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Practice makes perfect

26 March 2018

ICAEW student’s really do need to put in the practice before sitting their first CBE exam, stressed the ICAEW’s head of development and special projects, Adam Birt.

He told a packed ACA Partner in Learning tutor conference they must encourage students to play with the software in advance of the exam. Being unfamiliar with the functionality and formatting is costing some students dear.

That said, he revealed that the CBEs have had no affect on pass rates. It is only at the margins that the problems seem to be occurring.

He reminded tutors that’s all exams follow the standard rounding rules to the nearest whole number by default, with the exception of Financial Management which will round to two decimal places.

Students also need to understand how to expand their cells and show their workings.

One tutor asked why students can only see 18 lines of an answer at a time. “They don’t like it,” she suggested.

Another wondered why students can’t have a paper copy of the questions on the desk. Birt felt that security issues currently outweighed any backward step here.

He said the ICAEW is still looking at how the case study will be presented. “We may split the question into different tabs,” he said. But he reiterated that what students were being asked to do will be exactly the same as the paper exam.

He said the ICAEW has resisted the temptation to change the functionality of the CBEs as it went along. There has, in fact, been just one minor change since the first CBE was sat. “They are the same as the beginning of March 2017 when the first CBE was introduced” he confirmed.

Birt stressed that the exam team didn’t want the tech to dictate the exam structure, and he feels this has been achieved. The CBEs are all about testing the subject, not the student’s skills, so there’s a level playing field for all candidates. word processing and spreadsheets. That’s why the exams don’t use Excel and the standard keyboard shortcuts are ‘not supported within the software’.

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