What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the act of copying or including the work of another person or your own previously assessed original work in your own work, intentionally or unintentionally, without proper acknowledgement.

In its most common form plagiarism involves copying and pasting and/or reproducing material directly from another source. This could include core reading text, Acted resources and/or information obtained directly from internet sources or textbooks.

There shouldn’t be any need for a well-prepared candidate to copy from any external sources and it’s generally preferred if candidates didn’t do this.

The IFoA recognise that answers to some questions in our examinations, which ask for basic information for example ‘definitions’, ‘principles’, ‘basic lists’, and ‘regulations’ 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.

Unless a question requires the production of basic information, our recommendation is that you answer everything in your own words where possible. Where you directly quote from your learning materials to answer questions, you should acknowledge this. If you are directly referencing external material then you should remember this should only form a very small fraction of your overall script and it needs to be relevant to the question.

The examiners do not expect students to directly copy large volumes of their learning material into their answers, and this could be flagged as plagiarism. For the avoidance of doubt this would also include directly copying large volumes of learning material which had been subject to minor amendments.  

Why does plagiarism matter?

Plagiarism is a breach of honesty. Passing off another’s work as your own is not only poor practice, but also means that you have failed to complete the learning process.

Plagiarism is unethical and could have serious consequences for your future career. For members of the IFoA the Actuaries Code should be adhered to.

You are studying for a professional qualification and that comes with it responsibility including acting in the public interest. Students who plagiarise undermine the ethos of the professional qualification while missing out an essential part of the learning process.

At first it may seem very difficult to develop your own views, and you will probably find yourself paraphrasing the material you are learning as you attempt to understand the facts. The IFoA is conscious of this and allows for a limited amount of paraphrasing inthe examinations. The IFoA examinations are designed to allow you to demonstrate your application of the knowledge you have developed through study. You are expected to be an independent thinker - by learning to assess critically, weigh up differing arguments and present your own conclusions.

How to avoid plagiarism

You must ensure that any work you submit for any assessment is your own.

Where a question is asking for content such as definitions or listing principles which the IFoA recognises you may have memorised, you will not generally be investigated for plagiarism where such similarity is identified. In answering other question types, if your response includes quotations, theories, ideas, data or any other materials which are the work of another person or persons, you must ensure that you have taken all reasonable steps to acknowledge the source. This includes all text books, study materials and internet sources.

Are there different types of plagiarism?

There are a number of different forms of plagiarism, including:

  • Verbatim (word for word) quotation without clear acknowledgement

Any quotations must always be identified with referencing of the sources used. It must always be apparent to the examiner which parts are your own independent work and where you used on other material.

We understand that a number of candidates learn key facts from the Core Reading to use in the exam. It is acceptable to reproduce this with questions where content such as definitions and listing principles are required, as examiners and markers will be familiar with these questions and candidates will not normally be investigated where small fractions of quoted material are included.

  • Cutting and pasting from the Internet without clear acknowledgement

Information derived from the Internet must be adequately referenced (including the URL) next to the answer in the examination script.

  • Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing the work of others by altering a few words and changing their order is plagiarism if you do not give due acknowledgement to work you are using.

A passing reference to the original material in your own examination answer text may not be enough; you must ensure that you do not create the misleading impression that the paraphrased wording is entirely your own. Candidates will not normally be investigated when answering questions related to content such as definitions or listing principles where small fractions of quoted material can be included without referencing.

When answering the examination question the examiners are looking for you to demonstrate you have a genuine understanding of the subject by critically evaluating and analysing the information presented in the examination.

  • Use of material written by professional agencies or other persons

You should neither make use of professional agencies in the production of your work nor submit material which has been written for you, even with the consent of the person who has written it.

  • Guidance on Referencing in Open Book Examinations

Acknowledging work that is not your own is a fundamental component of any business activity. Examinations are no different and in an open book environment, using material directly from a textbook, core reading or an internet site should be ‘referenced’.  This might include a definition, a list, a table, or chart, or any material that is not written in your own words.  It should be noted that where content such as definitions or listing principles are required, examiners and markers are familiar with these questions and candidates will not normally be investigated where small amounts of quoted material are included without referencing.

There are many different ways that this can be done, but for the purposes of the IFoA examinations, we are looking for a simple referencing system that will allow a marker to be able to locate the source of the work you are using.

