(Posted June 2024)

Each year, we talk to many students who are clearly in full panic mode in the two weeks leading up to the CFE. Most of this panic is completely preventable. In this blog, we will evaluate some of the panicked questions we get right before the CFE, and how you can structure your study now to be confident leading up to the CFE.

Understanding the CFE Evaluation Methodology Early

In the weeks leading up to the CFE, we get many questions from students who do not have a good understanding of how they will be evaluated on the CFE. These questions include whether they need to score enough Competent rankings (Cs) on both Financial Reporting (FR) and Management Accounting (MA) assessment opportunities, how many Cs are needed on their CFE Day 2 role assessment opportunities, and how many RCs they need to score across the exam. Students also propose strategies for trying to game the CFE game and avoid having to address certain areas to save time without realizing the impact those strategies will have on their ability to pass the CFE.

We cover the CFE Evaluation Methodology very early in our CFE Prep course and it is critical to learn at that time in your CFE preparations for two reasons. First, you need to understand the rules of the game to play the CFE game and win. Second, learning how the game is played will help you understand why we recommend certain approaches to case writing. Having a solid grasp of the CFE Evaluation Methodology early will avoid panic from the uncertainty over whether your results are sufficient to pass the exam.

Tracking Your Results

Building on this concept, we also get a lot of questions from students who think their results are not going to result in a pass. Some of the typical questions we get include concerns about scoring enough Cs for their role or in FR, or about how many NCs they can score and still pass the CFE. Often, students will feel a general unease about the number of NCs versus Cs they are seeing and are not confident whether it is enough to pass.

In our CFE Prep course, we suggest that students track their results daily by technical competency area, with their CFE Day 2 role performance tracked separately. We explain how to evaluate this tracking sheet on a weekly basis to analyze your results and understand where your focus needs to be placed to improve your results. Seeing the progress you are making each week will help you to avoid panicking as you get closer to writing the CFE.

Following the Study Plan

We get a lot of students who want to study more hours in the week before the exam because they are panicking that they do not know everything that could be tested on the CFE. For example, they want to study the entire last weekend before the actual exam, they want to cram technical review each evening on random topics they do not feel 100% comfortable with, or they want to write more cases because they feel like they should write every prior year CFE case available.

They ask us if these study strategies are a good idea, and our answer is typically the same. Stick to your study plan throughout your study period. It has been designed to provide enough practice to succeed without risking burnout before the exam. It has been designed to help you peak at the right time.  As such, it is also important to follow the study plan and wind down before the CFE. You need to take that time off and decompress before the exam. If you have followed your study plan, and focused on debriefing properly and learning the skills that you need, you are prepared to write and pass the CFE.

Understanding How Surpass (SecureClient) Works

The number of questions we get regarding the functionality in CPA Canada’s examination software the week before the CFE is surprising.

This can be easily prevented by reviewing CPA’s guidance on SecureClient well before the CFE. This guidance contains:

  • a practice examination so you can see the functionality that is available and how to use it
  • a YouTube video on the differences between Microsoft Word and Excel and the software’s word processor and spreadsheet
  • a tips and tricks document

We recommend that you familiarize yourself with the functionality available in the software well in advance of the actual exam to eliminate the stress of the unknown. You can use the link to the CPA Student Support Web Portal on CPA Canada’s website to ask any questions you have about the examination software.

What Can I Bring into the Exam

Similarly, we get a lot of worried questions about what can be brought into the CFE exam writing centre and what supplies can be used during the exam.

You can eliminate the stress around these concerns by reviewing CPA’s In-Person Examination Regulations well before the CFE.  Know what is permitted and study only using those permitted items well before the week before the CFE.  That way you can practice under exam-like conditions as part of your CFE preparations.