Online Exams FAQs

13 Apr 2021

At the bottom of this page you will find a list of common questions about the online exam session, to help you to sit your exam using Exam4. 

We are working hard to provide you with as much information as we can, so please check back regularly for updates and new FAQs. We will also share information and updates with the tuition providers.

Have we answered your question?

We hope you have found the answer to your question, but if you need more information try visiting these pages:

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If you still cannot find the answer, please email your questions to education@ciot.org.uk, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Sitting the exam

How long will I have to complete my exam?
For the exams in 2022, you will have:

  • Awareness
    3 hours, 15 minutes
  • All other CTA exams
    3 hours, 30 minutes


What is an open-book exam? 

Open-book means you may refer to any books, study manuals, pre-prepared notes and online resources during the exams.

The exam will not be any easier because it is open-book. You must think carefully about which materials will best help you, and how to quickly find the information you are looking for.


How will I access the tax tables? 

You will be given a link to download the tax tables approximately one week before the exam.  

You can either print it out or save it to a convenient location on your device.

You will not be able to view tax tables within Exam4.


Can I sit the exam in my office? 

Yes you can, but there are a few things to consider if you plan to sit the exam in your office:

  1. You should advise your IT Department, and get their support. Send them the Exam4 IT Specification.
  2. You must test Exam4 end-to-end in your office well before the day of your exam. This is the only way to ensure that you have enough time to resolve any problems in advance of your exam day.
  3. Have a backup plan in case something changes and you cannot sit your exam in your office.   Test Exam4 end-to-end in this backup location too.


Can I sit my exam if I am not in the UK? 

Yes, but if you are not in the UK, the exam start time you will be given as the time in the UK (check if that is GMT or BST for your exam day).

It is your responsibility to check what time your exam will start locally for you.


Using Exam4

What features does Exam4 have, is it difficult to use?
Exam4 is really simple to use, the easiest way to describe it is as a basic word processor. It comes with features to help you format your answer, and make the edits you need. Watch our helpful guidance videos to get used to how Exam4 works.

The exams are Open book, this means you may refer to any books, study manuals, pre-prepared notes and online resources during the exams.  Exam4 does not lock your device.  However, you cannot copy and paste from external resources into, nor out of, Exam4.

You will be sent an email with details of how to download Exam4 approximately one month before your exam, giving you plenty of time to explore and get used to the features available to you.  

Check the Exam Noticeboard to see when emails will be issued for each exam session.

How do I practice on Exam4?
Once you have downloaded Exam4, you can practise end-to-end using the 'Viewable Questions' that are available in the Course List. 

You can do this as many times as you want.  There is no limit to how many times you can access the Viewable Questions.

What happens if Exam4 crashes during my exam?

In the unlikely event your device crashes whilst using Exam4, watch the guidance video headed "What to do if your device crashes".  Do not start a new exam, as you will not be able to see the answers you have already typed

This short video shows you the simple steps on how to restart your exam, so that you can carry on typing your answers from where you left off.  

You should also look at the troubleshooting guide, which can be found here.

Can I use a second screen and/or have my laptop plugged into a docking station?
Yes, as Exam4 is in “Open” mode, you can have a second screen plugged in and also use a docking station if you wish. Please watch the guidance videos for how "Open" mode works.

However, you must make sure you practise end-to-end using the set up you are going to use on the day of your exams and also your set up is fully compliant with the Exam4 IT Specification which can be found here

When I type in Exam4, it is lagging on my screen.  Why is this?  

There could be a few reasons, but the most likely is that your device is overheating and that is causing poor performance and the lag when you type.

If your device is overheating, inspect the vents and fan for dirt or other signs of blockage.  Consider obtaining a cooling pad.

Before you exam day, open Exam4 and fetch one of the Viewable Questions.  Leave it open and running for 4 to 5 hours to see if your device can cope.  Try typing for 5 to 10 minutes Exam4 have been open for 4 to 5 hours.  If what you are typing is lagging, then it is advisable to find another device to use for your exam and test that works.

Also make sure you have enough space on your hard drive.  A minimum of 2gb free space is recommended for the exams.

If you cannot solve the issue of the lagging typing, your device is not likely to be suitable for your exam and you should find another device to use.

When I am typing suddenly it is overwriting! What is going on?
You will have accidentally clicked on "Insert" on your keyboard. Click "Insert" again to stop this.

This is a Microsoft feature and when you are in Exam4 you can also click on "Help" at the top of the screen and then scroll down and select "Overwrite Mode". This also explains what is happening and how to stop it.

