In this ongoing series, Caleb Hagemeister CPA, Gold Medalist recipient for Western Canada on the September 2015 CFE, shares his tips on how to prepare for Core 1 of the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP). If you haven’t read part 1, click here to learn more about Caleb’s CPA journey and read his advice on how to tackle the readings and assignments.
The practice cases
What I tell everyone going through the modules is to treat these like an exam. They should treat each of the practice cases as if they were the case on the exam. This means writing the 60-minute cases under exam conditions (i.e., with no notes), and preferably in the exam software, so that you can get used to it as much as possible. Practice how you’re going to play.
If you don’t know how to handle an issue, leave it and come back to it later. Write for 60 minutes in one font colour, then go back and use a different font colour to address the issues you didn’t know or weren’t confident about. This will help you track how well you did in the allotted 60 minutes. You can then still put in additional effort through debrief to make sure you truly understand all of the issues.
The most important part of a practice case isn’t the actual writing of the case, it is the debrief. My suggestion is to spend as much time on debriefing as you spent writing the case. For example, if it’s a 60-minute case, you should spend at least 60 minutes debriefing it and going through all the technical details to make sure you understand what you just wrote about. Quickly reading over the solution and nodding “Yup, I knew that” isn’t good enough.
The Core 1 and 2 exams focus heavily on multiple-choice. Once again, treat your practice multiple-choice questions like an exam. Try your best to answer all of the questions you know, and then if you have to circle back on the ones you don’t, go to your readings or assignments to try and answer those.
I found the multiple-choice questions to be particularly tricky, so I practiced them often. Multiple-choice questions test a vast breadth of knowledge, so you need to ensure that you are comfortable with all of the concepts you come across throughout the module. And once again, referring to the CPA Competency map is always a good idea.
I strongly advise against just guessing on the multiple-choice questions when you’re unsure in order to get the answers. If you’re unsuccessful in getting the right answer, then it’s a great idea to try and learn from the solution. However, you need to put in that effort to ensure you’re understanding it.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of Caleb’s “How to prepare for Core 1 of the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP)” series, in which he tackles the biggie: exam preparation and the Core 1 exam itself.