Get the complete low-down on everything you need to know about the ACCA Session CBE exams and prepare to pass your ACCA CBE exams first-time!

Changes to the ACCA always freak students out but don’t panic. ACCA session CBEs are a very different exam format, but one you’ll ultimately much prefer. They’re a more intuitive, familiar, comfortable way to sit exams and use the same tools and technologies you’ll use day-to-day in your career.

At learnsignal, we are the only learning provider to offer unlimited free constructed response CBE practice questions for our students.

Here’s a list of contents – read right through or skip to the answer you need:

What are session CBEs?

ACCA session CBEs are computer-based exams designed to more closely reflect your experience in the workplace by using the same technology you’ll use day-to-day as a finance professional. They will eventually completely replace the old paper-based written exam format.

They’re slightly longer than the old papers – 3 hours and 20 minutes as opposed 3 hours and 15 minutes.

They’re applicable for papers:

    • Performance Management (PM)(Previously ACCA F5)
    • Taxation (TX)(Previously ACCA F6)
    • Financial Reporting (FR)(Previously ACCA F7)
    • Audit and Assurance (AA)(Previously ACCA F8)
    • Financial Management (FM)(Previously F9)

What are session CBE questions like?

Session CBEs consist of three types of questions:

  • Objective Test (OT) questions
  • Objective Test Case questions
  • Constructed Response questions

All the exams apart from Audit and Assurance (AA)(Previously ACCA F8) follow the same format, with one section for each type of question. Audit and Assurance has only two sections, and only has OT Case questions and Constructed Response questions. Let’s look at each question in turn.

OT Questions

These are a type of auto-marked multiple choice questions, but you select more than one answer from the given options. OT questions are worth two marks and you can only get two – if all the parts are correct – or zero – if anything is incorrect.

These include:

  • Fill in the blank – type an answer into the box given. This is usually numerical but might be text too.
  • Drag and drop – drag answers and drop into place. Some questions might involve matching more than one answer to a response area, or some questions might have more answers than response areas.
  • Dropdown list – select an answer from a dropdown list. Some questions might have more than one dropdown list.
  • Hotspot  – choose a point on an image as your answer. The cursor will display an “X” at the area you hover over. You simply place the X at the correct point on the diagram.
  • Hot area – similar to hot spot questions, but you select one or more areas on an image.

OT Case Questions

Each OT Case contains a group of five OT questions based around one scenario. They can use any combination of the question types above and are auto-marked in the same way.

OT Cases are worth a total of ten marks and the marks aren’t dependent on each other. That means even if you get the first question wrong, you can still get the next four right.

Constructed Response Questions

For Constructed Response questions, you write your answers (either text or numerical) using word processing or spreadsheet functions. They are similar to the old paper-based exams in that you provide unique answers including your workings and calculations. These are marked by an expert examining team.

Do ACCA session CBEs have a different syllabus?

No. The new CBEs assess the same learning outcomes as the old paper exams, so you have to learn exactly the same material.

That said, although the content isn’t changing the questions themselves might seem very different. Students will want to practice as many CBE questions as possible to be confident they can express their knowledge correctly in the new format.

That’s one fantastic reason to become a learnsignal member right now if you’re not already. We’re the only ACCA learning provider to offer unlimited constructed response CBE practice questions.

What functionality do the new session CBE exams have?

Thanks to being computer-based not paper-based, the new exams have loads of exciting new functionality to make sitting your ACCA exams easier. Overall they’re faster and more intuitive so you can focus all your attention on demonstrating your knowledge.

New functionalities include:

  • Flag for review: Flag questions to review more quickly later.
  • Next and previous buttons: So you can easily navigate the exam.
  • Navigator tool: If you don’t want to use the next or previous buttons, you can also filter questions according to whether they’re flagged, complete, incomplete or unseen.
  • On-screen timer and item review screen: So you can keep track of where you are so you can spend your time more appropriately.
  • 15-minutes remaining alert: To warn you when the exam time is nearly up so you don’t get caught short without finishing the exam.
  • On-screen calculator: For intuitive calculations, or you can use a physical scientific calculator too if you prefer.
  • On-screen scratch pad: For your workings out and notes. The examining team won’t see this. You’ll also be given scrap paper at the beginning of the exam if you prefer to make rough notes by hand.
  • Highlight and strikethrough options: You can highlight or strike out areas of a scenario, and they’ll stay on screen as you scroll so you have the important info in front of you.
  • Scroll alert: So you can’t progress to the next question unless you’ve scrolled to see an entire question, so you don’t accidentally miss information.
  • Screen splitter bar: This divides the question and answer on the screen for some questions, which you can drag across the screen to get more or less space for each section.
  • Reference material: Some exams include reference material, like formula sheets or tax tables.
  • Help: The Help screen gives you tips on formatting, functionality and spreadsheet use.

Can I still sit paper exams?

Right now, maybe. It depends on your location.

From March 2018 the ACCA started to remove the option for paper-based exams at some locations and eventually all paper-based exams will be phased out. Check out this list to find out when paper-based exams are becoming unavailable to you.

Are session CBEs better than paper exams?

