A Global Review of the September 2023 FIFA Football Agent Exam
On the 20th of September 2023, over 10,000 registered candidates arrived at their national venues to attempt the second edition of the FIFA Football Agent Exam since its reintroduction earlier in the year. The feedback we have received from some of our course students and other contacts who sat the exam have been fascinating to hear. It seems that the exam was quite the experience in many countries and this blog will dive into some of the different stories and reflections that have been shared with us. Our hope is that this can enlighten those who had similar experiences in the exam and also to help those that are planning to attempt the exam next year.
We would have loved to have begun this blog by immediately talking about the different content and material that was covered in the exam questions, or by analysing the success and pass rate seen around the world. However, the most prevalent point of discussion following the exam has been the event itself, the organisation in different countries, and some of the startling experiences of those who sat the test.
As we saw in April, candidates in many countries didn’t begin their exam attempts on time. Once more, there were problems reported regarding registering and admitting candidates into the venue as the FIFA Agent Platform was malfunctioning. This was an immediate cause of stress and complication for candidates waiting to attempt the exam and marked the beginning of a highly disorganised exam event.
Once in the venues, Wifi seems to have been the biggest issue. One of our contacts told us “How can you try to make things more professional when you can’t organise a venue with working WiFi?” It seems that this was a common theme across many countries but was particularly a problem in the countries which had a large number of candidates, causing overwhelming internet demand. Needless to say, such a situation had a crippling impact on those attempting to pass the exam. Many had their pages crash or simply freeze, unable to load the next question whilst the time remaining continued to tick down. Meanwhile, there were intermittent announcements made over a tannoy in many countries trying to explain the situation but were simultaneously highly distracting to those trying to concentrate on the questions they were reading.
The reality was that the majority of candidates only had around 40 minutes to complete an exam that was scheduled for one hour, with many losing around 20 minutes due to Wifi and other technical issues. Some candidates reported such extreme technical problems that they were unable to get past question 12. Considering the pass mark for the exam was 15, this means that for many, it has been rendered impossible for them to pass. The hours of studying and preparation they had put in, coupled with the money they had spent on taking the exam and making travel and accommodation arrangements, was all futile and ruined because of something totally out of their control.
Fortunately in England, where the above was a major issue, the Football Association has offered those that were unable to pass the exam due to the circumstances an opportunity to retake remotely. Although perhaps this is the only feasible option in such a situation, there is still an issue of fairness as it does facilitate undermining the integrity and purpose of the exam given that candidates may be able to find other methods to ensure they pass the retake when there are no longer invigilators present. However, it was impossible to hold the exam in-person again due to the urgency of the circumstances with the new regulations coming into force and the difficulties in making logistical, travel and accommodation arrangements.
A further question to be asked therefore concerns the wider fairness of this situation as well, if the pass rate of retaking candidates in the UK will be considerably higher, how disadvantaged will those that failed in other countries and have to retake next year be, and also how much more difficult it will be for candidates in April 2024. Incredibly though, as the resits took place on Friday 29th September and Monday 2nd October, it was reported to us that, “it was easier to cheat in the real exam”. This is because FIFA had employed the services of a digital invigilation company that scrutinised each candidate individually, despite being in their own homes sitting the exam. Worryingly, the same level of consideration and invigilation had not been given to preventing cheating in the original exam that was taken in person; hence begging the question as to why they conducted the exam in this manner in the first place.
One solution that was suggested in some countries that experienced Wifi problems was for candidates to use their personal hotspot from their mobile phones to rectify the problem. This was a solution proposed by the invigilators in some of these exam venues, despite it directly and clearly contradicting the exam rules and regulations stipulated by FIFA. This leads us on to another concern that was commonly mentioned to us. “Everyone just used their phones to help find the answers,” we were told.
