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90-Day CFE Exam Challenge Success Story: Dr. Tim Klatte, CFE

After years of experience leading hundreds of fraud-related investigations, Dr. Tim Klatte, CFE made the decision to prepare for the CFE exam with the help of the 90-Day CFE Exam Challenge.

Why did you join the 90-Day CFE Exam Challenge?

I have been a Forensic Accounting Partner in Shanghai, assisting clients with sensitive risk management matters since 2011. Although I have many years of practical forensic experience and have led hundreds of fraud-related investigations, I never made the time to prepare and pass the CFE. The 90-Day CFE Exam Challenge provided the exact motivation I needed to cross the finish line. I appreciated the community of support and the willingness of the ACFE team to guide me along the way. I joined three of the 90-day challenge webinars and found them extremely useful, gaining nuggets of helpful information in each session. Overall, the challenge allowed me to prepare for the exam with like-minded individuals who shared the same motivation, resulting in a constant stream of encouragement. With the CFE, I have gained credibility in the market and tremendous respect from my peers, who recognize its importance when advising on fraud issues – this would not have been possible without the platform of the 90-Day challenge, steered so well by the ACFE team.

What did your study method look like?

I joined a week-long CFE Review Course in late March, which was an excellent motivation to get me focused on the 90-Day challenge running from April-June. I spent most of April reviewing all content across all sections before concentrating on one section at a time. I passed my first section on May 2nd and then took one section exam per week after that. I created flashcards and took practice exams often, committing 2-3 hours daily to preparing for each section. I maintained a notebook containing critical topics from each section that I had to know – then reviewed it often. I also remained active in the 90-day challenge chat groups and learned from my peers in the areas I found difficult. Finally, I limited my sources to prepare for the exam, as too many sources online provided outdated and sometimes useless noise – I stayed focused on materials from my March review course and the ACFE prep course only.

How did the challenge help you accomplish your goal of passing the CFE Exam?

The challenge provided the right motivation I needed to pass the exam. The platform brought together talented professionals from various backgrounds from all over the world (I am based in China!) to encourage each other to achieve our common goal. In the beginning, I didn’t participate so much in the chat forums. Then, one day in early April, I received an email from ACFE mentioning that “Challenge participants who post at least once in the group are two times more likely to pass the exam by the end of the challenge than those who don’t post at all.” This encouraged me to become more active and not only share my story and exam plan with others to be held accountable, but also to support those in the challenge to keep going. The timing of the challenge was perfect, and the preparation and study environment were managed so well by the ACFE team.  

What did it feel like when you got the email saying you’d passed? How did you celebrate?

I took each of the four sections about a week apart, and in each one, I received higher scores than expected. I took the most familiar sections to me first, leaving the most difficult one (Law) for last, which gave me more time to prepare and focus. The Prometric online portal for the exam emailed my results within 15 minutes of submitting each test. I was extremely excited to see the passing grade, but most importantly, I was more motivated to press on and look to the next section exam. Each celebration was short; I wanted to stay fixated on the next exam a few days later. When I passed the Law section – I celebrated with my family for an evening out. I also used this success story to serve as a lesson to my children about the importance of focused hard work to achieve a goal. My daughters, 12 and 16, watched me throughout the month’s study hard and then pass all four sections on the first attempt. This example for my kids – to me – was the greatest reward and the best celebration.

What advice do you have for challenge participants who are preparing for the CFE Exam?

Several things come to mind. First, surround yourself with encouraging people who know and appreciate how this certification is important to you. Encouragement from family, colleagues and other challenge participants is a great motivation. Also, schedule the tests early to guarantee the testing day/time you prefer and to push you to focus leading up to each section exam. Having a rigorous schedule to prepare and develop a study strategy will pay off in the end. Third, understand that learning can come in many forms. For me, it was practice tests and flashcards. For others, it might be concept memorization and watching videos. Find the best method for you and know that the ACFE has a plan in place that will work. Trust the process. Finally, keep the big picture in mind, i.e., passing the exam. Some concepts may be challenging to learn during the study process, and some practice test results may not be so high. However, keep a positive outlook and actively learn from the journey. In many cases, you are more ready than you believe – I know I was, as each section exam score exceeded my expectations.

SOURCE: ACFE Insights – A Publication of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners

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