ACCA - The global body for professional accountants

This article highlights the benefits of ACCA’s computer-based exams (CBEs), outlines how we have improved the CBE experience to make it even more intuitive for you and also provides some guidance on how to approach a CBE.

Computer-based exams at ACCA

ACCA launched CBEs in 1998 and over the years has gradually increased the number of exams available by this method of assessment. The exams currently available as a CBE are:

Foundations in Accountancy

  • Paper FA1, Recording Financial Transactions


  • Paper MA1, Management Information
  • Paper FA2, Maintaining Financial Records


  • Paper MA2, Managing Costs and Finance
  • Paper FAB, Accountant in Business
  • 

Paper FMA, Management Accounting


  • Paper FFA, Financial Accounting


ACCA Qualification

  • Paper F1, Accountant in Business
  • 
Paper F2, Management Accounting


  • Paper F3, Financial Accounting

Students who take their exams by CBE report high levels of satisfaction. You too can benefit from the following advantages of CBEs:

Flexibility
CBEs are available on-demand, meaning that you can take them at any point throughout the year. Students tell us they love the flexibility of not being restricted to the June and December exam sittings. Whilst we hope that you will pass first time, a key advantage of CBE is that you can take your resit much sooner while the subject knowledge is fresh in your mind.

Instant results
Instant results are provided, so if you sit a CBE you will know immediately if you have passed so you don’t have to spend the next few weeks waiting.

Convenience
We are constantly updating our CBE centre network, recruiting more centres to make it more convenient for you to take our exams. All CBE centres are approved by ACCA to ensure they all meet our high standards before we add them to our network. Visit the CBE page to find the latest list of centres in your area in the related documents area at the bottom of the page.

In addition to growing our centre network, we have also been looking at how we can make the CBE experience more intuitive, leaving you to focus on your exam, rather than the software itself. ACCA’s new CBE platform will be launched in late February 2014 so if you are taking your CBE from the 26 February onwards, please be sure to familiarise yourself with the new CBE experience by looking at our showcases and specimen exams before you take your live exam. You can also find further detail on some of the improvements to the CBE experience outlined later in this article.

Developing CBEs

A very rigorous approach is taken when developing ACCA exams, whether for CBE or the traditional paper-based format. All questions for CBEs are written by experienced writers and reviewed several times before they make it to a live exam. By having such rigorous systems in place we can ensure we maintain the same standards for paper-based exams and CBE.

The key difference between CBE and paper-based exams is that all live CBE exams have different questions as they are automatically constructed from a question bank. It means two people sitting the exam at the same time will get a different version of the exam. It also means if someone sits a CBE on a Tuesday, they will get a different version of the exam if they resit the same subject later that week. There are systems in place to ensure that all exams are equivalent but having different question sets means we can ensure our rigorous standards are met while offering exams on demand.

Enhancing the CBE experience

We are making some enhancements to our CBEs to make use of a more user-friendly interface, helping you to progress through your exam more efficiently.

Some of the features added to improve the exam experience include:

Question header

The following information is displayed at the top of the screen at all times during the exam:

  • Question number
  • Total marks available for question
  • Time remaining
  • Exam progress bar and details button

Use this information to help you manage your time during the exam and to track your progress. The exam progress bar will automatically update as you complete the exam. You can also access an overview of your progress at a question level on the Exam Progress Details panel, to see which questions have been fully completed and which questions remain incomplete.

Onscreen help and references

There is a ‘Help’ button located at the bottom left of the screen at all times during the exam. When selected, the exam instructions will be displayed again, providing you onscreen access to information on answering questions, navigating the exam and making use of the exam features during your exam.

Additionally, for Paper F2/FMA, a ‘References’ button will also be available during the exam, allowing you onscreen access to all relevant formulae and maths tables required for this exam.

The integration of all relevant instructions and references within the CBE software means you automatically have all resources you need in order to sit your exam.

Navigation and question flagging

As you progress through the exam your answers will be automatically saved. If you select to navigate away from a question which has been partially completed then a message will be displayed to confirm that the question is incomplete. You can choose to stay on the question to review your answer(s), or can continue to the next question. If there is an issue with any answer you have provided for an incomplete question, such as less than the required number of answer options being selected, then additional information will be displayed on the question in red text, providing guidance on how to resolve the issue.

If you wish to revisit or review a question at a later point during the exam, you can select the ‘Flag’ button to set a reminder to return to the question. The ‘Flag’ button is displayed below every question. The Exam Progress Details panel also reflects which questions you have flagged.

Supporting you through your CBEs

We have developed a series of resources to help you prepare for your exams. Please access the following resources for more information:

CBE showcases

We have developed showcases to provide you with an overview of exam formats, including changes being introduced in February 2014. The showcases are designed to show you examples of how the different questions look in the CBE environment, their functionality in terms of how you should answer them and how they are marked.

 Access the showcases for an overview of the exam you are taking:




Specimen exams
Full specimen exams (which were previously known as pilots or demos), reflecting the new exam formats, incorporating all question types, are available on ACCA’s global website. 

Access specimen exams before you take the live exam to ensure you are familiar with the exam format and CBE experience.

Technical articles

Technical articles have been written for each of the exams available by CBE, to outline how you should approach that subject. These articles will help you fully prepare for the exam.

Access the technical article to help you prepare for your exam:

Some tips for sitting CBEs
The types of questions included in both paper-based exams and CBEs will be equivalent in difficulty and demand, but the way that each question is presented, and the way the answer is recorded, differs between the two methods. In a CBE, candidates record their answers on the same screen as the question is shown; for paper-based multiple-choice questions, answers are recorded on the candidate answer booklet.

In a CBE you are presented with one question at a time, compared to the paper-based exam where you can see all questions at the same time. Displaying only one question at a time helps you focus on each question. Research tells us that the way we read information presented on a computer is different to how we read on paper. On the computer our eyes tend to jump around the screen rather than read it systematically as we would a printed page. Remember to take time to read the question carefully to ensure you don’t miss any important information, especially on multi-task questions (MTQs) where relevant information can be contained throughout the question (visit the showcases and specimen exams using the links provided to become more familiar with MTQ formats).

You can revisit questions and change answers at any time until the exam duration has been reached or you chose to exit the exam. Remember, once you exit the exam, you cannot re-enter that exam.

Do not spend a lot of time on questions you are unsure of; instead, flag them, move on and come back to these questions at the end of the exam.

Summary
It is important for you to take time to familiarise yourself with CBEs before you actually take a live exam.

The ACCA website provides access to materials which will help you to prepare for your CBE, including the showcases, syllabus and study guides. Access these resources.

In addition, the ACCA website contains information on CBEs and full specimen exams for each subject, to help you prepare for the live exam. By practising exam technique using computer-based specimen exams, you will be able to get a better understanding of how the system works and the question types that you may be presented with so that in the live exam you can concentrate on answering the questions. Access a range of resources and advice relating to CBEs, including the specimen exams.



Last updated: 22 Sep 2014