If you are an Internationally Trained Accountant (ITA) and the accounting body you are associated with has an MOU/MRA in place which gives you an exemption from Capstone 1 and 2, you may be wondering if it’s worth taking them.
Taking the Common Final Exam (CFE) directly helps you save time and money, but you may be missing out on crucial learning materials. Let’s understand what Capstone 1 and 2 offer and whether it’s worth it.
Format of CPA Capstone 1
Capstone 1 is designed to teach teamwork and enabling skills. Candidates are put into groups where they complete team-based assignments and a presentation. There are no new technicals covered, it’s meant to train teamwork and presentation skills.
This means by taking Capstone 1, you’re more familiar with the Day 1 case, thus you have a higher chance of clearing the Day 1 exam.
The fee for Capstone 1 is $1,300CAD + taxes (changes annually, see the latest fees in Ontario here).
Here is a detailed video on Capstone 1.
Format of CPA Capstone 2
Image source: CPA Canada
The entire module is designed to prepare you for the CFE. You’ll receive:
- Workshop – writing and study tips for all three days of CFE
- One-hour weekly webinars
- Individualized feedback on responses from national markers
- Excel tracking street
- Short video walkthroughs
- Case specific debrief guidance
- Technical knowledge support through the Learning eBooks
- Support provided by lead facilitators on the discussion board
- 12 marked practice cases
- 2 marked Module Workshop cases
- 4 unmarked practice cases
All cases provided in Capstone 2 are the prior CFE exam cases. The one-hour weekly webinars provide general tips, such as time management and case writing best practices.
The key benefit of Capstone 2 is the 12 case marking provided by the National Marking Centre. You’ll receive detailed feedback on how you performed and what areas you can improve on. Some students often find the marking to be generic, however, with not much explanations.
Here is a sample feedback from Capstone 2 markers:
The fee for Capstone 2 is $1,300CAD + taxes (changes annually, see the latest fees in Ontario here).
Here is a detailed video on Capstone 2.
Pros vs Cons
Pros of taking up Capstone 1 & 2 / Cons of directly writing CFE
- Both Capstone 1 and 2 will train you on case writing. This will expose you to the Canadian CPA exam system way earlier through the group presentations, case study and marking
- You will be very well prepared for Day 1, as you will be involved in the Capstone 1 case from the very beginning
- You will receive supplementary study materials, such as walkthrough guides and debrief notes
- Your Capstone 2 cases will be marked by the National Marking Centre. This will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses for all three days of CFE
Cons of taking up Capstone 1 & 2 / Pros of directly writing CFE
- In both Capstone 1 and 2, strict schedules need to be followed. This can be difficult with a full time job, self study time and other personal errands
- There is no instructor in Capstone 2, which means it’s a self-study module with no immediate support
- There are high costs and you end up spending a whole lot more, approximately $2,600CAD + taxes, just for Capstone 1 & 2, and $1,500 more for writing the CFE.
Keep in mind, you can choose to take only Capstone 2. This helps you get the feel of CFE, which is the real challenge. Since the majority of Capstone 1 is teamwork, it may not help you much in preparing for the CFE. Another option is purchase only the review materials of Capstone 2. These cost around ~$280CAD and you get just the cases and the marking guides. Your cases will not be marked by the CPA National Marking Centre. This helps you save costs and you can pay just the CFE fees.
In summary, there seem to be more pros in taking Capstone 1/2 , but this does not mean it’s the best option for you. I took the last route, the review materials, and signed up for coaching classes. I cleared the CFE in the very first attempt. You don’t have to follow what I did, or for that matter what anyone else has done. Follow what you are comfortable with, taking into consideration your study time, personal situation, costs, and what you plan to invest in your CPA.
Hope this helps! 🙂
Author: Leela Pai, ICAI and successful CFE writer.