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IFoA Online examinations – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

These FAQs refer to our September 2020 examinations.

Last updated 31 July 2020


  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.

Will your September online examinations be open book?

Updated 09 June 2020

Yes.  As part of the development of our online examinations we have made the decision that the September assessments will be ‘fully open book’.

During these examinations you will be entitled to use any materials available to you – hardcopy, electronic, or online.

If you require further detail on what constitutes ‘fully open book’ assessment this is widely available online.

The materials you use are for reference purposes only. You should not copy any content from these into your answer script.  To do so is Plagiarism and improper examination behaviour under our Assessment Regulations (which are currently being updated to reflect this change). Plagiarism is presenting someone else's work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement.

Detailed definitions of what constitutes Plagiarism are also widely available online.

We have sophisticated techniques for detecting plagiarism, and collusion between candidates.  We will take appropriate action against any candidate where we find evidence that they have committed such inappropriate behaviour during an examination. 

Experience has shown that during ‘fully open-book’ assessments you will need to balance your time between referring to available materials and answering the questions. Remember that the examinations will be testing your ability to show understanding of the subject and its application to specific situations, rather than simple memorising of definitions and facts.  We therefore recommend that you are fully prepared by developing a good understanding of the content of your study modules.

You are reminded that as student members of the IFoA you are bound by the Actuaries’ Code and that any finding of inappropriate behaviour during an examination could have serious implications for you and your career.

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.

Now that all IFoA examinations are taking place online will there be a review of pricing?

Updated 16 June 2020

Examination prices are reviewed towards the end of every calendar year. Any changes in future pricing will be communicated following the next review via our website.

2. Taking our online examinations

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

Updated 08 July 2020

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. There will be no requirement to prepare other materials such as graphs.

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.

Why are all the examinations in the morning UK time?

Updated 16 June 2020

Our examinations in September 2020 will have start times between 08:00 and 10:00 UK time (morning in the UK). We have chosen to do this to cause minimum inconvenience to the majority of our students who will be sitting across the world in different time zones. We cannot spread start times across the day as we need to protect the integrity of our examination papers.

Can I sit two separate examinations on the same day?

Updated 16 June 2020

No. Examination times will overlap on each of our examination days so you will only be able to take one examination on any single day.  We are doing this as we are limited to a ten working day period in which to hold all our examinations.  This is to allow sufficient time for our examiners to mark papers and to avoid holding examinations on national holidays.

However, we have tried to avoid running popular examination combinations on the same day to maximise opportunities, and in future will do our best to offer examinations in differing orders to widen the opportunity to sit twin combinations.

I am planning to sit my examinations at my place of work.  Do I need to be invigilated/proctored by someone for the entire examination?

Updated 08 July 2020

All IFoA examinations take place online and we have introduced security measures which allow candidates to sit their examinations at any location of their choice. This means it is no longer mandatory to be invigilated if you sit at your employer’s premises.

However, if your employer wishes to provide such arrangements to provide extra integrity, we have guidance notes on Workplace Invigilation available.

You are reminded that as a Student member of the IFoA, you are bound by the Actuaries’ Code and that any finding of inappropriate behaviour during an examination, such as collusion, could have serious implications for you and your career.

3. Examination arrangements

How will I complete the September CS and CM examinations in their new online format?

Updated 31 July 2020

Examiners have revised the format of September’s CS and CM ‘A Papers’ so that they can be completed using Word without the need for complex mathematical or specialist actuarial notation. Where sections require mathematical notation, a recommended notation sheet will be provided as a guide on standard keyboard symbols/notation that may be used in Word to present mathematical notation.

The format of the ‘B Papers’ will remain the same as in previous examination sittings.

CS1A will have a different paper format to that used previously. It will contain a similar number and overall style of question to past papers; however, sections that previously required significant mathematical notation will be assessed by multiple-choice questions (around 25% of the paper). 

The CM1A examination paper will contain a similar number and overall style of question to past papers.

The CS2A examination paper will contain a similar number and overall style of question to past papers.  However, some of the sections that previously required significant mathematical notation will be assessed by multiple-choice questions (around 25% of the paper). These multiple-choice elements will be embedded into the type of longer question that candidates are already familiar with.

The format of the CM2A paper will be similar to past papers but with appropriate adjustments to ensure answers can be completed using Word within the time.

The new format papers are currently in the final stages of development and this FAQ contains the most up to date information we can share with you at this time.  

The syllabuses and core reading for these modules remain unchanged. The only difference is the format of the examination papers. We therefore recommend that you prepare for your examinations by developing a good understanding of the content of these study modules, bearing in mind the guidance given above.

We have been working against a tight deadline to ensure that candidates can sit all IFoA examinations online in September. Unfortunately, this means we will not be able to produce the usual specimen papers for the new CS and CM ‘A Paper’ formats. We have, however, provided some specimen questions, as well as further guidance, including the notation sheet links below. We also intend to hold webinars to guide candidates in the techniques required for success in our new format examinations.  We will update you here when the webinars are available.

CM1 Specimen Questions and Solutions

CS1 Specimen Questions and Solutions

CS2 Guidance for Candidates sitting the exams in September 2020

CM2 Guidance for Candidates sitting the September 2020 examination

How will I answer questions requiring mathematical formulae input using Word?

Updaated 17 July 2020

The IFoA has produced a notation sheet which gives suggested notation that candidates could use instead of mathematical notation when typing solutions in Word in the IFoA examinations. This list is not necessarily exhaustive and other sensible notation will be accepted.

View the IFoA Exams Specimen Notation sheet

I am sitting one of the CS examinations, can I use RMarkdown and knitR during the examination?

Updated 16 July 2020

No. The use of RMarkdown and knitR is not permitted during the examination.

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

Updated 15 July 2020

We have updated our assessment regulations for our September 2020 examinations. Please make sure you have read our IFoA Assessment Regulations before booking examinations for the September 2020 session.

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

Updated 15 July 2020

We have updated our guidance on mitigating circumstances for our September 2020 examinations. Please make sure you have read our IFoA Mitigating Circumstances Policy before booking examinations for the September 2020 session.

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.

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.

Can I use the “Dictate” function in MS Word to prepare my examination answers?

Updated 29 June 2020

No. Although IFoA Assessment Regulations state that candidates can use any standard function available in Excel, Word and R (excluding the use of Macros), at present only Microsoft Office 365 has a “Dictate” option available. Use of this would give some candidates advantage over those using older, but equally acceptable versions of Word.

All answers must therefore be completed using keyboard entry unless we have agreed to the use of dictation software as part of an access arrangement

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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