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ACCA CBEs: Be a session player

Judith Bennett explores the practical ways that you can tackle ACCA’s F5–F9 exams

April 2017

Since September 2016, more students have used the opportunity to take their F5-F9 exams through ACCA’s on-demand Computer-Based Exam (CBE). Developed in close association with students, learning providers and employers, session CBEs are developed to the same standard as our trusted paper exams with a fresh modern approach.
We’ve incorporated spreadsheet and Word processing tools to more closely reflect how modern finance professional work in today’s workplace. The new exams assess the same learning outcomes as the paper format so students will have to cover the same content regardless of the format taken.
Like the paper-based format, all the exams apart from F8, are presented in three sections featuring, an objective test (OT), OT case questions and constructed response questions. F8 exams are slightly different featuring the last two of the three mentioned sections.
The CBE features a multitude of useful features that can support students to manage their time more effectively. Our feedback shows the exams are convenient, simple and easy to navigate through, even for students who are less familiar with computers. Students aren’t being assessed on their computer skills, the format is designed to assess the knowledge of the subject and how that is applied in a modern work situation.
Let’s look at some of the additional features that support you.
The flag feature in the CBEs will allow you to highlight particular questions you’d like to re-visit later in the exam by flagging questions for review. This feature has been very popular with students allowing them to easily distinguish which questions they’d like to re-assess.
Throughout the exam, you can track your progress or jump to a specific question using our navigator tool. In one glance, you can see which questions you’ve answered, which ones are yet to be completed and which have been flagged for review. Similarly at the end of the exam students will see an ‘item review’ screen, which will show them the same information.
There’s an on-screen timer which helps you manage your time effectively. A highlighter will allow you to annotate part of the question scenario. This can be used to emphasise key elements of the scenario or indicate a part of the question you have already dealt with.
You can use a splitter bar to adjust whether you’d like to see more of the question or the answer area on the screen. One of the big advantages of the CBE is that you can see both the question and answer area within the same view, without having to divert your attention between different sheets of paper.
Our onscreen calculator and scratch pad will allow you to make rough notes. Students can still use their own calculator and will be offered scrap paper if they prefer to use these. However, it’s really important to remember that what’s written in the scratch pad or on the paper notes won’t be marked.

Exam format:
As mentioned, the exam format will continue to be the same as the paper-based exam. Section A and B of the exams consists of objective test questions (60% of the exam) and section C is where students will use spreadsheet and word processing tools to answer questions (40% of the exam).
In addition to multiple choice questions, students who have sat any of the F1-F4 CBEs will be familiar with the six other types of objective test questions used within session CBEs. These are multiple response, fill-in-the-blank, drag-and-drop, drop-down-the-list, hot spot and hot area questions.
Completing your answer is very simple. If you spot a mistake and wish to change it later, you can do so easily at the click of a button and without making a mess of your answer sheet.
Section C is exciting and innovative, using word processing and spreadsheet tools to mirror the working world of today’s finance professionals. Our innovative approach to assessment makes the exams more practical and beneficial for all students. These questions allow students to produce individual written and numerical answers which they insert into word processing pages, blank spreadsheets, or pre-formatted templates.
Students who have used similar tools before will recognise that a number of standard functions, such as inserting a table, adding formulae to a spreadsheet, copy and paste are available via the menu and toolbar. Utilising these functions can help students save time within the exam and allow them to construct their answer in a much clearer and presentable manner.
Because students provide unique answers, either in their own words or by calculating and presenting numerical answers in spreadsheets, like our paper-based exams, this section will be marked by experts. It is important to remember that all work and calculations will be viewed and assessed. This means for example, if students use any formulae for the spreadsheet questions, markers will see the formulae and not just the final answer, so they will understand how students have reached their answers.
The best way to familiarise yourself with the F5-F9 session CBEs is by checking them out for yourself. You can do so for free by accessing our specimen exams on our website. We have past session CBE exams, tutorial videos, guides and an area to practice the word processing and spreadsheet questions in advance to you sitting an exam.
This is an exciting era of exam assessment. With our CBEs closely aligned and reflecting real modern working situations, our students can expect to enter the professional world ready to impress their employers and progress with their careers.
• Judith Bennett, Director, Service Delivery, ACCA

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