What does "open mode" mean in Exam4?
Open mode means that your device is not locked down and you can access everything else, such as the internet.

Exam4 uses open mode for the exams because the exams are Open book.

How can I use the Viewable Questions if I don't yet have my real five digit candidate number?
Just put in any dummy five digit number - we recommend you use 12345.

On the day of your real exam, you must enter the unique five digit candidate number that will have been emailed to you. 

You would be surprised how many candidates incorrectly use their six digit student number, use their candidate number from a prior session, or transpose two numbers in their five digit candidate number.

I have been practising using the Exam4 software but accidentally selected the real exam rather than a Viewable Question.  Does this matter?
No. 

Anything you submit before the day of the exam is irrelevant and neither the Viewable Question, nor anything accidentally submitted when selecting the real exam, will be marked.

On the day of your exam, just make sure you select the correct paper and submit your exam following the guidance videos available

My question paper does not appear in full on the right hand side, even though I have maximised Exam4 so it fills my full screen – what do I do?
There are a few reasons why this might be the case.  

If you have maximised Exam4 on your screen, it is most likely that you need to reduce the font size within the Exam4 app. Try a smaller font size (see image below of where to change it), click through to the point where you can "Fetch" the Viewable Question and see if you can now see the whole of the Viewable Question.

Another potential reason might be that the “Scale and layout” on your individual device is not correct for using Exam4. Search for “Display” on your device and adjust the settings under the heading “Scale and layout”.  Usually 100% is the correct size for Exam4, even if on your device it shows 150% shows as being “recommended” try reducing it to 100% to see if this solves the issue. Again, change this and then reload Exam4, "Fetch" the Viewable question paper and see if you can now see the whole of it.

Alternatively, it may be that you do not have the requisite IT setup you need to use Exam4.  Make sure you have fully reviewed the Exam4 IT specification, which can be found here, to check whether your device is fully compliant.

NB: if you are trying to use a tablet, such as an iPad, the full question paper cannot be viewed. Remember, you cannot use a tablet for your exam.

Using Exam4 (cont.)

Can I highlight parts of the question?
Yes, you can. 

However, the digital question paper is like a piece of paper.  Once you have highlighted any part of the question, you cannot undo your highlighting

The best way to get used to the exam functionality is to download and try out Exam4 as soon as it is available, and by watching our helpful guidance videos.


Can I copy and paste from the question paper to my answer? 
No, this is not possible. 

You can, however, zoom in and out on the question paper using the "slider" underneath the question paper.


Can I use a tablet to type my answers?
No. 

Exam4 has been built for use on laptops and desktop PCs, which means you cannot use a tablet to complete your exam (even if you have an external keyboard attached).   

While tablet devices with a detachable keyboard may resemble a laptop, they are classified as tablets and are not supported by Exam4.

For Surface devices, check here if they are supported and make sure you have carefully reviewed the Exam4 IT specification here.


What if something goes wrong during the exam, will I lose my work?

No. 

Exam4 auto-saves your work every few minutes, meaning you won't lose your work if something goes wrong during the exam.

In the unlikely event you have any issues with Exam4 on the day of your exam, you should refer to the troubleshooting guide, which can be found here.


When does my time start on Exam4?
Your exam start time will begin when you 'Fetch' your question paper and you must start your personal timer as soon as you click 'Fetch'. 

You must start the exam during the appropriate 15 minutes start window, as outlined in your Candidate email.

Make sure that you have watched the guidance videos showing you how to start Exam4 and 'Fetch' your question paper.

Remember: it is your responsibility to start, and end, your exam at the appropriate times. 

Download the Candidate checklist here and make sure you have made a note of the exam start and end time in the appropriate boxes. 


How do I know how much time I have left?
You will need to manage your own timekeeping, so have your personal timer with you during the exam.

Download the Candidate checklist here and make sure you have made a note of the exam start and end time in the appropriate boxes. 

Remember: Exam4 does not end automatically, you are responsible for ending your exam at the correct time.


Can I use Microsoft Excel?
No, but answering computational question using Exam4 is simple to do. 

See the guidance videos which show you how to deal with computational questions, including the new Tables functionality.  

You must use the Tables when answering computation questions.


Will I have access to normal editing functions, for example copy and paste?
Yes. You can cut, copy and paste within your answers, undo/redo, and use bold, italics and underline. You can use these features either using their shortcut keys, or in the ‘Edit’ and ‘Format’ menus at the top of the screen.

For more information, watch the guidance videos.

However, you cannot copy and paste from external resources into, nor out of, Exam4.


Can I print my exam paper?
No, you can only view it onscreen using the Exam4 software.

