Densmore Blog


Didn't get through the CFE this time?

On November 27, 2020

No one said the road to success would be smooth, and unfortunately, if you are reading this blog, it is likely that you are experiencing what feels like a major sink hole in your road. As difficult as it is to keep perspective, this is a speed bump in your career and does not define who you are. Know that the CFE is passable and while you were not successful at this attempt, you can succeed.


We recognize that for many of you, it may be the only thing you ever failed in your life and this is a tough blow. You will need to process your disappointment and maybe anger, and then move on to accepting the results.


Be prepared for reactions from co-workers and family members, assure them you are okay, and you will move forward. They will be concerned for you and your positive attitude will say a lot about the confidence you have in yourself. Some of the hardest conversations you will have are with your friends and peers who did pass. We encourage you to show a brave face and congratulate those you know who passed. It takes strength of character to do this, but you will be glad you did once it is behind you.


Again, we understand how difficult it is to receive unsuccessful results. We want to assure you that the CFE is doable and even though it is not openly discussed, many current CPAs also struggled through the process. Take comfort that once it is behind you, it is rarely ever mentioned again.


Next steps…


You will need to decide whether you want to appeal your results before December 14. Weigh the cost of appealing against the likelihood of success. Historically, less than 2% of appeals have been successful.


If you failed Day 1, consider that your response was looked at twice (and maybe even a third time) when you are deciding whether to appeal.  You will need to decide whether you want to write in May or September. Marmani will not be available, so you will write based on either Distinct Hotels (v2) or a new Capstone 1 case. For the May 2021 CFE, you can either write Waste Disposal or Distinct Hotels (v2). For the September 2021 CFE, you can either write Creative Toys or Distinct Hotels Corporation (v3).


If you failed Days 2 and 3, here is some information to help you understand your results:

·         Level 1 (Sufficiency) – You did not score Competent and/or Reaching Competence enough times on the assessment opportunities across Day 2 and Day 3. Your sufficiency grouping tells you how close you were to passing this level, with 1 being the closest and 10 being the furthest away.

·         Level 2 (Depth) – You did not score Competent enough times on the Financial Reporting or Management Accounting assessment opportunities across Day 2 and Day 3. Remember, you only need to pass one of those competency areas for Level 2.

·         Level 3 (Depth) – You did not score Competent enough times on your role assessment opportunities on Day 2.

·         Level 4 (Breadth) – You did not score at least Reaching Competence enough times on the assessment opportunities across Day 2 and Day 3 for each of the six technical competency areas.


If you failed Days 2 and 3 at Level 1 with a decile ranking of 1, you may want to appeal. Keep in mind that everyone with that result will not successfully appeal. Unfortunately, there is no sufficiency grouping for Level 2, Level 3 or Level 4 so you do not know how close you were. If you failed at more than one level or more than one competency area at Level 4, the chances of a successful appeal are even lower.


Performance Analysis Reviews (PARs) are available through CPA Canada and must be requested by December 14. The PARs we saw for the 2019 CFE gave specific feedback on areas where candidates did not meet the minimum standard with guidance on how to improve performance. You will also receive feedback on areas where you performed well. You will need to decide whether the cost is worth it. If you have failed Day 1 more than once, we recommend that you request a Day 1 PAR.


In making your decision to request a PAR, consider your results. For example, if you only failed at Level 4 Finance and you know that you struggled with quantitative analysis and didn’t manage your time well on Day 3, we do not recommend that you request a PAR. However, if you failed at more than one level, you may want to consider getting a PAR.


If you took our 2020 CFE Prep course or are registered for our 2021 CFE Prep course, we will analyze your September 2020 CFE results. Send your results to us at along with your tracking sheet from your study period so we can look at the information and get you pointed in the right direction for your next attempt. If you do request a PAR, we would like to analyze it as well, so please send it to us when you receive it, along with your results.


Between now and January, take time off, reconnect with friends and family and forget about all things CFE. In early January, once you have had time to process, do some soul searching and be honest with yourself. Look at your tracking sheet to see if you were tracking to pass all 4 levels prior to writing the CFE. To determine what worked and what didn’t work, what were your strengths and what were your weaknesses? Ultimately, it is important to understand what went wrong to cause this result and this early assessment is the first step in efficiently utilizing your time to prepare for your next attempt. You will need to change something (and often more than one thing) in your next attempt to achieve a pass. We would like to help you understand what it is you need to change and the steps we have outlined here are the starting process.


The Densmore Team

November 27, 2020

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