Difference between CBE and paper exam

All ACCA exams are taken by computer based exam (CBE) method. Some are available on demand, whilst others are available during the exam sessions. Your location will also determine whether you can take exams at an exam center or as a remotely invigilated exam. 

Paper based test: This test is offered on a single day to all candidates. Candidates are required to bring Pen, HB-Pencils, Erasers and Sharpener with them whereas the question paper & OMR answer sheets will be provided at the test center.

CBEThis means the candidates sit in front of a computer and the questions are presented on the monitor and the candidates submit the answers through the use of a keyboard or mouse. Each computer is connected to a server, which prepares the question set and delivers it to the candidates on the computer.

The major difference of paper based exam and that of CBEs are: 

  1. Exam pattern:

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.

  1. Time span: 

CBE are slightly longer than the old papers – 3 hours and 20 minutes as opposed 3 hours and 15 minutes.

  1. Number of timeslots in each exam session:

Under session CBE, students can choose either morning or afternoon sitting subject to availability at the selected center.  This flexibility is good to students for their exam scheduling.

Other major difference and advantages are: 


In CBEs editing is ten times easier as compared to paper exams. You can do unconditional editing without worrying about your handwriting, whether your work is neat or not, there is no need to overwrite or cross out stuff… Just use the backspace button.

Even for the MCqs section you can get back to an option as many times as you want. This is not the case in Paper exams. Once you have striked off an option and chosen another one, you can’t get back to the first one. (but keep a watch on the time!)


The highlight, strikethrough, flag to review, etc tools helps a lot. Especially the flag to review. This one you will not get in paper exams. Whichever question you are not sure about and want to revisit just flag it. While in a paper exam you may need to remember that question number or make a note somewhere but the exam pressure is so much one tends to forget to revisit the question in the paper exam.


CBEs are faster because you can easily edit and also using softwares like spreadsheet and word processing for Section C makes input faster. U don’t need to calculate the stuff on your calculator… The Spreadsheet software does the job for you. What’s the irony here is, even though there were the Seeded Questions (extra questions which don’t contribute to your scores but you Do Not know which ones are these) in CBEs you had more time in hand… There could surely be other factors concerning the time.


Since you see just one question on the screen… It keeps you more focused unlike in paper exams where you tend to flip pages and get distracted by other questions.


I believe in CBEs one is more organized and especially for the Section C one can format his/her answers way better (due to the tools provided by the software) as compared to paper based.

5.0/5.0 Article rating
1 Review
Was this article helpful? Please rate this article to give us valuable insights for our improvements.
  1. Wow!
  2. Good
  3. Perfect
  4. Not Worthy
  5. Dislike

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Check Also
Back to top button
Close Bitnami banner