Should GARP cancel the upcoming FRM Exams?

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes


What should GARP do?

The Financial Risk Manager examinations are slotted for May, but with the Coronavirus scare, it’s a wait-and-see attitude for many students. GARP might have to cancel the level 1 and level 2 tests…or should they?

Here are arguments for both sides.


Reasons to Cancel or Postpone


The exams require shared physical spaces

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns that everyone must stay as far as 6 feet away from potentially infected individuals.

Of course, it can be hard to tell who is infected with COVID-19 and who is not.

The GARP examination centers could be a high-risk environment, given that they are shared spaces with close sitting arrangements.

Already, many schools and institutions of higher learning have shut down. Many others are shifting to online classes. 

The preparation phase of the exam may proceed without any impact from coronavirus because this certification program doesn’t involve in-class training.

However, having to show up at a physical location for taking the actual tests could be a major health risk.


Examination room checks

There are must-haves before students step into the testing rooms. There are also prohibited items. Just like with any other exam center, candidates are often closely inspected before being allowed into inside.

As a result, this close contact with other individuals and the supervisors might elevate your risk of getting the disease.


Supervisors are at risk

GARP officials handle pens, pencils, and the exam papers before and after candidates take the test. The interactions with these things and each candidate make them a high risk for COVID-19.

If the exams continue as planned, these supervisors would have to wear face masks and gloves to safeguard their health and limit the risk of transmitting contamination from one candidate to another.


Infected students may be left out

At the current rate of spread of the disease, many candidates around the world may be infected by the time the test date comes around. There is no time for an infected patient to sit for any exam.

At that point, your health supersedes every other thing in life and you must be in quarantine and under close watch by health specialists.

Infected candidates will have to be left behind in order to avoid infecting other students.


The travel involved getting to test centers

Yes, there are multiple centers for students sitting this exam, but that number is of course limited. What does that mean?

Well, these test sites might not only be a little crowded but also that students have to travel from far to get to the stations.

And not every candidate owns a car. Taking public transport increases your risk of contracting the virus. You would then unknowingly go on to infect every other candidate in the room.


Some cities and countries are under lock-down

Some cities across the world have imposed a total lock-down as a measure against the spread of the disease. Non-essential travel has been restricted.

Businesses are closed. Transport is halted. If there are FRM students in such a city, getting to the exam center would be extremely problematic.


Keeping candidates & communities safe

Canceling the exams until a medical solution is found may be the right step for candidates, examiners, and the general population.

When you put off such gatherings as is the case with large test centers, you reduce the mixing of healthy people with possibly-infected individuals.

When everybody stays at home, the vectors of circulation gets removed from the equation, which helps to slow down the pandemic.

Remember, too, that students and examiners have families that they go back to after the exam.

Some of these family members could be high-risk persons due to having underlying medical issues, including the elderly and those that have a weak immune system.

Any mass gathering can spread the disease like wildfire.


Reasons not to Cancel or Postpone


Things could improve by the time exams come around

(Yes, this may be wishful thinking). But, the gloves are off by everyone from the medical world to policymakers and everyday citizens in the fight against this virus.

As everyone takes better care of their health, scientists are also working round the clock for a vaccine.

On March 12th, US health officials announced that human testing for a potential coronavirus vaccine could start in a few weeks.

There is currently no vaccine or approved pharmacological interventions against the coronavirus. 

However, non-medical measures such as public awareness, hand sanitization, and quarantine may significantly help to thwart the spread of the disease.


Infected candidates/examiners will be in quarantine

With the increased public awareness of what is happening, everyone is carefully watching their health. Testing facilities have been mounted everywhere across the nations.

It’s easier right now to know if you have the coronavirus.

Infected people are obligated to stay at home or in quarantine. In that case, healthy candidates should show up for the exam without fear.


There is life after the storm

The SARS pandemic of 2002 came and went. The H1N1 pandemic of 2009 similarly came and went, and life did not cease to exist.

Economic and socio-political models still operate the same way, and education does too.

Getting on with your education, regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic, maybe the gesture of hope that everyone needs right now. Many are postulating that, as it gets warmer, infection rates will significantly slow

It’s colder now in the Northern hemisphere, and countries like the US, Italy, and China have more cases as a result. Viruses thrive and spread more when it’s colder. Countries south of the globe have fewer cases of infections.

It is possible then that, as the rest of the world moves closer to summer, there will be a slowed rate of infection.


Panic does not help

The closure of business, schools, and transport systems that we are currently witnessing across the world is precautionary but primarily driven by panic. 

Every time you cross the road, you have a higher risk of being hit by a truck than you the chance of dying from the virus.

But do you cease to cross the road because of that? In that same way, education and career advancement must proceed.

The exams should, therefore, happen as is the case every year.

Do you worry about the flu that much? No one ever quit school for fear that the influenza virus was apocalyptic. Now consider this: the influenza virus kills more people than the coronavirus.

More than 1 billion influenza infections happen every year, leading up to 646,000 deaths across the world.

Just as you keep safe from the flu, you could use the same measures to avoid the COVID-19 infection before, during, and after your Financial Risk Manager examinations.


GARP can take relevant measures to protect students and examiners

Just like it is happening at all essential public gathering right now, the use of hand sanitizers and face masks at the exam centers may help to safeguard the health of candidates.

Hand washing, scientists have confirmed, is a useful precautionary measure against the disease that spreads pretty much like the flu.

The examination body can also rethink sitting arrangements in the exam centers to reassure candidates and minimize the risk of infection.


GARP can make data-driven decisions

One can expect that the institute, being a globally respected body in the field of finance, will make a decision that prioritizes the health of candidates and examiners around the world.

Currently, many institutions and societal systems are in panic mode from the outbreak, and we surmise that GARP is probably closely monitoring the situation and analyzing data.

The decision they make will rely on the infection rates around the examination dates and the impact on the safety and mobility of candidates and examiners.

At the moment, there has been no news from GARP about the cancellation of the exams. They may announce a change of dates, but not a complete cancellation.


Affected candidates can reschedule

Test centers in hot-spot cities may have to be closed. In that case, affected students will be given a chance to reschedule or change to alternative centers.

These options will ensure that those in non-affected areas get to sit as planned.

On the other hand, potentially sick individuals, or those in closed-off cities, will get a chance to find new test centers or sit at a later date.


In the end

This outbreak is real and scary. Infection rates are rising and people are dying. Should the FRM exams be canceled, or should they proceed as planned?

There are compelling arguments for both sides. Whatever decision GARP comes up with, be sure to watch out for your health.

Use these measures from the World Health Organization to better equip yourself in these troubling times.

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The QuestionBank Family