The CFE Exam
How to pass the CFE with two weeks of study leave
I was inspired to write about this because I wrote and passed the CFE in 2018 with just two weeks off. In fact, I know a lot of people who didn't pass the exam, despite having way more time to study than I did. I also know a ton of people who quit their jobs because they couldn't get study leave longer than two weeks. Some of them didn't pass either.
The whole point of this post is to show you that it's not about the time off that matters, it's how you study that does. Continue reading for my tips on how to pass the CFE in two weeks!
1. Take Capstone 2 seriously
I know this is self explanatory, but people struggle with this one, especially because Cap2 isn't grade-based and is only assessed on the number of submissions you send in. There are many individuals who give unfinished work just for the sake of getting a submission in, and that my friend, is a big no-no.
Cap2 is meant for students to obtain actual feedback on their case writing. I cannot stress this enough, but with such a limited amount of time, Cap2 IS your best study tool, so you need to take the training seriously. Now I know what you're thinking. There's something due every week, you're working full time and you have no idea how you're going to meet the deadlines.
This is when you review the Cap2 calendar to see when it's necessary for you to double up and write submissions ahead of time. For example, I would write three multi's at the same time so I could get ahead of schedule, and mimic day three of the exam. I highly recommend doing this to kill two birds with one stone.
I pretty much made myself an intense schedule. I wrote all my cases on the weekends and did technical review two to three times a week after work during weeknights. You shouldn't study more than that, or else you'll burn out. Remember to give yourself some breaks!
2. Exam simulations
I wrote every single case as if it were the actual exam. This means writing it in the required software in a timed setting at 9 AM. I ended up barely having to memorize anything because I got better and better at flipping through the reference materials, which are notorious for being difficult to navigate.
3. Limit your resources
Avoid collecting too much study material because you don't have time, and you also don't want to get overwhelmed.
In addition to capstone 2, I recommend using the ebooks on the CPA portal. They have a large range of topics and I think they give you just the right amount of information you need. You can adjust how much of each topic you want to read based on your role.
4. Skip the textbook problems
Doing a ton of textbook questions is the wrong way to study for a case based exam. They won't be testing to see if you get everything 100% correct. CFE is about your thinking process and as long as you are able to explain the concept and justify your opinion, you will be fine. During my technical review periods I would just go over the e-books again and again. I would only dig into further resources if there was a concept I didn't quite understand.
5. Write the exam strategically
It's important to know how the exam is marked. Day one is assessed alone, your role is ONLY assessed on day two, and day three is your chance to get breadth in every other topic. Both day two and three are available for you to get depth in financial reporting or managerial accounting.
During day two of my exam, we were struck with some very difficult financial reporting topics and a lot of students ended up spending more time on that than their role. I would not recommend doing this, but knowing that I could catch up on FR and management accounting on day three, I decided to forego my FR responses on day two so I could provide an in-depth answer for my audit role, which is only assessed on day two. Day three was stressful but there was enough managerial accounting for me to obtain depth in that to offset my FR.
If I hadn't switched gears on day two, I probably would have been at risk of failing the exam. So keep this in mind. You have to be strategic.
Hopefully these tips were helpful. I am by all means not a professional or a genius, but this is what worked for me. Good luck!!