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Policy and rules for the conduct of oral examinations

The oral examination is an important component of the final assessment for issue of International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978 (STCW) and National Standard for Commercial Vessels (NSCV) certificates of competency.

 

Download and print the declaration form to submit when you book your examination.

Procedure for conducting virtual oral examinations 

AMSA conducts virtual oral examinations via Microsoft Teams. We will let you know how you can connect to the virtual oral examination meeting session when your booking is confirmed.

Virtual oral examinations

Please follow the steps below to ensure your examination runs smoothly:

Prior to the day of the examination

  • Download Microsoft Teams or connect through a web browser.
  • Make sure the IT equipment you will be using has a camera and access to a reliable high-speed internet connection (recommended minimum ADSL 2, 10 mbps) sufficient for Microsoft Teams to be successfully supported.  The use of a smart phone (iPhone or Android) or tablet/iPad is not considered acceptable equipment for conducting a remote examination. 

On the day of the oral examination

  • Log into the meeting at least 30 minutes before the designated start time and check that Microsoft Teams is connected.  Test your equipment as well as your internet speeds.
  • Have at hand your identity verification document containing your photograph such as your passport or driver’s licence.
  • The room should, to the extent possible, be consistent with exam room conditions.  
  • Make sure that the room that you are in is closed off from other spaces and there are no other people in the room.
  • All student notes/books must be removed from the room you are in. You will be asked to confirm this by the examiner by scanning the camera around the room.
  • Make sure your room is set up in the following way:
    • The table/desk you are using must be clear (except for permitted items listed below).
    • The ambient noise is low.
    • The room is well lit. 
    • There is no glare on the computer screen.
    • Your upper body and hands must be visible to the examiner throughout the exam.  You may need to sit at least one metre away from your camera for your hands to be seen. 
    • You must only access your computer with the permission of the examiner.

Permitted items

The following items must be available for you to use during the examination:

  • Your computer, and 
  • Blank paper, small whiteboard and marker or similar (preferred), pen, pencil, ruler and calculator. 

Conduct during examinations

Prior to starting your oral examination, the examiner will check that you have signed and returned the declaration that you have read, understood and will comply with the Policy and Rules for Conduct of Oral Examinations. If you have not signed and returned the declaration, the oral examination will not proceed.

The recording of oral final examination is not permitted and if a recording is attempted the consequences will be an automatic fail. If the examiner suspects you are cheating, the examination will be terminated immediately and you will be recorded as failing the examination.

Examiners will be alert to indicators that a candidate may be cheating, such as eyes concentrating on a certain place such as the table/desk or a specific place on the screen, frequent movement of the arms/hands, or noise from the movement of paper, or prompting sounds in the background.

The examiner may ask you to pan your camera 360 degrees across the room at any given moment, you will follow this direction immediately or else the oral examination will be terminated.

Where a candidate terminates the Teams meeting their performance up to that point will be considered by the examiner and the outcome of the examination will be marked as competent or not yet competent (pass or fail).  In such cases, the determination of the examiner will be final. In genuine cases of difficulty, the examiner may re book and continue the examination as soon as possible.

Booking an oral final examination

There is a minimum of a two-week wait to book an oral final examination.  AMSA will not accept earlier bookings due to examiner availability.  Candidates that fail will also have a two-week wait.

You must book for your examination by contacting AMSA by emailing SCSApplications@amsa.gov.au or by calling AMSA Connect.

International certificate of competency or certificate of recognition oral final examination requirements (STCW)

There are charges for oral final examination. Find out more about fees and charges. You must pay the charge at the time of booking your oral final examination. AMSA will not accept an oral final examination booking without payment. If you cancel the oral final examination (this includes rescheduling) after it has been booked you will incur a cancellation fee which must be paid before a subsequent booking is accepted.

Required documents

If you wish to sit an oral final examination for a STCW international certificate, you will need to apply for a qualifying sea service assessment using the Seafarer form 419 and lodge it at an AMSA-contracted Australia Post outlet (if residing in Australia).  Once you have received your assessment letter, you will be able to book the oral final examination. 

For a National Law certificate, your qualifying sea service is checked with your application and you will not receive a sea service assessment letter.

When you sit your oral final examination you will need to have available to show the examiner:

  • photographic identification—for example your valid Australian driving licence or current passport (Domestic and STCW international)

After your oral examination

The examiner will advise you at the end of the exam whether you have passed or failed (and send confirmation by email) and enter the result in AMSA’s systems. If you are deemed competent (pass), you will need to apply for the issue of your STCW international certificate. If your oral examination was for a skilled migration assessment, we will issue you with a letter for your immigration application.

