Hina Bhimani
The Profession

CFE gold medallist says win left her speechless

While Hina Bhimani didn’t expect to take the top spot in Canada, her solid study regimen—and her ability to take a break when needed—proved key to her success

Hina BhimaniHina Bhimani is the Governor General’s Gold Medal winner for the May 2022 CFE (Photograph provided)

A major milestone in CPA certification, the Common Final Examination (CFE) is held over three days and tests critical skills required of CPAs. With that in mind, congratulations are in order for the 1,571 candidates who passed the May 2023 CFE and the 16 candidates who made the Honour Roll.

The participant who achieves the highest standing in Canada is awarded the prestigious Governor General’s Gold Medal and a $5,000 cash prize. For the May 2023 edition of the exam, Hina Bhimani from Manulife in Toronto, Ontario, took top honours.

“I want to share my personal congratulations to all the successful May CFE writers. This is an important milestone on your journey to join the profession and an accomplishment you should be proud of,” said Pamela Steer, FCPA, president and CEO of CPA Canada. “Your dedication, hard work and perseverance will make you welcome additions to the profession.”


“I was honestly speechless,” says Bhimani of learning about her win. “The day I got the call I was getting a lot of spam calls, so I really wasn’t picking up my phone.” She was nervous even about getting the confirmation that she had passed. But her fears were put to rest when she received an email from CPA Ontario prompting her to call the number given.

“After confirming I had passed, they went on to tell me, ‘you also came in first in Ontario. And you were No. 1 in Canada!’ The news just kept getting better and better. There were a lot of happy tears. It took so much effort to even acknowledge what they had told me. I even called back an hour later just to confirm.”


Bhimani started studying for the exam back in January. “My goal was to review my technical knowledge from Core 1, Core 2 and electives prior to Capstone 2. When Capstone 2 started in April, that’s when I really started getting into writing cases,” she says.

At first, writing a full exam was daunting, but she worked up to it slowly. “I did two-hour increments, three-hour, four-hour, then I was able to write a full case. I took a lot of time to debrief the cases I was writing,” she says.

Identifying your weaknesses during those debriefs is also vital, and Bhimani says that focusing on them helped turn them into strengths.

She also stresses the importance of creating a study calendar that tackles a different topic each day. “My study calendar became my best friend. It really helped me stay organized and on top of everything.” But she adds that you shouldn’t be afraid to rip it up and start fresh.

“You will fall behind—I fell behind so many times during my study time,” she says. “You need to understand that you can rip up the calendar, reprint it and redo everything.”


Bhimani has no shortage of advice for those looking to tackle the CFE. She says writing in exam-like conditions is key to success, or at the very least key to not being surprised.

“When I would study my cases, my desk would be clear. I would have all the snacks and drinks I would be bringing to the exam,” she says.

While prospective CFE examinees might be tempted to study in absolute silence, Bhimani advises against such a path. “When you’re in an exam hall … there’s going to be background noise. You’re going to hear someone typing on your right, someone walking up on your left.”

She even advised her family not to keep quiet: “I wanted them to make noise so I could get used to it. I didn’t get sidetracked. I was able to stay focused.”


“Ever since I was little, I would say ‘I want to be an accountant’ because both my parents were in the accounting industry and they both have their CPA designation,” Bhimani says when talking about the initial inspiration for her life path. “That pushed me to take accounting courses in high school.”

She further credits her family for providing support during the study process and says her mom has been one of her biggest supporters.

“She would help me organize my schedule. I could talk to her about anything. She was the one who told me to really take breaks, to take a step back and understand the big picture.”

Bhimani also gives kudos to her sister’s pep talks. They may have seemed like a distraction from studying at first, but Bhimani says she now regards them as invaluable.

“Any time I would get overwhelmed or stressed, she would have these 30-minute motivated talks. She really helped me a lot,” Bhimani says.


Looking forward, Bhimani doesn’t have any set-in-stone plans for the future. She says she’s just “going with the flow,” but making the most of the many opportunities offered to her at her current employer, Manulife. That includes the company’s CPA development program.

“I’m definitely taking the most advantage of the rotations I’m in, the people I’m talking to, and all the experience I’ve been gaining. It’s a really great program,” she says.

All things considered, she says studying for the CFE and winning the Governor General’s Gold Medal taught her to trust in her own skills and gave her a solid base of skills for the future.

“Throughout this process, I was able to see how strong I really am. Because of what the CPA program teaches and who taught me, I feel as if I can jump in headfirst.”


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