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Portrait of Kamille Espagnol, winner of the Governor General’s Gold Medal for the May 2021 CFE
The Profession

Win due to solid prep and positive mindset, says CFE gold medallist

Kamille Español was methodical in her approach, making sure to follow the same routine every day

Portrait of Kamille Espagnol, winner of the Governor General’s Gold Medal for the May 2021 CFEKamille Español is the winner of the Governor General’s Gold Medal for the highest standing on the May 2021 CFE, the accountancy profession’s rigorous three-day exam (Photo Darian Ymbang)

Now that the May 2021 Common Final Examination (CFE) results have been released, it’s time to congratulate the 722 candidates who passed the exam.

Held over three days, the CFE is a critical milestone in the Canadian CPA certification program, which consists of education, work experience and examination.

“These bright and ambitious individuals have completed a major milestone on the journey to join the ranks of Canada’s CPAs,” said Charles-Antoine St-Jean, CPA Canada’s president and CEO. “We commend them for their impressive accomplishment, especially considering the challenges of studying for and successfully writing this complex exam during the pandemic.” 

As was the case during the previous writing of the CFE in September 2020, every candidate at the May sitting wrote the exam in an individually assigned hotel room to ensure that regional public health and safety guidelines were followed.

“Once again, this approach proved very effective and favoured by exam writers,” said St-Jean. “It’s a tribute to all involved that this all came together effectively and efficiently.”


Special congratulations are in order for candidates included on the CFE Honour Roll, which consists of the top six successful CFE writers. 

The prestigious Governor General's Gold Medal and a CPA Canada cash prize of $5,000 for the highest standing on the May 2021 CFE has been awarded to Kamille Español from the Calgary office of Ovintiv.

The CPA Canada Atlantic Gold Medal Award and a cash prize of $2,500 for achieving the highest standing in that region goes to Tanisha Welcher, from the Canada Revenue Agency in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.


It’s only natural to be taken aback—even speechless—on learning that you have just earned a top award.

But, when Kamille Español received a call notifying her that she had won the gold medal on the CFE exam, she actually didn’t even take in what was being said. “As soon as I found out I had passed, I was so happy and relieved that my mind went blank,” she says. 

Within a few hours, Español came to terms with the win, and relief gave way to a deep sense of gratitude. “I am so excited and honoured to receive this award,” she says. 


In Español’s view, it was her systematic approach to studying, combined with a positive outlook and support from her family, friends and colleagues, that were responsible for her success. Starting a few months beforehand, she adopted a strict daily routine that she followed to the letter. “I used the same approach for every case. I used the same highlighter and pencil and ate the same snacks. This repetition helped me stay calm during the actual exam because it felt just like a practice case,” she says.   

Español also learned to make time for rest. “At one point I started to feel as if my case-writing performance was deteriorating, so I called a former CPA facilitator for advice. Instead of answering my questions, she asked me if I was taking care of myself. At that point, I realized I needed to take better care of myself, so I started scheduling more breaks and eating healthier. And once I did, my mindset improved. I was able to perform better in the later practice cases and eventually, the CFE.”


Studying during a pandemic can obviously have an impact on study habits and, like all CFE writers, Español had to make adjustments. “I would have liked to connect with my peers and create a study group, but I couldn’t meet them in person. Everything was online. So, I ended up studying mostly by myself,” she says. 

Still, Español was able to compensate for a lack of in-person interaction by reaching out to colleagues and mentors. “I talked to many people who had already been through the process, and they were an amazing resource of knowledge and sound advice,” she says. 

Español also found the experience of writing the CFE in a personal hotel room quite positive “We were well informed beforehand about all the precautions that were in place, so I felt comfortable with that format,” she says.


For Español, her path toward a CPA designation was clear cut. “Already in high school, I was interested in accounting, and I majored in the subject at the University of Calgary. So, it seemed as if the CPA designation was just the logical next step.”

Español also credits the CPA program with helping her strengthen her technical knowledge, especially in financial reporting, audit, tax and strategy. “I already had the foundational knowledge from my university education, but the CPA program really taught me how to apply that knowledge to real-world scenarios,” she says. “It helped me develop my analytical and problem-solving skills as well.”


Currently, Español is working at Ovintiv, a North American oil and gas company that has a CPA rotation program in place. “I was in internal audit for 12 months and now I'm on my last rotation in financial reporting,” she says. 

Given that she is just starting out, Español hasn’t set any specific career goals for the future. “I have enjoyed everything I have been doing in my rotations,” she says. “But I also like tax. So, I think as long as I'm in a working environment where I'm being challenged and I’m still able to use my skills, I'll be happy. There is always so much to learn.”


As Español reflects on all the many lessons she has taken from her incredible CFE experience, there is one that stands above all the rest—and it’s one she would like to share with future candidates.   

“It’s so easy to put pressure on yourself. But it’s OK if you don't know absolutely everything. Just remind yourself that you prepared as much as you can. And rather than focusing on what you don’t know, think about how much you already do. That, essentially, is what helped me stay calm during the three days of the CFE.” 


View the complete list of honour roll recipients and get additional study tips from the recipient of last year’s Governor General’s Gold Medal award.