Prepping for your CPA exam

Latin American teenager girl taking notes and studying for the University Exams at home

Becoming a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) is a great achievement that can pay dividends throughout your career. In order to obtain your designation, you must pass the Common Final Examination (CFE).  The CFE is designed to demonstrate the knowledge, judgement, and skills required to practice as a CPA.

The CFE is a three-day exam that assesses your ability to apply technical knowledge in a real-world context. The exam consists of various business cases, and tests several competency areas (including financial reporting, assurance, taxation, and management accounting). The objective is to showcase your understanding of complex scenarios and demonstrate your capacity to communicate to the users.

1. Learn the CPA Competency Map

The CPA Competency Map outlines the knowledge, skills, and abilities that a CPA should possess. This map serves as a blueprint for the CFE and provides insights into what will be assessed. The map serves as a guide to identify your strengths and weaknesses in each competency area and focus your studies.

2. Develop an effective Study Plan

Creating a study plan is essential to manage your time effectively and cover all the necessary topics. This plan should break down your study sessions into manageable segments, allocating time to areas you find challenging. Your study plan will include time for practice cases, review sessions, and practice exams in simulated exam conditions. It is important to set realistic goals that are achievable and quantifiable.

3. Utilize Resources

CPA Canada provides a wealth of resources to aid your preparation. These resources include the CPA Competency Map, technical guidance, past exam papers, and practice cases. These resources give you insight into the format, style, and level of difficulty of the CFE.

4. Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice cases are critical during your CFE leave. Working through practice cases under timed conditions will help to simulate the exam experience. Your focus is on articulating your thought process clearly, to effectively demonstrate your competence. Through effective practice, you will refine your time management, critical thinking, and communication skills.

5. Collaborate and Seek Feedback

Engage with fellow candidates or study groups to discuss concepts, exchange ideas, and solve problems collectively. Peer interaction can shed light on different perspectives. Constructive feedback from peers and mentors can highlight areas for improvement and refine your approach.

6. Debrief Effectively

Debriefing is critical for any cases you write. Effectively debriefing involves reviewing not only the gaps between your answer and the solution, but also helps you focus your responses on the requirements.  Debriefing will also help you identify patterns and determine areas for improvement.

7. Third Party Services

A third-party service, such as Densmore, will help ensure you are ready to write the CFE. These resources provide a guided study plan and additional strategies for the development of skills that would benefit you during your write.

8. Maintain Physical and Mental Well-being

It is also important to maintain your physical and mental health. Make sure to get enough sleep, take breaks and engage in regular physical activity.  It is also important to prioritize your own well being, as a healthy body and mind contribute to better focus and productivity.


Preparing for the CFE can be challenging yet rewarding. By preparing with dedication, discipline and strategy, you will be able to face the CFE with confidence.

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