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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Examination administration

In reply to the letter in the Jan/Feb issue from Donnchadh Harrington, let me first of all repeat the apology I made to him when he contacted us about the problems he faced in qualifying for fellowship. Our administrative systems are not foolproof but a great deal of effort has gone into improving them since the problems we faced last April and it is disappointing to see this letter published expressing these concerns, especially when we have dealt effectively with the issues raised directly with him.

We have around 10,000 entries in each of our examination diets for 24 exams, plus 6 practice modules involving up to 180 centres in 80 countries and 200 or so examiners. It is a complex system and things will always go wrong however good the procedures, but we are trying hard to improve matters and the September diet went much more smoothly than April’s. The improvement was recognised by those stern critics, the Student Consultative Committee, and so we feel that good progress has been made even though there are further improvements to come.One of the improvements was the introduction of optical scanning for the multiple choice answers in the practice modules in September, which worked well and no complaints were forthcoming, and the problems that Donnchadh experienced in April have been put right. We are still having problems recording accurately the exam histories on our database. We have a complete accurate record of all exam histories, but mapping transitions into the 2005 exam strategy has proved a major challenge to our IT system which is still being addressed, and individual queries such as the one Donnchadh raised have to be checked manually which takes time and can, as in this case, cause upset. We are taking every possible step to correct inaccuracies, but with over 7,000 students on the system, a great deal of time and effort is involved.

Finally, we would like to take more time to check results using a ‘dry run’ before releasing them but it is simply impossible to do so with the amount of work involved and the short timescales. We are under pressure to shorten the time taken between sitting the exams and releasing the results.

I can assure all your readers that we are working hard to continue the improvements to our administrative systems so that there can be full confidence in what is a complex and time-consuming process.