For example, it could be as simple as IFoA SA7 Core Reading 2020, Unit 2, Page13, Paragraph 3.4. It should come at the end of the sentence or paragraph that you are referencing. For internet sources you could use the following format: https://www.economist.com/leaders/2021/03/31/message-in-a-bottleneck.

The key is to keep it simple, but acknowledge that the work is not your own and show the marker where it has come from. Our recommendation is that you answer everything in your own words.

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Events calendar

  • Spaces available

    Climate-Related Risk - This free to view webinar on Climate-Related Risk is the first in a series focusing on some of the ‘Hotspots’ identified in the JFAR Risk Perspective bringing the Risk Perspective to life with practical illustrations and insights from subject experts from the IFoA and other Regulators

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    Recent decades have seen institutions, such as employers and financial services, give people more choice and flexibility, but these freedoms have come with more responsibilities. Individuals are now responsible for managing more of their own financial risks, from ensuring they put enough money into their pension to securing affordable protection to be financially resilient.

  • Actuarial Innovation in the COVID-19 era

    This event is online. 
    26 April 2021 - 7 May 2021
    Spaces available

    Join us for this brand new IFoA webinar weries comprising of a fortnight of webinars, panel sessions and a hackathon, that showcase the range of ways in which the actuarial profession has added value, in the public interest, to the understanding and management of the current and future pandemics through insight and learning.

  • Spaces available

    This event is also repeated on Tuesday 27 April, 09.00-10.30. Please click here to register your place if Tuesday is your preferred choice.

    Actuaries have a lot to offer biodiversity management over the next decade as the world develops more depth to its response to this global challenge. This sessional offers an opportunity to learn about this emergent risk, to contribute to our thinking as a profession and help us develop the next steps forward.

  • Europe Town Hall

    28 April 2021

    Spaces available

    IFoA Immediate Past President John Taylor would like to invite you to the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries’ (IFoA) virtual Europe Town Hall, hosted by John Taylor with IFoA Council Members Alan Rae, Jennifer Hartley, Maribel Vasquez Flores and IFoA Chief Executive, Stephen Mann.

  • Spaces available

    Sessional Meeting - Free to viewMis-estimation risk is a key element of demographic risk, and past work has focused on mis-estimation risk on a run-off basis.  However, this does not meet the requirements of regulatory regimes like Solvency II, which demands that capital requirements are set through the prism of a finite horizon like one year.  This paper presents a value-at-risk approach to mis-estimation risk suitable for Solvency II work

  • Finance & Investment Virtual Conference 2021

    Available to watch globally in May.
    10-12 May 2021
    Spaces available

    This year's Finance and Investment Virtual Conference takes on the timely theme of ‘resilience’, something we have all learnt a lot more about in the last year! Our diverse range of talks will explore the theme of resilience in a variety of ways including in building robust investment portfolios, in the incorporation of ESG factors, in govern

  • Spaces available

    This talk will explore the potential benefits that wearable tech can bring to health & protection insurers and their customers. The traditional approach of integrating wearables into insurance has largely focused on measuring steps and using rewards-based incentive programs to encourage more activity.

  • Spaces available

    Join us for this talk with Professor Sir Adrian Smith as part of the 'Dr Patrick Poon Presidential Speaker Series'. Professor Smith joined The Alan Turing Institute as Institute Director and Chief Executive in September 2018. In November 2020, he became President of the Royal Society, in addition to his leadership of the Turing. He is also a member of the government's AI Council, which helps boost AI growth in the UK and promote its adoption and ethical use in businesses and organisations across the country. He received a knighthood in the 2011 New Year Honours list.


  • CILA 2021

    Available to watch globally in May.
    19-21 May 2021
    Spaces available

    We continue to live in a world of global uncertainty. Survival depends on our ability to simultaneously navigate through the diverse root-causes, ranging from: the consequences of Climate Change; on-going financial consequences of the COVID pandemic; or self-imposed changes in regulatory requirements and accounting standards.

  • Pensions Conference 2021

    Online webinar series
    16-22 June 2021
    Spaces available

    Welcome to the programme for our 2nd Virtual Pensions Conference. This year's conference features 11 webinars offering members and non-members the opportunity to get up to date content from leading experts in the pension industry. There will also be opportunity to ask questions and contribute to the discussion.