Congratulations to all our candidates, who passed examinations in our April 2020 examination session. Your success is all the more remarkable for being achieved during the COVID-19 global pandemic.
We would like to thank all our candidates for their patience and understanding as we moved from centre-based examinations to online delivery in April during what were unprecedented global circumstances.
As we finally complete the April 2020 examination cycle we would like to share an overview of this session, including the successes achieved, where we will need to improve, and how we have used your feedback to deliver what we hope will be an enhanced candidate experience in September.
Within nine working days of our global examination centres beginning to lockdown last March, we were able to announce that we would be moving the majority of our examinations online. This involved IFoA Examiners re-purposing papers for online delivery, testing our online examination platform’s capacity, and reviewing our Assessment regulations, technical requirements and supporting documents so that they were relevant to online examinations.
While we were unable to move our CS and CM 1 and 2 examinations online in time for the April session, in an effort to ensure that all candidates who wished to sit examinations in April were still able to do so, we moved 18 exam papers online. Around 7,000 individual candidates sat these examinations with around 10,000 exam scripts uploaded onto our online examination platform; with over 99% of candidates able to successfully download their exam papers and subsequently submit their answer scripts.
A small number of candidates sitting our CP3 assessment did experience upload problems resulting from a temporary technical issue. This was due to a matter unrelated to our examination platform and once identified, was rapidly rectified. We recognise that this caused concern to the candidates affected, however thankfully our examiners observed little material impact on candidates’ performance during this examination.
More generally there were also a small number of upload issues related to the configuration of candidates’ employers’ hardware and security settings. This affected only 77 candidates, and we have updated our instructions for the September session on what action candidates should take should they experience similar issues.
Feedback from the Board of Examiners is that the move to online examinations had little impact on candidate performance and that standards were generally consistent with previous years’ examinations that had been sat in examination centres.
The Board of Examiners took into account the usual factors when setting pass-marks, including; reported difficulty of the paper, how candidates actually answered the questions, and if the initial marking scheme finally appeared appropriate. Examiners also considered external factors, including how the change in format to online assessment may have impacted candidates’ performance.
The pass-marks for the April 2020 examinations remained within normal range for IFoA examinations and the majority of pass-rates also sit within the normal range, indicating consistency of standards with previous years’ examinations.
As always our examiners worked hard to mark around 10,000 papers, and we were able to release examination results within the previously announced timeframe in July.
We recognise, however, that due to the release of individual results to candidates rather than pass-lists, many individuals experienced difficulties in accessing their examination results on the IFoA website. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused. Our web team has identified the technical issues which caused this problem and have made changes to our website configuration to avoid similar issues in the future where there are sudden high levels of demand on particular areas of the website.
The April 2020 examination session was also the first session where we offered a new examination service to employers. Over 50 employers received bespoke electronic pass lists for their candidates. To ensure appropriate candidate confidentiality these were shared through formal agreements with the employers, and with the express permission of their candidates to ensure that the sharing was GDPR compliant.
Inappropriate Examination Conduct
The move to online examination delivery in April was also associated with assessments becoming partial open book. In order to maintain the integrity of our examinations following these changes, we introduced enhanced measures to identify inappropriate examination conduct such as plagiarism and collusion, including the use of proprietary plagiarism software.
Examiners were pleased to note that the vast majority of candidates followed their advice on plagiarism, with more than 97% of candidate scripts causing no concern following review by the software, exam markers, Education Actuaries and Examiners.
However, a small proportion of scripts did cause concern and potentially breached our Assessment Regulations. The number was broadly similar to sessions sat previously in examination centres. These were referred for further investigation because of the very significant similarity to third-party copyright material.
In the majority of the plagiarism cases investigated, while the total amount of plagiarised content was significant, each individual use of copyright material without acknowledgement was at a relatively low level. The Board of Examiners also considered that in the unprecedented circumstances of the April 2020 examinations, these candidates had gained little material advantage through their behaviour compared to those who had not caused any concern. These candidates were therefore not formally sanctioned. However they were strongly advised not to repeat such behaviour in future examinations.
There were a significant number of additional cases where the individual levels of plagiarism were even more significant. Depending on the level, these candidates have either received a formal warning, which will remain on their IFoA record, or have been disqualified from the April 2020 session.
In April 2020 there were also a small number of cases involving potential collusion. The outcomes of these cases have ranged from dismissal to disqualification from the April 2020 session and a two-year ban from future examination sessions. However, the general level of collusion was at a lower level than in 2019.
In all cases where there was no ban from future sessions, candidates have been booked onto their chosen September exam session which was a commitment we made to those who came under investigation.
Feedback about your experience during our April examination session has been vital in helping us to improve the way we deliver and communicate about IFoA exams in September and beyond. We would like to thank everyone who took the time to complete our April 2020 post-examination survey and all those who fed back through our Student Consultative Forum (SCF).
Over 2,600 students completed our April post-examination survey - three times the usual number and the highest response rate we have ever received for such a survey.
We also sought feedback from candidates who, unfortunately, had to cancel their examination bookings in April, in order for us to better understand how to help them access exams in the future.
While some candidates reported issues around uploading papers and indicated that we need to make improvements in how we communicate about IFoA examinations, the April survey results showed an increase of 12 percentage points in overall satisfaction score compared to candidates who had sat examinations in September 2019.
The results also demonstrated that candidates found the online examination platform easy to test and use.
Headline figures from respondents for the April 2020 post-examination survey include:
- 99% were able to test the platform.
- 97% reported the online platform was easy to use.
- 95% found no issues in downloading their exam paper.
- 85% were able to upload their paper without issue.
- 93% understood the technical requirements for the exams.
- 83% said the FAQ’s provided them with the information they needed.
- 75% felt the IFoA kept them informed about how COVID-19 was affecting their exam sitting.
You can find more about our candidate feedback and actions we have taken to improve our candidates’ experience in our Student feedback on our April examinations article.
September 2020 examinations
We have worked continuously to improve your experience when sitting our online examinations, and have listened to your and your employers’ feedback.
Our examiners worked hard to ensure that the IFoA could offer you the opportunity to sit all our examinations online in September, so that your qualification journey is not interrupted by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
We improved our communication with you and your employers, publishing and flagging new guidance by email at the earliest opportunity.
We also introduced enhanced functionality to our online platform in direct response to your feedback which now allows you to have printable confirmation that your scripts have been successfully uploaded, and we have revised our procedures so that should you experience difficulties in uploading papers you can call our Examinations team, who, subject to certain conditions, will now be able to authorise the emailing of final scripts to us.
“… thanks for the collective effort in adjusting the examinations setup to run online. I'm sure it was by no means straightforward, and it was a great achievement to get the vast majority running for the April sitting with such short notice. It would have been easy to just cancel all assessment centre based exams for that sitting, so I'm very appreciative to have been able to sit CP1 online and (hopefully) not delay progression through the exams.
I found the online exams platform to work very well for me, and hopefully this was the consensus. It's great news that all exams will be available to sit online for the September sitting.”
IFoA Student member