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Inappropriate conduct

The information contained on these pages provides candidates with some guidance on what inappropriate conduct within the IFoA assessments is and what candidates need to be aware of.

To support candidates sitting IFoA assessments, we have developed a guide outlining examples of inappropriate conduct and set out our process for identifying and investigating possible breaches of IFoA Assessment Regulations by inappropriate conduct.

The IFoA introduced open book exams in 2020 to support moving their examinations online to manage the pandemic crisis and allow candidates to continue their progress to qualification.

As part of the IFoA strategy we are continuing to deliver our examinations online in this open book environment.  We are adapting our examination papers to allow for this and looking into ways technology can help support delivery of complex mathematical material.

We understand that for some candidates, concerns have grown around the possibility of identification of inappropriate conduct and in particular plagiarism with the move to online examinations. Whilst the IFoA takes inappropriate conduct seriously we do want to support you as you sit our examinations and many thousands of candidates continue to sit the examinations with no cause for concern. In response to queries received we have produced the following information to give you some guidance on what is acceptable and what to be aware of. This should be viewed along with the Assessment Regulations which have been updated to reflect this open book environment.

It should be noted that whilst this guidance generally refers to the session based (April and September) examinations, it should also be considered the same for CB3, PPD and any other form of assessment such as Professional Skills.

What is inappropriate conduct?

Inappropriate conduct is:

Any action or attempted action that may result in a candidate or student of the IFoA gaining an unfair advantage during IFoA assessments, or any other part of the qualification process. 

Inappropriate conduct in IFoA assessments includes (but not limited to):

  • Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the presentation of another person’s work as your own. This means presenting another person’s work without proper acknowledgement of the source (referencing material is allowed), whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Plagiarism can also include submitting your own previously assessed work. This is not acceptable even if referenced.

You can find more information on plagiarism and how to avoid it on our Plagiarism web page.

  • Collusion

Collusion is any unauthorised collaboration or communicating between candidates during assessments.

  • Cheating

Cheating is any attempt to obtain or to give assistance in an examination or assessment without acknowledging this occurred.  

  • Impersonation

Impersonation usually involves getting someone else to assume your identity (pretend to be you) and sit your assessment, with intent to deceive or gain unfair advantage.

Impersonation also includes getting someone to produce work for you, which you knowingly submit as your own.

  • Exam misconduct

Exam misconduct includes, but not restricted to:

  • Attempting to access the examination question paper before the examination has started
  • Attempting to continue to write on the answer script after your allocated exam time has ended
  • Sharing an examination question paper or answer script with other candidates during the examination period. As candidates may be sitting at different times the examination period covers the time from when the first candidates start the exam until the end time for the final candidates, including those with access arrangements.

To make sure you do not unintentionally breach regulations you should note that each IFoA assessment is sat by groups of candidates who start and finish at different times. Once your assessment is over you may want to discuss the exam with others, but you must not contact any other candidate until the assessment is over for all candidates, including those who have additional time.

How does the IFoA identify that Inappropriate conduct may have taken place?

Identifying possible breaches of IFoA Assessment Regulations can involve:

  • use of software,
  • exam markers highlighting concerns, or
  • whistleblowing.

What happens once a possible breach of IFoA Assessment Regulations by inappropriate conduct has been identified?

Each possible breach of IFoA Assessment Regulations will be reviewed by IFoA executive staff, including education actuaries, along with examiners before any formal notification of a possible breach is sent to candidates.

This review process acts as a filter to make sure that only cases where there is substantial cause for concern will be followed up. These cases include where there are large sections of unreferenced external copied material within the candidate script or cases where collusion or cheating is suspected. 

At any stage during the review process investigations can be and are dismissed.

If it is determined that the case needs further consideration then the candidate will receive a letter by email outlining what the possible breach is. The IFoA does not automatically assume that individuals have breached the Assessment Regulations, but invites candidates to respond in writing to the letter they receive. The candidate’s response can include any evidence that they think is relevant to the case. To ensure the system is fair, any response received will be presented as part of the case to the Investigation Panel for consideration.

Once all the information has been collected, then the case will be considered by the Investigation Panel. The information the Panel will review includes, but is not limited to:

  • The candidate’s script
  • Material collected from different sources such as the markers, examiners and the software outputs where applicable
  • Response from the candidate including any evidence submitted.

Why does it take a long time to carry out this process?

The IFoA recognises that for a candidate receiving a letter which outlines a possible breach this will be a stressful  time for them and they want to do as much as possible to keep this distress to a minimum. Every effort is made to produce the letters and complete the full investigation prior to the results release, however, this may not always be possible.

Each case identified can go through several reviews, which may involve a number of individuals depending on the nature and severity of the possible breach.

Candidate scripts are run through the software to identify plagiarism. Any possible case identified by the software then go through further checking. At this point cases will still be dismissed. For example where a script has been flagged but upon further review it is identified that lists or meanings have been memorised, the case is dismissed and no further action is taken. 

Any cases where possible collusion has been identified are reviewed by the examiners before a letter is sent to the candidate.

For example, in the recent September session around 10% of all examination scripts were initially identified requiring some form of further review. Following the review process just over 10% of these candidates received a letter and went to the Investigation Panel for consideration.

The IFoA gives candidates two weeks to reply to the letter, so that they have sufficient time to consider and respond to any allegations.  Then Panel members meet and work through all of the cases to ensure a fair outcome.

All of this work takes place at the same time as the marking and producing the exam results is happening. It involves the same personnel, which puts pressure on the system at a time when everyone is working hard to deliver both processes accurately and fairly, within tight deadlines.   

What are the likely outcomes if the Investigation Panel finds that inappropriate conduct has taken place?

The IFoA treats any finding of inappropriate conduct in either its assessment or qualification processes as a very serious matter.

The Investigation Panel may agree an outcome that can range from a formal warning to a two year disqualification from sitting the IFoA examinations, depending on the severity of the inappropriate conduct.

In some cases the Investigation Panel may refer a case of inappropriate conduct to the IFoA Disciplinary Panel to be investigated, but these cases are very rare.

Candidates have the opportunity to appeal the outcome of an Investigation Panel, including those that may be referred to Disciplinary. Only after the appeal is concluded will any cases be referred if still appropriate. You can find more information on our Make an Appeal web page

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