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Suggested approach to answering case study questions

Posted by David Gobeil on

You have about 40 minutes to complete a case study. A case study question takes about twice as long as a technical question because you have to locate the information to answer a case question. The FPE1 is a 4 hour exam with 240 minutes. The FPE1 has about 100 questions of which 20 are case questions. This is equivalent to having to complete 120 technical questions.

The time per technical question is 2 minutes, calculated as (length of exam at 240 minutes ÷ equivalent to 120 technical questions). The time per case study question is 4 minutes, calculated as (time per technical question × 2).

Step 1 - Spend 5 or 6 minutes reading the case study background for context, not content. Context is the client’s situation or circumstances: the kind of information you might obtain in a first meeting with the client. 

You want to understand client’s general situation only well enough that you can understand the setting for the questions. You should not anticipate or solve any problems because the information is irrelevant if not required to answer a specific question.

The only information to underline or highlight is that identity of the family members, which is always relevant.

Step 2 - Spend about 10 minutes analyzing and documenting the information required for each of the 10 questions.

If there are calculations involved, write down the formulas. If there are strategic decisions involved, write down the things to consider. Write down anything that goes through your mind that would be helpful and relevant upon returning to the question.

Do not yet refer back to case study background

Step 3 - Knowing the information required for the questions, spend 7 or 8 minutes rereading the entire case study background, but for content this time. Get to know the client and their situation as it applies to your questions.

You will find paragraphs with no relevant information: cross them out. You will find paragraphs with relevant information to specific questions: underline or highlight relevant facts and numbers.

Step 4 - You have about 16 minutes to answer the 10 questions. As you answer each question, find the specific information in the case study background. Don’t do it from memory!

Time Management – Before starting, determine time to be finished the case study. Write the time on paper for last question. Compare actual time to target time as you go along.

Suggested approach


  1. Read case study background for context                           6
  2. Analyze the 10 questions                                                10
  3. Reread case study background for content                        8
  4. Answer the 10 questions referring to background           16

                        Total minutes                                                        40

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