Open Book Exams (IFoA) – Actuarial Science FAQs

As we all know that IFoA has announced that all the Actuarial exams will be delivered online for the September 2020 session, there is a wave of confusion amongst the exam takers. The Open Book examinations of IFoA attract a lot of curiosity as the system of exams is new and there is a level of uncertainty attached to preparation even though IFoA is doing the best they can to keep us updated about the information.

Here we have compiled some important information about Online exams from the IFoA website and also tried to give you some tricks on how to make your Open Book Exams more manageable!

What is meant by Open Book Examinations?

With Open Book exams, IFoA implies that students will be able to access any learning materials for reference, be it, electronic, hardcopy or online through the internet. This type of exam will test your application based learning and not memory skills. It will test your understanding of the subject and its applicability rather than some definitions and facts. However, the material you may access should be for reference purposes only. It should not be copied directly into your answer script.

What is Plagiarism in Open Book Examination?

When you copy the entire content of the material you used for reference purposes while giving your exam into your answer sheet, that is when the answer script will be called plagiarized. To plagiarize means to present someone else’s work as your own by not giving full acknowledgment to them for their work.

What if my answer script matches someone else’s who is taking the same exam sitting?

The IfoA has developed sophisticated IT systems to check collusion between answer scripts of different candidates. Legal action will be taken in such a case for candidates who showcase this inappropriate behavior.

How do I manage my time in Open Book test?

Experience of various candidates in the April exam sitting shows that it is quite time consuming to switch between your reference material to study, frame your answers in your thoughts and jot them down in your scripts. So you should be able to practice it as a mock exam under exam-like situation. You should know what exactly is your reading and typing speed so that you don’t loose on the grounds of time management in your exam and don’t have to be disappointed for leaving the questions you already knew just because you couldn’t manage your time effectively. 

Will the examination platform handle online exams?

IFoA is fully confident that the examination platform will be able to handle the online exams for all candidates registered.

Will answer scripts be submitted as handwritten?

No, IFoA has clearly stated that answer scripts should be typed into MS Word or MS Excel depending on the examination subject and handwritten scripts will not be marked for results.

Can Non-members apply for September examinations from IFoA?

No, Non-members won’t be able to apply for any exams for September 2020 examination assessment.

How will the Online examinations operate?

At the start time of any examination, candidates will access the written examination paper from the IFoA online platform.
Details of Examination joining instructions (including the start time of examinations) will be sent to all the registered candidates via mail two weeks before their exam date.
Answers will be typed by you and then uploaded at the end of the examination to the same platform. There is no provision for handwritten answers during the September examinations.
Answers will be typed into either Word or Excel depending on the subject.

You will receive personal notification of your examination results after they declare results. The IFoA has previously announced that it will cease publication of public pass-lists from April 2020

How will CM and CS exams have new online format?

The syllabuses and core reading for these modules remain unchanged. The only difference is the format of these papers’ A part, while B remains unchanged as it was already online.
The format has changed so that answers can be typed using Word without the need for complex mathematical or specialist actuarial notation. Where sections require mathematical notation, a recommended notation sheet will be provided as a guide on standard keyboard symbols/notation that may be used in Word to present mathematical notation
For CS1 A, CS2 A, some of the sections that previously required significant mathematical notation will be assessed by multiple-choice questions (around 25% of the paper).
Also, please note that, for CS1, CS2, CM1, CM2, both elements of the examination (A and B) need to be sat during the same exam sitting.

How will formulae requiring Mathematical notations as input be typed in Word?

The IFoA has produced this notation sheet which gives suggested notation that candidates could use instead of mathematical notation when typing solutions in Word in the IFoA examinations. This list is not necessarily exhaustive and other sensible notation will be accepted.

Can I save my time in CS examinations using Rmarkdown and KnitR?

No. The use of RMarkdown and knitR is not permitted during the examination.

Can I use Word and Excel interchangeably in all the subjects?

