Part 3: Hot tips for time management in case writing

Part 3: Hot tips for time management in case writing

Did you know you could use shortcuts to improve your efficiency in case writing? Jeff Herzog CPA (@jeffthecpa) shows you how below.

Hot tip #3: develop shortcuts!

Find ways to improve your efficiency.

To identify AOs, skim the case before reading it. Once you have an idea of the AOs, you can read with more direction. This helps you determine which details may be relevant to your response. Furthermore, you will avoid re-reading the case to find the information you did not think was relevant during your first read-through.

Highlight numbers in your case to make them jump out at you. Colours are fun, but more importantly, they draw your attention to the case facts. In particular, numbers will be critical to much of your analysis so you want to refer back to them. If you highlight numbers on your first read through, you will save yourself from re-reading the entire case to find one obscure number.

Use margin notes. This will draw your attention to the most important information. Furthermore, you can highlight or underline details in long paragraphs. This will make it easier to find relevant information if you have to reread portions of the case.

Copy and paste relevant handbook sections. However, only copy the most relevant components—sometimes this is just a few words. There is no point in copying the entire handbook into your case and calling it a day; the point is for you to interpret the handbook and provide the source material as backup. CPAs are reading your case, and they are aware of the standards. They are interested in seeing your analysis and how you used the standards in forming a conclusion. As CPAs, we read and interpret the handbook, and this is what you should be doing when you write cases.

Use point form while writing your case, and be concise. Avoid long introductions or unnecessarily verbose writing (maybe even avoid the use of complicated words like verbose). Get to the point. When I got to Capstone 2, I realized I was spending a lot of time writing a giant opening statement rather than getting to the details of the case. If you’re the same, I suggest you curb this habit early—you will be better for it.

Although the CFE does not have a word limit, writing too much or copying entire sections of the handbook will take up a large portion of your time, and you will not address your AOs. If you hit the word limit on your assignments, you have likely gone off on a tangent or copied too much from the handbook.

Formulate templates for yourself for common issues. For example, time and time again, you will be asked to do audit planning or revenue recognition on your cases. Developing a template for yourself will speed up your writing when you see the same concepts on the exam. You should be able to determine ahead of time whether it is better to use a table or a paragraph for most issues you encounter.

Formatting—italics, bolding, etc.—is not super important. Making your case look pretty is not nearly as important as having the pertinent information and analysis included in your response. Including relevant information that is understandable and clear to follow is paramount.  Furthermore, making your case more readable may help get the marker on your side—a happy marker is a generous marker.

If you really struggle with typos, you may want to budget a couple of minutes for spell check. Also, remember that on Day 1 of the CFE, you are marked on spelling and grammar, but the other days you are not.

A quick tip to have strong formatting without spending extra time: when in doubt, create a new paragraph. More white space is better than less.