Watch our guidance videos which show you how to 'Fetch' your exam paper on Exam4.


I am having problems using Exam4, what do I do?
First, try looking at all the guidance provided, as usually there are simple reasons why you might be having issues. Also, look at the rest of these FAQs, which may answer the queries you have.

If you cannot resolve your issue. you can email education@ciot.org.uk.

In the unlikely event you have any issues with Exam4 on the day of your exam, you should refer to the troubleshooting guide, which can be found here.


Can I use a second device to access manuals, notes etc?

Yes.

If you want to, you can use a tablet or other device to access information during the exams, but of course you have to use a laptop or desktop PC to type your answers in Exam4.

ID capture on the day of your exam

How do I complete my ID capture?
Watch the guidance videos which explain how the ID capture works to collect your selfie and photo of your ID.

You must take one selfie and one picture of your ID - you would be surprised how many candidates take two selfies.  

You risk being disqualified if you do not correctly complete the ID capture process.


When do I complete the ID capture?
On the day of your exam, we recommend you login to Exam4 at least an hour before the start window so that you can complete your ID capture process well in advance of the start window.

Remember: you will only be able to access the question paper once the start window opens, so there is no disadvantage in logging into Exam4 early and completing the ID capture and making sure you are not having any other issues logging into Exam4 itself.


Will I need a webcam for my exam?
Yes, you must have a webcam for the ID check and this must remain on for the duration of your exam.  See the Online Exam Regulations.

If you do not have one built into your device, you MUST obtain an external USB webcam. 


Why does my webcam need to remain on throughout my exam?
It is  a requirement under the Online Exam Regulations

Do not disconnect your webcam after completing the ID capture process, nor at any point during your exam.

You should stay online throughout your exams, as you will be monitored via your webcam.


Why is my camera screen black in Exam4 when I start the ID submission process?
There are several reasons this could be happening.  Watch this video https://youtu.be/Ej4RwRgV4-s which takes you through the things to do to resolve the issue.  

It may be the privacy settings on your device are preventing Exam4 from accessing the webcam.

Search “Camera Privacy Settings” on your device.  If you can find this and “Exam4” is not listed as being allowed to access your camera, that might be the explanation.

It may also be as simple as something physically covering your webcam, like a piece of tape or a "slider" that you can move across on your device.  Also, if you are using a second screen and have closed your laptop screen, this would stop it showing any picture being available to capture, so lift your laptop screen up.

If none of these resolve the issue, please contact us education@ciot.org.uk.

After the exam

How can I verify my exam file was received?
Follow these simple steps:

  1. Launch Exam4 and choose "Select existing exam"
  2. Click on the exam you want to check
  3. Click on the "View Exam Submittal Receipt" button - if you see a receipt, it was safely received!

Main errors made by Candidates during the 2021 exams

The vast majority of students sat without having any issues at all. 

Where students did have issues, almost always this was because they had failed to practice using Exam4 before their exam day.  With remote exams, you must test in advance and contact us if you are having any issues using Exam4.

We want candidates to be able to sit their exams without issue and so it may prove helpful to know the most common mistakes candidates made at the November 2021 exam session:

  • Entering the wrong Candidate Number on Exam4 - some candidates entered their 6 digit Student number, others used their 5 digit Candidate Number from a previous exam session.  Note: you will be issued with your unique, 5 digit Candidate number before each exam and it changes each exam session
  • Taking two photos of their face, rather than one of their ID - remember you must take one "selfie" and one photo of your ID
  • Not knowing the crash recovery procedure if their device failed and thinking their exam answers had been lost.  There is a short guidance video showing the simple steps showing how to quickly reopen the exam and carry on from where you left off.  Some started a new exam, which is not the correct procedure.
  • Candidates not practicing using Exam4 on the device (and in the same location) they used for their exam.  As a result, issues included
      • Not being able to see the full exam paper onscreen, with part of the questions cut off.  Note: the simple resolution for this is covered above in these Online Exam FAQs
      • Firewalls/VPNs blocking the exam paper from being 'Fetched' in Exam4.  Note: the Exam4 IT specification says to contact your IT department to resolve corporate firewall/VPN issues
      • The device not being compatible with Exam4.  Note: you must look at the Exam4 IT specification document

The best way to avoid having issues on the day of your Online Exam is to test Exam4 end-to-end in advance, as outlined in the Online Exams guidance.  In nearly all cases, the solutions to the issues being encountered were simple and already covered in the guidance material.   

By contacting us in advance, we can help you sort out any problems you are having.  Download, test and prepare in order to take any extra stress out of the exam day!