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Exams and Learning in a Virtual World

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Currently, all physical training locations and exam centres are closed, and nobody knows exactly when this will change or what the new world of socially distanced training locations will look like.

In an ever changing world it seems that virtual learning could be the method that many students continue to adopt, even into the future.

At the moment the only scheduled classes from training providers are via online study channels. With the Kaplan Live Online method, tutors can have their webcams on so students can actually see them, as well as being able to ask questions of the tutor and other students, through the chat panel.

Zoom, Webex, Teams - these words have now become part of our everyday language. Using them for online meetings has become second nature for many of us as we adapt to remote working.

As well as LiveOnline we have our OnDemand and Distance Learning study methods. The flexibility of non-scheduled learning means that students can study at a time to suit them, especially useful for those juggling a busy life.

This has always been a possibility but with furloughed students, reduced working hours for some, and others wanting a distraction, studying remotely is a huge opportunity to keep going, or even start something new.

What the institutes are doing

CIMA has been delivering remote exams through Pearson OnVue since 4th May and the other Institutes are following suit - with ACA certificate launching in May and ACCA starting a pilot in July.

The tax exams will be offering remote options from November, although using a different software to Pearson. Providers of tuition courses are offering courses through online channels, but what has this shift meant for students and their desire to sit exams remotely?

Your feedback

In a social media poll* that we completed in May, 59% of those polled were happy to book their next exam, whereas the other 41% felt uneasy and wanted to wait until exams were back in a physical location. Some students taking exams are concerned about sitting them from home, with distractions present due to children, pets, shared housing and the merging of the work and home environment.

Students seem to be happier with the ‘wordier’ subjects. The biggest fear seems to be the inability to write things down on a piece of paper or a whiteboard in the exam.

The virtual whiteboard

The Pearson software has attempted to overcome an element of this by introducing an online whiteboard. Using this means that you can still do workings, although they will be typed rather than written.

For CIMA exams this functionality can be tested on the CIMA Canvas. Although this isn’t the exact whiteboard you will be given in your exams, it gives you a chance to test it.

For other exams proctored through Pearson Vue you can get familiar with the online whiteboard before your exam.


Pen and paper are still relevant, of course, but in a world that is becoming increasingly digital, maybe this is a lesson to us all that we could save a lot of time and energy by writing things straight onto a computer?

When writing a report or an email at work there is nowhere to write notes. We write as we think - perhaps this is something we should be doing in exams.

When doing a calculation question why do we feel the need to write our calculations on a piece of paper? Could we do them straight on a calculator and use the online whiteboard for the key numbers we find?

In a working day most calculations that we do are done on Excel - which, afterall, is the world’s most powerful calculator. Could this actually be a far more efficient way of working and sitting exams? A lot of the subjects have huge time pressure constraints so perhaps doing calculations straight on a calculator could be a time saver?

Keep going

We strongly encourage students to continue studying and sitting their exams. With all the current uncertainty and change, we should try to keep some sense of normality and if you were studying before, keep going.

Many of us have more time on our hands so picking up a new skill, or advancing a skill, could be something to take your mind off today’s uncertainty. If you have completed a level of a qualification could now be the time to do another level? Or if you have finished AAT, could you think about the next step?

If you’re anxious about sitting an exam, try the online canvas for a technical question and see how you find it. Book the exam so you have something to work towards and don’t forget to reach out for help whenever you need it.

Follow Kaplan on Facebook and Twitter for some useful tips and updates. If we can support you in any way please don’t hesitate to contact us.

*374 votes in total, May 2020.