Case Writing Tips for Performance Management Elective in Canadian CPA

Pass the Performance Management (PM) elective in the CPA Canada PEP program can be challenging. Candidates often face dilemmas regarding the best strategies for tackling cases effectively. Below are some common questions I receive, with practical strategies to improve your exam results.

1. Depth of first read-through of case

I suggest to start your PM case with a brief overview. This means flipping through the pages, eyeballing the information. As you’re doing this, focus on the number of appendices, the titles of appendices, tables/graphs/charts, and any potential hidden Assessment Opportunities (AOs). Indicators of hidden AOs are question marks or phrases like “Can you please…”.

Use a highlighter or pencil to write your assumptions about each appendix. For example, if the title of the appendix is “Board Composition”, write: “SG – WIR BOD”. This step helps to get a general sense of the case without getting bogged down in details.

2. Narrative and Appendices

After flipping through the pages, the next step is a detailed read of the narrative and any appendices that continue the narrative, such as “industry information”. Your goal here is to gain a clear understanding of the AOs. While you’re doing, you’re also creating an outline. When it comes to outlining cases, simplicity is key. The outlines, or “skeletons,” should be concise, made of headings and bullet points. This helps to keep a structured yet flexible framework to build your answer.

Once this is done, quickly read remaining appendices with 2 goals:

  • (1) Identify hidden AOs
  • (2) Connect each appendix to identified AOs

Notice that you don’t read the remaining appendices in detail at this stage yet. You’re quickly reading it to find hidden AOs and connecting each appendix to your identified AOs.

Once this is done, your next step is to create a time budget and allocate time for each AO. Once the time budgets are ready, you will read each appendix in detail and solve the AOs simultaneously. 

In summary, here are your steps to solving the case:

  • Step 1: Overview (flip through)
  • Step 2: Detailed read of narrative (and industry information) and create case outline
  • Step 3: Quick read remaining appendices
  • Step 4: Create and allocate time budgets
  • Step 5: Rank AOs
  • Step 6: Detailed read of appendices and solving simultaneously.

3. Recognizing and prioritizing AOs

Identifying whether something is an AO or not can be tricky. For example, you may read in the narrative: “The company is concerned with meeting profitability targets and opening two new stores”.  Is this an AO? Maybe. We need to look for more clues.

For example, is there a dedicated appendix with profitability targets? If yes and this required has its own appendix, it’s very likely a separate AO. If not, you need to focus on more clear-cut AOs and leave these questionable AOs for later.

Good strategy to handle these questionable AOs is to focus on obvious AOs first and leave questionable ones for the end (“ranking”). Start by solving all obvious AOs, then when you have 5-10 minutes left at the end, solve these questionable AOs. If they end up not being real AOs, it’s not a big loss, since you had spare time. If they end up being real AOs, you protected yourself against an NA and may even get RC since you spent a few minutes solving them.

In summary, the key to PM elective cases is smart reading, efficient planning, concise outlining, and prioritization of AOs. By using these strategies, you’ll be better prepared to tackle the complexities of CPA Canada cases and effectively pass your exam.

Extra resources

Extra PM resources are available at PM Lessons course.