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CPI November 2020 Letter to the IPA

Posted on Nov 20, 2020. by NTI

The IPA's CPI Exam Today (Friday 20 November) Has Been An Incompetent And Complete Disaster.

This is NTI's formal letter to the IPA on behalf of all CPI students and their firms.

Dear Sir/Madam

You will be only too aware of the debacle surrounding the sitting of the CPI examination this morning (Friday 20 November).

At NTI we trained 94 students towards this examination from all over the United Kingdom, and were appalled to receive calls from highly distressed and panicking candidates from just after 9.00am this morning, some of them texting, messaging and calling our team of lecturers, explaining they could not access the examination software and were receiving no assistance from either the IPA or the ICSA in continued attempts to do so.

A particularly dreadful example is an excellent and diligent student from a firm in East Anglia who, as late as 12.20pm, was still not able to access the exam paper, had no visual or audio link with the invigilator. He reported to us that he was just being repeatedly told to refresh his screen. He did, of course, but to no avail. He was then told to use a different laptop and to start the exam again at 2.00pm. He has no other laptop and has been studying assiduously for his exam for more than five months. 

Appallingly, he was told at noon today (20 November) that he should sit a "second sitting of the exam at 2.00pm". I am writing this email at 12.25pm and we at NTI already know the detailed contents of what appears on today's CPI paper (as one of our students has called us, as they can call anyone).

This, of course, means that any 'second sitting at 2.00pm' makes a total mockery of the whole examination system and is completely unfair to candidates who managed to get on to the hard and software earlier in the day without knowing the contents of the paper.

How can the IPA guarantee the integrity of your CPI examination when some candidates started their sitting on time, others were delayed by 45 minutes, yet others did not start for one hour 40 minutes and some were told they could start a 'second sitting of the paper', the contents of which we already know? What will the IPA do if a student is adjudged to have failed the paper, but had suffered great levels of distress due to not being able to start a paper for which they had studied for up to 10 months (the June sitting being cancelled)?

Another example concerns a student who could not set up her second camera (filming around her during the exam). She was told by the invigilator not be worry and to continue the sitting without the camera.

Yet another candidate emailed NTI at 10.43am today telling us that he had just received the link, but this did not fix the issue of non-responding hardware, which did not properly communicate with the software. He was told to re-share his screen by the remote invigilator every two or three minutes. When he frantically complained that this did not fix the issue, he was then told by the invigilator that he must have updated his computer since completing the one practice test made made available to students, which he hadn't.

One more candidate suffered a failure of the software ten minutes from the end of the set exam period and this part of his paper was lost.

These are just some of the issues suffered today and there will be many more. They are certainly sufficient to inform you of a catastrophic failure in an exam system for which you are fully accountable.

However, issues did not just arise on examination day, today; there have been problems with the sudden and previously unannounced change to a remote invigilation system throughout the last three to four months. For example, CPI students were meant to receive a link to the exam via your partners in this project, the ICSA, which they could click on today, the day of the exam. The IPA confirmed to students and us at NTI that if the link had not been received (which it wasn't by some) it would not be a problem as, "you can use the link in a previous email at step 3". This appears to be the root of many of the issues being suffered today, as candidates could not access the exam paper, as they did not receive any actual link to it.

There have, as you are fully aware, been other problems with the exam software adopted by the IPA, for which you have full responsibility. One of them is that the ICSA sent a link for students to practise the exam software, but it only gave them a few attempts to do so and did not give them more than one opportunity to practise.

NTI campaigned long and hard on behalf of not just our, but all CPI, students to have full access to practise on the software during the critical revision process, but only managed to get one more trial period. This was insufficient and unfair.

Further, the ICSA was supposed to send a link to candidates for them to access and test their laptops/PCs to check compatibility prior to the exam date. This email was sent to them days after it was promised by the exam administration team at the IPA, but we at NTI had more than 30 students who never received it. Our own administration team emailed and called your team repeatedly over a number of days to request this, but in many situations this was to no avail.

We were telephoned by a CPI student at noon on 19 November (the day before the exam) because they were unsure what they were required to do to access the exam paper the next day, as they had heard nothing from either the IPA or the ICSA. They did not receive any of this information on the eve of one of the most important exams in their lives.

There were other huge issues, of which you may or may not be aware throughout the past months prior to today's incompetent and unacceptable issues suffered by so many at such a critical stage in their professional training.

The information provided by the IPA has been very slow and inconsistent throughout the months preceding today. For example, it took NTI sending five emails to the IPA's administration team to find out the duration of the exam under the new system. This is, of course, an essential piece of information in preparation for a major qualification. It was eventually confirmed that it would be three hours 15 minutes. However, the ICSA then emailed our students informing them of a start time of 9.00am and an end-time of 12.30. This is three hours and 30 minutes. When questioned about this the IPA said this was wrong, as this was the guidance for other ICSA exams, not yours. However, notes to candidates received prior to the exam did not change these times. The result is confusion and lack of trust in a very poor and incompetent soft and hardware system which, desperately for most, played out as a nightmare on exam day.

On behalf of our students, their firms and sponsors we hold the IPA totally responsible for a complete failure of the CPI exam system. Not just today, but throughout the last three or four months.

We demand an independent enquiry into everything that has gone wrong both today and in the run up to this sitting, and an official statement as to what you intend to do for those candidates seriously disadvantaged by your failures.

We await hearing from you.

Yours faithfully

Neil Taylor

Managing Director
NTI Ltd

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