In part 1 of this series, I will discuss things you could consider when choosing your two electives on your journey to complete the CPA certification program: education, evaluation, and experience. Then, part 2 will take a more subjective approach. I base my advice on my experiences with the thousands of candidates I have personally taught and interacted with during my last ten years working with CPAWSB and in legacy education programs.
In his 2005 TED Talk, psychologist Barry Schwartz warns us too much choice does not lead to greater satisfaction. Fortunately for us, CPA PEP provides candidates with, in my opinion, just the right amount of choice for elective modules. As discussed in Effective Elective Planning Part 1
, as part of completing the CPA certification program, candidates must take at least two of the four available elective modules (Performance Management (PEM), Assurance (ASU), Taxation (TXN), and Finance (FIN)) before starting Capstone 1. When determining which two of the four available electives to take, there are a few things candidates could consider before signing up for their first elective:
Start with the end in mind.
There are three components to earning your CPA designation: education, evaluation, and experience. I suggest making the most of this situation by working smarter, not (necessarily) harder. What do I mean? Think about where you are and where you want to end up, then select your electives to help you get there.
This requirement refers to successfully completing the PEP modules, including examinations (core and electives) and final presentations (Capstone 1). Some candidates may find the required module workshop or final examination conflicts with a pre-existing important life event. Regardless of your reason, it is essential to select elective modules that fit your life. Consider setting a preliminary plan using CPAWSB schedules
to ensure you do not accidentally register for an elective that puts you in a compromising spot. You want to avoid not completing a module due to missing a workshop or paying to defer the final exam.
Evaluation refers to the three-day Common Final Examination (CFE) at the end of the CPA certification program. Here, candidates are responsible for core-level knowledge for all three days and elective-level knowledge for their one declared role on Day 2.
Candidates are expected to take two electives during CPA PEP, but for their CFE are only evaluated on one elective-level knowledge? Yes, that is correct. Ideally, one of the electives you took during CPA PEP should be your Day 2 role, though this is not mandatory. Choosing one of your electives for your Day 2 role will give you extra confidence at the CFE, knowing you have already been tested on and passed that elective-level knowledge and ensure you aren’t learning more than you have to (something my undergraduate students tell me is a concern they have).
While they say learning by osmosis isn't a thing, CPA PEP electives is one instance where I beg to differ. When we are in an environment where we are continuously engaging with relevant material, you cannot help but pick up both big and little lessons that will help you with CPA PEP.
I recommend that if you work in Audit (internal or external), you should take the assurance elective module. Work primarily in tax? Ensure you take the tax elective module. What about in treasury or in an intermediate or advanced finance role? Then take the finance elective module. Entry-level finance role, analyst, or another government or industry role? Performance management is a fantastic elective module because it has a wide breadth of management accounting, finance, and strategy and governance technical competencies. Still not sure? Consider scheduling an appointment to talk with a member of our Learner Support team: firstname.lastname@example.org
Schwartz, B. (2005). The paradox of choice. https://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_the_paradox_of_choice
Do you have feedback on this post or a question you’d like answered by an experienced CPAWSB educator? Please contact your facilitator or send a question to the General Topic in the Candidate Discussion forum.
Samantha Taylor, PME, CPA, CA
Samantha Taylor, PME, CPA, CA, is an educator and lead policy advisor for CPAWSB and a Senior Instructor of accounting at Dalhousie University. She is on a mission to understand and enable learner efficacy while eliminating doldrums occasionally associated with accounting education. Read more of Sam’s posts at the CPAWSB blog.