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During a virtual knowledge sharing event for professional accountancy organizations on the race to online examinations during COVID-19, Simon Hann of the Chartered Accountants Australia + New Zealand (CA ANZ) said that the rapid move to online exams due to COVID-19 within a period six weeks required – in short – blood, sweat, and tears. In its report, Our rapid move to online exams and beyond, CA ANZ shares its journey.

CA ANZ’s move to online exams was originally planned as part of an ambitious project to redesign their Chartered Accountant (CA) Program to empower a new wave of Chartered Accountants with work-ready, future-focused skills. Project activity focused on procuring a single vendor that could offer a technology solution that would digitize assessment delivery and enable remote marking while providing in-person invigilation by hosting exams across a global network of test centers. With a timeline of 12 months to the first pilot, it was an ambitious target.

In March 2020, CA ANZ was preparing for 8,750 candidates to take the seated paper-based exam—exam centers were booked and marking weekends scheduled. Then, in mid-March, it became clear that online exams needed to be fast tracked. Having to pivot rapidly, CA ANZ decided to allow progression and maintain academic integrity by delivering online exams via their learning management system with remote invigilation. And recognizing that this would require them to go beyond their usual risk appetite, CA ANZ managed risk at pace for all key stakeholders from their board to regulators to employers and candidates.

The 8,750 candidates were given a choice to continue with an online remote invigilated exam. Ninety-six percent of the 8,008 who elected to do so accessed the exam without any problems. Sixty-two percent of the 2,416 candidates who responded to a survey rated their online exam experience as good or extremely good and 26% as average. Ninety-four percent of the 258 markers who responded to a survey rated their online marking experience as good or extremely good and 6% as average. 

What is next? CA ANZ is continuing with online delivery of their exams, harnessing their learnings to enhance their offerings as they navigate the remainder of 2020.

They have also reviewed their approach and changed the scope of their project. The originally proposed seated computer-based exams will be replaced with remote invigilated exams that will:

  • Provide a higher quality candidate experience by eliminating travel, removing the stress of the exam center, completing the assessment on a device that is familiar, and being better able to cater to special provision candidates.
  • Provide a scalable exam and assessment solution to accommodate the growth of the CA Program and enable the future state digital design proposed by the redesign.
  • Deliver a contemporary assessment experience in line with current developments.

Significant benefits are expected from engaging a single vendor, including minimal technology support for integrations, a unified candidate support model, and consistent user experience across technology platforms. Areas identified for improvement include candidate onboarding, academic integrity, access to permitted materials, support, and statistics reporting.

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, et cetera that might be useful to PAOs? 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 first 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.