Accounting | The Profession

Learn how 3 CFE writers landed regional honours

Award winners offer exam prep tips, describe “the most challenging examination I’ve ever taken”

A Facebook IconFacebook A Twitter IconTwitter A Linkedin IconLinkedin An Email IconEmail

CFE Honour Roll: Michael Richardson, Ande Baweja, Bradley SmithFrom left to right: Michael Richardson, Ande Baweja and Bradley Smith (Images provided)

“I was truly shocked.”

“Total disbelief.”

“Are you sure?” 

That’s how three Common Final Examination (CFE) writers describe hearing the news. Not only had they passed the CFE, but they had landed top marks in their region.   

The CFE Honour Roll is a chance to acknowledge the hard work of CPA candidates who passed the rigorous three-day examination. In addition to the top overall writer, CPA Canada awards regional Gold Medals (and cash prizes of $2,500 each) to those who achieved the highest standing in their region.

In 2018, these winners are: Bradley Smith, Auditor General of New Brunswick for Atlantic Canada; Michael V. Richardson, KPMG/s.r.l./S.E.N.C.R.L for the province of Quebec; and Ande Baweja, Airbnb for Western Canada.

As the top writers in their respective regions, the winners reflect on taking the exam, how they prepared and how the process has developed their skills.

CPA CANADA: WAS WRITING THE CFE WHAT YOU EXPECTED?

Michael V. Richardson: Nothing can prepare you for the emotions running through your mind when you sit at your desk at the testing centre. The CFE is designed to test not only your knowledge of technical material, but also to test how quickly you can think critically and apply what you learned to the unique issues a company is facing

Bradley Smith: It was definitely challenging and it’s crazy how fast 13 hours can go by.

Ande Baweja: It was definitely the most challenging examination I’ve ever taken and was more difficult than I imagined it would be. It’s different from a traditional examination where you could maybe walk away and know how you’d performed.

CPA CANADA: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE THOSE PREPARING TO WRITE THE CFE?

MR: Develop a routine that works for you. For some, that means studying nine-to-five. For others, that means studying in short bursts. Work with a study group that works like you, but that thinks differently than you. This allows you to challenge each other. Perhaps the most important: believe that you can do it.

BS: I was fortunate enough to go through the whole program with two amazing co-workers and a very supportive office. My advice would be to find a friend or two in the program or who have gone through the program, so they keep you on track.

AB: Identify what you need to know and recognize you probably can’t study everything as much as you’d like. Build a schedule, but don’t be afraid to adjust it to better suit you. Know when you need a break and need to unwind. I went on a trip with my family in August and it was a great decision. I took all my study material with me and would study very early in the morning and then was able to enjoy being on vacation for the rest of my day.

CPA CANADA: HOW HAS THE CPA PATH HELPED TO DEVELOP YOUR SKILLS?

MR: Under the CPA path, we are exposed to much more than accounting. We are challenged to understand what makes a business tick, why businesses adopted the strategies they did, and of course, what stories do the numbers tell.

BS: The program is designed in a way that you learn so much and you are able to apply what you learned in so many different ways.

AB: I think I’ve definitely picked up a more analytical mindset and been able to tie together a variety of skills better because of the program. I know it will help me in my career because it gives me a great foundation that I can always rely on and something that is very identifiable in the market. I think the skills it gave me were definitely a big help in landing my current role, which I’m very thankful for.

READ MORE ABOUT THE 2018 CFE HONOUR ROLL

Hear from the overall CFE Gold Medalist about landing the top spot and view the complete list of candidates who made the honour roll list.