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ACCA to phase in CBEs

25 April 2016

The ACCA has announced that only certain learning providers will be offering tuition for the ACCA F5 to F9 CBE exams, due to begin in September.

So, while students at some colleges in London (BPP and Kaplan) can opt to study for CBEs, this option will not be available elsewhere, in Birmingham for example.

It appears the ACCA has decided to use both September and December for a more phased approach to the introduction of CBEs, before opening them up more universally in March 2017.

Students will, of course, still be able to sit the paper exams as normal during this time.

During their initial introduction the ACCA has said that the CBE questions will be exactly the same as paper to ensure ‘equivalency’, but they will use the CBE technology.

Interestingly the ACCA has revealed that as the CBE format introduces many time saving efficiencies, compared to the paper-based exams, students will have three hours to complete session CBEs, compared to three hours 15 minutes for paper-based exams.

The ACCA's move to CBEs may have been tempered by the problems of taking a big bang approach after the experiences of both the AAT and CIMA.

Alan Hatfield, ACCA's Executive Director - Strategy & Development stressed the roll-out of the CBEs has to be right for students, tuition providers and employers.

ACCA is still planning to release its CBE 'practice tools' for students in early May now. PQs will be encouraged to use the blank spreadsheet and word processing sheets to get them familiar with the new set-up.

In the first phase CBE exams in September 2016 will be offered in only certain cities in China, the Czech Republic, Hungary, India, Ireland, Slovakia, Sri Lanka and the UK. These will be extended in December to include 10 cities in China, four in Ireland and 10 locations in the UK.

ACCA also stressed that it will have to introduce some additional features to aid exam security. This will mean students sitting the same subject may receive different questions. ACCA said it will apply industry standard psychometric techniques to guarantee all its exams are equivalent and fair. That means introducing seeded content in 2017.

These are questions that do not contribute towards a student’s mark, but are used to ensure that results are fair and reliable. When the ACCA introduces seeded content students will be given more time to complete the exams! So the exams will be extended to three hours 20 minutes.


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