CPA Canada Capstone 1 Study Guide

If you’re preparing for Capstone 1, you’ve successfully completed all your module exams and are one step closer to writing and completing the CFE. This article will help prepare you for what to expect as you enter the 8-week course that is Capstone 1.

What is Capstone 1?

Capstone 1 focuses on teamwork. You’ll be placed in a team made of 4 to 5 students. You’ll work together to solve issues in one big case (50-60 pages long case).

To pass, your team must complete a written report and oral presentation

  • Written report is completed in several parts and you’ll get feedback from your facilitator after each part. You’ll write in Word and Excel.
  • Presentation is made to volunteer CPAs acting as a panel. The presentation is about 30 minutes, followed by Q&A of 15 minutes.

The main challenge of Capstone 1 is teamwork. I find that many students are put into teams where there is no synergy and one person does more work that the other. It’s important that you speak up and ensure everyone is performing their fair share. Don’t take more work than you have to, your target in Capstone 1 is to have free time to prepare for CFE.

The Capstone 1 case repeats in CFE Day 1. The users, background, and parts of the situational analysis remain the same, while the strategic and operational issues will change.

Your Role During Capstone 1

You and your team will solve strategic and operational issues in the case. There are usually 4 strategic and 5-10 operational issues. The quants will be difficult and require a lot of detailed analysis. I suggest assigning a team member with Finance background to the quants parts. 

You can assign each member 1 strategic issue and divide the remaining work equally. You can assign situational analysis to one member, all quants to another member, and divide equally the remainder. One way or another, you should discuss as a team and assign equal amount of work so that everyone contributes fairly.

During the presentations, your role will be to present the part you worked on to the panel of CPAs.

Scheduling will be difficult within your team as everyone may have different busy times and availability. This will require you to be flexible. During the first week, your team will make a Team Schedule. I suggest using this as the main scheduling tool as it will help you stay organized and plan the meetings.

During the presentations, your role will be to present the part you worked on to the panel of CPAs.

You can pass/fail Capstone 1 as a team or individual. Refer to the diagrams below for the passing schemes:

Team passing profile
















Individual passing profile

Outline of Capstone 1

Capstone 1 begins with a module workshop where attendance is required. You’re expected to complete the module workshop pre-work and I highly recommend that you read over the entire case.

In the first week, you’ll complete planning documents (team agreement, project plan, and a project schedule). In the next weeks, you’ll work on situational analysis, strategic and operational issues, with the final report being submitted at the end.

At the end of Capstone 1, you’ll make a presentation. You will use presentation software, such as PowerPoint or Google slides, and presentations must not exceed 30 minutes. The presentation won’t contain the same amount of detail as the written report.

Important dates

Throughout Capstone 1, you will have two live 30-minute chat calls with the facilitator to address any questions and raise any concerns.

Weekly submissions are due Friday and revisions are due on Mondays. I recommend scheduling team reviews prior to Friday in the case of problems and be sure to designate some time in your schedule for revisions to be safe.

Success tips for Capstone 1

Here are some helpful tips for the written report:

  • Schedule and plan ahead: Knowing which weeks will be more challenging will help you plan around these tough times.
  • Review the submission guidelines as a team: Review guidelines, like word count, so that there are no errors. It’s easy to make small mistakes as an individual, so review them as a team to ensure your report is 100% accurate.
  • Leverage team strengths: If someone is skilled in one area, let them complete that part. For example, someone working in tax can provide more depth on tax implications.
  • Understand the entire report: This will be a huge benefit when you reach the CFE Day 1 stage. During CFE Day 1, you’ll be dealing with the same case, so knowing the report inside-out will help you pass Day 1.
  • Take advantage of chats: Be prepared, ask lots of questions and ask for feedback.

Here are helpful tips for the presentation:

  • Prepare as a team: Practice together to master the speaker handoffs and overall flow of the presentation.
  • Practice your part: No scripts or que cards will be allowed, so practice as much as needed so that you’ve memorized your part.
  • Be high level: Make your presentation like a business proposal, with less detail and more high level.
  • Have backup slides: Show details in backup slides at the end of the deck, in case you are asked by someone regarding this at the end of the presentation.
  • Practice Q&As: All team members will be required to answer at least one question to pass. You should develop an approach as a team to who will answer as well as anticipating which questions will be asked.
  • Dress for success: You should dress in professional business attire.

Conclusion and extra resources

Don’t stress over Capstone 1. While it does require active effort, Capstone 1 has 99%+ pass rate from my coaching experience. You should be using your free time during Capstone 1 to study for the CFE, which is your ultimate challenge.

Extra study resources for CFE are available in CFE Review course.