Are you a Freedom of Information (FOI) practitioner wanting to give your career a boost? Or perhaps you are new to FOI wanting to quickly get up to speed with FOI law and practice?
The British Computer Society’s (BCS) Certificate in Freedom of Information (formerly ISEB) is now firmly established as one of the premier qualifications in FOI. Backed by the BCS, it is internationally recognised and increasingly mentioned as a desirable qualification in FOI Officer job vacancies. Sometimes it is even stated as a requirement.
Act Now has been running the BCS FOI course for many years. I am the main FOI trainer although, the increasing popularity of our course means that, Tim Turner and Paul Gibbons also deliver this course from time to time.
Our course is aimed at anyone working in the FOI area, such as information managers, FOI practitioners, information governance officers, data protection officers, press officers and lawyers advising on information law issues. No prior knowledge is assumed although it always helps to have some experience of dealing with FOI requests. Our course runs over several weeks (one day per week) rather than being crammed into a few days. This allows delegates to get to know each other and benefit from their respective experience and knowledge. Often friendships are forged which continue to be of mutual assistance well after the course has ended.
Online Resource Lab
What makes the Act Now BCS FOI course unique is that we have a full online Resource Lab, which compliments the face-to-face teaching and course materials. Delegates can watch over 5 hours of videos on various aspects of the syllabus. Most videos are linked to an online quiz allowing delegates to test their knowledge at the end. There are also many standalone quizzes as well as links to ICO guides and other useful reference documents in the Resource Lab. This means that candidates have a full resource library which they can access at anytime to back up what they learnt on the course or to catch up if they fell asleep in the afternoon after a good lunch! Our courses are at five star (city centre) hotels so the latter is always a possibility.
The course is assessed through a three hour scenario based, closed book written exam which consists of:
– Part A: 10 multiple choice questions (1 mark each)
– Part B: 8 compulsory short narrative questions (5 marks each)
– Part C: 6 questions – a compulsory case study (20 marks each) plus two other essay questions (15 marks each)
The pass mark is 50% (50/100) and the distinction mark is 80% (80/100).
Passing the exam is as much about exam technique as it about knowing the law and how to apply it. Our course (and homework) contains lots of scenario-based exercises which are designed to teach delegates how to answer the key points of a question within the time available in the exam. Each exercise/homework is further discussed in a group setting before a suggested answer is agreed upon.
We also hold a live online revision session, which allows delegates to ask the trainer to go over key areas of the syllabus and/or more sample questions. There is also a test at the end.
How To Pass
Don’t be too worried about the exam. You will be taught by a very experienced trainer who himself has passed the exam with a distinction. But in the end your success will depend on the hard work you are willing to put in. Timely attendance is essential as well as the doing the homework and taking an active part in discussions. We also find that candidates who pass the mock exam pass the real thing. Therefore revision for the mock is essential. Those who learn key facts as they go along rather than cram at the end inevitably tend to do well. (Read our other top tips here.)
90% Pass Rate
2014 is on course to be our most successful year delivering the BCS FOI course. So far 52 of our delegates have sat the exam. Out of these 47 passed (of which one achieved a distinction). This gives us a pass rate thus far of just over 90%!
Now is the time to think about doing a BCS FOI course. Not only will it give you an in depth knowledge of FOI law and practice, it will allow you to prove your expertise to your colleagues through gaining an internationally recognised qualification. At Act Now we are dedicated to ensuring you get the best training and resources to help you achieve your potential. Don’t just take our word for it though. Read what our: previous delegates have said. If you are feeling brave, have a go at our online BCS FOI test.
Ibrahim Hasan is a solicitor and director of Act Now Training. For Scottish colleagues we run the Act Now FOISA Practitioner Certificate which is endorsed by the Centre for Information Rights based at the University of Dundee.