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New exam online format for CIPFAs

Karl Ballard explains how you should tackle CBEs to ensure you get that pass

April 2017

Many of the assessments for the professional qualifications have now changed their exam format so they are computer based exams (CBE). While this brings many benefits to the students – it’s quick and easy to edit your answers, scripts are much more readable and the exams now much better reflect the workplace – there will need to be changes to student’s exam technique to ensure success. Papers are now broken down into three distinct sections: multiple choice questions (MCQs) worth one mark; short form questions (SFQs) worth five marks; and long form questions worth 10–15 marks.

Multiple choice questions (MCQs):
Students will have an average of two minutes per MCQ and must make sure that they use their allotted time wisely.
• First sweep: answer all the easy questions you know you can answer straight away, and don’t do any calculation questions unless they are very straightforward. Check at the end of the first sweep how much time you have saved.
• Second sweep: now tackle the longer calculations using the time you saved during the first sweep. Keep a close eye on the clock and make sure you don’t exceed your time allowance.
• Third sweep: guess any remaining questions. If you can exclude some of the options do so, your chance of success is higher.

Short form questions (SFQs):
Ten minutes will be available to tackle each SFQ and depending on the examination these will require either written or numerical solutions. Keep things short and to the point, use short paragraphs or bullet points and start a new one each time you make a new point. There could be a written and numerical requirement within each question, so make sure you attempt both as normally some easy written marks will follow a tougher numerical requirement.

Long form questions:
Break the requirement down and structure you answer around it under different headings, as this will force you to write something under each and ensure you cover all aspects of the question. The advantage with CBEs is you can easily add in something you couldn’t do on paper.
Practise using tables in Microsoft Word or on CIPFA’s practice system, Calibrand, for longer numerical questions. Get used to setting up tables quickly for your workings and inserting the numbers. Make sure rows and columns have headings so the examiner knows what you are doing.
Practise using the pro forma financial statements in an electronic format so you will be better prepared for the exam.
• Karl Ballard, Head of CIPFA courses, Kaplan Financial

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