Jo Nolan, Project Manager for exams 2021 at ICAEW, answers everything you ever wanted to know about Professional and Advanced Level remote invigilation (but were afraid to ask).
What technology do I need to use remote invigilation?
You’ll need a laptop or computer with a webcam, microphone and reliable internet connection, as well as a mobile phone with a camera. “The key thing is to practise the exam software in advance, and do your system checks,” says Jo. “That’s really important because you need to make sure that whatever device you’re planning to use can cope, and that your broadband is up to scratch. We advise students to do the system checks at least a few days in advance; that way if there is a problem, there’s enough time to get it sorted.”
Where can I sit the exam?
“Some students choose to sit the exam from their workplace, just because the broadband is likely to be more reliable,” says Jo. But the simple answer is any quiet room where you won’t be disturbed. No one else is permitted to enter the room while you sit the exam – even your pets! “We’ve had students sitting at baby changing tables, ironing boards, on their beds… and more than one dressed in their pyjamas!” says Jo.
What happens before the exam?
Before starting the exam, you’ll need to go through the ‘on-boarding’ process to set up your equipment and complete security checks, just as you would in an exam centre. “Your initial checks are done using your mobile phone,” Jo explains. “You follow steps where it asks you to check your desk – on top, behind, underneath, under your keyboard – and all four corners of the room. So you get a full view – it’s very thorough.” Watch this video to learn more about what happens during the on-boarding process.
How do I log on to the exam?
“The key thing is to log into your exam at the start time shown on your Exam Summary page,” says Jo. “If the exam is at 14:00, then log on at 14:00 – if you try and log on before you'll be given a countdown to the start of your on-boarding process.” If there are any delays logging on – because of technical problems, or too many people trying to get on at the same time – then don’t worry: the exam timer won’t start until you hit the arrow on the introduction page to get to your first question.
What if my Wi-Fi drops out halfway through?
Don’t panic. Try and reconnect. The exam will pause if your connection drops out, so you won’t lose any time. If you have a problem, use the TAWK chat box for technical support. If they can’t resolve your issue, our Student Support team is on hand to assist all students. “Student Support speak to the exam team if there’s a problem,” explains Jo. “We’ll do everything we can to get you back up and running – it might be that you can go to your office instead, for example.”
What are the invigilators looking out for?
The most common reason for an exam to be flagged is a student wearing headphones, says Jo. “You’re not allowed to have headphones on because obviously we don’t know what you’re listening to,” she explains. “Some will be flagged because there’s a book on the desk, and we just need to check that it’s a permitted text. And then there are instances where someone comes into the room – a student might be at home and their mum or dad forgets they’re sitting an exam and comes in to offer them a cup of tea!”
Are there any advantages to remote invigilation rather than going to an exam centre?
Absolutely. “Some students who sat their exams this way in March have told us that they found remote invigilation to be just as good as exam centres and will always opt for remote invigilation in future,” says Jo. It takes away the additional stress of travelling to an exam centre, and for students who are particularly anxious, it can help to be in familiar surroundings. And of course, you can always wear your pyjamas…
Will exam centres be open again soon?
For the upcoming Professional Level sessions in June, students had the choice of sitting at an exam centre or via remote invigilation. “We can only go by what the Covid guidance is,” Jo says. “As it stands at the moment, there will be centres open, but as with everything that could change at short notice.” You can always find the most up-to-date information on the Coronavirus qualifications hub.