Densmore Blog


The Secret to CFE Success

On August 17, 2020

What is interesting about the CFE is that it’s almost as much about what not to do, as it is about what to do. Candidates chronically get themselves into trouble by over-studying and spending time on the wrong things. We see it every year. It is a tough exam, but it is predictable and fair. Those who study the most are not the most likely to pass. Those who study smart are far more likely to achieve success. So, what is the secret to success?


Take the CPA Canada CFE cases for the past four to five years and write them, mark them (ideally with a study partner) and debrief them all within a limited time frame. If you are in Capstone 2, you will get this coverage, but don’t wait until you get your marked responses back; rather, mark and debrief them as soon as you write each case. Use these cases to understand how an issue is triggered, use the marking guide (or our grids if you are part of the Densmore program) to understand what is required to score a C, and here is the kicker: use them to determine your technical review areas. Learn the technical from these marking guides. If you need more than that, go to a technical summary like our Competency Map Study Notes or your own resource to understand it. Do not go back to textbooks or the Handbook to learn as it will only overwhelm you with everything you do not know and, yes, trigger the panic.


Many candidates start with the Competency Map and think they need to learn everything – a sure fire way to figure out how much you do not know and start panicking. If, however, you are efficient and let the case coverage guide your technical coverage, as long as you write and debrief enough of the last four to five years of CFE cases, you will have seen 90-95% of the technical coming in 2020. The Board of Examiners is fair in that it concentrates on the most common areas an entry-level CPA should know. We call these repetitive testing areas.  By letting these cases guide your technical, you will be well prepared.


Now some of you are saying that you want to know 100%, so what would it take to learn that remaining 5-10%? The answer is every minute of your time and there is no way you could know it all. And, do not forget you do have access to the Handbook during the CFE, so spend a bit of time understanding how to search using Folio Views. Then, when that obscure technical appears, you have two choices: look it up efficiently or fall back on basic principles of accounting and write it from that perspective. You may hit it or miss it, but at 5-10% of the exam, it does not matter. Concentrate on the 90-95% that you can learn efficiently.


The Densmore Team

(August 17, 2020)

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