Part 2: How I debrief a case

Part 2: How I debrief a case

By Josh Hewitt CPA, Senior Associate, Tax, PwC

Josh received his CPA designation in 2019. In Part 2 of this blog post, he provides details on how he debriefed a case. To read Part 1, click here.

My debriefing process

Josh Hewitt CPA, Senior Associate, Tax, PwC

To start debriefing, I would open the blank feedback guide and my Word and Excel submission. I would go through the guide and try to be as impartial as I could in assessing whether I met the criteria for each part of an assessment opportunity (AO).

Directly in my response, in a different font colour such as red, I marked down where I got marks or what I missed. This allowed me to see where I spent time on items that were not needed, where I did not spend enough time, and where I missed something or did not have sufficient technical understanding. I then transferred these marks to my tracking guide and recorded areas I needed to work on.

I then consulted the debrief notes. The notes contain an overview of the case and each AO. In addition to providing the trigger for the AO, they outline the technical requirements for the case and common issues that candidates have. The examples given in the notes show how the technical material relates to the case facts. I found that the debrief notes were the best way to understand the technical requirements (instead of using a generic resource) since they specifically related to the case that I just wrote.

After using the debrief notes, I looked at the practical solution to help provide context on the technical requirements. This is commonly called the “perfect solution,” as candidates are not expected to achieve this level of case writing in the allotted time. The practical solution fully explores all the areas that a candidate may write on and is intended to give markers examples of what they may see from different candidates’ responses.

By not expecting my answers to be the same as the practical solution, I found the robustness of the answer less intimidating and also very helpful in the sense that I could use it to fill the gaps on my self-marked feedback guide, especially in areas where I did not reach competent.

After using the debrief guide and practical solution, if I wanted further reading on a technical area, I could then look to the e-books. If I wanted to consult where information came from in the case, I would look at the walkthrough.

Analyzing the marks

If you have a study partner and are marking each other’s cases, look at the marks they gave you, and compare them to the marks you gave yourself. Are you giving in to bias and saying “well, they should know what I mean” or are you close to having the same marks?

For cases marked by the National Marking Centre, you will receive the candidate report. Again, compare the marks you gave yourself to the ones they award you. Look over the comments and any specific feedback that they may provide. Add their suggestions, or items you notice you need to work on, to your tracking guide. As you progress through Capstone 2, you should see the marks you give yourself harmonize with the marks you are awarded. You will also see on your tracking guide that you are starting to get more RCs and Cs.

Find time to take care of yourself

In addition to making debriefing a priority during my studies, I tried to stay as relaxed, refreshed, and focused as I could. Outside of my study time, I would take my mind off accounting and neither think nor talk about it.

So, remember to also spend time with your family and friends, and enjoy your hobbies. Or just relax. This helped me stay focused on my studies and avoid burn out. For more tips on preparing for the CFE, check out CPA Alberta’s CFE Survival Guide.

This blog post is based on the experiences of the author, and it is important to keep in mind that there are many different ways to debrief. You are encouraged to take elements from Josh’s experience that can benefit you and incorporate them in your study habits in order to progressively improve your case-writing skills prior to the CFE. As always, refer to for the latest guidelines from the CPA Western School of Business.