What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the act of copying or including the work of another person or your own previously assessed original work in your own work, intentionally or unintentionally, without proper acknowledgement.

In its most common form plagiarism involves copying and pasting and/or reproducing material directly from another source. This could include core reading text, Acted resources and/or information obtained directly from internet sources or textbooks.

There shouldn’t be any need for a well-prepared candidate to copy from any external sources and it’s generally preferred if candidates didn’t do this.

The IFoA recognise that answers to some questions in our examinations, which ask for basic information for example ‘definitions’, ‘principles’, ‘basic lists’, and ‘regulations’ may have been memorised as part of your revision strategy. These could be identical or very similar to the contents of your learning materials. Examiners and markers will be familiar with these questions, and candidates will not generally be investigated for plagiarism where such similarity is identified.

Unless a question requires the production of basic information, our recommendation is that you answer everything in your own words where possible. Where you directly quote from your learning materials to answer questions, you should acknowledge this. If you are directly referencing external material then you should remember this should only form a very small fraction of your overall script and it needs to be relevant to the question.

The examiners do not expect students to directly copy large volumes of their learning material into their answers, and this could be flagged as plagiarism. For the avoidance of doubt, this would also include directly copying large volumes of learning material which had been subject to minor amendments.  

Why does plagiarism matter?

Plagiarism is a breach of honesty. Passing off another’s work as your own is not only poor practice, but also means that you have failed to complete the learning process.

Plagiarism is unethical and could have serious consequences for your future career. For members of the IFoA the Actuaries Code should be adhered to.

You are studying for a professional qualification and that comes with it responsibility including acting in the public interest. Students who plagiarise undermine the ethos of the professional qualification while missing out an essential part of the learning process.

At first it may seem very difficult to develop your own views, and you will probably find yourself paraphrasing the material you are learning as you attempt to understand the facts. The IFoA is conscious of this and allows for a limited amount of paraphrasing inthe examinations. The IFoA examinations are designed to allow you to demonstrate your application of the knowledge you have developed through study. You are expected to be an independent thinker - by learning to assess critically, weigh up differing arguments and present your own conclusions.

How to avoid plagiarism

You must ensure that any work you submit for any assessment is your own.

Where a question is asking for content such as definitions or listing principles which the IFoA recognises you may have memorised, you will not generally be investigated for plagiarism where such similarity is identified. In answering other question types, if your response includes quotations, theories, ideas, data or any other materials which are the work of another person or persons, you must ensure that you have taken all reasonable steps to acknowledge the source. This includes all text books, study materials and internet sources.

Are there different types of plagiarism?

There are a number of different forms of plagiarism, including:

  • Verbatim (word for word) quotation without clear acknowledgement

Any quotations must always be identified with referencing of the sources used. It must always be apparent to the examiner which parts are your own independent work and where you used on other material.

We understand that a number of candidates learn key facts from the Core Reading to use in the exam. It is acceptable to reproduce this with questions where content such as definitions and listing principles are required, as examiners and markers will be familiar with these questions and candidates will not normally be investigated where small fractions of quoted material are included.

  • Cutting and pasting from the Internet without clear acknowledgement

Information derived from the Internet must be adequately referenced (including the URL) next to the answer in the examination script.

  • Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing the work of others by altering a few words and changing their order is plagiarism if you do not give due acknowledgement to work you are using.

A passing reference to the original material in your own examination answer text may not be enough; you must ensure that you do not create the misleading impression that the paraphrased wording is entirely your own. Candidates will not normally be investigated when answering questions related to content such as definitions or listing principles where small fractions of quoted material can be included without referencing.

When answering the examination question the examiners are looking for you to demonstrate you have a genuine understanding of the subject by critically evaluating and analysing the information presented in the examination.

  • Use of material written by professional agencies or other persons

You should neither make use of professional agencies in the production of your work nor submit material which has been written for you, even with the consent of the person who has written it.

  • Guidance on Referencing in Open Book Examinations

Acknowledging work that is not your own is a fundamental component of any business activity. Examinations are no different and in an open book environment, using material directly from a textbook, core reading or an internet site should be ‘referenced’.  This might include a definition, a list, a table, or chart, or any material that is not written in your own words.  It should be noted that where content such as definitions or listing principles are required, examiners and markers are familiar with these questions and candidates will not normally be investigated where small amounts of quoted material are included without referencing.

There are many different ways that this can be done, but for the purposes of the IFoA examinations, we are looking for a simple referencing system that will allow a marker to be able to locate the source of the work you are using.

For example, it could be as simple as IFoA SA7 Core Reading 2020, Unit 2, Page13, Paragraph 3.4. It should come at the end of the sentence or paragraph that you are referencing. For internet sources you could use the following format:

The key is to keep it simple, but acknowledge that the work is not your own and show the marker where it has come from. Our recommendation is that you answer everything in your own words.