If you have been following my CPA journey, you would know that I just wrote the PEP exam for the Finance module. Even though the result won’t be released for another two weeks or so, I am quite confident that I passed (especially when the pass rate for Finance was 90% in 2019). One thing I did differently for this module compared to Core modules was that I had access to the Finance Elective Essentials package offered by Densmore. I have heard a lot of positive things about their CFE Exam Prep program in the past (which I might utilize to get ready for 2021 Sept CFE) but I have not seen many reviews for their PEP packages.
So, if you are taking any of the PEP modules (from Core 1 to electives), I hope this post will help you make an informed decision.
Note, this post contains a product that was sponsored by Densmore Consulting Consulting Services Inc. However, all opinions are 100% my own.
How Much Are The Densmore CPA PEP Essentials Packages?
Each Essentials package for any of the PEP modules is $329 + GST. The package only comes with an e-book so if you prefer the hard copy, it will be $49 extra. If you buy more than one PEP package, you will get up to 40% off your 2nd to 4th. For example, if you get both Core 2 and Finance, each package is only $296 before tax (20% off your second one). Note, you do not need to purchase both at the same time. However, since you have access to the package for one year from the date of your purchase, you might have written your CFE by then.
If you prefer to get the practice cases only for the module, they are much cheaper at $129 + GST. Each set of practice cases come with 6 cases and their related walk-throughs (in-depth debriefing videos). There is no discount associated with purchasing more than one set.
What Is The Difference Between The “Essential Packages” And “Practice Cases & Walkthroughs”?
As I have mentioned above, the case-only packages come with 6 practice cases and their related walk-throughs.
The full packages include the 6 practice cases & walk-throughs plus the following:
- multiple-choice (objective style) questions
- tutorial videos and detailed PDF notes for technical topics (e.g., working capital management, valuation techniques for the Finance module)
- video on the basic approach for case-writing
- practice exam
- exam strategy tutorial
- access to the Densmore forum (same one for all PEP modules)
Depending on your needs and how much time you have to spend on the Densmore materials, you might or might not benefit from all the additional resources offered by the full package.
Who Will Benefit From The Densmore PEP Packages?
I want to start this discussion off by saying I definitely benefited from the Densmore Finance Elective Essential package. However, I think I would have passed without it. This makes sense because the majority of candidates passed their modules without additional resources other than what was already provided by CPA. Many of us probably didn’t even have time to utilize all that was offered by CPA. Also, with such a high pass rate for PEP modules, you only need to be in the top 90% to obtain a grade of marginal pass or higher.
With that being said, I still think these Densmore packages for CPA PEP are worthwhile if any or all of the following applies to you:
You Are Genuinely Interested In The Topics
I am glad I got to try the Densmore package for the Finance elective since I was very interested in the topics (e.g., dividends, working capital, valuations). Despite its high pass rate, it has been said that Finance is one of the two more difficult elective modules (with tax being the other one). Candidates who don’t plan on pursuing a career in public practice have the freedom to choose between any 2 of the 4 elective modules (candidates who do must complete the Assurance and Tax) and they will often end up picking the “easier” Assurance and Performance Management modules (note, this is not confirmed and not represented by data).
RELATED POST – CPA PEP Elective – Why Did I Choose the Finance Module?
Personally, I enjoyed the supplementary resources for the topics I wanted to learn about. Even though I did find it useful to prepare for the exam, a lot of the value I saw in the package came from using them to solidify my knowledge in the topics.
You Have Gone Through What CPA Offered And Have More Time Left
A candidate reached out to me a week before his Core 2 exam and asked if I had any tips on what else he can refer to for studying. He said he felt that the cases offered by CPA were simply not enough to get him ready for the exam. With only one week left, even though I mentioned my positive experience with the Densmore materials, I advised against investing in them unless he is absolutely sure he will utilize the materials.
However, if he had felt that way with weeks left before his exam (possible if he took the extended pace), I would definitely suggest taking advantage of either the full package or practice case-only package for his module. The downside of relying only on the CPA cases is that we might remember the answers from the first time we attempted them for grading. That can create an illusion making us think that we are ready for the exam when we are in fact not. Depending on how much time you plan on devoting to the supplementary material, either the full package or case-only package will be beneficial for you.
~ More CPA Posts ~
CPA PEP Core 1 – How to Study for the Module and the Exam
CPA PERT – Ultimate Guide on How to Get Your First Experience Report via EVR Approved
CPA PERT – Enabling Competencies Examples
Densmore for CPA PEP – Are The PEP Essentials Packages Worth It?
CPA PEP Module – Regular Module or Extended Module?
You Are Struggling With Certain Technical Areas
Some candidates kept the accounting textbooks from their college days specifically because the Knotia e-book doesn’t offer the best lessons on certain technical areas (e.g., valuations) and very limited on others. However, your textbooks might be outdated (e.g., IFRS updates) or you simply sold them as soon as you were done with the class (I did). YouTube used to be an excellent resource for tutorial videos but I found it a bit lacking for more advanced accounting topics (e.g., cost of capital).
The full essential package offers tutorial videos and detailed summary notes in PDF format for technical areas on the competency map. Since these are developed specifically for the CPA program, I found them more suitable for CPA candidates than Youtube videos that are created for a broader audience.
