On September 14th, CPA candidates across Canada completed the Common Final Examination (CFE). This intense three-day examination requires exam writers to demonstrate the depth and breadth of their competency development in accordance with the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) standards for professional accountants.
At the end of day three, writers leave their exam rooms for the last time and make their way towards the exit of the building. In a visible daze – hands possibly shaking – they listen to the murmurs and groans of their fellow writers. Outside, many of them are met with the encouraging smiles and cheers of coworkers and friends congratulating them on the completion of this colossal task.
But, it’s not over yet. It will be another two and a half months before the exam results are released. For some people, those two and a half months are filled with the same stressful anticipation they experienced while preparing for the exam itself.
Walsh King’s Geoff Horne and Roanette Morency have some advice for the aspiring CPAs on how to manage the stress of waiting for your exam results post CFE.
Here it is:
Don’t discuss the exam, especially with coworkers
Especially for those of us in public practice, chances are there is a feeling of competition in your firm among coworkers. Comparing yourself to others will only increase your stress. A bit of comradery with your fellow writers can be a good way to blow off steam after the exam, but keep your discussions general.
Don’t review your answers
Discussing or reviewing specific answers to questions serves no purpose and will only drive you into panic mode. Put specific questions and answers out of your mind. It will be hard for the first few days, but it will get easier with time.
Spend time with family and friends
It’s time to socialize and let yourself relax with the people who’ve supported you throughout the summer while you studied. Friends and family can be a great distraction and can provide a perspective on the situation. They will no doubt remind you that at the end of the day, it is just an exam. Try to fill your weekends with fun social activities with friends and family.
If you can afford it, travelling immediately after the exam can be a good distraction because it keeps your mind occupied, and you are able to build new pleasant memories that can replace the vivid memories you have of the three-day exam. It’s a great way of refreshing your mind before heading back to work.
Try to avoid letting your mind wander to “what if I fail” scenarios. No matter how difficult you felt this exam to be, remember that you wrote it with a peer group with similar experience and knowledge levels. Chances are, if you struggled with a question or case, so did the majority of the people in the exam. The sooner you can focus your attention on other things in your life, the sooner your exam anxiety will pass.
Staying positive is one thing, but publicly proclaiming to your friends that you are sure you passed isn’t helpful to you or your fellow writers. Every CFE writer goes through phases where one week you may feel confident, and the next you may doubt that you passed. Publicly showing your confidence will only put more pressure on you to pass.
Get some exercise
Studies have shown that staying active reduces stress. Exercising releases endorphins that make you feel happier and more positive, and gives you more energy for the rest of the day. It can also improve your quality of sleep. This will help to improve your mood and raise your confidence level.
Indulge in laughter
Laughter is the best medicine; immerse yourself in it. Focus on uplifting and relaxing forms of media, rather than intense and depressing content. Try stand-up comedy specials, or binge-watch any series that cracks you up. Spend time with friends who make you laugh.
The next couple of months are going to go by whether you are stressed or not. And not being stressed will make it much more enjoyable.
We hope you use our tips – and we wish you luck on your exam results!
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