For many CPA candidates, sticking to the allotted case time is one of the major challenges in case writing. Being able to dedicate your time to the conditions being marked will be critical in achieving overall competency success.
1. Use common abbreviations
Time spent typing out full names of accounts, financial statements, company name, users’ names, etc. can be used alternatively towards further analysis with the use of abbreviations. However, be careful in only using common abbreviations that are well known in the CPA world. These will include terms you often see abbreviated in the modules, Knotia and practice cases. For example, you can use abbreviations such as P&L (Profit and Loss Statement), ABC method (Activity Based Costing method), A/R (Accounts Receivable), IRR (Internal Rate of Return), HB (Handbook), IFRS, ASPE, Quant (quantitative), Qual (qualitative), F/S (Financial Statement), AO(Assessment Opportunity) etc. Avoid using your own created abbreviations to eliminate potential confusion from the reader.
As a workaround, you can define your own abbreviation at the start of your memo in brackets, then use it throughout. For example, “Company ABC is interested in investing in buy-one-get-one (BOGO) products. The benefits of BOGO products are that…On the other hand, BOGO products have risks such as…”
2. Don’t quote entire Handbook sections
Be sure when copying and pasting HB sections, that you only copy what is relevant. In other words, only the few sentences that you plan on analyzing and concluding on with case facts. Copying the entire HB section will not earn marks, and may in fact lead you to discussions that do not hit the key points. The HB section should be interpreted, as how you use the standards will be the main focus of your assessment grade.
Debriefing your cases and keeping a summary of the relevant HB paragraphs and sections for reference will help provide ease when writing cases.
3. Only write what is necessary
When writing your AO analysis, it’s important to avoid the temptation to focus on the quantity of what you write and instead focus on being concise. Avoid long introductions for issues, and instead address the issue in a single sentence. Do not reiterate general case facts. Instead, your introduction could look like: “Susan is considered if revenue related to the sale of concert tickets have been recorded correctly”. This will leave you more time to get to the details of the task.
The same logic applies to your analysis. Condensing your analysis/conclusions of each point to 3 to 4 sentences should be enough to get the point across. If you are hitting the word limit on your assignments, you likely have some room to improve your ability to be brief. Take time when debriefing your cases to focus on what could have been removed / what was critical to include.
4. Apply formats for the specific analysis
Much of improving speed with case writing comes from knowing how to format specific AOs. By reviewing and templating these AOs during your debriefing process, you can eliminate some of the work upfront by already knowing how to set up your qualitative analysis or your Excel spreadsheet. As you do more cases, you will notice many AOs repeating over and over again.
Keeping track of how these are commonly answered and assessed on the Feedback Guide will allow you to spend more time on your actual answer, instead of formatting. For example, for a control weakness, get in the habit of setting up a WIR (Weakness, Implication and Recommendation) format. Or for Special Reports, practice laying out your response with the reports, assurance level, pros/cons etc. Additionally, you should consider whether using a table, paragraph or pros/cons is the optimal analysis.
5. Improve your typing speed
Time is driven by speed and distance. The above tips will help you reduce your distance (ie, you’ll write less). But how can you increase your speed? Most CPA candidates have an average typing speed of 40-45 words-per-minutes (WPM). By increasing the typing speed to 50-60 WPM, you can put more things down in shorter amount of time, thus earning more marks. Most students practice their typing 1-2 times a week using online tools. However, these tools use words and phrases that are irrelevant to CPA cases. SpeedType, on the other hand, is tailored for CPA Canada candidates. It’s a typing training and time management tool that helps you type faster through lessons that cover all CPA Canada competencies. Practicing 2-3 times a week will ensure you’re typing faster and learning how to manage your time. Check out SpeedType here for free.
Practicing these skills over the course of modules and capstones is the best way for CPA candidates to improve their time management and overall case-writing skills. Consider implementing this review as part of your case debriefing process.