Guidance on Success

The CBEs form part of the CTA examination structure and have equal standing alongside your chosen written papers. To become a member you MUST have either completed the examinations or achieved a credit for them. Details of eligibility for credits can be found here.

There are full 50 question mock exams for both Law and Ethics and these can be found here.

There are two CBEs:

  • Professional Responsibilities & Ethics
  • Law

Question Type

There are four types of question within the examinations:

  1. Multiple Choice
    Which of these taxes is an individual not subject to?
    1. Income Tax
    2. Capital Gains Tax
    3. Corporation Tax
    4. Inheritance Tax

  2. Multiple Response
    Which three of these taxes is an individual subject to?
    1. Income Tax
    2. Capital Gains Tax
    3. Corporation Tax
    4. Inheritance Tax

  3. True/False
    Identify whether the following statements true or false?
    1. Corporation Tax is payable by an individual
    2. Capital Gains Tax is payable by a company
    1. 1 is true, 2 is false
    2. Both 1 and 2 are true
    3. Both 1 and 2 are false
    4. 1 is false, 2 is true

  4. Pick the correct statements
    Which of the following are taxes charged to an individual?
    1. Income Tax
    2. Capital Gains Tax
    3. Corporation Tax
    1. 1 and 2 only
    2. 1 and 3 only
    3. 2 and 3 only
    4. 1, 2 and 3

Within these formats you will encounter questions that test both knowledge (recalling specific facts) and application (applying facts to a new situation).

Study Material

For Professional Responsibilities & Ethics; Professional Responsibilities & Ethics for Tax Practitioners.

For Law; Essential Law for Tax Practitioners.

The latest versions of these manuals will displayed in the shop and they can be purchased, here.

Studying for the CBEs

Both of the CBEs require significant amounts of study. The level of detailed knowledge required in order to achieve a pass in these examinations should not to be underestimated. It is, therefore, important that you give some thought to when you would wish to sit the assessments.

To give the best chance of success you may think about sitting the assessments separately rather than on the same day and not in conjunction with a written paper. You should also try to obtain the study material earlier rather than later.

The volume of information is significant and you will be required to know it at a micro level. However, you should bear in mind that the syllabi have been carefully devised to expose tax students to the law and ethics you will come across during your careers and it is therefore essential that, to become a qualified tax practitioner, you can demonstrate a full understanding of these areas.

If you are finding the prospect of the manual daunting, we would suggest you approach the material in a number of phases:

The macro phase – read through the manual to give yourself an awareness of the topics covered and the general principles involved. You will not, at this stage, be taking in the minor detail, but it will give you the comfort when you do revisit the chapters that you understand the ‘story’ behind the rules.

The micro phase – now you can start to concentrate on the detail. As you revisit the material you will be able to see past the general into the specific. You may wish to start creating your own revision tools at this point (more on this below) or making charts etc. for any numbers or lists of rules you may need to learn.

The testing phase – if you have used a tuition provider they will have given you some learning tools for the CBEs. Some involve CDs with questions some involve online tools that can be downloaded. Both the manuals include test questions at the end of each chapter for you to test your level of knowledge as you go along.

Pre-booking – there are mock tests for each of the CBEs on the ATT and CIOT websites that have been withdrawn from the live bank of questions and chosen to give you the same spread of topics as you will face in the real exam. These will give you the best indication of whether or not you are ready to sit the examination. Try to attempt them without your learning material and see if you can score 30 out of 50 within the permitted time. You can take our online mock tests for both Law, here, and Professional Responsibilities & Ethics, here.

Study Methods

As you will have realised, to achieve success in the CBEs you will need to remember the material! Everyone has their own method of remembering things, no one way is better than another and you will probably know from previous exams you have sat which is best for you. However, here are some that may help:

Revisit your notes several times. This will fix them in your mind better than a once and for all approach.

Note down what you think is on a page before you look at it again. What you have forgotten will stand out as you read.

Use trigger words for a topic and then list beside that trigger word the points you need to know. Remembering the trigger word should bring back the full list.

Mnemonics use the letters of a word, or the initial letters of a phrase, to trigger associations.

Mind maps and spider diagrams – start at the centre of the page with a topic or idea and draw branches out from it with the associated information.

Association – this is where you link a number of facts to a journey. As you move through the journey you recall each point at the landmark you have linked it to.

Listening – some people learn best audibly so you could download online lectures or record your own notes and listen to them on your way to and from work.

During the Examination

Taking a CBE is naturally a different experience to a traditional paper based exam. You will be given 50 questions which have been randomly selected within certain parameters from a substantial question bank. You will have 60 minutes with which to answer the questions, giving you an average of just over 1 minute per question, or you can aim for 1 minute per question to give you 10 minutes at the end to review your answers.

You also have the facility to skip questions and go back to them later, or to ‘flag’ them for review if you are uncertain of the answer you have given. You will have a ‘scratch pad’ and a pencil to make notes if you so wish as part of your thought process, but please note you will not be able to take any notes with you after the exam is finished as it must be handed back in at the end.

Key features of the look and feel of the CBEs are:

Progress Bar

At the top of the screen there is a progress bar showing you how far through the exam you are.

Question list on the left hand side of the screen

This will make it easier for you to navigate between questions and also see which questions you have flagged for review.

Strike Out

During the examination, a Strike Out feature is available to help you visually eliminate possible options from consideration. A struck-out option will remain present as you navigate through the exam, unless you select to remove it.

Right-click an option to strike it out.

Right-click an option again to remove the strikeout.

Left-click a struck-out option to choose it as your response.

You may strike out as many or as few options as you like.


During the examination, you will be able to highlight text in the passage area and in the questions that you feel are important to refer back to as you progress through the exam. The highlight will remain present as you navigate through the exam, unless you select to remove it.

To highlight text, hold down the left mouse button and drag the cursor over the desired text. Click on the Highlight button that appears below the selected text. To remove the highlight, move the cursor over the highlighted text and left-click. Note that highlight cannot be applied to answer options.


Good exam technique is just as important for a CBE as for any other exam, but the challenges you face will be different. Here are some tips to help you make the best use of the 60 minutes:

Some questions are longer than others. If the length of the question is daunting, skip it and go back to it at the end when you have attempted the others. You will then, hopefully, be calmer and will know how much time you have left. Try not to skip more than 5 though or you might not have enough time to go back over them all.

Try to answer the short questions in 30 – 40 seconds to give you extra time on the longer questions.

Some questions involve a positive response and some a negative. Have some way of prompting yourself which one. For example, cross the fingers of your spare hand if you need a negative response.

Some questions ask you to pick the correct statements from a list of points. Try holding up the fingers of your hand to identify the ones you choose as you read down them.

With the true/false ones, again use your fingers to help you remember which are true as you then read down the list of options.

Don’t forget to breathe!

Above all don’t forget the exams are not set to trip you up, we want you to succeed. A well prepared student WILL pass.