How to Write Control Weaknesses (WIR) in CPA Canada PEP and CFE Cases

Control weaknesses are a common assessment opportunity (AO) in CPA Canada’s PEP program, starting from Core 1 and leading all the way up to the Common Final Exam (CFE). It is something you should know well, even if you’re not taking Assurance as your elective.

Candidates often face the trouble of identifying the control weakness issue and understanding how to analyze it properly. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Step 1: Find the required.
    • The case will give clear indications that you have to discuss the weaknesses. For example, here are requireds from past CFE Day 3 cases:
      • (1) CFE 2020 Jump Inc:





      • (2) CFE 2018 Perkins Packing Inc.:




      • (3) CFE 2015 Katwill Lodge Inc.:




    • The above examples have the trigger words “control weakness” or “improvements to processes.”
  • Step 2: Determine the area.
    • The control weakness could be specific to the accounting controls (eg payable process), or IT system (eg new ERP). In both cases, your approach is the same (see the next step).
  • Step 3: Apply WIR template.
    • Apply the WIR (weakness, implication, recommendation) template.
  • Step 4: Write your analysis.
    • Read the relevant appendix in the case and write your analysis:
      • Weakness – what is wrong with the process? Look for 4-5 issues. For example: lack of segregation of duties, no approvals, cheques aren’t signed, lack of IT controls (eg passwords aren’t changed frequently), no disaster recovery plan. Every case will have different issues, find these specific issues in the appendix. For this part, write only 1 sentence, only the specific case fact.
      • Implication – how does it impact the company? Write how the users, operations, and financials are impacted. Make sure to answer the “so what” question to get depth (“C”). Write 2-3 sentences in this part.
      • Recommendation – what can the company do to fix the weakness? Write 1-2 actionable items, only 1-2 sentences in this part.
  • Step 5: Practice WIR and debrief.
    • Practice control weakness requireds until you get Cs. You can practice using CPA Canada cases and get extra mock exam cases for supplemental practice. Make sure to debrief the cases properly so that you learn lessons and don’t repeat the same mistakes.

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