Writing the 2023 May or September CFE? 

(CPA Canada)

Learn how to pass the 2023 May or September CFE (Common Final Exam) using PrepFormula's Help

Eligibility For Canadian CPA Candidates:

  • University Courses or CPA Preparatory Courses: CPA Candidates are required to complete the University/College Academic Prerequisites, or courses from the CPA Preparatory Program (CPA PREP).
  • CPA PEP Program Requirements: Then, CPA Candidates must complete the CPA PEP Core 1 and Core 2 Modules, and Two (2) Chosen Electives from (Assurance, Performance Management, Tax or Finance).
  • IMPORTANT TIP: If you’re planning on practicing Public Accounting in the future, try not to close any doors for yourself. You must choose Assurance and Tax as your electives. 
  • It’s our estimate that most students will choose these two options for the Electives.
  • You’ll then be required to complete the Capstone 1 and Capstone 2 Modules. 
  • While the first four Modules are exam based Modules (e.g. there’s an exam after each). 
  • Capstone 1 and Capstone 2 will evaluate your skills in different ways, but will not have a final exam. Capstone 1 and Capstone 2 will help prepare you for CFE. 

Structure of the 2023 CFE Common Final Examination

  • The CFE is 3 days in length: 
  • CFE Day 1: 4 hours in length. This will focus on being an extension of the Capstone 1 case. An example of this could be the same company, but several years in the future, or the same company venturing into a different industry. 
  • CFE Day 2: 5 hours in length. This will be a super large case where your attention will be required to achieve depth in one of 4 different roles. You can pick the role, and write about it. The idea here is to focus on the chosen elective area.
  • CFE Day 3: 4 hours in length. This will be a combination of 3 shorter cases anywhere from 60-90 minutes in length each, comprised of 3 separate cases that are not linked at all. 

Focus of 2023 CFE

  • CFE Day 1: The new focus is on the CFE are the “Enabling Competencies”. The CPA Competency Map defines the Enabling Competencies as:
    • Problem Solving and Decision Making
    • Ethical Behaviour
    • Communication Skills
      • Do you notice none of these specifically on Core technical sections only? We suggest to focus on the Situational Analysis, instead of trying to solve problems.
      • We believe communication skills are essential and a super detailed response is not as important, but rather the integration between different areas.
      • A great example of this could be the focus on the qualitative impact of your decisions on future business viability and decision making, not having a detailed quantitatively correct answer.
    • IMPORTANT TIP: Day 1 will be separately identified as a Pass/Fail exam. The focus is not on technical knowledge, but ethics and the “Big Picture” items. Be careful not to try to approach this case from a technical standpoint.
  • CFE Day 2: Think of this as a hugely complicated and technical case for which you get to pick a specific role. The focus of Day 2 couldn’t be possibly completely different from Day 1.
    • You’ll begin your day writing the same case, same as every other candidate on the exam, but with a chose to speak about 4 different roles.
      • You must focus on your elective role. The role is based on specific topic areas (such as Accounting, Assurance, etc.)
    • IMPORTANT TIP: You’ll be provided with a huge 30-40 page case, with a lot of different exhibits. The exhibits will not state which elective area they refer to. While reading exhibits, try to see if you notice anything related to your role, if not, move on. Be careful not to miss a vital point.
      • Book a one-to-one session with a Prep Trainer to read and plan a case together!
    • By the way, just because you are writing about one specific topic area, that doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for other competency areas.
      • IMPORTANT TIP: There will be 1 common issue across all cases that you must perform before actually attempting the role tasks at hand. These will be most likely in either: 1)Management Accounting OR 2)Financial Reporting.
    • Just to let you know, you’ll be provided all of the Financial Statements for the case you’re solving in Excel format.
  • CFE Day 3: We’re estimating you’ll get 3 separate cases anywhere from 60-90 minutes in length.
    • Time management is crucial. Each case will focus on a number (3-4) of different competency areas all in one with up to 3-9 total CPA Assessment Opportunities - Yikes!. The focus area will be on both technical and qualitative discussions that are integrated between each topic.

How To Pass the CPA PEP CFE on Days 1, 2 and 3, the FIRST TIME:

  • CFE Day 1:
    • Simple pass or fail exam
  • The focus area is on “Enabling Competencies”. Think of this as a focus on a super high-level approach, ethics and communication skills with very little technical focus.
    • IMPORTANT TIP: What happens if you fail? You don’t need to take Capstone 1 if you fail Day 1, but rather just attempt Day 1 again next year.
    • IMPORTANT TIP: If you pass Days 2 and 3, you will only need to redo Day 1, not the whole exam!
  • CFE Day 2, CFE Day 3:
  • There are 4 levels to required to be reached to pass the exams. Here is a really easy and simple explanation of how they work
  • Level 1: Aggregate Competency Demonstrated Sufficient? (Days 2-3) 
  • Translation: Let’s say you could look at all of the different competency area testing opportunities (Required’s), did you achieve Competent a specific number of times?
  • Level 2 Were FA or MA Competencies demonstrated in depth? (Days 2-3)
  • Translation: Did you score Competent on enough Financial Accounting OR Management Accounting Required’s?
  • Level 3: Were the Role Competencies demonstrated in depth? (Day 2 only)
  • Translation: Did you understand your Elective Role properly? Did you score Competent on enough Elective Required’s on Day 2?
  • Level 4: Was the competency demonstrated broadly? (Mostly Day 3)
  • Translation: Do you at least score decently across all Required’s?
  • What happens if you Fail Days 2 or 3? You must retake Days 2 and 3 (assuming you passed the Day 1). You will not need to retake all 3 days.

Final Takeaway:

  • Every single CPA Candidate will write differently. We typically suggest to focus on three major weaknesses:
  • Technical weaknesses – this is a lack of understanding of the technical subject (Competency Area), or a lack of a Big Picture (why is this important to your users/impact?) discussion.
  • Strategic weaknesses – are you managing your time appropriately? Are you always speaking about the most important issues, or the issues easiest for you to speak about based on your current knowledge base? Are you always providing value to your client? Imagine that your client/partner only has a limited amount of time, are you going after the most important discussions?
  • Written weaknesses – are you formatting your responses in a proper way? Are you maximizing all of the possible opportunities for marks? Are you disclosing all criteria or the most relevant parts of the criteria? Are you concluding on all of the competency areas and/or only the final takeaways?

Need help? Call or E-mail us:

We can help you break down your own answer and help you understand where you’re going wrong. This isn’t something you can learn from a debriefing session, or a classroom (in-class or virtual), or a video. The best way to learn is one-to-one, please reach out to us if you’re struggling. We’re ready to help you pass!

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