The UFE in the spotlight

I was referred to a story in the September 10th Toronto Star about the UFE by my girlfriend’s Mom. It’s about time this momentous occasion is chronicled in the most-read daily in the country:

Starting Tuesday, more than 650 students will write the professional accounting exam in Toronto — more than 2,500 in Canada.

I’ll be one of those 650 students sitting in the International Centre right beside Canada’s busiest airport (and you can hear every plane fly overhead) on Tuesday. I won’t be the only one!

The UFE lasts three days, with a five-hour business case followed by two four-hour exams, each of which consists of a few shorter case questions. Last year, for example, the question on the first day was 15 pages long and candidates had to provide accounting, audit, tax and other business advice for a ski resort formed by the merger of three smaller ones.

This is not entirely correct. I know that case inside and out, and it was actually about a partnership between three ski resorts to sell a lift ticket that could be used at any of the partner hills. No merger. Minor details to the Star, but you’d be hard-pressed to earn any marks if you made such a big mistake when you were writing the thing last year.

Illness has not interrupted an exam in recent years, but evidence of serious stress — shaking hands, nervous ticks, vomiting — is routinely observed in washrooms beforehand.

I’m pretty lucky in that I deal with stress well. I’ll be nervous and anxious for sure, but I won’t be throwing up.

Bruce Densmore runs a UFE preparation program, Densmore Consulting Services, Inc. He won’t say how much he earns but he clearly makes more than his two main competitors, if only because his services are offered by three of the Big Four firms. He labels his company “a high-cost, high-quality provider.” As he says, “If we mess up, there’s a price to be paid” — with messing up meaning a low pass rate.

I was lucky enough to take Densmore’s course at the end of July at U of T. It really helped a lot – I learned valuable case-writing skills and improved my scoring immensely. It’s like night and day comparing cases I wrote before the course and after.

One thing is for certain about this monstrous exam – it will be the biggest challenge of my life so far.

2 thoughts on “The UFE in the spotlight

  1. The Star consistently displays a piss-poor understanding of economics. I could hardly expect their summary of a UFE case to be any better. ;)

    Vomiting? Ew.

    LOL, I don’t know about their assessment of DCS, though – I’m sure he does good work, but Norgrove kicks serious ass. We’ll see how much so in November. :)

    I’ll write more comments back at my site about the Star-ticle.

  2. I thought it was interesting that they discussed a case in as much detail as they did, even if they were a little off. And it’s good that they pointed out the importance of general business advice in case responses, with a “focus on accounting and audit.”

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