We are often asked about how our examinations work, so our examination team based in Oxford, UK have brought together the answers to some of the most common questions below.
Although students sit examinations in April and September (known as the session based exams), this is actually the end point of a complex process which starts months before.
Setting exam dates
The first stage of the exam process is the setting of the exam dates.
Exams will normally take place in the third and fourth weeks in April and in the last two weeks of September.
The detailed exam dates are set two years in advance!
The Examinations Team identify the possible dates, taking into consideration public holidays and significant religious holidays and the options are then presented to the Education Committee for a final decision. Once the decision has been made the dates are published on the website and in the student newsletter.
Exams with two papers do not take place on the same day as we have some students who require extra time for their exams and this would then be expecting them to take the exam over a significant number of hours in a single day.
The exam entry session normally opens 12-14 weeks before the exams start. Of the entries we receive around one-third of them are sent in the final week before the closing date.
Entry can be made either by:
Online (paying by card) – if you enter online, you can check your personal account on the website to see immediately that your entry has been recorded.
Or by filling in a form and sending it by email or post along with payment – if you submit an email or postal entry, you will receive an email confirming the details once the form has been processed and payment is confirmed.
Top tips for booking your preferred exam
The IFoA is committed to delivering a good examination experience for all students and learners. However there are some quick and easy ways you can ensure you can book onto your examination of choice:
Ensure your form is submitted before the deadline – some exams have high demand so the earlier you submit the form the earlier you’ll receive confirmation that you’re booked onto your preferred exam; and forms submitted on the day may not be received in time to secure a place
Check your online records are correct in the “My Account” section of the IFoA website, and that your personal email account isn’t filtering emails from the IFoA which might contain important information
Take a look at your booking in the My Account section before the deadline, so you’ve got time to resolve any issues that might occur
Every year over 15,000 candidates take their exams at more than 100 centres worldwide supported by a team of 500+ volunteer markers.
To ensure we’re giving you the best possible service, all of this must be achieved within tight deadlines 7 weeks in advance. This gives t the team time to prepare and pack the stationery and permits to send to the exam centres across the world; it’s also the reason why we’re unable to accept late examination entries
Marking and publication of results
Once an exam has taken place the completed exam scripts are sent to a secure scanning company so that they can be scanned and passed to our online marking platform before being made available to the markers.
Online exam submissions are passed to the marking platform within 24 hours of the exam being sat.
From the first group of scripts arriving in the marking platform for each subject a minimum of three are selected to be a marker standardisation batch. All examiners mark these scripts to define a set of definitive marks. They are then released to the markers. Markers then mark these scripts and measure their own marking against the definitive marks before attending a marking meeting. At the marking meeting the entire team get together to review their marking, and where necessary amend the marking schedules. After this meeting the examiners set definitive marks for a further three scripts. Markers have to mark these scripts to demonstrate they are marking within expected standards. In some cases markers will be prevented from starting live marking if they are too far away from the definitive marks. In these cases the examining team provide further support to the marker or in some cases the marker is removed from the process. The standardisation process takes around two weeks to complete.
Once the live marking period has commenced each script is marked twice by separate markers, neither of whom knows how the other scored the paper. Depending on the subject each marker can be marking between 60 and 240 scripts, and the whole process can take 4 to 6 weeks to complete.
When each marker has completed their marking they send the results to the lead examiner who will review the marks and form an opinion of where the pass mark should be set. This will change each session, depending on the complexity of the paper, and the students’ overall performance.
Once the initial pass mark has been decided then scripts which are around the borderline will be reviewed by a member of the examining team, this is referred to as the script review process. Details of this process and the criteria that governs it can be found on our website. This process takes on average 15 days to complete.
Whilst all this is happening the Assessment team gather together all the mitigating circumstances reports and incident reports that have been submitted, ready for consideration by the examiners.
8 or 9 weeks after the exams the initial exam results for all subjects are sent to Oxford for uploading into the database and are used to provide a variety of statistics. 10 weeks after the exams the Board of Examiners meet to discuss the results. At this meeting the pass mark and the pass rate (the number who have passed out of those sitting) are agreed. The Assessment team and Examinations team then finalise results in the database, make any final adjustments if necessary i.e. as a result of mitigating circumstances, produce the exam results letters, produce the qualifier eligibility list, and finalise any statistics. In the meantime the Chief Examiner will be working on the examiners’ report for publication on the website soon after the results are published. 12 weeks after the exams have been sat the results are released.
We’re proud to deliver a comprehensive, fair and high quality programme of examinations to all IFoA students and learners. To get the best possible experience check out the key milestones below.
1. One year before exams
Exam dates agreed by the Education Education Committee.
2. Twelve weeks before exam starts
Entry opened by the Education Services team.
3. Seven weeks before exam starts
Entry closes for students.
4. Four weeks before exam starts
Stationery sent out by the Examination team.
5. One to four weeks after exams sats
Scripts returned, scanned and passed to marking platform by the Secure scanning company and Online marking platform company.
6. Two to seven weeks after exams sat
Scripts marked (1st and 2nd) by Markers.
7. Six to eight weeks after exams sat
Scripts marked (3rd). Pass mark set by the Lead/Chief Examiner.
8. Eight to nine weeks after exams sat
Exam results sent to Oxford for processing by the Chief Examiner/Assessment team.
9. Ten weeks after exams sat
Board of Examiners meets to agree exam mark/rate.
9. Twelve weeks after exams sat
Exams released by the Assessment team/Examination team.