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Computer-based exams FAQs

All ACA exams will eventually move from paper to computer-based, so getting to know the new format in advance of your exam is crucial to success.


How to book an exam

How can I apply for an exam that is computer-based?

You will continue to be responsible for booking your own Professional and Advanced Level exams online via your online training file. When you book your exam, you will enter a town, postcode or country and the closest venues, with availability, will be displayed. You will then select the centre you want to sit your exam.

It’s important that you book your exam before the exam booking deadline, no late bookings will be accepted after this date. View all key dates and deadlines by downloading the ACA planner.

Certificate Level exams will continue to be booked directly with the test centre.

Will access arrangements still be available?

Yes, if you are applying for access arrangements for the first time, you will need to send an application for access arrangements to aa@icaew.com. The deadline to apply for access arrangements is the same date as the exam application deadline. 

Will the access arrangements I have already been given remain the same?

If you already have access arrangements in place, we will contact you to advise of any differences in your access arrangements for computer-based exams. If you haven’t taken an exam for two years or more then this will not happen automatically and you will need to contact us at aa@icaew.com.

If you don’t have access arrangements for any Professional or Advanced Level exams, but feel you may need them for a computer-based exam, please get in touch, email aa@icaew.com.

If I have access arrangements will I be able to apply online?

Yes, the exam application process will show the exam venues that are available to you based on any specific arrangements that have been awarded.

For more information on access arrangements, please read the Instructions to Candidates.

Late bookings

Please note that no exam bookings will be accepted once the exam booking deadline closes. Students, employers and tutors must ensure they are aware of and make a note of all exam dates and deadlines.


What happens if there are no seats available at my chosen location?

When you apply for your exams, the venues that are shown during the exam booking process will be the closest venues to the location you have entered with available seats. Once a venue is filled to capacity, it will not be displayed on screen. Booking will work on a first come first serve basis.

On the day

Can I bring my own watch or clock into the exam?

No, as the exam software has a built in timer that counts down the remaining exam time. Please note that watches and desk clocks are not permitted in the exam room. The timing of the exam will be managed by a countdown timer within the computer software. Therefore you are advised to practise the exams with a countdown timer, so you are confident managing your time throughout your exam this way.

Can I have a paper copy of the exam?

No. The primary purpose of ICAEW’s Computer-based exam project is to deliver exams in a manner that reflects the work environment, whilst maintaining the quality and rigour of the exams. Extensive student testing and incorporation of stakeholder feedback has delivered pass rates which to date are comparable with previous paper based exams. The ICAEW exam software provides the necessary functionality to produce answers to the ACA exams; it encourages candidates to produce well-structured responses and to show all workings as would be expected of a report prepared for a client.

Can I take a calculator into the exam room?

Yes. For Professional and Advanced Level exams, you are allowed to take a calculator into the exam room. Your calculator cannot be pre-programmable nor have additional functions built in capable of automatically computing NPV or IRR. You may be asked to show that the memory within the calculator is empty. If you are unable to do so, you will not be allowed to use the calculator during your exam. It is therefore advisable to use a calculator without additional built in functions.

From 1 January 2019, you will be required to bring your own calculator to Certificate Level exams from an approved list. No other makes or models will be permitted. An on screen calculator will also be available. 

Can I use earplugs if I am concerned about the noise in the exam room?

We endeavour to provide excellent exam facilities for all students; however there remain issues which are outside our control or the control of the exam venue, including external traffic noise and building works, particularly in built up areas such as London.

Please note that you are allowed to use earplugs or wear headphones during an exam in case of unavoidable noise disturbance, provided they are not plugged in to or capable of being wirelessly connected to any device. We do not provide earplugs or headphones, so you must bring your own and it remains your responsibility to listen to the announcements before the exam and monitor the timing of the exam.

Do I still need to show workings for my calculations?

Yes, while the software provides the straightforward functionality required to support your computations, workings must still be shown in order to ensure that you get the full credit that you deserve. The sample exams illustrate how workings could be set out.

What if my keyboard does not have the required currency symbols?

Some of our international venues may not have £, $ or € keys available. Please use sensible abbreviations such as P / GBP for £, D / USD for $, and E / EUR for € to indicate a currency if this is required.

