- Correspondence Education in Australia: Part 3
My studies to obtain an accounting and bookkeeping qualification by correspondence education went smoothly and when along the way work got busy, I just slowed down the study so that things wouldn’t get too crazy. The good thing about study by correspondence is that you can do it when you want, at the pace you want. And if you come across a subject that you’re not good at, you can put it on hold and go ahead with another subject, which also makes for a nice change of pace. When I looked at the students’ Group page on Facebook, it seemed to me that other students were similarly weak in my weak subjects, and like me, some of them seemed to be putting things off till later by asking questions about this and that to do with the assignment. I had put aside the subjects I wasn’t good at, so all that was left was the last two big subjects. For these two subjects I had to answer 20 questions on the website, submit an assignment, and sit a three-hour supervised examination. Because I was doing the course by correspondence I could sit the exam at home, at work, or in a library, without having to go in to the institute, but I had to sit the exam under the watch of a supervisor to prove that it was me taking the exam. This supervisor can’t be just anyone. It has to be a staff member of the institute where you are enrolled, or if you work for a company, a director or accountant from the company, or the manager of the accounting or human resources department, otherwise it could be a person with a national qualification such as a teacher, librarian, pastor, Justice of the Peace (or “JP”, a magistrate who signs legal documents as witness), doctor, lawyer, police officer, or accountant. Regulations established by the national government mean the supervisor conditions are uniform, no matter which institute or course you are enrolled in. There are quite a few people I know who meet these conditions, but I was reluctant to ask them to supervise a three-hour exam, and my manager is always busy, so I took the option to pay someone from the institute to supervise. It meant being supervised over Skype while I sat the exam. It cost $90, but it was three hours, a fairly long time, and teachers’ salaries aren’t low, so I thought it might be an appropriate charge. It's the first time I've ever had a three-hour long exam without a break. I was worried about what kind of questions would come up, seeing as there had been things to do with assignment questions up till then that had not been in the textbooks. But students who had finished the exam said on the Facebook page that it didn’t actually take three hours and that you could finish it in about an hour and a half or two hours. They also said that because you could use your computer, if an answer to a question wasn’t in the textbook, it was okay to look it up on Google, which was a help. To pass the exam you have to get a score of at least 80%, but if you fail, you just resubmit your answers to the questions you get wrong, without sitting the whole exam again. I could only make an exam reservation two weeks beforehand, so I went right ahead and made a reservation for two weeks later. The exam date and time were set, and finally it was the day of the exam. Then, without there having been any contact, suddenly, five minutes before the start time, the person from the institute messaged me via Skype asking, “Are you ready?” After I replied, they made a Skype video call. The supervisor was the woman in charge of the office and reception at the institute. I had contacted her by email a number of times when I was putting in my application. The face I could see on the screen wasn’t like the woman I had imagined. She was a pretty flamboyant looking young woman with blonde and purple hair and piercings on her nose. "You'll be able to access the exam questions now. Once you have accessed them, the time limit of three hours starts. If you have any questions, ask me, OK?" she explained briefly in a clerical kind of manner. And then the exam finally began. The woman I could see on the Skype screen was on my mind only for a while at the beginning of the exam, but as I read through the questions, it seemed they would all take an unexpectedly long time, so I felt some stress about whether I could finish it in three hours, but I just concentrated on answering the questions. Part of the way through, Skype dropped out and we couldn't see each other's faces, but she sent me a message saying, "Contact me when you have finished the exam," so I just continued the exam without the monitoring camera working. Just as you might expect in Australia. This sort of casual approach can be helpful (LOL). If I were monitored the whole time by a teacher who looked really strict, I think I would have been more nervous. In a way, it might have been a good thing that this flamboyant woman was in charge. It took about two and a half hours, but my exam result fell below 80% and I had to resubmit it. The second exam was supervised by the same woman. This time, after finishing all the questions, I checked my answers a number of times before time ran out and I couldn’t access the exam questions anymore. With this attempt I managed to get through in one go without any problem. I was in a gloomy mood for the two weeks after I made the reservation, thinking about the exam the whole time wherever I went, so I felt great when it was over. Now I could just about see the finish. There were only two more subjects left. I could resubmit my assignment up to three times, so I asked the teacher lots of questions by email before submitting for the third time. One way or another, I finished my last two weak subjects without problems, and I received a certificate of course completion. In the end, I managed to complete the course in seven months. Apparently, some of the people who were studying while also working, doing housework, or raising children didn’t finish it in a year and have been applying for extensions, so I am grateful to management at my work because having the company support made it possible to obtain the certificate within one year. There are lots of people in Australia who study while they work after finishing school. I am thankful to be in a privileged situation where study is facilitated, there are government subsidies for tuition, and there is almost no overtime.