No place like home

September 2020

So what’s it like to sit an ACCA exam away from the exam hall? Liz
Hulls has the answer.

Around 20 of our students bravely volunteered to be part of the ACCA pilot scheme for remotely invigilated exams. A few weeks before the exam they were asked to log into the exam system and run a test to check their webcam, microphone and operating system. Workspaces were frantically tidied for the required room photos.

On the day of the exam, students were asked to log in 30 minutes before their allotted start time and re-run the system test. They accessed the exams through the ACCA portal, while being watched remotely via webcam after checking IDs and a full 360 degree view of the room.

During the exam trips to the toilet were strictly banned, which sadly caused one of our students to have to abandon his four-hour exam halfway through. Scrap paper was not allowed but “using the scratch pad instead, wasn’t as bad as I had first thought”, claimed an FM student. Despite initial worries about not being able to use physical calculators these were permitted, as was water in a clear glass or bottle.

The feedback was generally very positive. Students found the experience much less stressful than sitting the exam at a centre. The absence of travel was persistently noted as a bonus, saving on time, stress and money. One student felt much less nervous – “it felt more like a mock exam and I forgot I was being watched at times”. Another student agreed that “it was easier to keep calm being at home”.

However, another student felt that he wasn’t in “exam mode” by not being at a centre. One student described feeling more nervous, she worried about being able to log-in or having internet issues, but now having done a remote exam “would be happier taking all exams at home”. Another student sitting FR loved the fact that having finished early she was able to end the exam and logout without having to wait for everyone else to finish.

While the Applied Skills exams seemed to run smoothly, sadly the experience of the SBL students was more traumatic. One student was persistently unable to log-in to her exam.

Another managed to start the exam but after 30 minutes ran into technical problems and was thrown out of the system completely.

Unfortunately, they are both now waiting to it their exam in September. A third student waited 20 minutes near the end of her four-hour exam for a system reboot, but hopes her exam was submitted. ACCA are investigating all of these cases thoroughly and have apologised to the students concerned.

Some students will be praying that the Covid-19 situation allows the opening of exam centres in September, while others will be disappointed not to wander downstairs to the kitchen table to sit their ACCA exam!.

• Liz Hulls, Director and Tutor, Oxford Learning Online (formerly Vale Financial Training)