CFE success stories!

By CPABC in Focus
Jan 10, 2023
CFE success stories!
Photo credit: Kisa-Murisa/iStock/Getty Images

Meet the BC writers who excelled on the September 2022 CFE

CPABC is proud of the 752 successful BC writers of the September 2022 Common Final Exam (CFE) and would like to give special recognition to the 10 BC candidates who made the National Honour Roll: Tyler Andrews, Haneef Ayub, Haley Coss, Sophia Curalli, Pamela Ho, Lauren Holley, Helen Liu, Rose Salm, Jasmine Yeung, and Jihae Yun. Helen was also awarded the Governor General’s Gold Medal for achieving the highest standing in Canada.

Congratulations to you all!

Helen LiuHelen Liu Governor General’s Gold Medallist

Employer: D&H Group LLP (Vancouver)

Job title: Staff Accountant

What will you remember most about your CFE experience? I’ll never forget the relief I felt when I walked out of the exam room after day three, knowing that I’d attempted every assessment opportunity I’d identified. It was probably the fastest typing speed I have ever achieved!

My relief was amplified when I got the notification from my firm’s managers that I had not only passed, but also earned the Governor General’s Gold Medal. It was such a surreal moment for me, but I will always remember how excited and proud everyone was.

Tell us about a breakthrough or “aha” moment during your studies. I had a breakthrough moment when I realized that I wouldn’t be able to complete every single item on my study schedule, but that everything would still be alright. Instead of worrying about every little thing, I focused on my well-being so I could be at my best on exam day.

Who would you like to thank for providing support during your studies? I’d like to thank my family and friends for supporting me and for ensuring that I was maintaining my physical and mental wellness. I’d also like to thank D&H Group for providing study resources and cheering me on, especially during the two-month wait for results. Special thanks go to my CFE mentor, Angela Phan, CPA, and my PERT mentor, Jonathan To, CPA, CA, for their tips and encouragement.

 

Tyler AndrewsTyler Andrews

Employer: KPMG LLP (Vancouver)

Job title: Senior Accountant

What will you remember most about your CFE experience? The highlight for me was KPMG’s weeklong CFE boot camp in Kelowna. My favourite memory of the trip was celebrating with my peers all night after writing our first five-hour day two case. Although the week was full of case writing and marking, I was able to create great memories with even better people!

Tell us about a breakthrough or “aha” moment during your studies. I had a breakthrough after looking at my case results tracking sheet in week five. When I saw the progress I’d made, I knew that if I continued to “trust the process,” success would follow.

Who would you like to thank for providing support during your studies? I would first like to thank my parents and my brother, Jordan Andrews, CPA, for all of their support—not only throughout the summer, but for every journey in my life—and I’d also like to thank my amazing girlfriend Joanne for supporting me in all of my endeavours since the day we met. I would not be the same person I am today without them.

To my study partners Zach Infanti and Owen Williams: Thank you for the endless memories of writing, marking (good or bad), and debriefing cases together.

To my formal CFE mentor, Ziyan Karim: Thank you for pushing me throughout the entire summer and for always being there to discuss technical topics and different approaches to problems.

Finally, thank you to all of my informal mentors who were always available during the summer for a quick phone call to keep me on track: Benny Pulver; Mike Schellenberg; Max Ruane; Sabrina Lee, CPA; and Jess Laing, CPA.

 

Haneef AyubHaneef Ayub

Employer: PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (Vancouver)

Job title: Experienced Associate

What will you remember most about your CFE experience? Going into the CFE summer, I knew that technical knowledge and case writing were important, but I underestimated how important it would be to have a relaxed, confident, and clear mind. Along the way, I realized that I always did my best when writing cases if I approached things confidently and with a positive mindset. And of course, I’ll always remember receiving the call that I’d made the honour roll—it affirmed my trust in all the hard work!

Tell us about a breakthrough or “aha” moment during your studies. I still remember feeling defeated when I wasn’t able to finish the first day one practice case in time. However, in the weeks leading up to the exam, I began treating each day of review and case as a challenge I was going to crush. Having this mindset on each day of the CFE was really important.

Who would you like to thank for providing support during your studies? I’d first like to thank my parents, Noorine and Tahir, for providing so much support throughout my entire education journey, and my sisters, Amina and Aysha, for creating an environment that allowed me to focus on CFE preparation. I’d also like to thank PwC for providing a great CFE study program, and everyone at the firm who was willing to share their experiences and tips.

I can’t leave out the amazing professors at UBC’s Sauder School of Business who played a big role in helping me build a solid foundation, especially Jeff Kroeker, FCPA, FCMA, who taught my managerial accounting classes!

Lastly, I’m grateful for my dogs Patchie, Mia, and Eevee—they provided much-needed snuggles after some long days of practice cases!

 

Haley CossHaley Coss

Employer: KPMG LLP (Kamloops)

Job title: Senior Accountant

What will you remember most about your CFE experience? I’ll never forget how it felt to walk out of the exam room at the end of day three and see my office cheer squad. It was unbelievable to think that I’d just written the biggest exam of my life, and I was ready to celebrate with my friends and family.

