Already made up your mind to get certified as a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) the premeire global anti fraud certification provided by ACFE, but don't know how to. Here's our end to end guide to give you the complete information and get you started. Note : The author of this article is a CFE
What are the steps to become a CFE ?
It's simple 2 step process:
Step 1- Become an Associate Member : Associate membership is open to everyone. By becoming an associate member you get access to the entire knowledge resources of the ACFE plus an opportunity to attend seminars, webinars, conferences etc. Also as a rule, only an associate member can get certified as a CFE. It's very easy to become an associate member, just pay $100 for physical membership or $60 for electronic membership (the only difference among the two is that, in electronic membership, the welcome packet and the fraud magazine - a monthly publication of ACFE shall be e-mailed and not couriered)
Step 2 : Prepare, Apply for the CFE exam and Pass it (Continue reading below for details)
Let's see if you are eligible to get certified as a CFE ?
If you are a CA you course are. As the eligibility criteria goes you should hold a bachelor's degree or have completed 4 college years (in any stream). Additionally, you should have 2 years of work experience directly or indirectly related to prevention or detection of fraud. The acceptable work areas are : Audit, Loss Prevention, Criminology and Law provided it deals with Fraud.
Have the degree/requisite college years but, don't have the work experience, fret not, you can still give the exam and earn the experience after passing to earn the right to get certified (Remember you can get certified only after you pass the exam AND also have the requisite work experience)
P.S : Your Articleship Experience counts, so far as it relates to the above mentioned areas.
You also have to provide 3 professional recommendations from individuals who have worked with you professionally and can comment on your character, integrity, and professional skills.
What is this CFE exam all about?
Firstly there are 2 editions- 1. US edition (but obvious, as ACFE is based out of Houston, USA) and 2. International edition. If you do not work/intend to work in the US, I'll recommend you go with the International edition
Its a single level exam having 4 subjects.
1. Financial Transactions and Schemes : Basic accounting knowledge and knowledge of various financial fraud schemes and detailed understanding of each such scheme.
2. Law : Knowledge of rules of evidence preservation, legal rights of the parties involved, legal ramifications of fraud Investigation etc. As you choose the International edition it's only fair to not expect anti fraud law of any particular land but they have very briefly covered laws which have global outreach such as FCPA, UKBA.
3. Investigation : Knowledge on how to carry out investigations and conduct suspect and information gathering interviews. It also contains knowledge of how and from where to obtain evidence/information.
4. Fraud Prevention and Deterrence : Knowledge on why frauds are committed and how to prevent them.
It's a closed book exam which one can take from the comfort of their home and at a time of their choosing.
Remember, ACFE records the audio and video of the exam sessions through your laptop/desktop camera and microphone which means NO CHEATING. Also one has to provide an affidavit to certify that he did not cheat in any way (guilt conscious fellas, better watch out)
It's and MCQ based exam, each paper having 100 questions, each worth one mark, You get maximum 75 seconds to answer each question. Though the exam is to be taken as per individual's convenience, one has to take all the 4 subjects within a span of 30 days of activating the exam code.
There are 2 available exam formats- Online and Electronic Download. Read here for the details of the two formats,the system requirements and the details on activating your exam code
In order to make it easier, I gave the exam of each subject on a different day and managed to complete them all within 10 days.
The passing percentage is greater than or equal to 75 and one has to pass in all the 4 subjects individually.
P.S : No negative marking incase of wrong answers. Who remembers Inky Pinky Ponky :p
Read this FAQs for any other specific technical questions related to the exam https://www.acfe.com/faq-cfe-exam.aspx
How can I prepare myself for the exam?
There are primary three study sources provided by ACFE
1. Fraud Examiners Manual : The digital version is emailed to you once you register for the exam. It's a comprehensive (approx a 2000 pager) study guide and your Bible when it comes to CFE exam. One can self study this manual and appear for the exam.
2. Prep course : It's a preparation tool which contain chapter wise study questions and practice exams that simulate the actual CFE Exam experience. It's helpful in understanding the nature of questions that come in the exam.
3. Exam Review Course : This 4-day, instructor-led classroom based course which provides the essentials needed to pass the CFE Exam.
Protip : Though the ACFE doesn't ask the exact same question as is there in the Prep Course , the questions are very similar. So the Prep course is your best friend when it comes to exam preparation
What should be my study style?
Let me tell you my experience, I used the Fraud Examiners Manual and the Prep Course during my studies. I photocopied the entire manual, as i personally prefer to read a hard bound rather than a digital version, I made notes while reading through the chapter, have always found that making notes help, as I only have to go through the brief notes while revising, trust me it saves tremendous amount of time and also it's easier to connect and recollect. After my first read and notes preparation, I solved the practice questions of the Prep Course pertaining to that chapter. For my revision, i revised all the subjects throughout once, this time only through my notes.
Further I also solved the Mock Exam papers provided by the Prep Course to get a better understanding of the exam and exam environment. All these steps and I was ready to take the exam.
What about the efforts required?
Cannot provide a straight-jacket answer to this, it's very subjective, totally depends on each individual, their study style, his/her dedication, grasping abilities etc. I'll tell you my experience. I finished the exam study in around 35 days and gave all the four papers within 10 days, so, in total 45 days (give and take a day or 2).
I was on a full time job and did take only a day's leave so, I used to study in the night after I came home (for about 3 hours) and on the weekends (for 10-12 hours). If you aren't on a full time job it will take you much lesser number of days.
How difficult is the exam?
It's a tricky question, and the answer is not a one size fits all, but if I were to put a number, scale of 1-10, I'd say 4.
What if I don't pass?
Firstly, this shall not happen, C'mon the difficulty level is just a 4/10 (Trust me, in fact even 4 is also on the higher side) well, but in case you fall short, don't worry, ACFE gives you two more shots at it. One needs to retake only the subject in which he failed in, by paying $100 per subject as exam retake fees.
P.S : Incase you buy the Prep course yet you fail, ACFE provides free exam retakes and a money back guarantee of the prep course price. Yes you read it right - A Money Back Guarantee. Fellas if this doesn't give you insight on the exam difficulty level, i don't know what will. Read more about the money back guarantee
Okay I am a CFE, now what ?
After you become a CFE you have to abide bylaws of ACFE the Code of Ethics of the Profession. Read it here: https://www.acfe.com/code-of-ethics.aspx
Further you have to maintain CPE which can be either done structured I.e by Attending knowledge seminars, webinars, ACFE conferences, local chapter events etc or can be done in unstructured way by on- job training and experience.
Read more about CPE https://www.acfe.com/cpe-101.aspx &
Alright, too much gyan now tell me what's the cost?
Let's break the costs in various segments
a. Register as Associate Member : $100 / $60 for electronic membership
b. Registration for the CFE Exam : $400 ( $300 if you also purchase the prep course)
c. Prep Course Cost: $800
d. Exam retake fees : $100 per subject (nil if you purchase the prep course)
e. Membership renewal : To be paid every year - $70 per year ( for electronic membership)
If not CFE can I do any other certification course in the anti fraud profession?
There are other handful of certification courses for an anti fraud professional, but remember CFE is Gold Standard and has global recognition.
Want to get certified as CFE but have further doubts and need a helping hand or someone to guide your path? JOIN US! We have onboard, Fraud Investigation Experts, CFEs who shall mentor and guide you to help you sail through.