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IFoA Online examinations – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

These FAQs refer to our September 2020 examinations.


  1. General
  2. Taking our online examinations
  3. Examination arrangements
  4. Access arrangements
  5. Examination results
  6. University Exemptions

1. General

Will the September examinations run as scheduled?

We understand that you need information as soon as possible on our plans for September.

We have been working very hard, in what is still a very uncertain future, to balance our candidates' wellbeing with their desire to sit the full portfolio of our examinations in September – including those we had to cancel in April.

We can now announce that for the September sitting all our examinations will be delivered online.  This includes CS1&2 and CM1&2 which we were unable to deliver in April.

Why has the IFoA decided to continue to run its examinations online? 

After delivering the majority of our examinations online in April, and receiving much positive feedback from candidates, we are now confident that we can do the same in September, but this time including those we had to cancel earlier in the year.

How will the online examinations operate?

Our September online examinations will operate in the following way:

  • At the start time of any examination, candidates will access the written examination paper from the IFoA online platform.
  • Answers will be typed and then uploaded at the end of the examination to the same platform. There is no provision for handwritten answers during our September examinations.
  • Answers will be typed into either Word or Excel depending on the examination.
  • Electronic ‘scripts’ will then be loaded onto our e-marking platform, and distributed as usual to examiners/markers.
  • Marking will proceed using this platform which has been in use with examiners/markers since April 2019.
  • Post-marking, the Board of Examiners will meet to consider the examination marks.
  • You will then receive personal notification of your examination results. The IFoA has previously announced that it will cease publication of public pass-lists from April 2020

Is the examination platform capable of supporting the increase in online examinations?

While we will be offering more online examinations than in April 2020, our online platform has already demonstrated over the past sittings that it can handle the numbers of candidates planned for each individual examination cohort.

Will there be a higher risk of examination misconduct by delivering these examinations online?

We believe we are taking appropriate and proportionate measures to manage the risk of examination misconduct.

To maintain the integrity of our examinations, we are continuing to enhance our security measures.  You can expect to see more security at the start of your September examination, and our examiners, supported by  ‘back-office’ systems, will be scrutinising examination ‘scripts’ for possible cases of collusion. We will again be deploying specialist software in September to identify any cases of plagiarism/collusion, and reserve the right to undertake such reviews pre- or post publication of examination results.

You are all reminded that student members of the IFoA are bound by the Actuaries’ Code and that any finding of examination misconduct could have serious implications for you and your career.

2. Taking our online examinations

Will I have to study new material for the online examinations?

No, the syllabus and core reading for these subjects remains the same. The only difference is the format of the examination papers which the examiners have carefully adapted so that they can be answered using Word or Excel only. 

When will I receive joining instructions?

If you register for an examination you will receive joining instructions two weeks before the examination date.

Will examinations be held at the same time as previously advertised?

To accommodate the changes we will have to reschedule our examinations. Details of start times will be included in your joining instructions and the revised dates can be found on our Examination dates 2020 web page.

Is the examination timetable based on UK time?

Yes. We will be drawing up the examination timetable so that it best accommodates our international candidates and will also be selecting start times appropriately.

When will you inform us of the start times for the examinations?

Start times for the new online examinations will be between 08:00 and 10:00 UK time. You will be advised of your personal start time by email two weeks before the examination date.

Can I switch the start time for my examination?

No. We regret that we are unable to book any candidates onto alternative start times. This is because in order to deliver our online examinations in the time available, we can only implement a simple solution which allocates start times. We currently have no capacity to open a more complex booking system. These allocations will as far as possible allow reasonable start times for students in different time zones.  In any case variation in start time will be minimal.

3. Examination arrangements

Will the move to all online examination require changes to the Assessment Regulations?

We will be updating our Assessment Regulations before we open booking for the September 2020 examinations.

Will I be able to apply for Mitigating Circumstances should there be any issues during my examination?

We will be providing additional guidance on mitigating circumstances and the relevant policy will be updated prior to the opening of examination booking in July 2020.

I am concerned that I will not be able to type my answers as quickly as I could have hand-written them. Will I be allowed more time to complete my examination?

 We are not in a position to allow additional time or accept a mitigating circumstances application for this situation.

What packages will I need in order to sit an online examination?

Full details of the technical requirements for our examinations can be found in our Technical requirements online handbook 2020.

Which online examinations will require Word and/or Excel?

You can see the packages required for each of our online examinations in our Examination Answers - Software requirements.

Can I use Excel to help construct my answers?

Most of the examination subjects require the answers to be provided in Microsoft Word. The exceptions to this are CP2, CM1 Paper B and CM2 Paper B. When sitting other subjects, you may find it useful to use Microsoft Excel to aid with the construction of your answers. If you do this you must copy and paste any Excel content into your final submitted Word document.

I do not have access to the necessary computer equipment or software to sit the online examinations. What can I do?

We have moved all our examinations online. You therefore require access to appropriate computer equipment and software if you wish to sit our examinations in future.

I do not know if my broadband connection is good enough or reliable enough to sit the online examinations. What can I do?

As we have moved all our examinations online you will need to have a reliable broadband connection if you wish to sit our examinations in future.

What happens if my computer equipment fails during my examination?

If you experience systems issues during your examination, you must continue to complete the examination to the best of your ability. Such systems issues could relate to internet connectivity or failures of electricity supply.

If you wish for these issues to be considered under the IFoA mitigating circumstances policy you should keep a log of such issues and the start and finish times for these incidents. You should also provide screenshots as evidence for any systems errors or issues which have occurred.

What happens if the IFoA system fails during my examination?

Should the IFoA system fail in some way during an examination we will do our best to immediately put alternative arrangements in place.  If this proves impossible our only remaining option will then be to cancel that particular assessment. In the unlikely event that we have to cancel an assessment we will contact you directly and offer a full refund of your examination fees.

Will the marking take account of any change in examination format?

Our Examiners have developed online papers which they believe are appropriate for the assessments and which maintain our standards.  However as is usual academic practice, once papers have been through the marking process the Board of Examiners has the authority to decide whether any adjustments to marks are required to take account of changes in examination format.

4. Access arrangements

Can I receive Access Arrangements?

You can apply for access arrangements through our normal process.

5. Examination results

When will the examination results be released?

The revised dates for publication of results are:

  • Core Principles subjects (CB1-2;): Tuesday 15 December 2020
  • Core Practices, Specialist Principles and Specialist Advanced subjects: Thursday 17 December 2020

6. University Exemptions

My university has made changes to their examinations. Will I still be eligible for exemptions when I graduate?

Yes. We have been in correspondence with all our accredited universities and have agreed with them, the examination provision they have made.

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