CFE Day 1 – My Experience & How Much I Don’t Want Day 2 To Come

I just spent about an hour reviewing my own Day 2 notes. I did not learn anything new (too late for that) but I only did it to solidify what I already knew. I have always found it helpful to review notes the night before an exam as it would help me retrieve my knowledge much easier and quicker. Of course, I only did it because I wasn’t too tired from writing day 1 today. As many of you are aware, Day 1 is often said to be the easiest of the 3 days of CFE. I agreed with that before I wrote Day 1 and I agree with it now. Day 1 is a 4-hour exam that is not designed to be time-constrained just like Day 2.

My Capstone 1 case was about Waste Disposal Inc (waste management industry) so my Day 1 case took place two years after Capstone 1. As expected, there were some personnel and operational changes. Without going into the specifics, I want to say that 2021 Sep CFE Day 1 was as expected. It was not a walk in the park (when are they ever?) but there were no surprises either.

If you are reading this before writing Day 2 tomorrow, good luck!

If you are reading this when you are preparing for CFE, know that Day 1 is structured differently than any other PEP cases you have done before. However, the lack of technical demand often makes a lot easier to review and pass than the other two days of CFE.

How Does Writing CFE In My Own Private Room At A Hotel Work?

If you are reading this after 2021 CFE, my hope is that we are no longer in a situation where private hotel room is necessary for CFE. Don’t get me wrong – it was an amazing privilege to have my own bathroom while writing the 4-hour long exam. I heard stories from past CFE writers about lining up for the washroom at the Convention Centre so that was definitely not something I looked forward to.

We all got an email from CPA weeks ago with our hotel and hotel room details. The hotel room we were assigned in will be the exact same room we write all 3 days of CFE in. Candidates were offered the option to book a room at the exact same hotel they are writing in at a discounted rate. For me, I booked a hotel of my choice located 10-minute walk (or 3-minute drive) away from the hotel I was assigned to write my CFE at. This was by no means necessary as some people I know opted to stay home and drive in for the exam (some with a moderate commute and some with a short commute) so staying away from home was definitely optional. Prior to the pandemic, I have also known people who would stay near the Convention Centre in Vancouver just so they can avoid the morning commute.

Back to this morning. I arrived at the hotel’s lobby at my designated time (we all got different arrival times for distancing reason). An invigilator asked some questions related to COVID before I was directed to go up to my designated floor. I had about an hour before my actual start time (everyone on the floor had the same start time but not everyone at the hotel had the same) so I finished my breakfast in my room.

Since it was my first day, I made sure I read all the instructions (4 to 5 pages). I don’t expect the rules to change day over day so I anticipate a more relaxing morning tomorrow. About five minutes before our start time, we were instructed to wait by the door until it was time. We did just that before spending the next four hours typing away.

When the exam was over, there were minor IT issues but nothing major. I was one of the last ones on my floor to leave so the exam collection process took about 50 minutes after the end of the 4-hour for me. We basically followed the instructions given on the same sheet we were supposed to read before the exam and waited patiently for the IT proctor to collect our USB key (with our responses on it) one-by-one.

Are you preparing for CFE and is wondering what you need to know?
Check out my CFE guides here!

How Did I Feel During The Exam?

People were right when they said you would feel differently on exam days. For me, the most notable differences were:

  • I realized how important it was to have a plan beforehand
    • for Day 1, it would be the structure of the situational analysis and basic structure of my response
    • I found myself unsure of how much time I should take reading and outlining as I have always been casual about times when I was practicing
    • I was also very aware of myself stealing time away from the next option when I went slightly overtime
  • I reviewed my own response for the first time ever
    • doing so definitely helped as I noticed several logic errors and missing words/thoughts
  • I stared at the clock more often than ever
    • this was because I knew I can’t fall behind or get distracted because this was the real deal
  • I was more focused than I have ever been
    • this probably had a lot to do with my phone being so far away from me
  • I can’t thank having my own thermostat enough
    • as I get warm and cold easily, I adjusted the thermostat a handful of times during the exam so I felt just right
  • I drilled down to the WHAT + WHY because I knew I had to
    • I was struggling with depth for the longest time during my CFE prep so it was nice to know I can do it when it really mattered
    • this being said, I wasn’t sure I got depth for sure but I definitely tried harder than ever to type more words!

Overall, I felt pretty confident about my Day 1 performance. I understand and appreciate why Day 1 was Day 1 of CFE because I can’t imagine feeling defeated after the first day. I anticipate feeling so after Day 2 so if it was reversed, I probably will not be sharing with you now (instead, I might be watching endless TV so I can feel better).

What We Need to Remember to Do Tomorrow (Day 2)

Calm down. Follow our plan. Believe in ourselves.

I would be lying to you if I told you I was not nervous about day 2. Like half of you (the other half I found dread day 3 more), I dread day 2 the most the entire CFE prep. The day is finally here and even though I know I prepared myself as well as I could without losing my mind, I am still wishing I can come out of the exam feeling proud.

I have tried my hardest until this point so far so I intend to try my hardest tomorrow. Okay, I think I am getting emotional now because fear is irrational. I hope tomorrow goes smoothly for all of us. ❤️

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