I wrote a post on how to get through CPA PEP without a study partner last year. Even though most of the tips are applicable to CFE, this topic popped up in my mind again as I worked through CFE prep. I was watching one of those intro videos included in my Densmore CFE prep and the presenter talked about the importance of having a study buddy. She also discussed the ideal group size (maximum of 3) and things you should look out for (e.g., ideally someone taking the same CFE role). However, it did not change my mind about studying alone. I thought I would share my thought process with you on the topic in case you are making a similar decision.
Note, I do not mean I am going through this completely alone. The support from my old college friends, family and coworkers is still critical and important. At the same time, I do not want you to think that you will fail just because you are missing any of that. Be nice and kind to yourself. There is no rule against being your own cheerleader.
Michelle Per, 2020’s CFE Gold Medal Winner, Did It Solo
In an interview published shortly after Michelle was announced to be the Gold Medal Winner, Michelle shared that she chose to go solo for her CFE prep. She shared that because she had no one holding her accountable (unlike candidates who had a study buddy or two), she had to take on that role herself. Her success showed that not only can you pass CFE without a study partner, but you can also come out the top. However, proper planning and self-discipline were the keys to her success.
Luckily, most of us only aim to pass the CFE with an average pass rate of 77% for the past three years. This means it will be a possible task whether we study with a partner or solo.
Working on CFE Prep Solo Means More Flexibility
In school, the only times I have ever worked with someone else is when I worked on group projects. Since I just finished Capstone 1, I remember clearly the challenges of working with a group. Everyone has a slightly different working schedule (for example, my CFE leave doesn’t start until mid-August) and commitments outside of work and CPA. The more study partner you have (but remember, more is not better), the more schedules you need to find a middle ground for. A normal process with a study partner would be to mark each other’s cases. If your partner has an emergency or is stuck at work, you simply can’t move on with debriefing with feedback until it is marked. Of course, there are ways to get around it. For example, you can debrief before you receive feedback from your partner. However, having a study partner is an added variable to your plan.
Personally, I have commitments scattered throughout the next two and a half months. My preference would be to work at my own pace.
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Finding A Compatible CFE Study Buddy Might Be Time-Consuming
I was assigned my groupmates for most of my group projects in school. Because of that, my experiences varied greatly. Even though you can select your own CFE study partner, it is still going to be a challenge unless you already have someone in mind. Ideally, you and that person (or persons) have similar expectations and work ethics. It is even more ideal if you are all writing CFE in the same role (e.g., Finance). This is because it will be harder for someone to mark your Day 2 (role) cases if they are not familiar with the role-specific assessment opportunities (AOs). For myself, since I have not studied with a partner on my CPA journey to date, I decided that it will be too risky to start looking now.
If you do decide to proceed with a study partner, make sure you speak up early if you are incompatible. You can do so amicably and respectfully. It is important to not waste your or the other person’s time by forcing it to work. The last thing you want to do is to waste precious CFE prep time on too many trial-and-errors.
CFE Prep Is A Stressful Process And It Might Affect Your Relationships
CFE prep is not a social event. As a result, you should not partner up with your close friend just because of history and preference. The objective of CFE prep should be to pass CFE and nothing else. If you picked your study partner based on anything but compatibilities (once again, not talking about as a friend), you risk affecting the effectiveness and efficiencies of your CFE prep. On top of that, the stressful nature of CFE prep might affect your social relationships.
I have a group of college friends that I keep in close contact with and they started CPA PEP at the same time as me. Most of us are also writing CFE in September 2021. None of us is partnering up with each other for CFE prep. However, the most important function of this group is going to be moral support for each other. The next two months or so will be hard and exhausting. It is important to recognize that CFE prep is not just about technical knowledge. It is about problem-solving and communication skills. The ability to see the big picture and answer questions the users have. To prepare yourself for that, a lot of work and effort are required. Times will get frustrating and demotivating. If your friends can’t mark your cases, they can still offer the biggest support you will need.