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May 2021 CPA CFE successful in Western and Atlantic Canada

CPA Coach and Mentor Gevorg Grigoryan, CPA, reviews all three days of a uniquely regional common final examination

Author: Gevorg Grigoryan

VANCOUVER – For aspiring chartered professional accountants in Western and Atlantic Canada, the May 2021 version of the CPA Common Final Examination (CFE) is complete. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the May 2021 CFE was cancelled in Ontario and Quebec, creating the first regionally delivered CFE. CPA candidates in Western and Atlantic Canada continued the current practice of writing the exam at multiple hotels. 

Day 1: This CFE’s Day 1 cases were Waste Disposal Inc. (version 1) and Distinct Hotels Corporation (version 2). Both cases had a mix of strategic and operational issues similar to past CFEs, with an emphasis on the "big picture" issue. Day 1 of the CFE is meant to be integrative, which means it is important to step back, consider the broader implications, and write about the big picture constraints in your recommendations. For example, consider cash flow constraints, management time constraints, bank covenants and so on. 

The writers also found the quantitative analysis to be challenging. Though Day 1 is not meant to be technically challenging, I encourage candidates to study the core Management Accounting and Finance chapters, making sure to cover the following topics: net present value, return on investment, contribution margin, make or buy decision, break-even analysis, and valuation. 

Day 2: Known as the “marathon day,” Day 2 of this CFE was similar to prior years with “requireds” testing depth of technical knowledge. The GAAP standard was IFRS and candidates were faced with complex, non-routine topics which required good knowledge of financial reporting and ability to think on the feet. 

The September 2020 CFE Board of Examiners' (BOE) Report was released recently, where the Board noted that "…BOE consciously includes more challenging and unique order for candidates to use the tools available to them to find the applicable technical knowledge, demonstrate their ability to draw on first principles and use their judgment to work through an issue they perhaps have never seen before. Although there is no doubt that success on the CFE requires demonstrating strong foundational knowledge, the ability to handle new and difficult issues is also critical." It's important for writers to dedicate the time to learning complex, non-routine topics, as these do get tested on the exam. 

Day 3: This “sprint day” has three to four cases testing on breadth of competencies. Day 3 of this CFE had similar assessment opportunities as in prior year, where same strategies and approaches that I teach in my CPA prep course should be applied. Candidates found this CFE’s Day 3 more time constrained due to wide range of topics. 

Now that the rate of COVD-19 vaccination is increasing, I am excited to see how the September 2021 CFE will be delivered. CPA Canada announced that the September CPA PEP course assessments will not take place in person at exam writing centres but will be delivered remotely. The format of the September CPA CFE, however, remains uncertain at this point. 

Gevorg Grigoryan, CPA, is an accounting manager and 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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