Computer power

Over the past two years, the ACA Professional and Advanced Level exams have been moving to computer. ICAEW has delivered over 65,000 exams on the new platform and the transition will complete in July 2019 when the Case Study exam moves to computer.

The move from paper to computer-based exams marks a new era in exam delivery. Like anything new, familiarising yourself with the functionality is important and will help you to overcome any fears or concerns you may have. Ilyana Ibrahim, an ACA student from Malaysia, says her biggest fear going in to an exam was “the stability of the software”.

She was worried that “the system would crash in the middle of the exam”, or that questions would take some time to load “while the timer is still running”. After sitting her Financial Accounting and Reporting exam without problems she no longer has these concerns.

The exams are delivered via a secure, locked down application that is resilient to internet connectivity problems and your answers are automatically saved as you navigate through each question. In the unlikely event that your computer does crash, your exam will automatically save and you will be able to pick up where you left off by re-entering your keycode.

If you feel something has negatively affected your exam, make the invigilator aware as soon as possible. They have the ability to pause your exam while they investigate and, hopefully, fix the issue. After your exam has finished, make sure you complete an invigilator report before you leave the exam room. If the issue wasn’t resolved, you should also apply for Special Consideration, but you must do so no more than 10 days after your exam. The Instructions to Candidates details further information about the Special Consideration process.

Resize fits all

All computer screens within the exam centres meet our minimum specifications and guidelines. While screen sizes may vary, this will not affect the amount of content visible on screen. Larger screens will just have more blank space around the exam software. You will be able to move and resize the question window to fit side-by-side with the response area.

The software is the same for all Professional and Advanced Level exams, with the exception of a couple of buttons; a ‘Formula and Discount tables’ button for Financial Management and an ‘Exhibits’ button for Corporate Reporting, Strategic Business Management and Case Study. The Case Study exam also includes a ‘List of exhibits and requirement’ button.

Many students prefer to type their responses, as it can be faster and neater than handwriting. Ibrahim felt she could finish the exam faster because she “tends to write really slowly”. In addition, she said “since I am an environmentally-conscious person, I love how we could save so much paper just by moving to the digital platform.”

Although you will be provided with a pen and loose-leaf paper to make notes, you are still expected to show all workings as part of your response on screen. Ensure that all your answers are visible and not hidden within cells, as they will be presented to the examiner exactly as they appear on screen.

Ensure you’re prepared and confident going into your next exam, familiarise yourself with the practice software and make this part of your revision process. Ibrahim says her biggest tip when preparing for a computer-based exam is “practise, practise, practise. The practice software provided on the ICAEW website is crucial for computer-based exams. You have to get used to the software and make full use out of it. If you can master the software, it will really help you in answering the exam.” Access exam resources at For FAQs, exam tips, support and more on the exam software visit

Preparing for the case study

From July 2019, the Case Study exam will be computer-based. You must practise with the exam software in advance of your exam, to ensure you are familiar with the functionality and formatting on the day of your exam. View the exam guide which provides an overview of the Case Study exam software, listen to on-demand webinars, practise using the blank practice software or software with sample exams and explore more at

You can also join ICAEW on 19 June, 10:00 (UK-time) at a live webinar, as they talk through the Case Study exam software, the exam experience, give top tips and answer your questions. Email questions to and register your place at

• Thanks to the ICAEW for this article

Reproduced with the permission of ICAEW, this article was first published in Vital (December 2018).