Communication from PEB about online exams trial

The candidate trial of the PEBX and ProctorExam systems for the Foundation exams took place on Monday this week, and the trial for Finals exams taking place on Monday 20 September. PEB have asked us to share the following communication, which was sent out to candidates this morning by email. It includes some feedback from the Foundations, and a reminder to read all of the information on the website carefully in advance of the trial. Please do take part in the trial, look out for further communications from PEB, and of course we will keep posting any updates here on the Yellow Sheet too.

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Dear PEB Candidate

The 2021 FD Trial will be taking place on 20 September 2021.

Please ensure that you have read the information posted on the PEB website here in preparation for the trial.

You must take part in the Trial as this is your opportunity to test and ensure that your IT arrangements will work for the examination/s, and you become familiar with the PEBX and ProctorExam systems.

The PEB strongly advises that you follow the instructions as given so your examination is not void.

Some of the feedback from the 2021 FC trial on 13 September that should be noted is as follows:

1.     Some candidates did not read the information on the PEB website so they did not attempt the Trial because they had assumed that the exam would run on zoom like it did in 2020 which is not the case.

2.     Some candidates were unprepared for the trial and had not downloaded the ProctorExam app on to their phones or had the wrong type of phone.

3.     Candidates asking questions on the chat function of ProctorExam of which the answers were already in the Technical Requirements provided on the PEB website.

4.     Candidates accessing the Examination systems for just 8 -10 mins even though they have been given two hours to fully test the Examination systems.

5.     Candidates not accessing the ProctorExam link in PEBX so they did not go through the security checks as they would have in the live exam. In the live exam situation, this would result in their exam being declared void.

6.     Some candidates did not have a good set up for their room, phone or webcam camera’s and only the back of their heads or chairs were recorded.

7.     Some candidates were using multiple screens – up to three of them – and their PEBX tab and ProctorExam tab was not on the same screen and thus the ProctorExam recording was incomplete. Only one screen is permitted. The Technical Requirements specifically prohibit additional screens. In the live exam situation, incomplete recordings will result in the exam being declared void.

The PEB will provide full feedback on the trials before the October 2021 Examinations.

PEB

Q&A sessions for UK Finals

A reminder that Q&A sessions for all four of the UK Final Exams are happening this week and next week, starting with FD1 at 5pm today. The sessions are co-ordinated by Iain Russell of Russell IP, and are intended to share some top tips and answer any questions. Click on the links below for more information and to sign up.

  • How to pass FD1. Richard Davis (former FD1 examiner) will answer your questions and share a few top tips for the exam. Monday 13 September 5pm.
  • How to pass FD2. Iain Russell, author of CIPA’s How To Pass P3 / FD2 guide, is hosting an online session featuring top tips and Q&A about the FD2 exam. Tuesday 14 September 5.30pm.
  • How to pass FD3. Tibor Gold will answer your questions and share a few top tips for the exam. Thursday 16 September 5.30pm.
  • How to pass FD4. Nicholas Fox will share some top tips and answer your questions. Monday 20 September 5pm.

Please note that these sessions are NOT a revision course, will largely be unplanned, and are mainly intended to answer any questions candidates have on the exams. If you have any specific questions, please send to the presenters in advance by email.

World Suicide Prevention Day – A Lived Perspective

World Suicide Prevention Day: Working Together to Prevent Suicide

As we come to the end of the maiden year of the Welfare Officer role (and my last few weeks in said role), one of the most important days in the Mental Health calendar approaches: World Suicide Prevention Day, on 10th September.

The aim of this role has always been, first and foremost, to improve the mental health and wellbeing of trainees by providing events, tools and strategies and to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide. 

For this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day we have been speaking to a person with lived experience of attempted suicide. The article below is an interview with said person, who has chosen to remain anonymous. If you would like to speak to the person in this article, please get in touch with me, and I will put you in contact.

As always, please share this article with colleagues, friends and family. I know that the contents below could really help people who are struggling or help those around people who are struggling to support in the best way they can.

Finally, this article naturally has the theme of suicide, so please ensure you are taking care of your own mental health when reading. If you are affected by this article, please reach out to those around you. You will likely have mental health first aiders at work, and there are always mental health first aiders available at informalswelfare@gmail.com.

