ABDO Exams reports success during unprecedented times

Everyone is aware of the impact Covid-19 has had on our industry over the past 18 months.  The face of everyday practice has changed dramatically, with extra stress on ABDO trainee members who have had their studies interrupted and professional assessments delayed whilst adapting to new practice life.

Throughout the pandemic, ABDO’s Examinations Department has been supporting trainee dispensing opticians and adapting its processes to ensure as many as possible could continue to train and qualify.

Miranda Richardson

The ABDO NRC adapted its procedures to ensure the safety of all

As ABDO’s assistant director of professional examinations, Miranda Richardson, explains: “There has been an understandable hesitancy for candidates to attend during this time, but with ongoing support and invaluable advice from ABDO’s policy department, the examinations team and staff from ABDO’s National Resource centre [NRC] have worked ceaselessly behind the scenes to ensure candidates were safe to attend their examinations and continue their career progression.”

As soon as possible, the NRC introduced exemplary social distancing and infection prevention and control (IPC) procedures for all examinations, ensuring the safety of students, staff and examiners. The NRC was adapted to temporarily accommodate theoretical examinations to ensure the same Covid-19 prevention procedures could be adhered to.

NRC head of operations, Mat Stringer, commented: “It’s been very rewarding to support the students and examiners throughout the pandemic, especially when we expanded to use four floors of the NRC to accommodate theory exams, dispensing practicals and contact lens practicals. I’ve also got to mention how great all students have been with adhering to guidelines and continuing to remain professional during extremely difficult circumstances.”

Candidates were offered a choice of five theoretical assessment sittings for summer 2020 to accommodate travel and furlough restrictions. The portfolio submission deadline was temporarily removed in 2020 to allow for the impact of furlough and a delay in completing those final few records. Portfolio case record submission was move to an online format, this also facilitated online marking with results released straight away. As the manufacturing tours were understandably suspended, this element temporarily transferred to a researched and referenced report on optical manufacturing.

Reduced numbers of candidates and examiners were timetabled at practical examinations to allow adherence to social distancing measures. This resulted in a longer practical examination session both in 2020 and 2021 – allowing the examinations department to work with individuals to accumulate final logged hours and sit their assessments towards the end of the examination sessions (where possible). An ongoing practical examination session was offered between August and December 2020, considering travel restrictions and local tier guidance.

Practice visits have continued to take place since June 2020 after the initial lockdown. ABDO has worked with the General Optical Council to provide flexibility for individual circumstances and around supervisory arrangements where required. First and second-year candidates were permitted to progress to the following year and sat their delayed assessments when it was safe to do so.

Temporary modifications were organised for trainee contact lens opticians and the required assessment procedures (in line with the changes taking place in the practice settings). Supplementary remote examination boards were organised to ratify results and notify candidates as soon as feasible, in line with the extended examination sessions.

The ABDO student revision event was successfully delivered in an online format in both 2020 and 2021, with recordings available for candidates to revisit prior to sitting their assessments.

With all the measures in place, and the tenacity of the trainees to attend for their examinations, ABDO conducted the following:

When considering all that has happened in the past 18 months, the ABDO examinations team would like to applaud all students who have sat their professional examinations under such difficult circumstances – and congratulate those who have qualified so far.

Miranda added: “We would also like to thank the ABDO examiners for travelling to the NRC for the practical and theoretical examinations to take place, and continuing to conduct the practice visits for students both safely and professionally. We would finally like to thank the NRC staff for the excellent facilities, adapted to accommodate the volume of examinations undertaken, whilst implementing exemplary Covid-19 protocols to ensure the safety of all who have been able to attend.”

The ABDO Examinations Department will review feedback from students and examiners so that of the well-received changes to process can be incorporated into the usual examination sessions as life hopefully returns to normal.