Getting started with the e-assessment

Jun 30, 2020
Yes, the e-assessment will be different, but as long as you embrace those differences and practise on the e-assessment platform, it won't be any more difficult, says Philip Nicolls.

Looking back over recent months, the scale and pace of change are just astonishing. All of us have learned new disciplines, skills and employed new tools in both our work and personal lives. Professional accountancy exams have changed, as well, and Institutes around the world have moved quickly to e-assessment as we adjust to a world with COVID-19. 

Fortunately, Chartered Accountants Ireland candidates have a range of resources to assist with this unexpected transition. Your starting point should be the e-assessment pages on the website. Make sure that your hardware and software meet the necessary requirements and that you understand what will happen on the day of the assessment. You will find the frequently asked questions helpful in this regard. You will also find video tutorials walking you through the e-assessment platform, as well as a link to the practice papers. Once you understand the big picture, it's time to focus on the detail of the assessments themselves and how you plan your preparations.

New terminology

The structure of each exam is unchanged, however, as we move to e-assessment, some of the terminology changes to that used on the e-assessment platform. Most noticeably, each individual requirement is numbered as a Question

For example, the CAP 1 financial accounting practice paper in its original form as the summer 2019 paper, question one had four requirements, a) to d). In the e-assessment platform, this becomes Part One with four requirements, Question 1 – Question 4. This is particularly important when it comes to choosing your optional questions in Section B, where, for the financial accounting paper, you must answer any two of three parts. The introduction to the assessment clearly lays out how many questions are in each part and the heading on each individual question will clearly indicate to which part it belongs. This will become more intuitive as you practise more papers on the e-assessment platform.

Stay engaged

During the CAP 1 e-assessment pilot, there was a strong correlation between candidates' engagement with the online examination resources and their performance on the actual exam. Recognise that the value in the practice papers is not primarily the technical accounting aspects. Rather, it is your opportunity to develop familiarity and enhance your skills working in the e-assessment platform. 

In preparation for the main summer exams, candidates are allowed up to five attempts at each practice paper – that's up to 76 hours of e-assessment time for a candidate! Use the opportunity to practise navigating around the assessment, structuring your answer and using tables. 

Some aspects will be down to personal preference. How do you prefer to view the resources on screen? Do you find it easier to expand your answer to full screen as you are working, or see the narrative, requirement and answer on-screen at the same time? It's good to figure these preferences out beforehand.

Exam technique

Back in the March issue of Accountancy Ireland Extra, we considered how exam technique is largely unchanged in the move from paper-based assessment to e-assessment. You still need to read the question carefully, and answer the specific requirement, manage your time, show your workings, etc. Of course, there are some differences, and I would recommend that as you prepare for your exams by practising past papers, you create your answer using a word processor rather than a handwritten script. 

You should also note that, for CAP 2 and FAE, reading time has been amalgamated into the overall time. You might adjust your approach to the past papers slightly to take advantage of this.

Final thoughts

As you move into a period of intensive study, take some time to reflect. Make sure that you have the e-assessment practicalities covered off. Recognise that there are some different skills to practice and be deliberate in how you adjust your exam preparations. 

Good luck with your summer exams, but remember the immortal words of golfer, Gary Player: "The more I practice, the luckier I get."