The global body for professional accountants

With effect from 26 February 2014 in computer-based exams (CBEs) and June 2014 in paper-based exams, there will be various changes to the way in which the exam is structured. The purpose of this article is to explain the changes to the structure and to the styles of question that will be encountered by candidates.


Structure

At present the paper is not formally divided into sections and is made up of 50 questions, each worth two marks.

The new structure will see the paper divided into two parts. Part A of the paper will comprise questions worth both one mark and two marks, but the style of these questions will remain similar to those that are currently set. In total there will be 16 one-mark questions and 30 two-mark questions. Part B of the paper will introduce a new type of question, which will be described as multiple-task questions (MTQs) in this article. There will be six MTQs in part B of the paper, each worth four marks. There are six syllabus areas, and there will be one MTQ on each of them. Each MTQ will be specific to a syllabus area, with no crossover between the six generic parts of the syllabus.


Section A

As just explained, Section A of the new style exam will contain a mix of 30 two-mark questions and 16 one-mark questions. One-mark questions are new and are usually shorter and will either have no background statement or a brief one. The structure of these questions is that they will either be multiple-choice questions (MCQ) where there is one correct option from two or three options, or they will be multiple-response (MR) questions where there are two correct options from a total of three. In the MCQ versions of the one-mark questions, the two option questions may be presented as true or false questions.

See Figure 1 below:

f1fab_1


The types of two-mark CBE questions in Section A will not differ from those available in the old style CBE exam, where there is a variety of question types from MCQ to multiple-response MR and multiple-response matching (MRM).

Note that, as in the old style exam, for all MR and MRM questions in this section, no partial marking is available, so candidates must select all correct options to obtain full marks, otherwise they will score zero. 

However, the paper-based version will continue to use only MCQ style questions – for both one-mark and two-mark questions.


Section B

The MTQs in this section are entirely new and introduce a variety of testing methods. It must be emphasised that this does not affect the level of the paper or the standard expected, and candidates should not be more time pressured as a result of the changes.

To those who have sat the exam under the current structure, part B of the paper may appear visually very different. For example, candidates are more likely, but not certain, to see diagrams in the question prompt. Some scenarios may be longer than those encountered before, though they will seldom necessitate scrolling up or down the screen to read through them. There is also a ‘collapse’ function in the CBE version that allows candidates to easily refer back to the background statement without scrolling unnecessarily.

The six MTQs in Section B may be sub-divided. Where this is the case, some or all parts may be related to a common scenario. However, a scenario may be relevant to just part of the question. For example, part (a) of a question may be built around a team scenario with a requirement to apply the theories of Belbin or Tuckman, with part (b) set on a related theme but not directly connected to the scenario.

Multiple-response questions with more than four options
Multiple-response matching questions have always been used in the old version of Paper F1/FAB, but in Section B of the new style paper the main differences are:

  • there may be more than four options to choose from
  • partial marking is allowed.


For example, a question may ask the candidate to choose two correct responses from six choices, or perhaps four choices from eight. The number of correct responses required will be clearly signalled in the question prompt. The screen will indicate the total number of marks available for the question (or part of the question) and, unless otherwise indicated, each response will be worth the same number of marks. 

If a candidate selects more correct responses than are required, the system will deselect the previous response, so it will not be possible to make more choices of answer than the number required.

If a candidate selects fewer answers than the number required or selects some wrong options, marks are awarded pro rata. Thus, if a question has four correct responses each worth 0.5 marks and the candidate selects only three responses or only three correct options, it is possible to score a maximum of 1.5 marks. Please note, as already explained, MR and MRM questions in Section A will not permit partial marking, so candidates must select all correct answers to such questions in Section A to score the marks available, or they will score zero.

Figure 2 shows an example of the more complex MR type question.


Figure 2: MR question with eight options

f1fab_2


Questions requiring completion of sentences – ‘gap-fill’ questions

These questions will call upon candidates to complete sentences or paragraphs by filling gaps that appear in the text. Responses are selected by clicking on the gap and choosing the response from a drop down list. The list may include single words, short phrases or numbers.

The response is selected from the list that appears. Again, it is possible to change the answer by clicking again to select a new choice. 

Figure 3 shows how such a question would appear.


Figure 3: Gap-fill question

f1fab_3


Multiple-response matching

These questions ask candidates to select responses according to a grid of choices.

For example, a scenario may describe types of control and the candidate is required to decide whether each control is a general control or an application control.

The total marks available for the question or part of the question will appear on the screen, with responses carrying equal marks within that component of the question.

Figure 4 shows how such a question would appear.


Figure 4: Multiple-response matching question

f1fab_4


In Section B, if the candidate had two of the responses correct or only completed two of the four responses (and they were correct), they would earn (2 x 0.5) or one mark out of the two available for this question.

‘Hotspot’ questions
These questions ask candidates to choose the correct response by clicking on the appropriate choices on a set of boxes, or on a diagram.

The correct answers are selected by clicking on the appropriate boxes. Again, answers may be deselected by choosing a new option, which will cancel the previous one. The system will not permit more choices to be made than necessary.

These questions may also ask a candidate to make responses by clicking on a relevant part of a diagram or symbol. For example, a question may present a number of boxes of which the candidate must select the ones which apply.

Figure 5 shows how such a question would appear.


Figure 5: Hot-spot question

f1fab_5


Number-entry questions

Occasionally, candidates may be asked to complete a number entry in answer to a question, but these will be quite rare in the Paper F1/FAB exam. Such questions could occasionally apply to subject areas like economics, elasticity of demand or aggregate demand type questions, for example. In these questions, candidates must calculate their answers and enter the number in the format required in a number entry box. The answer may be shown in denominations of $000 or $m, but candidates will be explicitly guided about this so that they are clear how to input the number into the answer in the correct way.

Paper-based exam versus CBE versions
The paper-based exams are designed to provide an equivalent educational exam and make the same intellectual demand on the candidate, although the style of the questions and how they will be presented will differ in some respects. One key difference is that Section B questions in the paper-based exam will be expert marked, rather than auto marked as in the CBE version, so this still means that candidates who take the paper-based version of the exam will have to wait for their results, as they do currently.

In Section A, the paper-based exam will have 16 one-mark questions and 30 two-mark questions as in the CBE version, but in this version all the questions will be multiple-choice questions. All the two-mark questions will involve a choice of one correct answer from four options, while the one-mark questions will be one correct answer from two or three options. Where there are only two options, these questions may be presented as true or false statements.

Section B questions in the paper-based exams will again provide an equivalent intellectual exam, but the style and appearance of the questions will be slightly different.

For example, a question which appears as a multiple response matching question in the form of a grid, as shown earlier in the controls example, will be presented quite differently in a paper-based question.

For example, the candidate would be asked to match four different control methods or systems (labelled as A, B, C, D) with the two types of control (labelled as 1 and 2) and would be asked to write down the method/system matched with the correct control type, as follows, in the answer booklet:

a) A1
b)
B1
c)
C1
d)
D2

The similarities and the differences between the two types of equivalent exam are best seen by reviewing the specimen versions of each type of exam through the following links:


Conclusions

Candidates are assured that the structural changes will not make the overall exam any more difficult than it is at present, but will simply ask candidates to answer questions in different ways. The system is designed to ensure that any confusion is minimised, and clear instructions will be given for each question and for components of questions. In addition, the paper-based equivalent of the exam will change in the same way structurally as the CBE version, but the style and appearance of the questions will differ slightly, as explained above, but the intellectual difficulty of the exams will remain broadly comparable.

Last updated: 24 Apr 2015