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Anxious about the new ACCA CBE exams?


We applaud ACCA's new session-based computer-based exams for the subjects previously known as F5-F9. But it doesn't come without anxiety about how it impacts exam performance. It's daunting enough to study all the content and be exam ready, and now this! Our students are worried that they're unfamiliar with the exam tool and that will negatively affect their exam results. "I know the content," explains Terence, an F5 students preparing for a session-based exam, "but how do I practice for the exam?"
These are just some of the concerns raised by ACCA students since the announcement of the new session-based CBE exams. So, we spoke to Mike Gora at the ACCA about the issue. Mike is the ACCA Head of Education and Development for Southern Africa. Mike says "students should partner with an approved college for exam preparation," and goes on to recommend that students do a practice run of the new exam format at their local college. "You wouldn't go for your driving test straight after having passed your theory test, now would you? You'll practice by driving around and simulate the driving test before you do the real thing," says Mike Gora. The same principle applies here. Nothing compares to in situ practice to get you exam fit. Try a mock exam at home or look out for a college in your area that offers session-based CBE exam practice sessions and make a point of doing a test drive.
Exam tool functionality - know your splitter bar from your navigator
You wouldn't want the exam tool to hold you back. Why not do a test run at an IBTC exam centre in Sandton and Cape Town to familiarise yourself with the exam functionality? Try out flagging a question for review, the next and previous buttons, the navigator tool (essentially an overview of all questions showing which questions completed, unseen and flagged). Get used to the on-screen clock and work out what you would like to do when you get your 15-min alert. Work out if the scratch pad is useful to you and how to use the on-screen calculator. Try the help feature, highlighting, scrolling and splitter bar. Do it all before your exam, and not in your exam. 
What else can you do to ace your SCBE? Learnings from an old exam administrator
The IBTC exam coordinators, Ziyanda and Ntswaki, have seen countless students at their exam centres in Sandton and Cape Town. They've learnt to spot the anxious ones and the over-prepared ones. They've seen the effect of people who arrive late and those who arrive unprepared. We independently asked them for several tips we could share with session CBE students and they both said one thing: ARRIVE EARLY!
We see that students who arrive late for their exams tend to perform poorly," says Ziyanda, IBTC's Cape Town exam coordinator. According to ACCA, you are required to arrive at least 15 minutes before your exam, but IBTC exam co-ordinators suggest you arrive 30 minutes before your exam to allow yourself enough time to calm your nerves.
“This 30 minutes will give your ample time to mentally prepare for your exam and familiarise yourself with the exam venue," says Ziyanda. "Do not make the mistake of arriving last minute, as this only leads to increased anxiety and high stress levels, which are the last thing you need to experience before your exam," she added
"I always give my students time to calm their nerves and focus their minds before an exam,” says Ntswaki, IBTC's Cape Town exam coordinator.  The ACCA computer based exams are 3 hours 20 min long, but before your timer begins you have 10 minutes to read through your exam instructions and voice out any queries to your exam co-ordinator. I suggest you do not rush to click the start button but rather to use this time to make sure you have read and understood the instructions and there are no confusions,” she added.
Fast facts about session-based CBEs

  • Session-based CBE exams for ACCA F5-F9 (now called Applied Knowledge and Applied Skills subjects).
  • Available in March, June, September and December at an approved exam centre.
  • Same learning outcomes and the same standard as previous paper exams
  • Get a variety of objective-test question styles.
  • Type out your answer (in a Word type format) or use a spreadsheet, using the same tools used as a finance professional.
  • Exam is 3hrs and 20 minutes PLUS 10 minutes to read the pre-exam instructions
  • Some 'seeded questions' will be included for quality assurance purposes to ensure a fair and equal exam, although they won't contribute to your final result.
  • There will be 110 marks of exam content, of which 100 marks contribute to your results. These could appear in Section A (five single OT questions) or within Section B (five OT questions based on the single scenario).
  • You can see both your question and answer on the same screen, there is a clock, an exam review screen and you can flag questions you want to come back to, and no space limit (so you don't need to request an additional answer book.

What are OT questions?
OT questions are very similar to MCQ (multiple-choice questions). Same-same, but different. Not to be confused with Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs), OT questions appear as multiple-choice, multi response (select all that apply), fill in the blank, drag and drop, select from a drop-down list and hot spot. They are single, short answer questions that are auto-marked and wroth two marks each. You have to answer the whole question to be awarded the mark, as no partial marks will be awarded. 
What are constructed response questions?
Here you type your own answer into a word processing sheet or a spreadsheet which appears next to your question. Each student will give a unique answer. It's not auto marked, but will be marked by a subject-matter expert. Your marker will assess your underlying formula in your spreadsheet too, and not just the final answer, so they'll understand how you reached your answer. Produce a written answer into a blank word processing page or a blank spreadsheet or pre-formatted template.
Four things to take home: Study all the content, question practice is key, familiarise yourself with the exam tool and arrive 30 min early for your exam. Contact to enquire about a session-based CBE practice run at the IBTC Exam Centre in Sandton and Cape Town.