From CIMA to Canadian CPA: What You Need to Know

Members of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) can now apply to become a Canadian CPA under the new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) issued by CPA Canada. Your only obstacle is to pass the Common Final Exam (CFE) Days 2/3.

Who’s eligible?

To be eligible, you must be:

  • Designated: Be fully qualified CIMA member
  • Member in good standing: Obtained a membership through completion of the accounting body’s qualification process and not through a recognition agreement with another accountancy body
  • University degree: You must hold a university degree recognized by institutions, such as the International Association of Universities or World Education Services (WES), in addition to completing the CIMA program.
  • Designated abroad: Obtained your designation while not a resident of Canada (details below).

Do I need to take exams?

Yes, you’re required to pass CFE Days 2 and 3. A maximum of 3 attempts is allowed; failing thrice results in deregistration.

You’re also encouraged to take Capstone 1 and Capstone 2 modules by CPA Canada. However, I don’t recommend taking these modules, because the preparation these provide is geared towards domestic students, not international accountants. For example, Capstone 1 teaches a case study which is tested only on Day 1 of CFE; however, CIMA members are exempt from Day 1, which makes Capstone 1 irrelevant.

Do I need to show proof of work experience?

CIMA members with over 2 years of post-qualification experience are exempt from experience assessment. Those with less than 2 years will undergo a review of their practical experience, both pre- and post-qualification. You can contact me for resources and consultation if you need assistance in understanding how your practical experience aligns with the Canadian CPA requirements.

What if I’m a resident of Canada?

CIMA members who completed/passed the Management Case Study while having been a resident of Canada, or become a resident of Canada, or returned as a resident to Canada, must demonstrate either:

  • University degree from a recognized institution outside Canada, obtained through full-time in-person classroom instruction.
  • Minimum of 3 years of full-time practical accounting experience outside Canada.

How do I apply?

  • Step 1: Start by contacting the CPA body in the province where you intend to work.
  • Step 2: Provide necessary documents, including proof of CIMA membership and work experience.
  • Step 3: The provincial CPA body will guide you through the assessment and any additional requirements.
  • Step 4: Study and pass the CFE Days 2/3 exams.

What’s the format of CFE Days 2/3?

CFE Days 2 and 3 test using a case-study approach. There are no objective format questions, such as multiple-choice questions, only cases. CFE Day 2 is 5 hours long, while CFE Day 3 is 4 hours long. To pass CFE Days 2/3, you must pass both days; passing an individual CFE day will not exempt you from re-writing that day in the next attempt.

Read the blogs posts below on Days 2/3 for further details:

What challenges will I face?

Unlike the CIMA exams, which focus on management accounting, strategic management, and finance, CFE Days 2/3 test a broader spectrum of competencies, including: financial reporting, assurance, taxation, management accounting, finance and strategy/governance. This comprehensive approach requires more study time and understanding of various exam scenarios. Your main obstacle will be learning Canadian financial reporting (ASPE, in addition to IFRS), Canadian taxation rules, and how to manage your time (because CFE exams are extremely time constrained). 

CIMA exams emphasize strategic decision-making and management functions, whereas the CFE requires an integrated approach, testing on multiple competency areas simultaneously. You must learn how to approach, outline, and correctly answer the exam cases within the time constraint.

As an experienced CPA Canada examination coach, I can provide you resources and strategies to effectively navigate and pass CFE Days 2/3. You can reach out to me for questions and check my CFE Review course for details.