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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

How to Get Your CPA

What does the program for obtaining a CPA involve?

Students must have a University degree.  Following the completion of a degree students would generally complete a post graduate program CPA Canada has developed called the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP); this Program involves going through a number of modules and then writing and passing the CFE (Common Final Exam). 

The first 2 modules, Core 1 and Core 2 cover all of the various competencies students are responsible to know and are relevant for all students pursuing a CPA; the main focus of Core 1 is financial reporting and the chief focus of Core 2 is management accounting.  Students would then choose to do 2 elective modules form among the following areas: Assurance, Taxation, Finance and Performance Management.


Each of the four modules involves passing an exam.  After you have passed the exams you would then go on to Capstone 1.  The main focus of capstone 1 is completing a business case which students work on as a group rather than individually.  For this module there is no exam; however the student group is required to submit a report and present it.


After Capstone 1 students would do Capstone 2 which involves writing practice cases (including a mock exam) which are debriefed and intended to help you get through the CFE.   There is no final exam for Capstone 2; however students need to make a reasonable attempt in order to go on to the CFE.





Can anyone with a university degree go directly into the CPA Professional Education Program (PEP)?

Students who have a degree in accounting and have completed 120 credit hours are generally able to go directly into PEP.  However if the student’s degree is not in accounting the student can make up for missing prerequisites required for admission to PEP through  the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP). CPA PREP is an accelerated bridging program that is delivered part-time through distance learning or in-class sessions by the provincial (or in some cases regional) bodies.


For further information on the requirements for entering PEP as well as PREP we would suggest that students visit the CPA Canada website or provincial websites.

Is it possible to be exempt from writing the Challenge Exams by attending an “Accredited” university program?

There are various universities which offer Masters or Diploma programs that have been accredited to offer all or part of PEP.  Students who participate in these programs would be exempt from all or some of the exams.

Is there any downside to attending an accredited Diploma or Masters program?

One downside is the cost.  Many of these programs cost several thousand dollars.  Furthermore they generally involve spending more time at university which may delay starting to work and earn money.  Also we have spoken to some of the students who participated in these programs who were concerned that they would be going on to the write  CFE without going  through the same preparation as students who completed the module exams offered directly through CPA Canada.

Do I need a job in order to write the Challenge Exams or do the PEP modules?

No you do not need a job.  As a matter of fact if you don’t yet have a job, passing the exams leading to a CPA may help you get one as it will improve your resume.

 

Are there any key deadlines to be familiar with?

Yes.  Particularly for the Challenge Exams, one has to be careful not to miss the deadline for registering for the Challenge Exam (assuming the student is not taking the module).  It is important for students to contact the Provincial Institute to find out these dates, so as not to be disappointed and miss an exam sitting, simply because a deadline was missed.

Is it correct that students in Ontario can be exempted from attending the core 1, core 2 and both elective modules and simply write the final exams (referred to as Challenge Exams) for each of these modules?

That is correct provided students meet certain requirements.  Students must have completed a 120 credit hour university degree with the “51 credit hours” or the program must have been an Accredited Program.  Students must also have a minimum 70% (B-) average in required courses and have passed all required courses.  


For further details please visit the CPA Ontario Website and refer to the CPA path Decision Tree:  http://www.cpaontario.ca/Students/PEP/1014page17397.pdf

How many times can a student write the same Challenge Exam?

Students in Ontario can write a Challenge Exam twice.  If one is unsuccessful a 2nd time, the student will have to then take the module before writing the exam a 3rd time.

Is there an order that one has to write their Challenge Exams?

No.  Students may write the Challenge Exams in any order they wish.  However, it is no longer possible to write 2 exams in one day, so students should schedule exams with this in mind.  Typically, core 1 and assurance are offered the same day (if both offered in the exam session) and core 2 and tax are offered on the same day. 

If students choose to write the Challenge Exams, can they choose to challenge any electives they wish?

Students can not choose any elective.  Challenge exams are only offered in Assurance and Tax.  If students wish to pursue the Finance or Performance Management Electives, they must complete the modules.

