Inside ICAS: Leading the TPS exam panel

Mark Allison By Mark Allison, Executive Director, Education

10 November 2016

Mark Allison, Executive Director, Education talks about the work that goes into creating the TPS examinations at ICAS, and how the papers are developed and reviewed.

One of the most important roles carried out by the ICAS Education Directors is to lead an examination panel.  A number of years ago all of ICAS’s examining activities were carried out by Members – not Institute staff.  

It was decided that it would enhance the process to have involvement not only from senior lecturers but from the Education Directors too.

One of the most important roles carried out by the ICAS Education Directors is to lead an examination panel.

This has evolved to a model where the TC, TPS, TPE and ITP Panel are all chaired by Education Directors. The TPE Board is chaired by a senior Member of the Institute. We’ll hear more about the work of the TPE Board in a future article.

Development of a TPS examination

Chairing the TPS Examination Panel is an activity which goes on throughout the year. It may surprise you to know that the examination you are about to sit was first devised in outline over 18 months ago. There is an examination team for each subject, comprising an external moderator, an external examiner and an internal examiner.

This team also has a wider pool of writers (examiners) and markers. The team work on an outline of a question which is based on the syllabus learning outcomes and detailed modules, and then ask a writer to compose a question around this framework. The Panel does not become involved at this stage.

As Chair, the first time I see the paper is an early draft version presented to the TPS Exam Panel around 12 months before it is actually sat. This is before the paper goes through a rigorous process of quality control and technical review. 

Each team present their paper to Panel made up of the external moderator of each subject together with two Education Directors. There is a process of challenge and review of the question, the solution and the draft mark schedule.

A rigorous review process

We review two complete papers in a subject at once which allows a comparison in standard. Each paper is matched against the syllabus outcomes and module coverage. A process called ‘time testing’ has also been undertaken. This involves a member of the ICAS staff sitting the exam to the time set by the Panel. 

A report is received on the time taken for each question together with an estimate of the mark which would have been awarded. This control can provide an important insight into the length of time it can take to undertake questions.

The Panel then concludes on each question, and each paper, with an option to accept a question or ask for revisions to be undertaken. On occasion we reject a question and require a new question to be created in its place.

Following the Panel meeting the examining team revise the paper and submit it for a quality control review which considers language, clarity and other features to ensure the paper is clear and consistent. A separate technical review exercise is carried out at this stage by a member of the Institute’s staff who has not been involved in the process up to this point. 

Schedules of review points are created and the examining teams, led by the moderator, are required to respond and address each point. At the conclusion of this review, the moderator will sign off a paper as appropriate for a future diet.

As Chair of the Panel, I then carry out a final clean review before the paper is due to be sat and sign the paper off as suitable to be printed.

We carry out this process throughout the year and at any one time, we will also have a back-up reserve paper which has gone through the same process.

If you have followed the course and followed the guidance from your tutors, you will be well prepared to sit a fair and balanced paper.

TPS examination approaching

Please be assured that the paper you will shortly be sitting matches the learning you have undertaken. It has been mapped back to the syllabus and has gone through the same consistent processes from diet to diet.

We also have processes in place to gain your feedback. After every exam the tutoring team throughout the UK are always prepared to look again at any issues of clarity or technical competence.

My final piece of advice to you would be: If you have followed the course and followed the guidance from your tutors, you will be well prepared to sit a fair and balanced paper. 

I wish you the very best of luck with the exam coming up. I look forward to telling you more about how we mark the examination papers in a future article.

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