CFE Honour Roll Interview – Strategies from Matt

I chatted with Matt, an Honour Roll student from CPA CFE 2019. Below is the partial interview and transcript.



Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I did my undergrad in accounting then I went on to do the masters degree in Tax, actually, then I’ve been going through the CPA PEP process for couple of years and I wrote the CFE in September 2019 and I wrote the Tax elective

What was it that made you want to take Tax?
Most people [do] take Assurance, that’s obviously the most common [role]. Even some of the people I know that work in Tax take Assurance for some reason. But I think for me my decision was easy, it’s just what I felt most comfortable with, I wasn’t going to jump on another bandwagon just because everybody else was.

When you reached the CFE, was there anything that surprised you or was it as you expected and prepared?
Not really. So I think for the most part, most of the AOs [Assessment Opportunities] were consistent with what was in prior years. There were couple areas that were a little lighter or little heavier, but I think for the most part it was very fair in terms of what they asked for.

When I read about Honor Roll students finding out they are on that list, I always read that they were surprised that they made the Honour Roll. Their reaction to the news is: Wow, I can’t believe it was me. Did you feel the same way when you find out?
I think a little bit. So I was doing well in the practice exams [cases], so I knew I was a competent student, but you know, when you write the exam, hundred things go through your mind, like oh, did I miss this, did I miss that. I was surprised but not shocked, I’ll put it that way.

Which of the CFE days – Day 1, 2 or 3 – did you find most challenging and least challenging?
In my prep, I always thought Day 3 was the toughest just because of time constraint, not necessarily because of technical material. I think on this particular year CFE, I think it was fairly easy and manageable from time perspective, so that’s what I was most worried about, but it was okay.

Do you use a case outline, and if so, is it computer-based or paper-based outline?
I did usually prepare an outline, but I’d say it was, you know, less detailed than maybe 90% of other writers, if not more. I kind of just wanted to make sure I had, you know, what’s the required, and if I noticed something that was a bit later in the case, that I would otherwise forget, I would jot in down, but for the most part I didn’t spend a ton of time outlining.

Any advice for future CFE writers?
I would say, you have to figure out what works for you. A lot of people try to develop this method of writing the CFE, and I don’t think it’s a one-size-fits-all approach, everyone has their own idiosyncrasies, so you have to do what works for you and you have to be confident with that. If it’s working for you on the practice cases, I think they’re pretty indicative of what the exam’s likely to be like. I think that’s the best approach

How do you write Day 2 and 3 cases?
First thing I’d do is …
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The full interview is 30-minutes and covers how to outline and write Day 2 and Day3 cases, how to budget your time, structure quants, how to remember the APSE and IFRS criteria, a live Day 2/3 case demo, and much more. Sign up for the newest CPA CFE Review Course for a comprehensive prep package.

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