The CFE – Passing Like A Pro Athlete

After 2 years, I have finally got to the 6th and final CPA module. Capstone II; and just recently wrote the CFE. I learned a lot of things preparing for the CFE, and by the time I wrote the test I had learned what worked well, what didn’t, what I should focus my studying on and how to structure my studying.

First thing I want to say is the CFE is not the UFE. There are a very limited number of people that have actually written the CFE. I believe I am just the 3rd group to take the CFE. Although the UFE is very similar, being 3 days, and covering basically the same topics; there are however big differences, and even small differences can have a major impact on this exam.

Basically what I’m trying to say is, the advice you get from peers, “prior UFE writers” is helpful and likely for the most part applicable, but don’t make any conclusions without ensuring it applies to the CFE as well!

The 3 Days of the CFE


Day 1 – 4 hours – 1 case (capstone 1 case) – focus is strategy, thinking big picture

Day 2 – 5 hours – 1 case – focuesed on elective at a higher level (audit, tax, finance and PM)

Day 3 – 4 hours – 3-4 cases – focus is on four all electives at a common level

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    Start Studying at The Right Time

    Start at the right time. The UFE is written at the same time no matter where you are in the country. For me, in Alberta, it was 9:00am. Listen to any olympian, or athlete, and they will tell you they have a set routine when preparing for big competitions. From what they eat for breakfast, what they where to weird pre game rituals, they all find these things important. The UFE is the same. Train your brain, to be in it’s optimum thinking state at 9:00am. You will be writing dozens of practice exams to prepare, treat everyone of these as the UFE and when you wake up to write the UFE, it will feel like you’ve already done it 100 times.

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    Keep Comfortable

    Feel calm, confident but not invincible. Don’t do anything that might make you nervous or anxious before the exam. For me, this meant not studying the day before or on the days of the exam, rather being confident you have done everything you can, and understanding that studying 1 extra hour isn’t going to help. This especially meant not discussing what “the test was like” after each CFE writing day.

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    Watch What You Eat

    Eat the right food. An athlete, before a big race will ensure theres nothing that could get in the way. This starts with breakfast, a long distance runner can’t stop to use the bathroom, you can be assured that they know what to eat and when to ensure their energy levels and bowels are where they should be on race day. The UFE is know different. On day 3 of the UFE there isn’t 1 min. to spare. Pay attention to what you eat for breakfast as you study and how you feel while writing practice exams. Are you getting hungry? Are you making multiple trips to the bathroom?

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    Picture the "Pass"

    Recently I listened to an olympic medalist talk about his preparation. He was living in Australia when it was announced that the Olympics would be in Sydney. As a triathlete, he quickly made his way to what would be the starting line several years later. He felt he already had an advantage. He was the first competitor to see and feel and stand on the starting line. For the UFE this means, getting in the car, and drive to the exam facility, and sit down for a minute in the room you’ll be writing the exam. For those few moments, think about how you will be feeling, the approach you will take as you write.

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