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IFoA Online examinations – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

These FAQs refer to our September 2020 examinations.

Last updated 03 September 2020

You can find further guidance for our September 2020 examinations on our Essential documents web page


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

1. General

Will the IFoA continue to run its examinations online?

Updated 03 September

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, and this time including those we had to cancel earlier in the year. Provided September is as successful as April we will continue to run our examinations online.

Will all the IFoA examinations be "open book" and if so what are the rules around plagiarism and collusion?

Updated 07 September 2020

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

During these examinations you may refer to any materials available to you – printed, electronic, or online but you are not permitted to use e-templates and any electronic files which contain pre-existing calculations.

You are strictly prohibited from copying and pasting, or re-typing content, word for word, from any source or multiple sources. To do so could amount to plagiarism. Such material may be used for reference purposes only. You should not copy verbatim from any materials but should use your own words.

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. This is improper examination behaviour under our Assessment Regulations.

Experience has shown that during ‘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. We therefore recommend that you are fully prepared by developing a good understanding of the content of your study modules.

We recognise that answers to some questions in our examinations, such as asking for ‘definitions’ or  ‘listing principles’, may have been memorised as part of your revision strategy.  These could be identical or very similar to the contents of your learning materials. Examiners and markers will be familiar with these questions, and candidates will not generally be investigated for plagiarism where such similarity is identified. However, if you use direct quotations from your learning materials to answer other questions, you should acknowledge this with a page or line number in the body of your answer, plus author's name and year of publication.

If you are referencing external material then you should remember this should form only a very small fraction of your overall script and it needs to be relevant to the question. Large volumes of reference material will not be seen as your own response to the questions and could also be flagged as plagiarism. Our recommendation is that you answer everything in your own words.

We have sophisticated techniques for detecting plagiarism and collusion between candidates.  We will take appropriate action to review candidate submissions and if necessary investigate these further should evidence suggest that potential inappropriate behaviour may have occurred during an examination.

We remind you 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.

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 delivering IFoA examinations online increase the risk of examination misconduct?

Updated 03 September 2020

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

To maintain the integrity of our examinations, we continue to improve our security measures.  You can expect to see more security at the start of your September examination. You can find more information on security measures for our September examinations in our Handbook and Guidance for September 2020 Examinations (page 8).

Our examiners will be studying examination ‘scripts’ for possible cases of inappropriate behaviour. We will be using specialist software in September to identify any cases of plagiarism or collusion and may carry out ‘script’ reviews before or after examination results are published.

We remind you 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

How will the online examinations operate?

Updated 03 September 2020

Our September online examinations will operate in the following way:

Detailed instructions on how the examination platform can be accessed, including enhanced Two Factor Authentication using SMS, and download and upload of papers can be found in our updated Handbook and Guidance for September 2020 Examinations.

Once a script has been uploaded and accepted by the system it cannot be changed. It is a candidate’s responsibility to make sure the correct script has been uploaded. Scripts will be double-blind marked by our markers.

How will my paper be marked?

Updated 03 September 2020

All examination papers are double-blind marked by two separate markers. Neither knows what mark the other has awarded. 

Where appropriate, script review may follow, which will give the final mark that is awarded.

Pass marks are agreed by the Board of Examiners, who also formally oversee marking, prior to the release of results.

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.

You can find further information on IFoA examination marking on our Marking guidelines web page.

When will I receive joining instructions?

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

Is the examination timetable based on UK time?

Yes. However, we will be drawing up the examination timetable so that it best accommodates our international candidates and will also be selecting start times on the same basis.

Can I switch the start time for my examination?

Updated 03 September 2020

No. We regret that we are unable to book any candidates onto alternative start times. Once you have selected your start time at the point of booking we are unable to change it for you.

Why are all the examinations in the morning UK time?

Updated 03 September 2020

Our examinations in September 2020 will have start times between 08:00 and 10:00 UK time (morning in the UK). This is to be convenient to our candidates who sit our examinations in many time zones across the world.

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 03 September 2020

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

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

We remind you 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

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

Updated 03 September 2020

No. The syllabus and core reading for all subjects remains the same for 2020. 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. There will be no requirement to prepare other materials such as graphs.

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

Updated 03 September 2020

Examiners have revised the format of September’s CS and CM ‘A Papers’ so that they can be completed using Word

The need for complex mathematical/actuarial notation has been kept to a minimum, however, there will still be a need to use some mathematical notation to ensure appropriate coverage of the syllabus.

