of Accountancy SOA Exam Basics

Today, for those in Ontario.

The School of Accountancy (SOA) final exam is different from the UFE. It’s also similar in some ways, but it’s different in ways that you must understand to be most successful.

Here is an introduction to some of the big differences:

SOA is (more) about breadth, UFE is (more) about depth.

  • The SOA exam does not have the same three levels of marking that the UFE does. This has important implications for scoring such as the fact that you don’t need to hit every indicator to pass the exam.
  • The SOA has favoured breadth over depth in the past. This means that it’s important to hit everything at least on the surface. Skipping or messing up an indicator can really harm your score which is often caused by not managing your time properly. I had this experience during SOA when I messed up an important indicator in SOA2 (the practice exam) which landed me in the low deciles.

SOA is scored differently than the UFE

  • The UFE has primary and secondary indicators, the SOA has Diagnostic and Summative indicators. This is not just a difference in name.
  • Diagnostic indicators are not worth any marks and are there to help you understand what you need to improve on in your case.
  • Summative indicators get their value (mark) from the summary of the diagnostic indicators and this is what is worth points.

How SOA scoring works

There are five scores you can receive on an SOA exam per indicator, same as UFE, but their value is different from the UFE.

NA (Not Addressed) 0% 0%
NC (Nominal Competence) 25% 0%
RC (Reaching Competence) 50% 50%
C (Competent) 100% 100%
HC (Highly Competent) 100% 100%

From the above table you can see that SOA gives you a little crutch in the NC score on each indicator.

What does NA, or RC or C mean?

The requirement for each will vary by case and this is part of the process of learning case writing. But in brief,

NA = You missed the indicator, didn’t know to write about it or didn’t allocate the time to do so.
NC = You saw the indicator but your analysis was superficial or you didn’t use many case facts.
RC = You provided some depth in your analysis and used case facts.
C = You provided a strong analysis which was correct and used case facts to support it.
HC = You provided a very strong analysis which was correct and used case facts very well to support it.

You can see here something that you’ll be hearing a lot about: using case facts. In SOA and UFE you cannot get away with just spitting out technical (usually worth zero), you’ll have to integrate the facts from each individual case into your analysis.

SOA Scoring Example

SOA Scoring Example

Using the example above, you can see each component that make up a score for a single competency indicator.

Each simulation will have multiple indicators, and you’ll be writing multiple simulations, everything is added up and you’ll receive a pass or fail (the passing mark is not disclosed publicly).


What else are you curious about with SOA? Leave a comment and we’ll tackle things here as we go!

Achieving Depth in PMR – Accounting Discussion

Acheiving depth in PMR / Accounting on the UFE is an important skill to continually try to develop since it often means taking your RCs to Cs which is necessary to successfully pass the UFE. While the issues on the UFE will vary and a template approach is risky and cautioned against by The Board of Evaluators, today I’m offering a framework which is used for discussing PMR issues which could give you some thoughts on tackling accounting issues and achieving depth.

  1. Identify The Issue – First, it’s obviously important to identify the accounting issue and rank it high enough to discuss. This is usually because the simulation asks advice about this particular issue, they are accounting incorrectly in the simulation or some other case fact points you to discussing this issue.
  2. Was the Accounting Treatment Correct? – Ask and answer whether the accounting is correct. Support WHY with case facts. Give reasons based on The Handbook or if guidance is not provided then based on the conceptual framework/definitions.
  3. Are There Alternative Accounting Treatments? – If yes, present these alternatives with reference to The Handbook. Consider and discuss the impact on the Financial Statements, both Statement of Operations and Statement of Financial Position, and where possible, quantify the impact. Consider whether there is further information required. If no alternative treatments are available, use relevant GAAP to discuss the issue, again, consider the impact on both sides of the Financial Statements and quantify where possible. Consider whether further info is required.
  4. Recommend and Conclude – It is important to consider Financial Statement user needs or reporting objectives and to conclude on which accounting treatment is superior for users, or alternatively, only one may be allowed for areas where specific guidance is available.
  5. Consider Impact on Other Areas – Consider how this accounting may impact other areas in the case, this is where you’ll think above how this may be a pervasive issue and could impact assurance, purchasing of a business, going concern, and so forth.

Not every accounting issue will open itself up to a discussion in all of these areas but I think that if you keep these things in mind you’ll be able to have a rich discussion and achieve depth in a lot of accounting discussion.

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