Tell us about a breakthrough or “aha” moment during your studies. I had a huge breakthrough when I realized that the key to performing well on the CFE was being able to manage my time effectively. I had to accept that the CFE would probably throw us some assessment opportunity [AO] curveballs (spoiler alert: it did!) and that I wasn’t going to be able to study everything. Instead, I practised moving on from an AO once my allocated time was up. This strategy helped me sufficiently address every AO on the CFE—even the ones I wasn’t prepared for.

Who would you like to thank for providing support during your studies? First of all, I’d like to thank my family, friends, and boyfriend for their incredible support throughout my CPA PEP journey. Their belief in me kept me motivated on tough days, and I couldn’t have done this without them.

I’d also like to thank my study buddies, Amy Jantz and Briana Guise, for their friendship and encouragement—not only during the summer, but throughout our entire journey together. Their willingness to mark my cases and discuss different concepts made me a better case writer, and I’m so thankful that we shared this experience.

Finally, I’d like to thank my colleagues and fellow CFE writers at KPMG Kamloops for their support, with special thanks to Faline Lidstone, CPA, for her mentorship and encouragement throughout the summer.

 

Sophia CuralliSophia Curalli

Employer: Deloitte LLP (Vancouver)

Job title: Senior Accountant

What will you remember most about your CFE experience? I’ll remember lugging huge stacks of flashcards with me—quite literally, everywhere I went—in the event that I’d have a couple of minutes to do some review. Mostly, I’ll remember the mix of relief and exhaustion I felt after hitting “submit” on day three, and the amazing “happy dances” my mom did in the car after each day of the exam.

Tell us about a breakthrough or “aha” moment during your studies. I was nervous about day one of the exam, because I’d had far fewer opportunities to practise for it. But I had a breakthrough moment the week before the CFE when a friend who’d written the exam in 2021 helped me create a practical and plausible approach for day one. Immediately afterward, I wrote a day one practice case and finished all the assessment opportunities within the allotted time. It gave me a much needed confidence boost!

Who would you like to thank for providing support during your studies? First and foremost: To God be the glory. I’d like to thank my parents, my brothers Daniel and Thomas, and my boyfriend Shiv for their constant encouragement and support during my emotional roller-coaster. They never let me give up, and they provided a continuous supply of chocolate to keep me going.

I’d also like to thank Angela Kellett from Deloitte [a CPA, CA, in Ontario] for her phenomenal information sessions and her prompt, well-thought-out answers to any and all questions. She was instrumental in making me feel confident going into the exam. And, of course, I’d like to give a big thank you to my friends and colleagues who journeyed with me.

 

Pamela HoPamela Ho

Employer: Deloitte LLP (Vancouver)

Job title: Senior Accountant

What will you remember most about your CFE experience? I’ll never forget the three exam days. Every morning, I rode my bike to the Vancouver Convention Centre. On the way, my nerves were high, but the ride helped me feel grounded. The rides home were a completely different experience, full of relief, joy, and hopefulness. I’ll also remember watching the clock tick before the exam, trying to distract myself. Fortunately, as soon as I started writing, everything in the room faded away. I was in my own zone.

Tell us about a breakthrough or “aha” moment during your studies. For me, it was understanding the importance of taking breaks and maintaining balance to recharge. I made sure to allow myself time to decompress and step away from CFE prep every day. I started every morning with a Peloton ride and finished most days with a long walk around Vancouver to clear my head.

Who would you like to thank for providing support during your studies? First and foremost, I’d like to thank my parents, my sisters Jaclyn, Andrea, and Meghan, and my fianc√© Sam for encouraging me to switch career paths and pursue the CPA designation. They were there for me whenever I needed encouragement, a study break, or a pick-me-up (usually a double-baked almond croissant). My dog Miko also provided emotional support!

I’d also like to thank my study buddy Brad Gregory; my moral support buddies, Sophie Wiens and Finn Middleton; and my CFE mentor Liz Yeung for all the support, encouragement, and levity they provided throughout my CFE journey.

Finally, I’d like to thank Deloitte’s CFE program team, led by Angela Kellett [a CPA, CA, in Ontario], for the study resources, technical sessions, and guidance.

 

Lauren HolleyLauren Holley

Employer: MNP LLP (Vancouver)

Job title: Senior Accountant

What will you remember most about your CFE experience? What I’ll remember most is the camaraderie I felt with the other writers and the incredible support I received from my co-workers, friends, and family.

Tell us about a breakthrough or “aha” moment during your studies. When I first started studying, it seemed like everyone I knew who had previously written the CFE wanted to give me advice. Comparing myself to others felt discouraging at times, and my breakthrough moment occurred towards the end of my studies when I decided I just needed to focus on myself and tune out as much as I could around me.