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Are you generally happy to talk about your lived experience with Suicide?

Yes, while it is quite a heavy subject, I believe it is important to talk about such things to make other people feel less alienated if they also struggle with suicidal thoughts or have also attempted suicide. It is definitely not something I would bring up at a party or discuss with a person I have just met, but I believe that the stigma surrounding suicide attempts needs to be removed so that people who have lived through such experiences can focus on recovery without feeling shame.

What, if anything, helped you during your time away from work/when you were struggling most?

I think it is important to realise that sometimes, when a person is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are no simple solutions to the problem. There is no amount of walks that you can go on or healthy changes you can make to your diet that will magically make your will to live reappear.

My friends are very emotionally supportive, and I am lucky to say that my coworkers are also very understanding of my issues, but there were times when their actions aimed at making me feel better were actually making me feel worse because of the shame and guilt I felt – I had all these incredible people who wanted nothing but the best for me, and yet I felt like suicide was the best solution to end the pain I was in emotionally.

Personally, I found that my greatest ally was time. At times when I was struggling with suicidal thoughts the most, it was difficult to remember that I have not always felt such despair, and that emotions and feelings come and go. Before the suicide attempt, I was trying to keep myself distracted by keeping a very busy schedule. I had exams to revise for, work was keeping me busy and I am very physically active; all those things kept me safe for a while, until I ‘broke’. My suicide attempt was not planned – while suicidal thoughts are something I have been struggling with for years, I did not have any concrete plans to take my own life. I am in therapy and I was taking antidepressants at the time, but sadly at my lowest point, those were not enough to keep me safe.

Generally, when dealing with suicidal thoughts, things that would normally help me keep those at bay were talking to my friends and family – not even necessarily about how I was feeling, but just knowing I have people that care about me and love me helped. I also find that pets are great for that, too – I have a cat and I know that cats hate change, so she would be very confused if I were gone. My therapist has also recommended to me in the past to make a ‘care box’, where I would put things such as photos of the people I care about, things to remind me about the times in the past when I have felt happy (such as train tickets, concert tickets, whatever works) and things that had a nice smell (e.g. a piece of fabric with your favourite scent on it) – I was initially very sceptical about the idea but it has helped soothe me in the past.

Picture of a box

Are there signs that people should look out for in the workplace, to know someone is struggling, or contemplating suicide?

It is harder to notice now in an era where some of us are still working remotely, but I think general withdrawal and low mood would be the biggest indicators that someone is struggling. In the weeks preceding my suicide attempt, I was crying multiple times a day. I remember reading a list of signs to look out for in the past and one of the things listed was giving away personal belongings, but I do not think that everyone struggling with suicidal thoughts will do such obvious things – often the signs will be very subtle, like weight loss or weight gain, or being less socially engaged than before.

Think about things differently

What do you think could be done in the workplace (specifically, by line managers, superiors, etc) to manage in a way that does not exacerbate their employees’ mental health?

I am lucky enough that my line manager was, and still is, very understanding of my issues. It was a learning experience for both of us – the trainee patent attorney role is the first serious job I have had since graduating from university, and, as far as I know, I am the first mentally ill trainee that they have trained. There are no courses to prepare you for what to do when your trainee randomly bursts into tears at work, but they have never made me feel worse for struggling/having issues. I think what helped was the fact that I have been quite open about my issues, but I appreciate that it may not be possible in all cases, depending on the dynamic a person has with their line manager.

I personally found that the added stress of having too many deadlines to deal with in a short amount of time was something I could not deal with when I was already struggling with suicidal thoughts. I am sure most trainees are familiar with the situation in which multiple people give them work, often without consideration as to how much work has already been given to the trainee by other people.

In order to help while I was struggling, my line manager became the central point of contact for other people who wished to give me more work – while it certainly is not sustainable in the long term (neither from the manager’s perspective nor from mine), I found that having my work managed that way meant that I did not have to worry about having to deal with multiple deadlines in the span of a couple of days, as my line manager and I could discuss what work I would take on, and what things I was too busy for. I was kept busy but not so busy that it would cause me an unnecessary amount of stress.

Support

What could the people around you (family, friends, colleagues) do to help?

