A little over a month ago, I wrote the Sep CFE over 3 days in my own hotel room in Vancouver. If you followed my CFE prep journey, you probably know that I started a lot earlier than most. I did it so that I can experiment what strategy worked and what did not. I also knew starting early would be most beneficial to my learning style. Overall, I had a good time. I felt a little bit burned out several weeks away from CFE but it was expected.
Many of you asked for my thoughts on the Densmore CFE prep as it is probably one of the most popular CFE prep resources out there. Note, as with my review on their PEP Essentials packages, I am providing my honest review purely from a candidate’s perspective. My views of the product are in no way affected by the generosity of the Densmore team.
Also, I have included some CFE prep alternatives if your budget is smaller or your employer does not cover the cost.
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 CFE Prep?
The Densmore CFE prep courses range from $1,199 to $1,459 CAD plus taxes. They also offer a Day 1 only package for $199 CAD plus taxes. The package I had access to was the CFE Prep Online with marking for first-time writers. Specifically, I registered for the CFE Prep II which had due dates throughout July.
If you get the marking package:
Most due dates for the submissions happen during Capstone 2 (with some exceptions). It is important to choose your session wisely as you want to ensure you can meet all the submission deadlines.
What Is The Difference Between The Package With Marking And No Marking?
As the name suggests, the no marking package does not include marking by their experienced markers. The marking package includes marking for one CFE Day 2 and three Day 3 cases (cases created by Densmore). Note, there are specific deadlines for the submissions depending on the CFE prep session you are registered in.
Also, the price is different: the no marking package is $260 CAD (plus taxes) cheaper.
Would I Suggest Getting the Marking or No Marking Package?
As mentioned, I had access to the CFE prep with marking. Unfortunately, I only submitted three out of four cases. Capstone 2 turned out to be more demanding than I expected so it took a bit of time before I settled in. Since I needed to meet a minimum number of submissions for Capstone 2 to pass the module, Capstone 2 submission was my priority.
Since my due dates were scattered throughout July (1.5 to 2.5 months before CFE), I did not have the skills required to attempt cases fully at that point. I was lacking in technical knowledge and CFE skills. The attempts I submitted were incomplete as I attempted them in an exam-setting (e.g., closed-book and within time budget). As a result, I found the feedback not as actionable as they would have been if I attempted the same cases later in my CFE prep. This was because I could have done a much better attempt later down the road and be more able to action on the feedback received. Also, on a mental level, I found myself skimming the feedback because I knew I had so much room for improvement. CFE prep was hard mentally as you want to improve but you also want to avoid hearing “bad news.”
However, I would like to point out that the feedback provided by the marker was very detailed and specific. If you know you will be able to meet all deadlines and be able to action on the feedback (note, it is not reasonable to expect glowing reviews because their intention is to help you improve), the price difference can be worth it as you are getting tailored advice.
Who Will Benefit From The Densmore CFE Prep?
If you utilize the resources included in your Densmore CFE prep, you will benefit regardless of how prepared you are. For the sake of my blog, I read/researched about CFE a lot more than required. However, I still found value in the Densmore CFE prep. Below is the list of included resources that I found beneficial and ones that I did not need or end up using:
Resources I Found Beneficial
CFE Prep Online Sessions
For me, the most value of the Densmore CFE prep came from their videos. They covered a wide range of topics such as Day 1 strategy, critical reading skill, presentation skill and specific competency (e.g., Finance). Some of the videos were over an hour long so you most likely will not watch all of them. However, the ones I did watch, I found them very practical and helpful.
Skills Drills for Management Accounting & Finance
Since I started CFE prep early, I had a lot of time to review technical knowledge. I ended up doing all of Management Accounting skill drills and some of Finance skill drills (in 2021, there were 14 in total). These are short exercises for the most common topics under these two competencies. Since my role was Finance, I found them extra useful as a refresher for AOs I once knew when I took the elective.
Note, since Finance is tested on Day 3 on Core-level, they will be value-added for all candidates regardless of your CFE role.