Who would you like to thank for providing support during your studies? First, I’d like to thank my family for always encouraging me. My mom and sister provided unwavering support, and my dad, Gordon Holley, CPA, was always happy to discuss accounting issues and theory with me and answer my questions (and there were many!).

Next, I’d like to thank my study partner Pearson Baldwin for the daily calls and the hours we spent debating case issues together. I’d also like to thank my official CFE mentor Melissa Khoo, CPA, for her guidance, and my many unofficial mentors—including Kenneth Duan, CPA; Cameron Miles, CPA; and Chris Hill, CPA—and the partners at my firm for their words of wisdom and their flexibility.

Lastly, I’d like to thank all of my wonderful friends and co-workers for supporting me throughout this experience.

 

Rose SalmRose Salm

Employer: Deloitte LLP (Vancouver)

Job title: Senior Tax Analyst

What will you remember most about your CFE experience? After day two of the CFE, I ate a fried chicken sandwich and talked through the exam with my friend. I don’t know whether it was the conversation or the food coma from the calorie-heavy sandwich, but I remember feeling more calm and relaxed than I had for the entire two months leading up to the exam!

Tell us about a breakthrough or “aha” moment during your studies. Initially, I was very overwhelmed by the breadth of topics we could be tested on during the CFE. For me, a breakthrough happened when I realized I should be focusing more on the communication and structure of my responses. I recognized that I needed to better convey how I was arriving at my conclusions, and I knew that if I practised communicating my thought process clearly, it would serve me well on all aspects of the CFE.

Who would you like to thank for providing support during your studies? I’m very grateful for the support and mentorship of everyone at Deloitte. My CFE coach Jimmy Tse, CPA, and my study partners Miya Ellefsen-Lee and Jordan Price were particularly instrumental in my study process.

I’m also very thankful for my wonderful boyfriend and my parents. They have always believed in me and provided unwavering support.

Finally, I’d like to thank the accounting faculty at BCIT. The education they provided was very applicable to the CFE and PEP material.

 

Jasmine YeungJasmine Yeung

Employer: KPMG LLP (Vancouver)

Job title: Senior Accountant

What will you remember most about your CFE experience? I’ll never forget the panic and stress I felt whenever I began debriefing with the feedback guide. Aside from that, I’ll always remember the moment I walked out of the Convention Centre on day three and saw the huge crowd of people cheering us on.

Tell us about a breakthrough or “aha” moment during your studies. About two weeks before the exam, I finally took the time to understand how the CFE was evaluated. I realized that I was wasting too much time trying to achieve perfection on certain assessment opportunities instead of addressing other ones that would help me reach competency in other levels. After this “aha” moment, I changed the approach I took in writing the cases so that I could strive to reach competency on all levels.

Who would you like to thank for providing support during your studies? I’d first like to thank my parents for providing endless support, believing in me, and motivating me to try my best. I’d also like to thank KPMG for providing all the resources and support necessary to create the best studying environment, and my colleagues for reassuring me when I doubted myself. Next, I’d like to thank my CFE mentor Jessy Xie; my study group, Courtney Chiu and Michael Zhuang; and everyone who helped mark my practice cases. I really appreciated the constant reassurance and valuable feedback. Lastly, I’d like to thank my undergraduate instructors at UBC for helping me build the strong foundation that has allowed me to succeed.

 

Jihae YunJihae Yun

Employer: BDO Canada LLP (Vancouver)

Job title: Senior Accountant

What will you remember most about your CFE experience? The night before day one of the exam, I was too anxious to sleep, thinking about all the possible scenarios that could play out. When I got to the exam centre the next day, I tried my best to stay calm, but I was pretty certain that I wasn’t going to do very well. When I found out that I made the CFE Honour Roll, I couldn’t believe the news at first. This whole CFE journey was such a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Tell us about a breakthrough or “aha” moment during your studies. I had my biggest breakthrough when I realized that I shouldn’t be focusing on writing perfect answers. After that, I learned to identify and focus on the topics I was struggling with the most, and by thoroughly reviewing the marking guide and the solutions, I was able to come up with my own “attack strategy.”

Who would you like to thank for providing support during your studies? First, thank you to my parents, my brother, and my boyfriend for always reassuring me that I was on the right path and comforting me whenever I felt defeated after writing a difficult practice case. Thanks also to my amazing CFE mentor Karen Shi, CPA, who has guided me through the whole CPA PEP program by sharing her tips and tricks. She has always been there to answer my questions, and I really appreciate her mentorship. Lastly, I want to say a big thank you to my fabulous study partners, Jennifer Jung and Judy Gu! Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with such an intense study schedule.

 


This article originally appeared in the January/February 2023 issue of CPABC in Focus.

Photo of Helen Liu provided by the candidate. Photos of Tyler Andrews, Sophia Curalli, Pamela Ho, Lauren Holley, Rose Salm, and Jasmine Yeung by Kent Kallberg Studios. Photo of Haneef Ayub by Alistair Bird Photography. Photo of Haley Coss by Kelly Funk Photography. Photo of Jihae Yun by Three Sixty Media.