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IFoA response to student editor

07 JUNE 2018 | PROFESSOR CLIFFORD FRIEND


We always like to hear from our learners, and I am sure your readers enjoyed your editorial in the last issue of The Actuary. I’d like to use these letter pages to respond directly to some of the issues you raised and to show how the IFoA is already ‘on track’ with some of these.

You highlight some of the developments around ‘Work Based Skills’ (WBS) which is being phased out and replaced by ‘Personal & Professional Development’ (PPD). PPD makes it easier for our learners to gather and present their evidence and brings our pre-qualification process more in line with the CPD scheme for qualified members. The arrangements for this transition are in place and initial feedback from both employers and learners has been positive.

Our Student Consultative Forum (SCF) is important to us. We have also recently relaunched the Global Student Consultative Forum. Your invitation for more feedback is welcomed. I recognise the important job members on the SCF do in raising a considered set of strategic issues to the Forum for discussion; ensuring the voice of our learners is heard.

Changes to our curriculum and assessments have been accompanied by a more transparent marking process, including the release of individual marks, pass marks and marking schemes. You mentioned in your editorial the release of scripts. This is on our agenda, but has been interrupted by a recent European court ruling involving a professional body in another EU member state. The UK Information Commissioner is yet to offer definitive advice following this case and the IFoA will keep you informed of the outcome once the final direction becomes clear.

Managing 141 examination centres in 74 countries always has its challenges and we aim to ensure that we continuously meet our exacting standards. We consider all new formats of assessment and you will see some of these developments in our new curriculum. Assessment materials delivered online for completion in the workplace or at home do have their challenges. There is evidence of increasing plagiarism, collusion, and cheating in all educational systems, and professional bodies take this very seriously. While there are some technologies to mitigate these, they are not always easy to implement online in a global environment. We review these technologies as we upgrade our online platforms and you can expect to see some systems introduced alongside our new curriculum.

Finally I’d like to respond to your remarks about the IFoA marking process; an area where there have been many anecdotes shared in discussion forums. The quality of marking is continuously reviewed by our Board of Examiners and Education Committee, with oversight from the Financial Reporting Council (FRC). Our processes are in the public domain and available on our website. I encourage all examination takers to review them. This will help to reassure you that the processes are robust and fit for purpose. We publish our marking schemes so that the objective criteria examiners use in coming to their judgments are clear. While I agree with you that it is important to have this clarity, there will always be an element of academic judgment required by examiners in our marking, as there is in all examination systems. 

Inevitably, despite the training we undertake with examiners, there will be a small number of occasions among our 30,000 scripts per year where there is some discrepancy in view between our two independent, blind markers. As our procedures outline, where this occurs a final review is undertaken by the Principal Examiner (PE). The marking process is also monitored by our quality team in Oxford, and ongoing feedback is provided to the PE and all our assistant examiners. You may also be interested to know that we will be trialling a new online marking system during 2018, which we hope to roll out in time for the first examinations under the new curriculum 2019 syllabus. This is intended to improve further the robustness of our marking. 

We will share more about this after the trial is completed.

Thank you again for the observations contained in your recent editorial, and I hope this response helps to show that the IFoA is already addressing some of these key issues.


Professor Clifford Friend is director of engagement and learning, Institute and Faculty of Actuaries