What I appreciated most was being treated like the same person that I have always been, mental health issues or not. I was not ostracised or treated worse in any way just because I was struggling, which helped my recovery a great deal.

Specifically in the workplace, what, if anything, can colleagues do to help upon returning to work from prolonged sick leave?

I think it is important to realise that not everyone will take prolonged sick leave when struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts. Personally, I found that coming back to work after taking only a couple of days off to physically recover from the suicide attempt worked best for me – it gave me a sense of a return to normalcy. I appreciate that it will not be the same for everyone, but for me completing work gave me a sense of achievement, which in turn helped with emotional recovery, as I felt like I had a purpose and proved to myself that I could still do things that I was able to do before the suicide attempt.

What stigma do you think surrounds suicide, and what do you think we can do to change that?

When struggling with suicidal thoughts, I often would try and argue with myself that I had no business feeling this low, as nothing *really* bad was happening in my life – I would think that since I was not mourning any deaths, I had (and still have) a job, friends and a roof over my head I should not be feeling suicidal.  I think it is important to realise that depression and suicidal thoughts do not discriminate, and that you can have a really fulfilling life but still feel that you do not want to wake up the next morning. Unfortunately, this is something that a lot of people do not realise – I remember going to a&e a couple of years back when I was feeling really suicidal and being told by the nurse that was sent to speak to me that, since I have a job and I am still young, I should be happy with my life and not want to kill myself.

I think the best way to tackle stigma is to not treat suicide as a taboo, and to openly talk about it. Pretending that suicide does not exist or that it is something that can happen only to few unfortunate individuals does not help in dealing with the stigma.

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Thank you so much for your time, and your honesty. I have no doubt that many of the things said here will resonate closely with the readers, and that by sharing your lived experience you are positively affecting many peoples lives.

Jonathan Foster – Informals’ Welfare Officer

Jonathan Foster

2021 FC and FD Candidate Trial of the PEBX and ProctorExam System

PEB have asked us to share the below information in the Yellow Sheet. The communication below was sent out by PEB this afternoon, via email to all the candidates taking the 2021 PEB Qualifying examinations. Please do make sure that you have read the documents on PEB’s website (there is a lot of information there), and look out for further communications from PEB. We will of course continue to post any updates here too.

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Dear PEB Candidate

The FC candidate Trial of the PEB examination system will be taking place on 13 September 2021 between 10am-12noon.

The FD Candidate Trial of the PEB examination system will be taking place on 20 September 2021 between 10am-12noon.

You must ensure that you read the Technical Requirements and Guidance document and the 2021 QE trial information on the PEB website here.

Very shortly, before the day of your trial, an email will be sent to the email address that you provided to the PEB at registration. The email contains the link to activate your account on the PEBX system. You are advised to save that link in your browser.

If you have not received the email about the trial, before you contact PEB, check first your junk folder and, second, the email address that you notified to PEB when you registered.

Please note that this is not a mock examination.  It is a two hour opportunity to:

·        test and ensure that your IT arrangements will work for the examination/s, and

·        familiarise yourself with the PEBX and ProctorExam systems

There is a chat facility in the ProctorExam system where you can ask for Technical help if you need it during the Trial.

PEB

Informals in-house trainee group

A reminder that our shiny new in-house rep and deputy Ellie and Nat are organising the first meeting of the in-house trainee group on Monday next week. The meeting is at 12pm (right after the PEB trial for Foundation exams). If you are an in-house trainee and want to join the group, please contact Ellie Lee for details.

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Hi everyone,

Thank you for joining the CIPA Informals in-house trainee group! We’re planning to have a first call on Monday 13th September at 12:00 – those who wanted to join the calls will receive a calendar invite shortly.

The first call will aim to introduce ourselves and discuss what we’d like this group to look like – which platform to communicate through, in-person socials, study support, professional life support, mentorship etc. 

At the end of each call, there’ll be time to ask the group for requests/help – I need specific exam support/materials, can we have a webinar on X, I’d like a mentor for Y etc. Really looking forward to seeing you there!

Ellie & Nat

P.S On a related note, I see that many of you are part-qualified. If you’re taking FD1 this year, I’m making a small, informal FD1 whatsapp study group (private practice trainees too) to share exam info and answer practise questions together. If you’d like to join, please send me your number. 

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