Students CFE Strategy Gevorg Grigoryan

Should you study for the CPA CFE with a study partner or go solo?

CPA PEP coach and mentor Gevorg Grigoryan, CPA, weighs the advantages of both methods for aspiring accountants in the CPA professional education program

Author: Gevorg Grigoryan

STUDYING for CPA Canada’s Common Final Exam (CFE) requires discipline. And I mean a lot of discipline. You are spending endless days, isolated, in your study room, trying to make sense of ASPE and IFRS standards before the gruelling 3-day exam comes. You can make things easier and one way to do this is to study in a group or with a study partner. 

Advantages of studying with a partner

There is a power to teamwork. Individuals have strengths but groups have a collective resource to draw from. Here are the top benefits to studying for the CFE with a study partner or a group: 

Study partners will help you stay accountable. Group studying is a great solution to procrastination. Let’s say you feel tired or demotivated because you can’t understand how to approach the CFE cases. Knowing that someone else out there waiting for you to complete your case to debrief together forces you to complete your task before the deadline. 

Teaching others builds your own knowledge. Brainstorming helps to see the same thing from a different perspective. Studies have also shown that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. When you teach your study partner the Financial Reporting (FR), Management Accounting (MA) and other concepts that you’re not feeling comfortable with, you’ll start to see the gaps in your knowledge. Thus you can work on those gaps. 

Capstone 2 and the CFE prep is online and self-led. Aside from the one-time module workshop, the CFE studying process is solo; there is no live instructor, no classroom. You will often feel lonely and disconnected from the others. A “study buddy” will be someone to share your emotions, thoughts and pains, as you go through this mental marathon. 

Advantages of studying solo

Finding a like-minded peer to collaborate is a challenge and many prefer to study alone. Here are the top benefits to studying solo. 

Control over your schedules: One of the major stress factors of the CFE is peer groups. From colleagues to mentors, family and friends, there is a lot of pressure to pass, because everyone will be asking: “Did you pass the CFE?”. Studying alone gives you control over your schedule and leads to a sense of control of the outcome. A study partner may distract or deter you from your goals, especially when they are not as motivated as you are. 

Different study habits and skillsets: Some focus on Days 2 and 3 of the CFE, while others focus on Day 1. Some prefer to debrief CPA cases on the computer, some prefer paper. Finding harmony with another individual can be hard. Studying with a partner can hamper your efficiency. By studying alone, you can use methods that you’re comfortable with and optimize your study plan. 


“Should I study for CPA Canada exams alone or with a study partner” is a conundrum faced by many aspiring accountants in the CPA professional education program. Having instructed hundreds of candidates, I’ve learned that there is no single, perfect approach. 

I personally had a study partner when I was going through the CFE prep process and most CFE Honour Roll students I’ve interviewed had either study partners or mentors. If you are undecided, I suggest having a study partner. If it doesn’t work out, you can always politely decline and go your separate ways. To find a study partner, join Facebook groups, ask on Reddit, or search at your local CPA school forums. 

Gevorg Grigoryan, CPA, is an instructor, mentor and coach to students in the CPA program. Visit Gevorg CPA to learn more and subscribe to Gevorg’s YouTube channel to access CPA program videos.

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