ACCA - The global body for professional accountants

This article outlines the benefits of ACCA’s computer-based exams (CBEs), details the different types of questions featured in these exams and highlights the points that you need to be aware of when completing current CBEs

ACCA has offered CBEs since 1998. The launch of the Foundation level awards saw an increased number of papers being assessed via CBE and this provides the next step in the move towards ACCA’s vision to deliver all exams via e-assessment.


Papers currently assessed by CBEs

Foundation level papers
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 papers
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. While we hope that you will pass first time, a key advantage of a CBE is that you can take your resit much sooner while the information 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.


Developing CBEs

A very rigorous approach is taken when developing ACCA exams, whether for CBE or the 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 CBEs.

The key difference between CBEs and paper-based exams is that all live CBEs 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 of an equivalent level of difficulty but having different questions means we can ensure our rigorous standards are met while offering exams on demand.


Question types in CBEs

Currently, ACCA CBEs comprise four main question types: multiple choice, multiple response, multiple response matching and number entry. All questions are worth two marks. Some questions will include background information, which is needed to help you answer the question. The table shows the question types included in each paper available by CBE.


Multiple-choice questions (MCQs)

MCQs are the most commonly used question type and feature in all of ACCA’s CBEs. You are required to choose one answer from a list of options by clicking on the appropriate ‘radio button’. Figure 1 shows an example of an MCQ from the Paper FA1 pilot exam.

In a multiple-response question, you are required to select more than one response from the options provided by clicking the appropriate tick boxes. Questions typically have four answer options, two of which are correct, However, sometimes the number of options presented and the number of options you should select as your answer will differ. You will be awarded marks only if you have selected all of the correct options, so it is therefore important that you read the question carefully to see how many options you should select. Figure 2 shows a multiple-response question from the Paper FAB pilot exam.


Multiple-response matching questions

Figure 3, from the Paper FMA pilot exam, shows the standard layout for multiple-response matching questions.


Number entry questions

The example in Figure 4 is from the Paper F3 pilot exam.
This is the only question type in a CBE where you need to enter the correct answer yourself, rather than choose from a list of options. Numerical answers must be submitted without commas and, where relevant, using the full stop as a decimal point and/or the minus sign as a negative symbol (eg –10530.25).


Some tips for sitting CBEs

Sitting a CBE is a different experience to sitting a paper-based exam, so here are some tips to help you during the exam.

The types of questions included in both paper-based exams and CBEs will be similar, 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. Once you have entered your answer for a question, it is important to click on the ‘Submit’ button for your answer to be saved. You can revisit questions and change answers at any time until the exam duration has been reached – however, remember to click on ‘Submit’ to save your new answer once you have changed it.

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

To make CBEs as user-friendly as possible we have incorporated features that will guide you through the exam. Part of the screen has been reserved for tools that will help you navigate between questions. In addition, questions that you have not attempted will be highlighted by an asterisk in the drop-down list of questions and you can quickly move to these questions by clicking on the relevant question number in the list. The exams also include a timer to show you how much time is remaining. Figure 5 shows some of these features.


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 that will help you to prepare for your CBE, including syllabus and study guides. In addition, the ACCA website contains information on CBEs and full pilot exams for each subject, to help you prepare for the live exam. By practising exam technique using computer-based pilot exams, you will be able to gain a better understanding of how the system works and the questions types that you may be presented with so that in the live exam you can concentrate on answering the questions.

Last updated: 17 Oct 2013