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It's over! CPA CFE writers complete September 2023 national accounting exam

CPA program coach and mentor Gevorg Grigoryan, CPA breaks down all three days of this year’s September common final examination

Author: Gevorg Grigoryan

VANCOUVER, September 14, 2023 – The September 2023 common final examination is now complete and aspiring chartered professional accountants across Canada are breathing a sigh of relief. Similar to previous years, this CFE was written nationally over a three-day period, with many candidates congratulating one another on r/accounting threads on Reddit. 

The Day One cases were J.R. Pets Inc. (JRP) (version 1) and CanDo Fitness (CFL) (version 2). Both cases contained five strategic issues — more than the usual four tested in past exams. Candidates needed to manage their time effectively and allocate enough time to each of the issues. 

Some candidates reported that they could answer only part of the fifth issue in both cases. This is not a fatal flaw, writers must obtain full marks for most of the issues, but some can be partly complete, and this can still result in a passing grade. The JRP v1 case contained an appendix for each issue, cash flow constraint, and an overarching issue of strategic direction. Day 1 of the CFE is linked to the Capstone 1 case, drawing upon both the content and skills candidates developed in Capstone 1. 

On Day Two, known as “marathon day,” candidates found the exam challenging, as the GAAP standard was ASPE. Unlike prior Day 2 exams, there were not many complex, non-routine financial reporting “requireds” tested. Instead, the exam contained routine issues, however, they were tested in an ambiguous manner. 

For example, one of the sections was titled “Subsequent events,” which hinted on ASPE 3820 subsequent events discussion. However, within this section, there were “sub-issues” of government grant and contingent liability from a lawsuit. Candidates needed to address all these sub-issues to achieve depth. The management accounting requireds were ambiguous as well, containing break-even point, variance analysis, and complex process costing topics. 

Similar to September 2020 CFE, this Day Two did not have revenue recognition required, which is the most commonly tested financial reporting issues in the exam. The audit planning memo required was also not tested in the assurance role in this Day Two, which the writers found surprising. 

The Day Three “sprint day” has three to four cases testing on breadth of competencies. Day Three of this CFE had a case based on Accounting Standards for Non-for-Profit Organization (ASNPO), similar to the May 2023 CFE. Writers should learn from this that it’s important to practise the most recent exam cases, as some issues are repeated from recent CFEs. Most of the other requireds were similar to past exams, such as financing proposals, cost allocation, and control deficiencies. 

I applaud all writers of this September 2023 CFE for their resilience and hard work. You have completed a tremendous milestone on your journey to becoming a chartered professional accountant. 

Gevorg Grigoryan, CPA, is an instructor, mentor and coach to students in the CPA program. Visit Gevorg CPA to learn more and subscribe to Gevorg’s YouTube channel to access CPA program videos.

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