Tough AOs! How to Handle Complex Topics in CPA Canada PEP and CFE Cases

A best practice with writing CPA Canada PEP and CFE practice cases is to put a timer and practice under the exam setting. In doing so, you develop time management skills and improve your case writing.

During this process, you’ll often run into situations where you can’t answer all technicals. Even though you identify the right required, you don’t know how to actually answer it.

What to do when you don’t know an AO?

Some students pause their timer, look up the relevant technical notes, and then resume the timer and answer the required. If you do this, you are not exactly imitating the exam setting.

Other students leave that required totally blank and mark it for debrief at a later point. With this approach, you’re not challenging yourself and again not imitating the exam setting.

Best approach

I know it’s temping to check your notes or the solution and work backwards.  This is a bad idea. You are better off doing it under exam conditions and getting poor results, as opposed to taking the easier route. When you come across a situation where you don’t know the technical, keep the timer going and try to answer your best by referring to the Handbook (don’t look at your notes/solution).

Don’t leave it totally blank, attempt it, take a guess if you need to, you’ll be surprised how often you are on the right track. When debriefing, mark these AOs for re-attempt and study the technical during debrief.

The reality is that during PEP and CFE exams, you’ll very often come across AOs that are totally new and you’ll be stumped.  You have to develop the skill on addressing unknown technicals.  The strategy is to:

  • Budget a reasonable time
  • Look up the technical in HB/CAS/ITA (if applicable)
  • Apply relevant case facts
  • Tie to user preferences
  • Recommend

This will often give you RC, which is magnitudes better than NA.

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