Student Stories: What it was like to take a socially distanced exam

Socially distanced exams are our “new normal”, certainly for now but what is it actually like to take a socially distanced exam?

We asked some of the AAT students who have already done it to tell us about their experiences and advice. 

James sat his Management Accounting Costing Level 3 on 30th June in Milton Keynes.

How did you feel about going to the centre to take your exam? What worries did you have?James: My main concern was that I hadn’t been to that centre before and it was an hours drive so that added to the pressure a bit. I just made sure I left plenty of time and I arrived 20 minutes early.

What measures were put in place and did these remove all of your worries?James: When I got there, they explained the procedures. It gave me confidence as they were taking it very seriously. I had my temperature taken when I arrived and before we could enter the building we had to hand sanitise. You had to wear a mask at all times in the building. In the exam room, the computers were spread out and had dividers.

How safe did you feel from entering the centre to leaving the centre after your exam?James: I had no worries about my health. You had to book a time slot so everyone’s arrival was spread out.

Were you comfortable with the distancing between candidates during your exam?James: Yes. When I was sitting my exam I was the only one in that particular room. Then halfway through, two other people came in to sit on the other side of the room.

Would you come back and take another exam under these conditions and would you recommend it to others?James: I’ve got another exam in two weeks and I would recommend it. You’re wearing a mask but there are really no other changes to sitting a normal exam. All the procedures they put in place made me feel safe so there’s no reason I wouldn’t recommend it to others.

Is there anything you feel could be improved for future candidates? James: I would advise that you do a practice exam wearing a mask for the whole time. It sounds silly but I haven’t been out much or worn a mask for more than 20-minutes so I didn’t want the first long period of wearing it to be during the exam. You don’t want to be getting used to it then. Finding yourself not concentrating on the exam but fiddling around with it and focusing on it being uncomfortable.

Samara is doing the Level 3 AAT Assistant Accountant Apprenticeship

How did you feel about going to the centre to take your exam? What worries did you have?Samara: I was very anxious before coming into the exam centre for my Advanced Bookkeeping exam. I was nervous not knowing what the situation would be.

What measures were put in place and did these remove all of your worries?Samara: Upon arriving at the centre I was met at the entrance by Simon who made me feel very welcome and he took me to the reception. I was then met by another lovely lady who took my temperature on my forehead and checked my ID at the 2-metre distance before being taken into the exam room. They take you through one person at a time and you are asked to sanitise your hands before entering the corridor down to the exam room.

Were you comfortable with the distancing between candidates during your exam? Samara: Once in the exam room, it is very well set up. There is only a maximum of four students in the room at a time and you have plastic dividers in between each desk. I actually found the dividers to be really good and helped with lessening distractions that could happen in the exam room. I found I was able to concentrate better.

Is there anything you feel could be improved for future candidates? Samara: Overall I found my visit to the exam centre was very welcoming, friendly and had an understanding atmosphere. Thank you, Ruth and everyone at Accountancy Learning.

Paulina started her journey with AAT during lockdown and is currently studying Level 2.

Paulina booked her first exam, Bookkeeping Transactions, for the first day they were back on 29th June and then sat her second exam, Bookkeeping Controls, on 13th July at The Accounting Tutorship in Welwyn Garden City.

How did you feel about going to the centre to take your exam? What worries did you have? Paulina: I felt pretty confident before entering my exam centre because I had received some information, rules and guidance at the time of booking. It gave me a basic understanding of what to expect when I arrived and the rules that everyone was supposed to follow. I was surprised how organised my exam centre was.

What measures were put in place and did these remove all of your worries? Paulina: There was social distancing (from the very beginning in reception, through my exam, to leaving the centre at the end). And everyone had to wear a face mask. Computer equipment was cleaned after each student and every other seat was empty.

How safe did you feel from entering the centre to leaving the centre after your exam? Paulina: I felt really pleased with the way it was approached. Each student had a seat already prepared in reception, all rules were clearly explained and the classroom was professionally prepared for the exam. The team ensured that I felt safe and looked after. I had no concerns.

Were you comfortable with the distancing between candidates during your exam? Paulina: My exam centre is rather small, but in order to enable students to take their exams, they scheduled lots of extra times. As a result, during my exam, there was only one other student and the centre manager keeping an eye on us. I was really happy with only three people in a classroom as I had a lot of personal space around me. This made me feel calm and safe.

Would you come back and take another exam under these conditions and would you recommend it to others? Paulina: Absolutely, my exam centre has exceeded my expectations and after the first and second exams, I have already booked two more – one in July and one in August. I am very grateful that I am able to finish a whole Level so quickly without being worried that I am in any sort of danger. I know that not all students have this opportunity right now. I would truly recommend sitting exams at my exam centre.

Is there anything you feel could be improved for future candidates? Paulina: The only advice I would give other students is to speak to your exam centre and ask for clear procedures. Try to point out what is important to you and your safety during an exam. Getting some knowledge will save you any added and unnecessary stress after arriving for your exam.

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