In circumstances where, the examiner determines that the candidate was unable to answer a question satisfactorily and requires the candidate to provide one or two pieces of additional information before the candidate is passed. The examiner may ask the candidate to return and provide this information on the same day as the exam — the oral exam will not, normally, be extended beyond the appointed examination day.

If you do not pass the oral examination, you will be able to try again. The examiner will provide a debrief on the incorrect answers and/or areas of knowledge which require further understanding. Your examiner will advise you when you can book your re-sit (allow a minimum of 2 weeks for a re-sit). You will have to pay the fee each time you sit for the oral examination. 

Following the oral examination debrief the Microsoft teams meeting will be ended. It is the responsibility of the candidate to either apply for a certificate of competency or book an oral exam, as necessary.

National Law certificate of competency oral final examination requirements

There are charges for oral final examination that are included in the application for a certificate of competency (domestic). Find out more about fees and charges.  If you fail and want to book another oral examination you must pay the charge at the time of booking your oral final examination. AMSA will not accept an oral final examination booking without payment. 

After your oral examination

If you are deemed competent (pass) the oral examination you will be emailed a National Law interim certificate of competency. This will allow you to commence work immediately and before your National Law certificate is delivered to your address.

The examiner may determine that the candidate was unable to answer a question satisfactorily and requires the candidate to provide one or two pieces of additional information before the candidate is passed. The examiner may ask the candidate to return and provide this information on the same day as the exam — the oral exam will not, normally, be extended beyond the appointed examination day.

If you do not pass the oral examination you will be able to try again. The examiner will provide a de-brief on the incorrect answers and/or areas of knowledge which require further understanding. Your examiner will advise you when you can book your re-sit (allow a minimum of 2 weeks for a re-sit). You will have to pay the fee each time you sit for the oral examination.

General—deck and engineer officers

The purpose of the oral examination is to determine whether the candidate’s knowledge and skills are sufficient for the safe and competent performance of the duties and functions of the seafarer certificate or certificate of competency.  

AMSA conducts oral examinations for the following:

  • new STCW seafarer certificates (international) 
  • new National Law certificates of competency (domestic) for Master <35 m, Master <80 m, Mate <80 m, MED 1 and Engineer Class 3
  • STCW certificates of recognition for foreign seafarers (international) including skill migration assessment.
  • revalidation of your certificate (international and domestic) if you choose this option when you don’t have enough sea service

For all grades of certificate, the duration of the oral examination should be approximately:

  • STCW watchkeeper (Deck and Engineer) - 1 hour and 15 minutes
  • STCW management level (Master, Mate or Engineer) - 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes 
  • Domestic Master <35 m, Master <80 m, Mate <80 m, MED 1 and Engineer Class 3 - 1 hour 

For STCW: The maximum period should not normally exceed the above. However, oral examinations may exceed this period due to technical delays.  

Questions

The oral examination questions will concentrate on the practical nature of the duties the candidate is expected to perform on board ship.

The questions will also include knowledge of relevant Australian legislation — for example:

The important international conventions will also be included—for example:

  • SOLAS
  • STCW
  • MARPOL
  • Loadline
  • Maritime Labour Convention.

The candidate should also be familiar with the contents of current Marine notices. The oral examination syllabi and Oral examination checklists are available from the AMSA website.

Deck and engineer candidates are expected to demonstrate knowledge of the design and operation of all vessel types, and, for engineers, the safe operation of machinery, relevant to the certificate of competency applied for. The examiner will, however, expect the candidate to show a higher level of knowledge for the vessel types and machinery, they have either sailed on or operated. Candidates must be able to demonstrate that they know the vessels they have served on.

Sketches and calculations

Candidates will, when appropriate, be expected to draw sketches, which should be of a sufficient standard and detail to illustrate to the examiner the required answer.  Candidates may also be asked to complete calculations, for example, relating to practical navigation or operational stability.  The candidate will on completion of the sketch or calculation show these to the examiner by placing itin front of the camera. For ease of viewing sketching on a small whiteboard or on paper using dark felt pen is preferred. An examiner may request you to take a photograph of the drawing and email the examiner. Pre-prepared drawings/sketches will not be considered acceptable by the examiner.