Where questions require mathematical notation you should refer to the notation sheet that will be provided prior to the examination. This details how to answer these types of questions using standard symbols/notation available in Word.

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

CS1A will have a different format to previous papers. This paper will include a similar number of questions and overall style to past papers. However, sections that previously required significant mathematical notation will now be assessed by multiple-choice questions (around 25% of the paper). 

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

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

The format of the CM2A paper will be similar to past papers, but with adjustments to ensure candidates can complete answers using Word within the examination time.

Although we have been working against a tight deadline to ensure that candidates can sit all IFoA examinations online in September we have been able to provide some specimen questions, as well as further guidance, including the Exams Specimen Notation sheet.

We also intend to hold webinars to guide candidates in revision techniques to help them succeed in our new format examinations. 

We recommend that you prepare for your examinations by developing a good understanding of the content of the study modules.

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?

Updated 03 September 2020

No. We are not in a position to allow additional time or accept mitigating circumstances applications for this situation.

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

Updated 03 September 2020

Full details of the technical requirements for our examinations are on our Technical requirements web page.

Can I use Excel to help construct my answers?

Updated 03 September 2020

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 which require the use of excel. When sitting other subjects, you may wish to use Excel to aid with calculations. It should be noted however that any calculations have to be typed in full into your Word answer script to ensure you receive the appropriate marks.

For the CS and CM exam papers, the level of detail that is required for your workings in calculation questions is similar to the model solutions in previous sittings. If you miss out any of the calculation steps then full marks may not be awarded

Which functions in Microsoft Office and R cannot be used in the examinations?

Updated 03 September 2020

Candidates can use any standard function available in Excel, Word and R (excluding the use of Macros), as set out in the IFoA Assessment Regulations

However, you cannot use functions which are only available in versions of Microsoft Office released after 2010, including “Dictate”.  Therefore, you must complete all your examination answers using keyboard entry, unless we have agreed the use of dictation software as part of an access arrangement. This is so that candidates using the 2010 version of Microsoft Office are not placed at a disadvantage.

The use of RMarkdown and knitR is not permitted during the examination.

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

Updated 03 September 2020

We require all answers to be typed, except where we have agreed to specific access arrangements. We have produced a notation sheet, which suggests keystrokes for candidates to use in place of the mathematical formulae and symbols that would have been handwritten previously. However, the list of keystrokes in the notation sheet is not exhaustive and other sensible alternative approaches will be accepted, such as the equation editor functionality in Word.

It is not currently possible, or permitted, in the IFoA examinations, to handwrite mathematical equations. This includes the use of freehand drawing tools or other hardware such as drawing tablets, which are prohibited.

View the IFoA Exams Specimen Notation sheet.

Can I use a device that converts handwritten text into typed text automatically?

Updated 03 September 2020

No. Candidates can only use standard functions available in Excel, Word and R (excluding the use of Macros). Not all students will have access to additional hardware or software that would allow them to input handwritten text into MS Office products e.g. Apple pencil and Surface pen. Allowing candidates to use handwriting conversion hardware or software, would therefore give some candidates a material advantage over others who do not have access to these products. All answers must therefore be completed using keyboard entry unless we have agreed to the use of specific software as part of an access arrangement.

What happens if my computer equipment fails during an examination?

Updated 03 September 2020

If you experience systems issues during your examination, such as internet connectivity or failure of electricity supply, you must continue to complete the examination to the best of your ability.

If these issues significantly affect your performance and you want them to be considered under the IFoA mitigating circumstances policy, you should keep a record of the issues, including their start and finish times. You should also provide screenshots as evidence for any systems errors or other issues which occur.

If you experience issues when trying to upload your exam answer script, you MUST call the IFoA so a member of the Examinations team can give you guidance and further instructions. Details on how to do this will be included in your examination instructions. You may then be authorised to email in your exam script to us using a unique identifier code. The IFoA will not accept any exam submissions which are emailed to us without such an identifier. 

Full instructions are contained in our updated Handbook and Guidance for September 2020 Examinations.

What happens if any of the IFoA processes or platforms fail during my examination?

Updated 03 September 2020

If the IFoA processes or platforms fail in some way during an examination we will do our best to immediately put alternative arrangements in place.  If this is not possible,  we may have to cancel that particular assessment. In the unlikely event that we have to cancel an assessment we will contact you directly with a full explanation, an apology and offer a full refund of your examination fees.

Will the move to all online examinations 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.

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 the 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 arrangements they have made.

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