ACCA Strategic Professional CBEs - New Chapter of ACCA Exam

Updated: Aug 18, 2020

ACCA commits to the digital transformation while it does the same in the exam as well.

It launched computer-based exams (CBEs) in Applied Skills exams in 2017 and now, almost all countries and territories students are taking CBEs in PM, TX(UK), FR, AA and FM.

The association does not stop the exam digitalisation while it will launch Strategic Professional CBEs in March 2020.

In other words, paper-based exams (PBEs) will be faded out gradually that are replaced by CBEs.

In this article, I will brief what is ACCA Strategic Professional CBEs based on what published by ACCA. In addition, I will share what you need to be aware of from examiners’ comments in Applied Skills during the change from PBEs to CBEs.

Why does ACCA launch Strategic Professional CBEs?

Digitalisation changes our way of work in recent decade. Everyone in commercial world has to work in a digital environment.

ACCA conducted a survey with feedback from employers and other major stakeholders in 2014/15. It identified the demand on digital skills is very high from employer on ACCA students.

Therefore, its first step is to start CBEs in Applied Skills exam. Now, PM, TX(UK), FR, AA and FM are tested under CBEs in almost every country.

“Allowing students to continue their journey from Applied Skills, making for a smoother transition through the qualification”, ACCA said, the association will start Strategic Professional CBEs from March 2020 in selected locations and target to cover all locations by end of 2021.

However, some ATX variant and AAA adapted exams will be changed to CBE method at a later date than the other Strategic Professional exams. They are still offered as a paper-based exam until CBE option is ready.

When will you attempt Strategic Professional CBEs?

The answer to this question is: It depends!

ACCA likes to take a step-by-step approach in launching CBEs, which I found it did it for Applied Skills level exam.

For Strategic Professional CBEs, the association plans to launch it in Czech Republic, Ireland and some locations in UK including Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester in March 2020.

It means there will be no more paper-based exams offered in the above locations once Strategic Professional CBEs are there.

In June 2020, all locations in UK will offer Strategic Professional CBEs. The transition from paper-based exams to CBEs is planned to be completed by end of 2021. You can check when will be transited to Strategic Professional CBEs in your location HERE.

What is exam format for Strategic Professional CBEs?

Other than the exam is taken in computer, there is no major difference between computer-based exam and paper-based exam.

Both CBEs and PBEs gives you three hours and fifteen minutes to complete the exam (except for ACCA SBL which is four hours). Number of questions spreading between Section A and Section B is the same. Syllabus and level of difficulty has no difference between two exam formats.

However, you will be given ten minutes more in Strategic Professional CBEs to read the computer-based exam instructions.

After reading through the instruction, you can start the three hours and fifteen minutes exam.

ACCA Strategic Professional CBEs Specimen - Main Page


In the left side of main page, you find the question exhibits, requirements and response options. On the top of the page, there are several actions you can take.

Symbol means you can add or change the symbol you put into the exam. Highlight is straight forward which means you can highlight the requirements, exhibit or questions in CBEs. Strikethrough means you can cross out the words in requirements.

In addition, you are provided a built-in calculator in CBEs which means you no need to bring your own calculator to the exam room. A scratch pad is also given to you which you can write any notes on it, however, they are not be graded.

Last but not the least, there is a summary page showing which questions you have attempted. To me, it is useful and important to you as you can check which questions are outstanding for you to complete in case you are not working the questions in sequential order.

Though some of you have already attempted CBEs in earlier level, such as Applied Skills exam, I would like to highlight here what examines’ comments in Applied Skills exam about the word processing (e.g Microsoft Word) and spreadsheet (e.g. Microsoft Excel) tools in CBEs that you need to be alert.

Keep in mind these comments are also valid in Strategic Professional CBEs and make you are you are aware of.

Highlights in Strategic Professional CBEs

The word processing tool is quite different from what you use in your study or work. They are simplified and only some key functions are left for the exam.

Here are some word processing key functions you can find in computer-based exam -

Word Processing Toolbar in ACCA Strategic Professional CBEs Specimen


Word Processing Toolbar functions explained by ACCA

Source: Guide to session CBEs

In Applied Skills CBEs word-processed answers, students respond to the requirements as they would be expected to do in a professional work environment with appropriate terminology. This principle still applies in Strategic Professional CBEs.

In the same token, spreadsheet tool is also simplified by keeping major functions in CBEs.

Here are some spreadsheet features you find in CBEs -

Spreadsheet Toolbar in ACCA Strategic Professional CBEs Specimen


Spreadsheet Toolbar functions explained by ACCA

Source: Guide to session CBEs

However, there are not many students equip with adequate spreadsheet skills in CBEs which are stated by Examiners.

One common problem is some students preparing their calculations in scratch pad and just writing down their numbers or answers on the spreadsheet.

ACCA adopts own figure rule (OFR) in marking exam. It means that students show correct steps in the exam answer sheet (or spreadsheet in CBEs) but the final answer is wrong, the students can still be awarded partial marks.

If you only write down the final answer in spreadsheet, you cannot be awarded any marks if it’s not correct.

In addition, it is not rare seeing students in CBEs haven’t applied the simple function built in the spreadsheet, for example, the sum function to add up different numbers.

My advice to you is to ensure you are familiar of which functions are built into the Strategic Professional CBEs and practice them before you go into the exam room. It is more efficient and effective than using a calculator to do summation.

In ACCA Strategic Business Leader (SBL) exam, you are not only required to use word processing and spreadsheet tool but also preparing slide.

The functions provided in the published Strategic Professional CBEs introduction looks liked the same as in word processing tool. You can refer those functions in word processing tool if you would like to practice how to prepare slides.

Slides in ACCA Strategic Professional SBL CBEs Specimen



The launch of Strategic Professional CBEs is one of the key milestones in ACCA toward the digitalisation. Through the CBEs, students are not only studying the syllabus but also required to train their computer skills such as word processing and spreadsheet.

As a student, you better prepare for it by practicing sample CBEs published by ACCA especially familiarised yourself in spreadsheet skills which we find many students in Applied Skills exam cannot do well.

Through our introduction and highlights, we give you a general idea of what Strategic Professional CBEs is and what you should be aware of based on the experiences in Applied Skills CBEs.

If there are more information published by ACCA, we will update this article and you are welcome to revisit it again before your Strategic Professional CBEs started.

Remark: Commonly Used Spreadsheet Formulae (Suggested by ACCA)

Commonly used spreadsheet formulae can be found in CBEs (suggested by ACCA)

Source: Guide to session CBEs

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