The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the national body that represents Canada’s accountants to do some creative accounting of its own this year.
Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada is responsible for professional accounting exams across the country. The most important is a gruelling, three-day final exam for CPA certification. It involves thousands of students in dozens of cities gathering together in large groups for hours at a time to take the test.
It doesn’t add up to proper physical distancing.
“We might have upwards of 1,200 candidates in a writing centre, and that just wasn’t an option this year,” Tashia Batstone, senior vice president with Chartered Professional Accountants Canada, told CBC News in an interview.
The obvious option seemed to be moving the exam online, as many universities and colleges are doing. But Batstone said going virtual wasn’t going to work for the long and closely monitored test.
“It’s a large, case-based exam that just doesn’t lend itself to remote proctoring.”
So the solution became renting out roughly 10,000 hotel rooms across the country to carry out the exam in-person while meeting health and safety guidelines for physical distancing.
Each student gets their own room where they spend about five hours per day writing the exam. There will be personal protective equipment at each hotel and each room.
Hotel room doors will be propped open while students are writing so the proctors patrolling the hallway can keep an eye on them.
Batstone said it was easy working with the hotels. Many have extra capacity due to the pandemic. And she said they’re already equipped with the requirements for health and safety guidelines.
“It’s been a really interesting experience,” Batstone said of organizing the hotel room exams.
“It really demonstrates how when working together you can address what seem to be insurmountable problems and find innovative solutions.”
Hotel rooms like a ‘private office’
Gevorg Grigoryan, a chartered professional accountant, is also an exam coach.
He said his students have told him they like the quieter and comfortable hotel room setting — so far.
“The way I think about it, having a hotel room is like having a private office,” Grigoryan said in an interview.