What should I do if I experience technical difficulties?

The exam will be delivered via a secure, locked-down application that is resilient to internet connectivity problems. In the unlikely event that you encounter any technical difficulties, the invigilator will be able to provide support. You must make the invigilator aware as soon as possible, you will then be required to complete an invigilator report. 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.

What will I see on screen during a computer-based exam

You will be able to view both the exam question and response area at the same time. The on-screen response area will enable you to enter narrative and/or numeric responses. Download the exam guide for more information on what you will see on screen, including the formatting buttons and key functionality with illustrative screenshots.

Will I be able to make notes during the exam?
Yes. You will be provided with a pen and loose leaf paper to make notes. However, any notes you make will not be handed in or marked. You will be expected to show all workings as part of your response on screen. All answers must be visible and not hidden within cells, they will be presented to the examiner exactly as they appear on screen.
Will I be allowed to take permitted texts into the exam room?

Yes. You must take your own copy of the relevant permitted text into the exam room. No spare copies will be available at the venue.

Will I still be able to annotate the exam question?

Yes. The on-screen exam question will provide the facility to highlight and add sticky notes.

Will the computer equipment be different across exam centres?

Our exam centres are run by our Test Centre Network providers, who have a set of guidelines and contractual obligations (including minimum specifications for the IT equipment) that they must adhere to. While screen sizes may vary from centre to centre, this will not affect the amount of content that is visible on screen – larger screens will just have more blank white space around the exam software. ICAEW takes into account all of our student and other stakeholder feedback to ensure that all of our centres offer the best consistent exam environment and we undertake reviews after every exam session with our network providers.

Will the question window and response area be visible at the same time?

Yes, you can move and resize the question window to fit side by side with the response area.

Support and guidance

I don’t have access to a computer at home, how can I access the practice platform?

The purpose of the practice platform is to provide you with learning support, so you can prepare for an exam. It is recommended that you familiarise yourself with the software before you sit a computer-based exam. The practice platform can be accessed anytime from any computer or device with internet access. You can access offline versions of each module’s questions banks from the exam resources page.

Will I be able to practice the exam on computer before the day of my exam?

Yes, sample exams are available within the exam software so you can practise answering questions as you would in the actual exam. You can also view illustrative answers from our examiners and guidance on exam technique.

Two months before an exam moves to computer, questions from the ICAEW published question bank will also be available within the exam software via the exam resources area of our website.

You will continue to purchase the ICAEW official learning materials to access the study manuals and answers from the question banks.

Will I need to learn new skills for the exam?

Alongside your usual exam preparation, you will need to become familiar with the computer-based exam software, but it does have many familiar features. Primarily, the software is a bespoke assessment tool designed to assess your ability to answer the questions, not your proficiency in formulas and shortcuts.

You can prepare for the exam by completing this checklist:

  1. Read the exam guidance
    This guide is ideal to help you to understand what to expect on the day, how to navigate within the software and key functionality.
  2. Review the sample exams
    A sample exam for each module will be available in the software so you can review the suggested way to present your answers in the exam. You can also view the sample answers from our examiners and guidance on exam technique.
  3. Read the Instructions to Candidates
    The Instructions to Candidates contain important information regarding the administration of your ICAEW exams. Read them carefully so you know our processes and procedures before you attempt your exams
  4. .Watch the exam webinars
    A series of short webinars are available for you to watch on-demand.
  5. Use the practice exam software
    You must practise with the software in advance of your exam. Being unfamiliar with the functionality and formatting may cost you valuable time in the live exam. Questions from the ICAEW question banks are available within the practice exam software two months before the first exam sitting.


Will the speed I type affect my performance in the exam?

While ACA exams remain focused on quality rather than quantity, employers do expect a certain degree of IT literacy from students. An adequate typing speed will therefore be required. We encourage you to use the practice platform to ascertain whether any improvement in your typing skills is required.

Will computer-based exams affect the rigour or quality of the ACA exams?

No. The quality, structure and academic rigour of the ACA will remain unchanged. Computer-based exams will enhance the security of the exam delivery process, by replacing the requirement to transport paper exams and answer scripts to electronic transfer.