As you transition from CPA Canada preparation courses (PREP) to the professional education program (PEP), you may wonder what are some of the differences and what can be expected as you embark on the next phase in your CPA journey. Here is my breakdown of the two programs.
PREP courses are fundamentally based on providing specific subject coverage to those with non-undergraduate and non-accounting degrees. Since the program requires 30 credit hours or 10 courses, there is much more technical breadth. The courses contain core and non-core components, designed to give you exposure to various subjects included in an accounting degree.
PEP is designed to dive deeper into technical topics, so it focuses on depth. There are 6 PEP modules and you’ll start with Core 1.
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Core 1 and Core 2 are mandatory, then you can select 2 of 4 elective modules: Tax, Assurance, Performance Management (PM), Finance.
Once you finish these modules, you take Capstone 1, Capstone 2 and the Common Final Exam (CFE). PEP is designed to lead you into the CFE with no breaks between Capstone 1, 2 and the CFE exam.
Image source: CPA Canada
Both PREP and PEP use the online D2L platform to provide study materials, assignments, connect you with peers and facilitators. Just like PREP, PEP offers 8-week course structure of approximately 20-hours a week of study. PEP also offers extended courses which last 20-weeks, instead of 8 weeks. Your study habits and time management for submitting assignments in PREP would have effectively prepared you for PEP. Writing case-based exams will be your biggest challenge in PEP.
During PREP, each course is focused on one topic entirely. For example, Intermediate Financial Reporting 1, Corporate Finance, Audit, and Taxation are separate testable topics. In PEP, several technical topics are tested in one module, requiring you to identify and analyze several issues together. For example, Core 1 module tests on Financial Reporting, Audit, Tax, and Finance, at the same time.
PREP is not centered around case writing. Instead, it focuses on understanding correct calculations and treatment of accounts. Unlike PREP, PEP focuses on case writing techniques, including how to format responses using the CPA Way. You will be provided case scenarios where you will be required to identify the issue in a practice setting, and provide an analysis. This analysis will involve judgment and interpretation of the CPA Canada Handbook to provide final recommendations, as opposed to more technical responses in PREP. PEP also focuses on company strategies, overarching issues and themes throughout a case.
Sample PEP case.
This requires lots of practice and effective study strategies to succeed.
To successfully pass PREP, you’re required to have 65% cumulative average (60% for all core courses and 50% for non-core courses). PEP requires a 75% grade and this is to get to the exam. This threshold is based on practice cases and integrative problems, which are part of your weekly assignments. Both PREP and PEP have a final examinations. PEP module exams are based on average performance (“curved”).
PEP also has mandatory module workshops. These are once per module, at the start. Core 1 is the only module with two workshops: it has an orientation workshop at the beginning and module workshop in the middle. At the start of Core 1, you’ll also be granted access to the Professional Experience Reporting Tool (PERT), which is one of the requirements to graduate from the CPA certification program. Gevorg’s PER Review provides sample PERT reports.
PREP has 5 semesters per year, while PEP has 4 semesters, classified by seasons (winter, spring, summer and fall). Not all PEP modules are offered each semester, so more planning and coordination will be required to achieve your target CFE date. Module calendars are posted a year in advance for both PREP and PEP so you can plan in advance.
Overall, PREP is a great foundation for technical issues, time management, and self management with studies. PEP is geared more towards refining your technical in real-world case scenarios and developing your communication skills through written analysis and recommendations. As with PREP, CPA Canada’s PEP will offer several resources to assist you in your success during the modules.