When studying for the CPA Canada CFE, many candidates find time constraint to be one of the most challenging aspects of passing the exam. One way to save time is to skip the unnecessary parts of the “CPA Way” template that are not part of the marking rubric. Let’s look at Financial Reporting (FR) AOs to understand whether you need to write the issue statement or whether it can be skipped.
CFE Feedback Guide Review
Using the CFE Day 2 “RMZ” case feedback guide, you’ll see that writing an issue statement doesn’t grant any marks towards the AO:
Instead, to get a C grade, you should be starting with analysis of the CPA Canada Handbook IFRS 15 criteria (i.e. 5-steps of recognition).
This is true for most AOs in CFE, so the issue statement can be skipped in your memo to save time.
However, it’s not all about time management – you still need accuracy, depth, consistent conclusions, and effective formatting. Let’s look at whether there are any reasons to still write the issue statement.
When to write Issue statement
While it doesn’t explicitly give you marks, there are several reasons to still take the time to write out the issue statement.
First, writing the issue statement can help in your case planning step. As you write down the AOs when you complete your initial read of the case, writing what exactly the issue is will help you determine how much time should be allocated to that AO. For example, if the issue statement is lengthy with multiple sub-issues, then you need to allocate more time. If the issue statement is short, you should allocate less time.
This issue statement used for planning can also be used as the start of your answer’s framework. You can build up your answer by using the issue statement as a framework and avoid duplication of work. It also ensures that you remember exactly what to address when the time comes to write your response.
Additionally, writing an issue statement tells the marker that you have a clear understanding of the issue. It is also the foundation of your analysis and will help guide you on what criteria should be addressed. For example, for RMZ’s R&D issue, the issue statement outlines the current treatment of capitalization and the issue being whether it should be capitalized or expensed.
This is a short issue statement that does the job and helps to structure the answer.
Writing the issue statement also helps you build a solid conclusion / recommendation by acknowledging the current treatment of the item and what adjustment is necessary to treat the item correctly. For example, since RMZ’s issue was capitalization, we can conclude by directly addressing the issue and explaining what portion should be capitalized vs expensed.
While the issue statement is not directly required to get a competent (C) grade in CFE, it indirectly helps in structuring your response, ensuring a proper approach, and accurately writing your conclusion. So I recommend to always include short issue statements in your CFE case responses.
Extra CFE resources are available at CFE Review course.