Professional development at the IoD: more ways to qualify than ever before

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From taking exams at home at a time of your choosing to splitting them into bite-size pieces, or achieving qualifications recognised across a greater number of jurisdictions, the IoD’s professional development offering has never been more flexible to meet your needs

Technology is allowing business leaders to work more flexibly than ever before – why then, should that not also apply to their professional development and all that entails: the exams and studying you need for qualification? That is the question the IoD asked when setting out to evolve its professional development offering to meet the requirements of today’s ever-more-agile business leader.

The result, after a successful trial period, is a new state-of-the-art approach to offering courses and examinations. Officially launching in September, it will allow candidates to take exams when and where they choose via a WiFi connection, break up longer examinations into more manageable pieces, and achieve professional development qualifications now ranked and recognised across more examination jurisdictions internationally. Here’s how the new line-up can help you to add to your leadership skillset, as and when you need it:

Take your exams when and where you choose

The IoD Certificate in Company Direction equips business leaders with the knowledge and awareness needed to function effectively as a director.  It comprises four awards: The Role of the Director and the Board, Finance for Non-Financial Directors, The Director’s Role in Strategy and Marketing and The Director’s Role in Leading the Organisation. Previously, all four modules would be studied in succession before the candidate sat a single, final three-hour paper-based exam.

Since March 2015, the IoD has been trialling completely computer-based exams. It offers candidates the choice to take their exam in a test centre, their office or in the comfort of their home. Invigilators monitor the exam remotely via a Skype-like webcam, which allows them to see the candidate at any moment through their laptop or PC.

The integrity and security of the exam paper is ensured by an algorithm that shuffles question selection and order each time –  removing the possibility that details of the exam could later be discussed with those yet to sit it.

Teresa Jacobs, the IoD’s head of examinations and professional standards, says the trial with IoD members in June and July has shown delegates are firmly embracing the tech-based option: “A clear majority – 85 per cent –  went for the computer-based examination, and the majority of those selected to do that via remote invigilation rather than attending a test centre. Our delegates are not opting for pen and paper.”

The ability to choose the time of day to sit the exam is also expected to be popular when the system officially launches this month: “For example, those
who enrol for the exam on 9 September will be able to choose from 15-minute intervals between 8am and 5pm,” says Jacobs. “And we can deliver further flexibility for those in other time zones. It’s all about giving choice.”

Split professional development courses into manageable pieces

As well as the ability to take exams when and where they choose, delegates will now also have the option to learn at their own pace. The IoD Certificate in Company Direction will no longer require the candidate to study all four parts before taking one final exam – instead modular exams can now be taken in one single sitting or in any combination of multiple sittings.

With computer-based testing speeding up the marking and results process, there are also more chances to take each module throughout the year. “In terms of availability of exams, it’s a massive increase,” says Jacobs. “We have evolved from offering three occasions a year when you can take an exam covering all four awards, to now offering any or all of the four exams eight times a year –  along with the time and location flexibility already mentioned.

“If it’s more manageable for delegates to do four 45-minute exams than one long exam, they now have that choice. Of course, they could even still take an exam if they were called away at short notice on a business trip. If you’re going to be in Chile on business, for example, that’s not a problem because so long as you have a good spec on your laptop and a reliable WiFi connection, you can still take the exam by remote invigilation, rather than having to cancel it.”

International recognition

Once a new qualification is achieved, it will now be recognised even more widely around the globe thanks to work between the IoD and the Scottish Qualifications Authority which has seen IoD courses benchmarked against equivalent higher education qualifications across the country and beyond.

This means, for example, that the IoD’s Diploma in Company Direction is now credited as comparable to master’s level, level 11 of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Network, level 9 of the National Qualifications Framework for England. There are also direct equivalences with Wales, Northern Ireland and the European Qualifications framework. “As a chartered body, the IoD has always undertaken its own rigorous process to ensure we are adopting best practice in the courses and exams we offer,” explains Jacobs. “This accreditation of our qualifications from the Scottish Qualifications Authority adds greater transparency internationally – when peers see that you have a ‘level 9’ qualification, they will clearly understand what that means.”

With further developments to be announced soon, the opportunities for members to enhance their leadership skills as and when they choose are only set to increase.

For more information on IoD courses and achieving more professionally recognised qualifications, visit

About author

Chris Maxwell

Chris Maxwell

Director’s editor spent nine years interviewing TV and film stars for Sky before joining the IoD in 2011 and turning the microphone on Britain’s business leaders. Since then he’s grilled everyone from Boris to Branson and, away from work, maintains an unhealthy obsession with lower league football.

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