Pearson VUE CBT Thoughts

As we are now two weeks out from the exam, it’s time to start focusing on what things will look like on exam day. There is a lot of information you can find at including a link to a demo exam to get used to the format. Some of the most important points that you should start take into account in your practice routine are:

You must bring your own mask. Masks with valves are not allowed. I would work all practice problems in the final week with a mask on so that you don’t get distracted by it on exam day.

For doing work by hand, you get a 5 page laminated notebook that is somewhat larger than legal size, along with a non-erasable marker. It’s fairly similar to This initially sounded insufficient to me, but in working the released exams I actually find it works out ok, largely because I’m doing most of my work on a scratch spreadsheet you get in the exam.

More specifically, the CBT format gives you a calculator simulator as well as a scratch spreadsheet you can use. You also can, and should, bring your own calculator as using a physical calculator saves precious screen space and is faster than the onscreen calculator. You also may find that you use the spreadsheet exclusively for computations.

The Pearson VUE scratch spreadsheet is not Excel, but seems to be based on it. The tl;dr is that most Excel functions work, but most shortcuts don’t. When practicing, use Excel and not Google Sheets as Pearson VUE prefers Excel formula syntax when they differ.

Things you will dislike about the Pearson VUE scratch sheet:

The spreadsheet resets the active cell to A1 each problem so you have to scroll back down to where your work is. It may be tempting to clear the spreadsheet so you don’t have to scroll — I think this is a terrible idea. I would label each problem clearly, and save everything for checking work later.

Most Excel shortcuts don’t work. E.g., hitting F4 doesn’t insert absolute references, you can’t smart fill down by double clicking, etc. Try not to use keyboard shortcuts when practicing.

The spreadsheet has a fixed size of 100 rows and 40 columns (A1:AN100). You can’t insert or delete rows and columns, which makes editing somewhat harder, but you can select an area and drag it to move things.

Some good things about the Pearson VUE CBT format:

With the big exception of the normal distribution table, the exam tables are searchable, a big upgrade over the Prometric format you had for your first couple of exams. If you need the normal table, instead of typing normal, you can remember that it’s on p. 4.

Within each problem, you can highlight and cross out text. It will save your annotations for when you review your work. I think this is really helpful for the triple true-false questions, as you can highlight the ones you know are true, cross out the ones you know are false, and use what is left to make your guesses (yes, if you can eliminate answer choices you should guess even with the adjustment for guessing)

As these changes make things quite different than what you have seen before, I would practice on the Pearson VUE demo ( at least twice before exam day. Good luck!

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