If a student qualifies to write the Challenge Exams are there benefits to writing these exams rather than attending the modules?

There are actually a number of benefits to doing the Challenge exams rather than doing the modules.  Firstly, there is a large cost savings.  The cost of doing all 4 modules is over $5,000 whereas the cost of writing the Challenge Exams is under $2,000.


Secondly, the modules require a major time commitment as students must submit assignments (e.g. cases) throughout the modules. This can be challenging for students who are balancing PEP with work.


Thirdly, it takes 2 years to get through all of the modules; if one does the Challenge Exams one can write the CFE and be completely finished in only one year.  Also if the CFE is written within one year of starting the program there is less time for students to forget important knowledge required for the CFE.

If a student chooses to not attend the first 4 modules and instead write the Challenge Exams will he/she be adequately prepared for the exams?

Based on our experience at PASS we don’t believe that there is any reason for concern.  Students can certainly prepare more than adequately for the exams without attending the modules.  At PASS we have helped prepare hundreds of students for the Challenge exams and the vast majority of them have passed.

 

PASS Challenge Exam Course

Why would a student need to take a PASS course for the Challenge Exam? Wouldn’t the combination of the knowledge gained in university combined with self-study through Mod 0 be more than sufficient?

We would not say that anybody "needs" to take the PASS Challenge Exam Course.  We however believe that it is very beneficial to students.  This is due to the fact that there is a tremendous amount of material for which students are responsible on the Challenge Exams which has been accumulated over a number of years at university.  

Is there any difference between the video venue and the other options other than the fact that the video option is not live?

Yes.  For the video venue, the practice exams for the Assurance and Tax electives are not marked.  Furthermore there is only limited opportunity to ask questions (e.g. through email) if there are things one does not understand as opposed to the live online sessions where there is unlimited opportunity to ask questions during the course of the lectures.

If a student has already passed or is exempt from one or more Challenge Exams can he/she opt to only take particular components of the Challenge Exam Course, say for example the Core 2 and Assurance components?

Yes.  It would not be a problem for the student to take the components of the course he/she requires and the fee would be pro-rated accordingly.

Does the Challenge Exam Course prepare students for both the objective format questions and the cases which appear on these exams?

Yes  After the lecture on a given topic students write practice objective format questions - both multiple choice and other types of objective format questions - which are taken up in class.  Students are also provided with additional multiple choice questions to write on their own as well as practice challenge exams, which include numerous objective format questions.  Students are also provided with practice cases many of which are taken up in class. Finally for the elective modules students can submit the practice exams which are marked by professional markers and returned to students with constructive feedback. Please take a look at the course description on the PASS website. 

Do the Challenge Exam course fees include the course material or does a student have to pay extra for the material?

The Challenge Exam course fee includes all of the material, i.e. both the technical and case binders.

Do I need to study Module 0 as it is not covered in the course?

Yes.  Module 0 contains topics that are just as important as any other financial accounting topics.  These topics are not covered in the course as they would be repetitive and not the best use of time.  Students should spend time on Module 0 topics as they would for other topics.

 

Which PASS CFE Courses Should I Take?

I am completing my Challenge Exams/Modules by December. I plan on writing the CFE in May. Which PASS CFE courses should I take?

If you completed your challenge exams/modules by the end of December, and want to write the CFE in May, you should consider taking both (1) CFE Comprehensive Course - May CFE and (2) CFE Winter Case Writing Course - May and Sept.

The Comprehensive Course is a 5 day course that includes both case writing and techniques to help you move up the levels from "reaching competent" to "competent". 

If you have additional time or want some additional cases, you should consider taking the CFE Winter Case Writing Course, which includes 4 additional multi simulation cases to write, get marked and have debriefed.

I am completing my Challenge Exams/Modules by December. I plan on writing the CFE in September. Which PASS CFE courses should I take?

