Most ICA exams we invigilate go off without a hitch, but every now and then someone throws us a curveball question or comment that renders a little bit more thought than ‘how long is left’?
It is not uncommon for our delegates to ask whether they can use a dictionary in their exam; of course, as the exams are (mostly) open book, this is perfectly acceptable.
Increasingly, however, delegates ask whether they can bring in and use their laptop. Now I am aware that sometimes laptops are referred to as notebooks, but this is where the similarity ends. One day the ICA may well have an exam that is ‘open computer’, but that day is not yet here. So no, you cannot use your laptop.
It is also becoming more commonplace for people to ask whether it is acceptable to use an iPad in the exam; again, the answer to this one is no. Personally I think I am helping delegates in this case, as I am sure most would spend the exam playing Angry Birds or looking at photos of their friends on Facebook.
The mobile phone can cause quite a stir in the exam hall too. Amazingly, I have had delegates ask if they can use their phone in the exam! Whilst it would be quite a novelty if the ICA exams were invigilated by Chris Tarrant, when the time is up there is not much chance of becoming an instant millionaire. In ICA exams you are not allowed to phone a friend. You aren’t allowed to ask the audience either, and in a written exam I am not sure a 50/50 would be of much use!
In the workshops you are reminded that preparation is key when it comes to exams. Prior to the most recent exam I invigilated one of our delegates posted a note on LinkedIn commenting on how he was preparing extra pens and also sharpening his pencil. I did find myself having quite a chuckle at the beginning of the exam when the same delegate came forward to the front of the exam hall asking to borrow a pen, as he had forgotten his.
Now this is actually quite common; people regularly seem to turn up to exams without feeling the need to bring pen. I wonder about their places of work; they must be absolutely fantastic! You can put down thoughts on paper without needing a pen or pencil. This isn’t an official request, but I am hoping soon the ICA will install the same mind-to-paper technology in our offices.
In all seriousness you do need a pen to complete the exam. The invigilators always have spares but I would advise bringing you own, just in case. I would also recommend you make a note, and bring the note along (using pen, pencil or mind-to paper technology) that lists your delegate ID. As previously mentioned, the ICA and it’s exam markers do not yet have mind technology, and so without listing your delegate ID they find it difficult to know which delegate has written which paper.
By far my favourite exam related question is the age old gem of ‘how much should I write?’ The answer varies for every person, and in most instances is dictated largely by how big your handwriting happens to be. If you write like your local neighbourhood Dr, you can write however much you feel like because the examiner won’t be able to read it anyway. If your handwriting is like that of a pre-schooler, you will need extra answer books because your looping style of writing will take up reams and reams of paper and destroy a single forest in 3 hours.
In most cases, people take the sensible approach and write a proportionate amount for the time they have and relative to the marks on offer for the question. Preparation is key; you need to read the questions thoroughly at the beginning of the exam and allot time accordingly to each question, bearing in mind how many marks are available. You do not need to write pages and pages for every question, but you will need to cover the key points to get the marks.
And remember, the examiner may not agree with your answer, but they don’t need to. It is about your answer and how well you are supporting your arguments. So make sure you provide good evidence to back up what you are saying.
In the end most people do very well in their exams. With the right amount of preparation and correct use of the materials provided many delegates finish their exam not only relieved, but quite pleased with their work. A sensible approach certainly helps most delegates; as do a couple of spare pens.