Being told explicitly by the invigilators to use your own mobile phone for Wifi immediately made the likelihood and ease of cheating far greater. Cheating was witnessed in this exam in a variety of ways and to different extents across the world. We were told that candidates in some countries used a ‘screen mirroring’ application which allowed people external to the exam room, reportedly lawyers and colleagues, to control their screens and select the right answers. Equally, the new phenomenon of AI and ChatGPT was reportedly used within the exam with some claiming that it was able to help them select the correct option. Perhaps the most common form of cheating we witnessed and were told about is people using the likes of Whatsapp and Telegram downloaded on their personal laptop to collude and collaborate with others outside of the exam hall to ask for help on questions they were unsure on.
For those fortunate enough to avoid the issues mentioned above and had a fair attempt at passing, we have heard a varied reflection on some of the questions they were faced with. As was the case in April, the chances of any two candidates sitting the same exam were marginal as FIFA had collated a pool of questions of which 20 were randomly selected for each candidate to answer.
Interestingly, it seems that questions asking candidates to make mathematical calculations, under the topics of training compensation and the solidarity mechanism were less commonly reported than in April. Instead, candidates reported that the questions were lengthy and wordy but more theoretical in content. They demanded candidates to have a thorough understanding of different aspects of the FIFA Study Materials and to infer and apply this knowledge to specific questions.
Many candidates reported several questions on similar, if not the same topics, as was the case in April, purely by the chance of the randomisation of questions. However, globally it seems that the most challenging questions for candidates were lengthier, wordier questions covering topics such as third parties, bridge transfers and agent service fees. One of the key points that was raised to us is that lots of these questions, as expected, asked candidates to ‘select one or more’ correct answers. A lot of people have expressed their worry as to the fairness of an exam in this way. Some candidates told us that all 20 of their questions asked for this whilst others were ‘luckier’ in that they only had a couple of longer questions asking you to consider multiple answers. For those that had shorter and simpler questions as the content of their exam, they are inadvertently put at an advantage over those who, by the luck of randomisation, are faced with longer and challenging questions demanding multiple answers.
What was clearly apparent from some of the questions that have been shared to us is that the content of the exams was purposefully designed to test not only the knowledge of candidates but also their navigation skills within the FIFA Study Materials. As we emphasise to all of our students, being able to navigate well between the different documents and having an innate awareness of different articles and where certain topics are discussed, coupled with fundamental knowledge ingrained subconsciously, made finding the right sections and answers for the most challenging of questions much simpler and easier.
The pass rate from the April exam was published as 52% globally from over 6,000 candidates. This time around there were over 10,000 candidates and, although not officially declared by FIFA yet, the pass rate is expected to be around a similar figure. Once we have received this information officially we will update this blog accordingly.
In some isolated countries and examples, it is reported that the pass rate was below 50% and this could therefore have dramatic consequences over the coming months and for the winter transfer windows. Particularly for those that operate as lone-agents rather than as part of a company, if they have failed this time around and the national association chooses to implement and enforce the FIFA exam licensing criteria for agents in the relevant country, they will be faced with a complicated situation that risks losing their clients and hence, their livelihoods. They will have to endure an anxious wait until May of 2024 to attempt to pass the exam again and receive their licence. The true extent of the effect and impact of the new FIFA regulations remains to be seen as the legal cases continue to develop internationally.
In summary, the recent FIFA Football Agent Exam has revealed a host of logistical and integrity challenges that overshadowed the actual content and purpose of the exam, namely increasing professionalism in the agent industry. Candidates, already burdened by the pressure of the exam, faced additional undue stress from technical issues, inconsistent organisation, and opportunities for widespread cheating, diluting the exam’s authenticity. While the exam questions sought to challenge candidates‘ comprehensive knowledge and ability to navigate the FIFA Study Materials, these external factors compromised the fairness and equity of the process. The discrepancies observed in question types and the variation in difficulty further amplified these concerns. As we reflect on this experience, it is imperative for the exam organisers and governing bodies to address these issues, ensuring that future examinations maintain the sanctity, integrity, and credibility that candidates and the broader football community should expect.