Remote – but hyper-connected

August 2020

ACCA launches remote invigilation exams. The association’s Judith
Bennett explains how it will all work.

Covid-19 has meant many of us have had to rethink and change our plans. It’s been an immensely unsettling time and I know many PQ readers have struggled over the past few months. But, as we experience the first tentative steps of lockdown easing, I truly hope all PQ readers are well and safe.

As our recent ‘Covid-19 Global Survey: The Road to Recovery’ shows, the pandemic has derailed economies, and it has also impacted education and training.

Covid-19 disrupted many organisations’ exam sittings, from university finals to A levels and GCSEs. As many PQ readers know, professional qualifications were also impacted, and for us it meant we had to cancel exams in many physical centres due to health and safety guidance from governments around the world.

Working at pace

Given the pandemic, we knew we had to act quickly to respond to the crisis, and were able to move swiftly to introduce remote invigilation for our On Demand exams.

In truth, we’d started looking at this back in 2019 but we didn’t think we would be implementing it quite so quickly.

This development means that students can sit remotely invigilated exams for the On Demand suite – that’s all Foundation and Applied Knowledge exams. And we’re also looking at solutions for the Applied Skills and Strategic Professional exams. It’s really important to us in ACCA to ensure we get it right, so that students will be able to take their exams at home or in another location in circumstances where centre-based exam sittings are disrupted.

We began our remote invigilation of these On Demand exams on the 11 June. We limited the number of students in that first week to ensure everything would run smoothly. Our initial soft launch approach was to work with our strategic partners including Kaplan.

We’re really pleased to say that the first set of Kaplan students passed their CBEs first time. Many congratulations to them!

Following the soft launch, we opened exam entry on the 18 June to eligible students who could book exams from 25 June and since then we have seen the booking numbers growing daily.

We believe that this is already making a huge difference to students where centre-based exam sittings have been cancelled. It means they can continue their ACCA journey at a time when some exam centres are still unable to open due to Covid-19.

Feedback so far

At the time of writing more than 1,000 exams have been scheduled, mostly in June and July, although students can book several months in advance. The number of students taking exams is growing daily – we are nearing 200, and this will increase.

We asked all students taking their remotely invigilated exams to complete a post-exam survey and so far we’ve had 114 students sharing their feedback which shows that:

• 93% say the ease of booking and paying for remote exams is very good/good.

• 89% say it is good/very good when it comes to the ease of using ACCA Exam Delivery software.

• 84% say the conduct of the remote invigilator is good/very good.

• 82% say their overall remote exam experience on the day was good/very good.

• 84% say they are satisfied/very satisfied with the experience of being remotely invigilated, and 87% say they are satisfied/very satisfied with the experience of sitting their remote exam.

This is great feedback, and we also conducted ‘vox pops’ with students, asking their views about this new development. One said: “They are a very convenient way to take exams. It’s hard taking a day off work and travel to a test centre, but much easier doing it from the comfort of one’s home, resulting in a truer reflection of what a student can do because their stress levels are lower.”

And another added: “The overall experience of taking exams remotely is very pleasant and greatly exceeded my expectations.”

Kaplan also gave us feedback, with Jim Hinchcliffe, commercial manager at Kaplan Financial, adding: “Our students have been delighted to be able to take their exams remotely, giving them the opportunity to progress while centres are closed. And it’s great to see the first group all pass, congratulations to them, preparing so well for their exams. They are a great inspiration for other students to follow!”

It’s wonderful to read this initial feedback, and we’ll be regularly gathering views as these responses help us to grow together.

The technicalities

It’s important that students meet the technical requirements for sitting a remote exam, which includes having a laptop or computer with a camera, and anyone interested should run the diagnostic test to ensure they meet the minimum technical specifications. We’re also advising students that if they’re using a work laptop they can occasionally have issues with security or firewalls, so we encourage them to use their personal laptops if possible, or speak to their IT department for support.

We’ve been really impressed with students’ resilience since the pandemic broke, and to see so many of you working hard to stay on track. It’s truly impressive, and we wish you well with your future studies and careers in a profession that has an added purpose at this time – to help build back better and recover with confidence.

• Judith Bennett, director professional qualifications, ACCA