Study Time: Preparing for the Module Exam

Gearing up to study for your module exam can seem daunting. Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Start with the CPA Competency Map 

The first place to start your studies is with the CPA Competency Map. The examinations group that develops the exams use the Competency Map, NOT your assignments to prepare the exams. Therefore, there may be items on the Map considered pre-requisite knowledge that were not covered in a specific task in the module but may appear on an exam. 

Section 6 of the Competency Map lists the competencies by module and is an excellent place to start your review,  focusing on competencies with an increasing proficiency level.

For example, if you are in the Taxation module, you will note that competency 6.1.2 goes from a “C” at entry into CPA PEP to an “A” upon completing the module. Remember, any competencies listed in the  Map for your module are examinable.

Review the “A” competencies, then the “B’s”, and finally the “C’s”, using the Competency Map as a checklist. Check off each competency that you feel comfortable with andfocus on the ones you are less familiar with.

2. Create an Action plan

After completing eight assignment sets, the volume of information to cover in your studying can feel overwhelming. Take control by developing an action plan. I like an Excel file because it is easy to manipulate the information. You can have a separate tab for each technical competency area covered in the module. For example, for Core 2, you would have tabs for Management Accounting, Finance, Strategy and Governance, and Financial Reporting.

Did you know that each PDF solution file lists the related competency from the  Map for each assessment opportunity (AO)? As you review your module assignments, you can add the competency covered for each AO to the relevant tab in your action plan, along with the key technical points for that AO. This will help to develop a robust set of study notes that you can carry with you to the CFE. Work smarter, not harder!

Once you have populated the action plan with the competencies covered in the module materials, go back to the Competency Map and see what remains that wasn’t included in your plan. These are competencies that you may need to do some additional review on, using reliable sources like university textbooks.

Colour the topics that you feel comfortable with green, those you need to review in detail red, and the in-between ones yellow. Once you feel more comfortable with the topic, change the colour from red to yellow or yellow to green. Shifting the colour will help boost your confidence!

The action plan should also map the days and number of hours of study per day. You may even want to plan the topics to study each day. Committing to a plan like this provides structure to your studies and breaks down the vast amount of information into manageable chunks.

3. Review Practice Exam Materials

The Content section in D2L has a Practice Exam Materials section. These are actual retired recent exams, and this is a new feature for 2020. To practice your time allocations for the exam, set aside enough time to complete the practice exam in the recommended timeframe.

Attempting the practice exam in exam-like conditions at home will minimize the stress on exam day since you have gone through this process once already.

4. Re-write Practice Cases (PCs)

If you have the time, consider rewriting the three PCs you struggled with the most. You may want to choose  PCs from the beginning of the module, as you may have forgotten about them!

You may also want to rewrite a PC you performed well on to boost your confidence.

For any of PCs, write the case in the allocated amount of time, under exam-like conditions. This means locking yourself away with no distractions; put your phone in another room and close your email!

After writing, spend lots of time debriefing the case. I cannot express how important this is. For example, if you find you are missing the trigger for some of the issues, it’s good to go back and reread the case and figure out where the trigger was mentioned and highlight it. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If you don’t debrief, you run the risk of repeating the same mistake repeatedly!

5. Check Your Assignments

Another place to review is your submitted assignments and your facilitator’s comments to ensure you understand the technical topics to the level required in the CPA Competency Map. If you are missing technical information, you may have to go back to your resources such as the Learning eBooks, CPA Canada Handbook, etc.  

6. Get Some Rest

Hmm, rest as part of the action plan? You may think this sounds counter-intuitive. It’s tempting to stay up late the night before the exam to cram. After all, the information will be fresh in your mind, right? Studying the night before the exam may do more harm than good. You may feel less confident if you don’t remember everything, which causes you to study more and get less sleep. Your brain needs to be fresh and well-rested to perform well on the exam. So shut the books early in the evening and get a good night’s rest!

Guest writer Nikki Reardon Marchiel, CPA, CA is a long time CPAWSB session leader, facilitator and mentor to other facilitators.