Part 1: How I debrief a case

Part 1: How I debrief a case

By Josh Hewitt CPA, Senior Associate, Tax, PwC

Josh received his CPA designation in 2019.

Josh Hewitt CPA, Senior Associate, Tax, PwC

Case writing during the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP) allows you to showcase the skills you’ve acquired and apply them to specific case facts. For me, writing a case was a learning process. I progressed from frantically reading the case, scribbling items down on my plan, furiously trying to fit everything into my answer in the allotted time, to better organizing my ideas using suggested methods like ICAR (for Financial Reporting: Issue, Criteria, Analysis, Recommendation) and WIR (for control issues: Weakness, Implications, Recommendations).

During the CPA PEP program, I also learned that while it is important to practice case writing, it is equally important to thoroughly debrief each case.

To help debrief a case, the CPA Western School of Business provides resources such as the feedback guide, debrief notes, the practical solution, and a walkthrough. And for marked cases, they provide the candidate report. These resources go hand-in-hand with the tracking guide, which helps you track your performance and progress in different competency areas. The tracking guide also enables you to identify and note any knowledge areas where you need to focus your efforts.

Commitment is key

Part of the debrief process is to make sure you are ready to commit to it. I found that in order to have a proper debrief and to get the most from it, I needed to be mentally ready. After writing the mock CFE and some Day 1 and Day 2 cases, I would give my brain the afternoon off and do the debrief the next day.

Alternatively, you could read the marking materials the same day, but wait until the following day to assess your case. At the start, debriefing took me two to three times the amount of time than writing the case. This may be different for other candidates, but in my case, it was due to the fact that I needed to improve my technical, writing, or calculation skills.

I tried to write cases in the morning under exam conditions by using the software program and writing within strict time limits. This allowed me to judge from my results how I would have performed on that case on the CFE. It also helped me accurately track my improvement.

Focus less on the results; celebrate small victories

As you progress, don’t worry if you’re not instantly getting all Cs (competent). Work on improving NAs (not addressed) to NCs (nominal competence), and then work towards RCs (reaching competence) before moving onto Cs.

It is important not to become stressed out. I did that by celebrating small victories and focusing on what I was accomplishing each step of the way.

In Part 2 of this blog post, Josh provides details on how he debriefed a case.

This blog post is based on the experiences of Josh Hewitt, and it is important to keep in mind that there are many different ways to debrief. You are encouraged to take elements from this 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.