The material session CBEs test is the same as the old paper exams, so they are no more difficult in terms of content. The big difference is the format – and yes, they are better. The session CBE format is preferable to the old paper exams for several reasons.

First, it means your answers are always readable. You won’t lose silly marks because the examiners can’t read your answers, which happens every year.

Second, it means you don’t have to handwrite for hours. Handwriting is an outdated skill that most people don’t use regularly in their career. Paper exams demand students are good at handwriting even though you probably don’t get much practice. What that often means is your hand aches during the exam so you don’t write as much or as well as you could, and you end up losing marks.

Third, it means you build skills with the tools you’ll genuinely use in your career. The session CBEs are time well spent. The ACCA feels strongly that the CBEs are more realistic to the daily life of an accountant and, therefore, more beneficial to your later career.

Fourth, the session CBE format allows for loads of new functionalities that make taking exams easier and more intuitive. So you’re less likely to make silly mistakes that hold you back and can show off your syllabus knowledge to the best effect.

Overall, the session CBE format means students that know the syllabus well and have studied hard are more likely to pass – because they won’t make silly mistakes that let them down.

What if I like annotating, highlighting and working out answers on paper?

You’ll get scrap paper at the beginning of your exam and you can make notes and rough working on here if you prefer. However, there is the electronic scratch pad facility on the computers for you to do the same thing. And you can practice through the learnsignal session CBE hub, because our unlimited constructed response questions also have a scratch pad.

There are also highlight and strikethrough tools as part of the exams, so you can highlight and strike-out important elements as you go through scenarios.

Where can I sit ACCA session CBEs?

You still have to attend an exam centre to sit your session CBEs, on dedicated computers.

Old paper-based exam centres can often be large – think 200 students or more – CBEs need enough computers for each candidate, which means the venue is generally more specialist, to have the IT capability. A language school with space for 40 students is a good example.

Search the complete list of session CBE centres here.

When can I sit ACCA session CBEs?

Session CBEs are available four times per year, in March, June, September and December.

How can I book a session CBE?

You can book session CBEs through the ACCA exam booking system.

Are session CBEs different from on-demand CBEs?

Yes, somewhat confusingly. There are two types of CBE format: on-demand CBE, and session CBE.

On-demand CBEs apply to the following three ACCA diplomas:

  • ACCA Diploma in Financial and Management Accounting (RQF Level 2) (FA1 and MA1)
  • ACCA Diploma in Financial and Management Accounting (RQF Level 3) (FA2 and MA2)
  • ACCA Diploma in Accounting and Business (RQF Level 4) (FAB, FMA and FFA)

They also apply to these modules in the main ACCA qualification:

  • Accountant in Business (AB) (Previously ACCA F1)
  • Management Accounting (MA) (Previously ACCA F2)
  • Financial Accounting (FA) (Previously ACCA F3)
  • Corporate and Business Law (LW-ENG) and (LW-GLO)(Previously ACCA F4)

On-demand CBEs are exams you can sit anytime during the year (on-demand), and you get your results immediately. You can find a centre for on-demand CBEs here.

Session CBEs, by contrast, are held four times a year in ACCA exam centres and your results take around six weeks as they are marked by expert markers.

What if there is a technical issue during my exam?

Moving to the computer-based exam format, this seems to be one of students’ most significant concerns. The answer is, this is incredibly unlikely to happen because all the exam centres are run by highly trained professionals and the computers are well-maintained.

But if it did happen, just like an unexpected event during a paper exam, the ACCA have exception measures and contingency plans in place so students aren’t at a disadvantage. This is no more an issue with the session CBEs than it is with the old paper exams, basically.

Can I get my session CBE results rechecked?

The OT and OT Case questions are automatically marked. They’re black and white, right and wrong answers, so the computer program can easily differentiate.

The only scope for error is in the Constructed Response questions, because answers are more open to interpretation.

However, the ACCA have numerous checks in place for all examiners which, in practice, mean mistakes are massively unlikely. These checks happen before, during and after marking, with special attention for marginal papers around 47, 48, 49, 50, and 51.

Overall, although you can have your session CBE results rechecked, we think an appeal is unlikely to be successful given how hard the ACCA work to ensure results are right first time.

Read more about getting your ACCA exams rechecked.

How should I prepare for the ACCA session CBEs?

The syllabus doesn’t change for the session CBEs, so you should study the exam syllabus as normal. Make sure you leave plenty of time to get to grips with the content.

The most important thing about preparing for ACCA session CBEs is practicing the new question format. We’ve often said how important practice questions are, and that’s even more true in this case.

To make sure you’re totally confident and prepared for the exam, you need to practice as much as possible – so you understand everything about the new format. OT and OT Case questions are simple multiple choice questions but Constructed Response questions take more getting used to.

That’s why learnsignal have introduced our CBE hub. Learnsignal are the only ACCA learning provider to offer unlimited free constructed response CBE practice questions for our students.

So if you’re not a learnsignal member yet, now is a very good time to become one.

Access unlimited free constructed response CBE questions along with a wealth of online learning materials with an ACCA Subscription Plan from learnsignal.

Not ready to commit? No problem, you can check out our platform and access a limited selection of course materials with a free Basic Plan – no credit card required.

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