If you completed your challenge exams/modules by the end of December, and want to write the CFE in September, you should take advantage of the fact that you have a considerable amount of time to prepare for the CFE.  To make good use of this time, consider the following:

(1) If you took the PASS Challenge Exam Course -
We would slot you into the PASS Complete Challenge Exam and CFE Program.  This Program includes the Challenge Exam Course you already took as well as both case writing and technique sessions in the summer (CFE Case Writing Course - Sept. and CFE Technique Course for Cases - Sept.).  We will deduct the cost you already paid for the Challenge Exams from the cost of the Program.

In addition to this, you may want to consider 2 other courses:
(a) If you want an additional financial accounting technical review, consider attending the CFE Technical Accounting IFRS/ASPE Course in the winter; and

(b) If you also want to get a head start on case writing in the winter, you should take the CFE Winter Case Writing Course (these cases are in addition to those offered in the summer case writing course).

(2) If you did not take the PASS Challenge Exam Course -
Consider taking the Complete CFE Program, which includes a technical review in both financial and management accounting along with the CFE Comprehensive Course in the summer, where you write cases and learn techniques to move up the levels.

In addition, if you also want to get a head start on case writing in the winter, you should take the CFE Winter Case Writing Course (these cases are in addition to those offered in the summer case writing course).



I am completing my Challenge Exams/Modules in March. I will be writing the CFE in September. Which PASS CFE Courses should I take?

If you completed your challenge exams/modules by the end of March, you will have to write the CFE in September.  Consider the following:

(1) If you took the PASS Challenge Exam Course -
We would slot you into the PASS Complete Challenge Exam and CFE Program.  This Program includes the Challenge Exam Course you already took as well as both case writing and technique sessions in the summer (CFE Case Writing Course - Sept. and CFE Technique Course for Cases - Sept.).  We will deduct the cost you already paid for the Challenge Exams from the cost of the Program.

(2) If you did not take the PASS Challenge Exam Course -
Consider taking the CFE Comprehensive Course - September, which includes both case writing and techniques to help you move up the levels from "reaching competent" to "competent".


I completed a Diploma/Accredited Program by December. Which PASS CFE Courses should I take?

We have tailored several courses for students who have taken a Diploma/Accredited Program through university.  These courses include both a winter/spring component and a summer component.  Students can take both or one of the components.

(1) CFE Course for Students in Accredited Programs - This course consists of 2 parts -

(a) Technical Review - a thorough technical review in financial accounting, management accounting, assurance and tax; and

(b) Winter Case Writing - students will write a number of multi simulation cases which will be marked and debriefed, to get students into case writing before the summer.  (Students have the choice of taking either one or both parts).

(2) CFE Comprehensive Course - September - This summer course consists of both cases (multis and comps) as well as techniques that will show students how to move up the levels, from "reaching competent" to "competent".

Given that Capstone 2 is supposed to prepare students for the CFE why would a student need a course in addition to attending Capstone 2?

The issue is not whether students “need” a course; rather the issue is whether it would be beneficial. For the Comprehensive CFE Course we believe that the additional opportunity to write additional cases, have them marked and returned with constructive feedback as well as the opportunity to attend debriefings offered by very experienced instructors will provide students with an edge when writing the CFE.  Students will also learn effective techniques for achieving “competent” that have been developed by PASS.  Furthermore keep in mind that the large firms with whom students from small and medium firms need to compete on the CFE, generally provide training in addition to that provided by Capstone 2.

Should all candidates take the CFE Technical Accounting IFRS/ASPE Course?

The CFE Technical Accounting IFRS/ASPE Course course is ideal for students who would like both a review of all difficult financial accounting topics as well as the opportunity to learn how to effectively apply accounting knowledge in a CFE case.  It will therefore be particularly useful to students who did not already take the Challenge Exam course and therefore never had the chance to attend a course that offered a comprehensive review of accounting.  This would include students who participated in the modules offered by CPA Canada or who participated in an accredited Diploma or Masters program that exempted them from writing the Core 1 & 2 and/or elective module exams.

 

Resources for Module Students

For what modules would the resources for students taking modules be applicable?

PASS will help students get through CPA PEP by providing resources for Core 1 and Core 2 as well as the Assurance and Taxation Modules.  If sufficient demand develops PASS will also provide resources for the Finance and or Performance Management Modules.

