(Posted February 2024)

If you are planning to write the CFE under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with CPA Canada, there a number of requirements you will need to navigate to achieve your CPA designation. This blog aims to help you better understand the Professional Education Program (PEP) requirements. For more information on the practical experience requirements, we encourage you to contact your CPA provincial institute directly. 

You may have been told you are eligible for advanced standing in PEP. If so, you may have been exempted from part or all of the PEP and/or Capstone modules and even been told that you can advance directly to the Common Final Examination (CFE). If this is the case, you may be eager to jump right into your studies for the CFE. Our experience shows that MOU candidates who try to write the CFE too early are unsuccessful. This can be very costly, both financially and from a time perspective.  

To help ensure that you are successful on your CFE attempt, there are several things you need to consider: 

Technical Knowledge 

Unless you have been working in Canada for some time and have good technical knowledge of Canadian-specific technical competency areas, you are going to need time to build your technical skills. This includes the following Canadian-specific areas: 

  • Taxation – corporate and personal 
  • Financial Reporting – Accounting Standards for Private Enterprises (ASPE) and Accounting Standards for Not-for-Profit Organizations (ASNPO) are specific to the Canadian context; International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are used for public entities in Canada 
  • Audit and Assurance – Canadian Auditing Standards (CAS) 

Once you register with CPA as a MOU candidate, you will obtain access to Knotia, a platform that will provide you with access to the exam reference versions of the CPA Handbook – Accounting (includes ASPE, ASNPO, IFRS) and Assurance (includes the CAS), the Income Tax Act and the Excise Tax Act that are available to you to use when writing the CFE. You will also obtain access to the CPA Canada Learning Library online textbooks which will provide you with some online technical resources. 

Case Writing Skills 

Unlike other professional exams you may have written, the CFE is a case-based exam. There are no multiple-choice questions on the CFE. Therefore, the exam is less about technical memorization and recall and more about how to critically read, analyze, and write issues in a case setting. This involves several key skills which you may need to learn and practice: 

  • Critical reading – This involves reading to identify issues in the context of the case facts and the user’s needs. 
  • Analysis skills – This involves not only providing a correct answer, but showing how you got there by integrating case facts and technical knowledge. 
  • Writing skills – This involves providing a response that balances the requirements for breadth (enough issues addressed) and depth (enough explanation provided). It also involves understanding what the board of examiners is looking for and how they want to see it and delivering a response that provides that level of detail. 

Our Recommendations for MOU Candidates 

Based on the above, we strongly recommend that you not rush to the CFE. You need to build a strong technical knowledge base and develop case writing skills before your first attempt. For this reason, we recommend the following path to the CFE: 

  • Take our MOU Bridge to CFE Prep course – This 12-week course includes a detailed study plan, our CPA Competency Map Study Notes technical resource, sessions on case writing, debriefing and writing the CFE, and 10 Core and Elective practice cases to help build your case writing skills. If you take this course, you do not need to take any other review materials modules offered through the CPA provincial institutes. You should start this course by April 2024 so that it is complete by early July 2024 if you are looking to write the CFE in September 2024. 
  • Take the full Capstone 2 module – Even if you are exempted from this PEP module through your MOU, we strongly encourage you to take this during your first attempt. The Capstone 2 module will provide you with marking and feedback on your practice cases and will also provide you with three practice Day 1 cases, which are necessary to get enough practice for Day 1 of the CFE. 
  • Take our CFE Prep course – This course will further enhance your case writing skills through approach and skills sessions and practice cases and will give you a study plan that encompasses the Capstone 2 and CFE Prep requirements to help you peak at the right time to write the CFE. We recommend that you take 4-5 weeks off from work before the CFE to complete our CFE Prep course requirements and the Capstone 2 requirements. 

If you are a MOU candidate just starting your investigation into writing the CFE, we strongly encourage you to visit the CPA Canada website for information for international members seeking the CPA designation. You should also evaluate your understanding of the CFE and your Canadian technical knowledge base. The earliest you should consider writing the CFE is September 2024, and you might even consider waiting until May 2025. For more information on resources for MOU candidates, we encourage you to review our website