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During a virtual knowledge sharing event for professional accountancy organizations on the race to online examinations during COVID-19, Alan Hatfield, Executive Director – Strategy and Development at ACCA, shared ACCA’s swift introduction of remote invigilation in COVID-19. The report, ACCA’s remote invigilation journey, provides more detail.

Before the pandemic, ACCA was actively transitioning to computer-based exams, while monitoring the future potential of remote invigilation. COVID-19 changed this. In March 2020, when ACCA had to cancel in-person exams, staff escalated their investigation into remote invigilation as a potential solution for students keen on progressing their membership. Staff turned to academic institutions around the world to learn from their quick move to online exams, while bringing key stakeholders—regulators and education partners—along the journey.

Working closely with its Data Privacy and GDPR teams, ACCA selected a solution that includes the use of AI and human invigilation. A pilot of approximately 2,000 students sitting remote exams alongside students sitting in-person exams reassured ACCA and partners that there was no difference in results between the two groups, giving ACCA the confidence to offer more remote exams. In September 2020, approximately 18,000 students took their exams remotely, alongside approximately 130,000 in person.

Feedback from students who completed their exams without technical issues was positive, while students who experienced technical issues were frustrated. A strong and stable internet connection is essential to running a successful remotely invigilated exam. As many of ACCA’s students live in countries with fluctuating power supplies, a key takeaway is the need to set expectations. Looking ahead, ACCA plans to share experiences more widely to help students to understand whether remote invigilation is right for them.

ACCA has moved swiftly to introduce remote invigilation to allow students to take exams while centers are closed. The effort should not be underestimated. It required teams across the organization to work together to ensure smooth a journey for students. Quick decision making, clear lines of responsibility, and close collaboration have enabled ACCA to introduce remote invigilation to thousands of ACCA students around the world.

We encourage you to continue the conversation

Do you have challenges, solutions, or opportunities to share with professional accountancy organizations (PAOs)? Do you have policies, procedures, guidance, etc. that might be useful? Are you willing to assist a PAO on the journey to online exams? If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” please contact us at as we plan to continue to share your knowledge in the Accountancy Education eNews (subscribe today!) and link to your good practices in the IFAC Accountancy Education E-Tool.

This is the third in our series of case studies. Do not miss our other case studies:

Alta Prinsloo

Chief Executive Officer

Alta Prinsloo became the Chief Executive Officer of the Pan African Federation of Accountants (PAFA) in 2020. She is an executive who is accomplished in strategic planning, capacity building, program implementation, and partnership development.

Ms. Prinsloo joined the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board in 2002, and served as deputy director before transitioning to IFAC, where she has served in various executive roles, including governance & nominations, strategic planning, risk management, finance, operations & information technology, human resources, and intellectual property. She has also overseen a wide variety of initiatives, including accountancy capacity building, Accountability. Now. – an initiative focused on transparency and accountability in the public sector, the IFAC Member Compliance program, professional accountants in business and in small- and medium-sized practices, and the Knowledge Gateway.

From 1997 through 2002, Ms. Prinsloo worked at the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, becoming its technical director in 2000. In 1996, she worked at Amalgamated Banks of South Africa where she was responsible for professional development of the internal audit function. Prior to that, she worked in the national technical and training office of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

She is a Professor of Practice in the Department of Commercial Accounting of the University of Johannesburg, serves on the Advisory Board of the School of Accountancy of the University of the Free State, and chairs the Governing Council of the South African Journal of Accounting Research. She also chairs the IPPF Oversight Council of The Global Institute of Internal Auditors and is a member of the Board of the African Society of Association Executives and the ESG Exchange Advisory Committee.