No, Use of Excel is exclusively allowed for CP2, CM1 Paper B, and CM2 Paper B. For other subject’s exams, if you use excel for some calculations, you can copy and paste that part with the specific question that you are answering in your word document.

Can I use the ‘Dictate’ function in MS Word to prepare my answers?

No, the use of ‘Dictate’ function is refrained as at present only Microsoft Office 365 has a “Dictate” option available. Use of this would give some candidates an advantage over those using older, but equally acceptable versions of Word. Use of Equation editor is also not allowed in the exam,

What is the whole purpose of Open Book Exams?

The IFoA September 2020 exams test for more than just rote learning so that your intellectual capabilities can be assessed as to how you equip the information you have to present your case while answering questions to make it relevant for application in the real world.

They test your ability to quickly find relevant information and then to understand, analyze, apply knowledge, and think critically.

Tips to Ace through Open Book Exams of IFoA:

Just remember Time is the Key!

The key abilities you have to showcase are many in Open Book exams. But the most important one is Time Management because you might end up spending more time on a question, on an average, than you would, if it were exams to be taken in the examination centre (being sure of a good level of preparation, of course, else all you might do there is think and write songs or nothing!)

Open Book exams mean you don’t have to study anymore!

No! It is a myth, If that is what you think, you are certainly mistaken! Being able to refer to the study material does mean that you don’t have to memorize much information now, but you still have to be familiar with the concepts of your subject to apply them effectively.You need to be familiar with the contents of your subject so that you can use relevant information quickly. If you don’t study, you won’t know where to find that information.

The more material you have to refer, the better!

It is wrong to assume that the more resources you have ready at the time of your exams, the more are your chances of clearing it. This is because you have to show some organizational skills when you deal with them. Having limited, to the point information but being perfectly familiarized with it will be better than having multiple documents, some online, some hard copies. This is because of the time constraints and the length of your question paper.You might not want to be all confused spending all of your time reading through materials and find nothing.

How to Avoid Plagiarism in Open Book exams of IFoA?

You need to remember that you can’t just copy out of your text materials and be sure of passing. The questions in Open Book exams are designed in such a manner that even if you quote some parts of text and books that you are referring, you have to use your critical thinking skills and analytical capabilities to relate it to the real world by giving maybe some examples, some situations to demonstrate how well you understand that particular part.

Give references and sources to the information you write! Don’t take credit for someone else’s work or ideas.

Don’t Clone! Paraphrase! That is, Don’t submit another’s work word-for-word as one’s own. Instead, express the meaning of what you just read with different words to achieve greater clarity.

Don’t CTRL+C and CTRL+V! When you do this, large significant portions of your text may remain unaltered and lead to plagiarism. So, a better way is to read something, then reproduce it in your own words. As you know, there are a lot of words in the English language and you might not use the same that you read!

Don’t Remix! Clubbing lots of points from multiple sources as a single paragraph doesn’t mean you don’t have plagiarism, as each individual line will result in it.

Include Citation in your answers: Give due credit to the original person whose ideas or works that you are presenting but this doesn’t mean that you have to compose the entire answer with just citations with no original work of your own.

Please remember that we actuarial professionals are bound by The Actuaries Code and any inappropriate attempt by us during the examination may lead to serious repercussions for our career in Actuarial Science.

Note: This article is written as per IFoA FAQ last updated on 17th July 2020. For FAQs updated after this date, please visit IFoA website.

Read more:

FAQ section on the IFoA website – Please see the updated FAQs of IFoA here.

Exam Timetable for September 2020 examinations can be accessed here.

Non-members can read more about the available options of membership to take a decision here

Student Handbook can be accessed here.

IFoA Assessment Regulations can be accessed here.

About the Author

Anmol Kaur

Anmol Kaur is an actuarial graduate working as a Business Analyst(Actuarial) in a leading MNC. With a quest to learn more, she is looking forward to become a fellow of both The UK Actuarial Society (IFoA) and Insurance Institute of India (III) which she believes will provide her an edge over her actuarial career in India.

Comments 3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.