What kind of resources do you provide for students taking modules?

PASS provides resources to help students to develop their technical and case writing skills, both of which are important for the Module exams, to get through CPA PEP.  To help students prepare from a technical perspective PASS provides extensive technical resources for module students  and for students in Accredited Programs or students exempt from the Core and Elective Modules, including notes as well as videos which cover all of the major technical topics for which students are responsible.  For case writing, PASS provides effective case writing resources which include simulated cases students can write in order to practice their case writing as well as professional marking of the cases and videos of case take-ups by an experienced instructor.


Do students taking the modules require additional help with their "technical" beyond the assistance provided by CPA Canada during the modules?

It is not absolutely essential for students to obtain additional resources beyond those provided by CPA Canada.  However many students find the additional resources provided by PASS to be very helpful for CPA PEP for a number of reasons.

  • PASS provides a technical binder with a summary of technical topics all in one binder making it very easy and efficient to study.
  • PASS also provides thorough video technical lectures by very knowledgeable instructors on all difficult topics, which is particularly helpful for some of the more difficult technical topics; this complements the training provided in the modules.

 

About PASS

How many years has PASS been offering courses?

PASS has been offering courses for over 25 years.  Under the predecessor program PASS offered courses for the CKE which was very technical similar to Core 1 and Core 2 as well as for the SOA and UFE which are similar to the CFE, a cased based exam.

Are your courses given only to students in small and mid-sized firms or have your courses also been used by the large “Big Four” firms?

PASS has provided courses to students from firms ranging from one partner firms right through to the Big Four.  As a matter of fact over the years we have offered courses to all of the Big Four firms including PWC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG.  For the last 15 years PASS has delivered the PWC national UFE program and is now delivering the PWC CFE program. 

How does the live online format PASS offers differ from taking a video version of the course?

The live online courses are courses offered by a live instructor; they are however offered electronically rather than in a physical class room.  Students have the opportunity to ask questions orally or using a chat box as the sessions are conducted in real-time (i.e. students sit at their computer and watch the instructor lead the session and students have the ability to ask questions either by text or voice).


This is quite different than a video online session which is not live where students simply watch the video.


You may wish to refer to the detailed description of course venues on our website.

 

Are course fees tax deductible?

Yes

Would you recommend live online sessions over video sessions?

In most instances we would recommend live online sessions over video sessions as it is very beneficial to have a live instructor who can answer student questions in real time.  Also it is easier to focus in an online session compared with watching a video.

The only advantage of the video session is that videos can be watched at the student’s convenience.
This can be very helpful when for example the student has a work schedule which conflicts with the times that live sessions are being offered.  Also with a video the student can control the pace.

However, all students who take the live online sessions have access to all of the videos and can watch them whenever they wish.

Who teaches the PASS sessions?

Michael Levi and Ira Walfish teach most or all of the financial accounting (core 1), assurance and management accounting (core 2) sessions.  Most of the tax sessions are usually taught by Professor Joanne Magee, of York University.  See the list of PASS instructors for more information.

Would you recommend taking in-class sessions or live online sessions?

Students who enjoy face to face interaction with an instructor and live close enough to a city in which in-class sessions are offered are generally better off taking the in-class version of a course.

However the online courses will be ideal for students who cannot attend the in-class sessions, i.e. they live too far from a city where the in-class course is offered, cannot attend the in-class course or simply enjoy the online experience.

Is it possible to utilize a combination of venues? For example can a student take some sessions in-class, others live online and others through video online?

That is certainly possible.  Many former PASS students have taken advantage of this flexibility and have used all 3 venues - in-class, live online and video online - for the same course.

If students take a course in-class or live online, do they still automatically gain access to the videos in case they miss a class or simply wish to review a class?

Yes, that is one of the nice things about PASS.  All students regardless of the venue they use, have access to all of the videos relating to their courses.

Does a student need to be registered with a provincial CPA Institute in order to register for a PASS course?

No. Students are not required to be registered with a provincial CPA Institute in order to register with PASS, although students must register with their provincial CPA Institute before they can write any of the exams which comprise the CPA certification program.

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