Densmore Cases & Marking Guides
As listed on their website, the CFE prep course include the following Densmore original cases (meaning they are created by Densmore and are not available anywhere else):
- 1 x Day 1 case (tailored to your Capstone 1 case)
- 2 x Day 2 cases
- 6 x Day 3 cases
For me, I did not end up attempting all Densmore original cases for two reasons:
- I was getting overwhelmed with the cases provided by Capstone 2 at some point so I gave up attempting more.
- I was so used to debriefing Capstone 2 cases with feedback guides created by CPA and found it harder to debrief using Densmore’s version.
However, even if I did not attempt the Densmore cases, I still reviewed the solutions included. They are a good resource for technical knowledge review.
Resources I Did Not Need/Use
CFE Prep Webinars
These took place live weekly beginning in August (1.5 months before CFE). If you can’t make it, the recording of the webinar will also be available after. Attending these webinars live would give you an opportunity to ask question.
I only made it to one webinar live and did not watch the recordings. This was because work and CFE prep were getting busy and I thought I knew enough from watching the CFE prep videos. Also, Capstone 2 also had weekly webinars that you can attend.
I actually heard about the Densmore Scenario Flowcharts before I even started CFE prep. It is a well-known resource designed to help guide you on how to answer the most commonly tested topics (e.g., Inventory and Contingencies for Financial Reporting).
I did not utilize it as I developed my own notes as I attempted and debriefed Capstone 2 and Densmore cases.
This resource would be the perfect platform for you to ask fellow candidates and Densmore coaches questions. However, as I mainly interacted with fellow CFE writers on my Instagram, I did not need the extra interactions.
Do You Need Densmore CFE Prep to Pass CFE?
This is a popular question as the sole purpose of CFE prep is to pass CFE. I mentioned in the beginning of my post that I will be 100% honest with my review so here it is: No, you do not need Densmore (or any other additional CFE prep resources) to pass CFE.
This is mainly because CPA provides a lot of resources to help you get ready for CFE. I was provided with 2 x Day 1 cases, 7 x Day 2 cases and over 20 x Day 3 cases. Some of them were marked by the National Marking Centre (NMC) and some were not. However, for all of them, CPA provided detailed solutions, debrief notes, sample responses and more. With a CFE pass rate from 76% to 78% for first-time writers, the resources provided by CPA are more than enough.
With this being said, there is a lot of value in Densmore CFE prep. Like I mentioned, I found value in the Densmore package even after reading and researching about CFE more than most candidates would.
My suggestion to you is to analyze your decision carefully: do the benefits outweigh the cost? For some, maximizing the chance of passing CFE is worth the price tag. For others, few hours with a CFE tutor might be sufficient.
Will My Employer Reimburse The Costs For Densmore CFE Prep?
My suggestion is to ask anyway as it will never hurt to do so. One of my friends decided against getting the Densmore CFE prep when her employer would only cover 25% of the cost if she passed (she passed without it anyway). Another friend’s request was declined by his employer but he still decided to pay out of pocket at the end.
What Are The CFE Prep Alternatives to Densmore?
The year you write CFE is expensive. Between your Capstone modules and CFE, your out-of-pocket cost would add up to over $5K CAD. This does not even include any additional resources you might get. Even though employers commonly cover tuition costs, many of them would only reimburse after you passed. So, if the Densmore CFE prep is outside of your budget, below is a list of CFE prep alternatives:
I decided to turn everything I learned from my own experience weeks after I wrote CFE. When I was creating these guides, the results for my CFE were not released yet. However, I walked away Day 3 of CFE knowing for sure I passed. So, these guides are created with the intention of sharing everything I learned and did so you can feel as confident as I was.
2) Private CFE Tutor
Check out the website for your regional CPA body. For example, CPAWSB offers a list of available tutors upon request. The rate of a CPA tutor range from $60 to $80/hour, depending on experience. This could be a very effective way to get personalized service that is also cost-effective.
3) Reach Out to Past CFE Writers
If you frequent the accounting subreddit (r/accounting), you are no stranger to how helpful past CFE writers are. A quick search would show you long-form, detailed posts written by people who were in your shoes. However, keep in mind that everyone’s learning style is different. Try to explore and experiment the different strategies before settling on one.