A Letter to You If You Failed CPA CFE

If you failed CFE, this is for you.

At the time of writing this post, I am four days away from results release. I debated working on this post before that because I was not sure I can handle the research on what to do when you failed CFE. I have been getting anxious and second-guessing myself since about a week ago. However, this made me realize how much worse one would feel on the day of. So, I am writing this post for the ~24% of CFE candidates that did not succeed this time around. If 7,000 candidates wrote the Sep CFE, over 1,600 of us did not make it. I shared this number because I want to highlight the fact that you are not alone.

I will address the options you have with regards to your CFE (e.g. re-mark) response at the end of this post. However, this post is not going to be focused on the technical aspects. I want to talk to you about your feelings.

RELATED POST – Failed CFE? Here Are 2 Things You Can Do Next Time Around.

If You Failed CFE, It Is Okay to Be Sad.

I have had much better weeks than last week. A couple of things did not go my way but there was nothing I can do about them. People in my life reminded me that things weren’t that bad. They had the best intentions but I still can’t control how I was feeling. Then it hit me: it is okay to be sad.

If you beat yourself up for being sad over your CFE results, don’t. This has been a years-long journey and CFE was supposed to be the end of that for many. We studied and wrote cases for weeks (if not months) leading up to the 3-day CFE. You have all the rights to be sad over this. Being sad is not admitting you did not have what it takes. It only means you need to execute your CFE strategy differently next time.

Being sad is not a sign of weakness. Being sad does not mean we are not in control of our emotions. Sadness is as valid an emotion as happiness or anger. People do not usually stop you from being happy, so why should they tell you not to be sad?

We all deal with sadness differently. Some cry (I do). Some just stay home and avoid all social interactions. Take the rest of the day off work and allow yourself to do whatever you need to do. Do not force yourself to feel better right away. We worked so hard for so long for CFE so it is absolutely okay to feel disappointed when the results are not as you wished.

There will be people who care about you offering well-intentioned advices in the next little while. It is okay to tell your loved ones you simply need some space right now. Check in with them, then stay off social media (or turn on airplane mode). Read a book or watch a show. My personal favorite way to escape reality is to read murder mystery (the late Agatha Christie is one of my favorite authors).

Remember, the key is to be very, very nice to yourself.

If You Want to Talk to Someone, You Should.

You might prefer to talk to people you know or you might prefer to talk to a stranger. Neither is more superior than the other. However, if you prefer the latter, I found the following website for you. It consolidates the mental health resources available in your province. Reminder, asking for help is also not a sign of weakness. It actually requires an immense amount of strengths.

If you are not sure whether they offer what you need, just call to find out. These services are confidential and free.

In addition to the link above, a friend of mine brought my attention to confidential, free counselling services offered by the different provincial CPA bodies:

If your province is not listed, the first link covers all provinces.

A Reminder of What Also Matters in Life

I have been writing about CPA for a couple of years now. Being an accountant and becoming a CPA are a big part of my identity. However, they are not the only things that matter. In fact, they never will be. Financially, they provide enough. However, I know in my heart that with hard work and determination, I can make a living doing something else. Therefore, if you put things in perspective, failing CFE is not the end of the world.

Since I don’t actually know you, I don’t know what matters to you. So, I want you to ask yourself that. It can be people, pets, experiences or material possessions. There can be an infinite number of things that matter. I am not asking you to stop caring about becoming a CPA (because you will come back stronger when you are ready). I am simply asking you to remember the other 99% of what makes you happy.

What Should You Do Now?

I do not want you to rush into taking actions when you should focus on your mental health this weekend. All I ask you to do is pay attention to the email you would receive from your provincial CPA body. It will contain all the deadlines and next steps you need to know. Once you made a note of that, you have done more than enough. If you want to continue reading, I am providing a quick overview of what you need to know.

The Options You Have – Remark, PAR & Re-Write

There are two things you can do with your CFE response: ask for a remark, a performance analysis report (PAR) or both. There are fees associated with them with remark & PAR for all three days of CFE being the most expensive option (as of 2021, $1,750 plus taxes for CPAWSB).

Remarks, formally known as Appeals, are as its name suggests: a remark of your CFE response. This would ensure you got all the credit (e.g., points for RC for Level 1) your response deserves. However, this option does not come with any written feedback.

PAR is a detailed report on areas where you did not meet the minimum required standard. For example, if you failed Day 2 & 3 because you did not pass Level 2 & 3, you will get feedback on those levels. Note, you will not get feedback on the levels you passed. If you want to see what a PAR looks like, CPAWSB provides a sample here.

Since Day 1 is evaluated separately from Day 2 & 3, you might or might not need to re-write all three-day of CFE. However, due to the different Capstone 1 cases being offered each CFE, you need to pay close attention to when you can re-write Day 1 based on your Capstone 1 case.

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