If you saw my story today, you would already know what I thought about September 2021 CFE Day 2. It was the day I was dreading the most and my experience was like being on a roller coaster of emotions. It also went by seemingly as quickly as an actual roller coaster. FYI – my CFE role was Finance. I finished attempting all AOs with about 20 minutes to spare. However, I intentionally left some common and role AOs in a rush as I was running behind. Overall, I am proud of myself for walking away (it was hard) when I had to.

This post will be most helpful to candidates writing CFE later down the road as we can’t change what happened already. I am not going to get into the specifics of any AO from today. My intention is to share what went through my mind when I wrote Day 2 in hopes that it will help you gauge what to expect.

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First, The Coffee That Was Forgotten

The hotel check-in process was just like Day 1 – I answered some COVID questions in the hotel’s lobby before going up to my designated floor. I was assigned the same room (for all 3 days) so I just got settled in as soon as I arrived. It was when I was about to eat my breakfast when I realized I left my half-finished coffee in the lobby! I panicked for a second because I needed my coffee. It was like my safety blanket. Within seconds, I had these scary thoughts that went through my mind including writing a five-hour exam with no coffee (dramatic, I know).

I asked the invigilator if I can go back down to get it but he misunderstood and thought I wanted to go back out to get a coffee. He asked his supervisor and one of them actually offered to help me go buy a coffee instead (I was so thankful I wanted to cry). I immediately clarified and said it was just left in the hotel’s lobby. My invigilator accompanied me downstairs so crisis averted. So, here’s how I almost messed up my CFE by being a headless chicken.

Okay, back to the serious stuffs.

What I Did On CFE Day 2

I Followed My Steps….. Sort Of.

I watched the Densmore’s videos on Day 2 last week (later than I could/should have) so I memorized their Day 2 approach. When I was waiting by the door for the exam to start, I reminded myself of the steps in my head. In reality, I was able to jump straight to requireds, read the background, read the appendices, re-read the requireds and planned out my ‘attack strategy.’ I said ‘sort of’ because I was supposed to scan the appendices and re-read the requireds before reading the appendices in-depth. However, I can tell very quickly that instead of scanning the appendices, I was reading them already. I didn’t have the skill required to scan effectively (as I never practiced it that way) so I decided to just read them and track right away.

I finished reading and planning at around 9:45 AM.

I Budgeted Time For Each AO & Followed Them…. Sort Of.

First off, I have never budgeted time for every single AO. If you have been following my Instagram, you probably knew that I never struggled with time. Granted, I also never successfully attempted all AOs on a day 2 case prior to today. Yesterday, my friend who passed May 2021 CFE reminded me to focus on role AOs as Day 2 would be my only chance to pass Level 3 (getting enough RCs and Cs in my role). I knew that but I definitely somehow forgot about how important it was for me to do that until she said that. And I was so glad I did because time was definitely constrained today (even though Day 2 was not supposed to be).

To save time on planning, I just allocated 15 minutes each to common AOs (there were both FR and MA AOs). That left me with 20 minutes for each role AO with 30 minutes of review time. I was already slightly worried when I saw that I will only have 30 minutes of review time as I anticipate going over time. It turned out I ended up with less than that anyway.

For my plan, I actually wrote out the exact times for each AO. For example, I started AO #1 at 9:50 so I would end at 10:05. This was how I knew very early on that I was struggling with time. For common AOs, I was hoping that I can get some time back from the MA AOs as I was more comfortable with them. I think I did get them done faster than planned but not by much. I took a quick look at my plan just when I was about to start my first role AO. If I remembered correctly, I started slightly later than planned. I had to rush my conclusion for a couple of earlier role AOs because I still had several more role AOs left.

I Had To Choose Between Common And Role AOs

As soon as I finished my last role AO, I already knew I had to be strategic about my remaining 20 minutes. I started reviewing my responses in order when I realized I should focus on my role AOs. It was extremely difficult to walk away because I knew I rushed my common AOs. I was hoping there would be time left for review but it didn’t work out that way. At the end, I think I spent about 5 minutes on common AOs and the rest on role AOs. I was able to revise my responses but I was not 100% sure that made a difference.

What I Did Not Expect – Excellent Exam Design

When I read the requireds, I was happy. I was happy because I did not see the AOs I was dreading the most. Also, the company was as interesting as a case can be (healthy foods grocery store) to me. I was optimistic and hopeful. I knew I shouldn’t ‘speak too soon’ when I started struggling with the common AOs. With my role, even though the AOs were all expected, the time constraint left me no time to think much before I started typing. I knew I shouldn’t do that (type without thinking first) but I also knew I wouldn’t be able to at least attempt all AOs if I didn’t.

What I did not expect was exactly how well the Board of Examiners designed the exam. I never doubted their abilities but I was still shocked. To me, it seemed that they made the company background and AOs manageable and truly turned time management into the biggest challenge. I personally have never rushed an exam this much with barely a moment to stop and think.

Ending Thoughts for Day 3

If you are reading this when you are writing day 3 tomorrow (my fellow Sep 2021 CFE candidates), here are what I am telling myself:

  • I need to plan (not as in-depth as Day 2) and pay close attention to the time
  • I need to walk away from an AO if I ran out of budgeted time
  • I need to keep track of AOs I must go back to if time allows (e.g., a Tax AO I didn’t finish versus a MA AO because this is my only chance to pass Level 4 for tax)
  • I need a drink right after.

That’s it! We are almost at the finishing line. Thank you for joining me on my journey for the past two years. 🍀

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