You Want To Improve Your Case-Writing Skills
I mentioned in my previous post that the basic approach for the case-writing video was the force that convinced me to start writing a case properly. That means picking up the requireds during a quick scan before reading the case in-depth and creating a proper outline. In addition to the basic approach video, the walk-throughs for the 6 practice cases were also instrumental in improving my case-writing skills. For candidates who are confident in their technical knowledge but struggle with writing a case, these practices and walk-throughs are going to be very beneficial to them.
As I have written in my first CFE-related post, the CFE tests way more than just technical knowledge. Even though this statement is true for all PEP exams, it is even more critical for candidates to understand this as they prepare for the 3-day CFE. Improving your case-writing skill will be instrumental to your success in writing the CFE.
You Are Thinking About The Long-Term Goal – Passing The CFE
As an extension of the point above, the Densmore PEP packages will also be useful as you think about getting ready for the CFE. Even though candidates normally only begin their full-time study 4- to 6-week before their CFE, candidates are encouraged to begin reviewing their technical knowledge as early as months before the exam. By utilizing the supplementary materials offered by the finance essential package, I left the Finance exam feeling confident about my performance and also retained the knowledge after.
You Are Repeating The Module For The Second Or Third Time
For candidates who are repeating their PEP module, they may or may not have to repeat the course work again. For those who don’t, that means they have no more material available to them than what was available when they attempted the module the first time. In my post about failing the exam, I talked about the importance of asking yourself what you think went wrong during the module and the exam. If you think your technical knowledge is not strong enough and that you don’t think the Knotia e-book is a good reference, the Densmore PEP package would be beneficial to you. Depending on your answer, you might or might not need the full package as you can benefit from just the cases.
RELATED POST – CPA PEP Exam – What If You Failed the Exam?
Who Would Not Benefit From The Densmore PEP Packages?
Even though I think the Densmore PEP packages will be beneficial to many candidates, I would caution against investing in them (whether reimbursed by your employer or not) if the following applies to you:
You Struggle With Keeping Up With The Module Work As It Is
When I took Core 1 at a regular pace (8 weeks), I barely had time to finish the assigned coursework (some weeks I skipped some). I would not think about getting any supplementary resources even if it was less than $10. That is because it will simply be a waste of money if you don’t plan on utilizing the materials. Even though I have a lot of good things to say about the Densmore PEP package, the materials offered by CPA are more than enough for most of us to pass the module. Therefore, I would not suggest investing in them if you don’t plan on using them due to the lack of time or motivation.
You Want To Get Densmore Only Because You Think It Will Make The Module Easier
Sadly, it does not. Despite the high pass rate, the CPA PEP modules are still difficult. The Densmore cases are even more difficult. I have heard about their difficulty before I attempted the first case and people were right. Because candidates are expected to have accumulated knowledge from all past courses (including college classes/PREP), you can technically be tested on topics you did not study for during the elective module. Since the Densmore cases are intended to get you ready for the CFE (even the ones offered in the packages for elective modules), they often include topics from Core modules and PREP courses.
The Densmore material will actually challenge you more than the CPA cases do. In another word, it will make it more difficult for you. This is definitely not a bad thing (in fact, it’s an advantage because it will help you get ready for CFE), but if you want to get Densmore because you think it is easier, you need to reconsider.
You Are Taking Core 1 At A Regular Pace For The First Time
As I have mentioned above, there was barely enough time for me to complete the assigned coursework when I took Core 1 at a regular pace. I would have been able to utilize any supplementary material other than a couple of quick Youtube videos. In addition to the heavy workload, there are two module workshops (compared to only one for other PEP modules) for Core 1. The materials offered by CPA is definitely more than most candidates can consume. Also, since you are also trying to adapt to this new way of learning (very different than college courses) during Core 1, I suggest you focus on all that is offered by CPA.
RELATED POST – CPA PEP Core 1 – How to Study for the Module and the Exam
You Feel Very Confident About Your Technical Knowledge & Case-Writing Skills
The content offered by Densmore is high-quality and educational. However, for candidates who have strong foundations in both technical areas and case-writing skills, I am not sure it offers enough value to justify the costs. The additional content offered by the full package versus case-only centers around technical areas and case-writing skills. If you simply want to practice more new cases, I would suggest getting the case-only package as it is a lot more affordable ($129 versus $329).
Will My Employer Reimburse The Costs For Densmore?
Depends. A lot of big accounting firms offer Densmore to their employees for free. If you work in the industry, your mileage may vary. However, if you believe you fit the criteria I described above, I strongly recommend you have a discussion with your manager. As an employer, they might see the enhanced value you can bring to the workplace by supporting you to strengthen your foundational knowledge. This is one of the reasons why many companies reimburse for education costs.
As you can tell, there is no one simple answer for whether the Densmore packages for CPA PEP is worth it. However, it is important to know that it offers more than just helping you pass your PEP exam. A big part of the value of these packages come from the educational value it offers. For me, I did not want to just pass the PEP exam; I wanted to truly understand the technical topics for my career growth and also to get ready for CFE.
As with all purchases, only you would know if it will be worth your hard-earned money (or as a taxable benefit if your company pays for it).