The standard required for a pass in the oral examination cannot be quantified as a percentage. The examiner will take into account the candidate’s depth of knowledge, practical application of knowledge, attitude and confidence, and use the following as a general guide:

  • any major mistake in a critical skill or safety area will constitute a failure
  • an accumulation of significant mistakes in several areas will also constitute a failure.

Language comprehension

The candidate must demonstrate that they are sufficiently familiar with the English language to enable a full understanding of directions as to the performance of duties. This is a requirement of Marine Orders 71 (section 9), 72 (section 9), and 74 (section 9) . In general, a candidate who has a sufficient grasp of the language to pass the AMSA approved college course and the AMSA oral examination should meet this requirement. If the examiner determines that you do not have a level of English to understand a question asked, or do not have an adequate English vocabulary to answer a question, or understand documents in English, you will be recorded a fail and we will not issue you a certificate of competency or certificate of recognition, as applicable.

During the oral examination the examiner will reference preparation notes and the examination checklist and take notes. Examiners will endeavour to do this in a manner that does not distract the candidate. 

From time to time an AMSA trainee examiner, or examiner, may observe an oral examination, either by being present in the room with the examiner, or by video link, for the purpose of training, or a peer review of the examiner. They will take no part in the assessment of the candidate.

Task books

Domestic candidates will be required to scan task books and email them to the examiner prior to the oral exam, preferably at the time of booking. If completion of the task book has not been signed off, the examiner (final assessor) must verify that the task book has been completed to the extent possible given the equipment, cargo or voyage pattern of the seafarer’s vessel(s). Section 3 of the task book contains details of the vessels, their operation and equipment and can be used to assess whether the level of completion is appropriate. A minimum of 80% completion of tasks is required to qualify for a reduction in sea service. Completion should not be agreed to if 80% has not been achieved.

Regardless of whether task book completion has previously been signed off by a registered training organisation, examiners may review the contents of the candidate’s task book and ask questions on items covered in the book as considered appropriate. If the examiner is not satisfied that the content of the task book is at a reasonable standard they may defer the oral examination until the deficiencies are rectified.

The AMSA checklists pick up the main topics in each syllabus. Candidates will not be questioned on all topics, however, the checklists will be used to ensure a wide and meaningful coverage of the oral examination topics with particular emphasis on operational knowledge and safety.

Master and mates oral examinations

For STCW international and National Law examinations the examiner will use the oral examination checklist—deck as the record of the progress of the examination.

When considering the level of questions to ask for the grade of STCW certificate the examiner will take into consideration the meaning and intent of “management level” and “operational level” as defined by the STCW Convention.

When considering domestic certificate questions the examiner will ask at the level relevant to the certificate and reference the syllabus for guidance.

For all grades of deck certificate (STCW international and National Law) a thorough knowledge and understanding of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972, as amended (Rule of the road) is essential. Failure to clearly answer a question concerning Part B — Steering and sailing rules is considered an automatic failure. The examiner may accept a small number of errors in the other sections of the regulations provided the examiner is satisfied the error(s) is not safety critical.

The oral examination may extend to cover items in the syllabus for the relevant certificate of competency to test a candidate’s knowledge in operational and safety aspects, such as:

  1. Stability considerations in normal operations and in emergency and damaged conditions.
  2. Passage planning, taking into account near and distant meteorological conditions, restricted channels, port facilities.
  3. Bridge resource management and the navigational safety management of the vessel.
  4. Radar plotting.
  5. Practical navigation.
  6. Vessel operations such as cargo operations, bunkering and mooring.

The oral examination may include items from the syllabus of a lower grade certificate, particularly where a candidate has not previously been assessed by an AMSA examiner for a lower grade certificate.

Some of the older and more traditional types of equipment are purposefully retained in the syllabi.  AMSA considers that as long as the equipment is carried on vessels, officers should know how to use them, in particular, the use of a sextant and how to correct it. Although the deviascope examination is now conducted by the colleges as a part of the AMSA approved college course, examiners may ask applicants for Chief mate less than 3000 gross tonnage, Chief mate, Master less than 3000 gross tonnage and Master certificates a few general questions about use, care and correction of the magnetic compass.

Watchkeeper deck and Watchkeeper deck <500 GT (18 and 24 month sea service route) candidates are not  required to produce their completed training record book (TRB) at the oral examination as these form part of the approved on board training monitored by the AMSA approved colleges. 

Engineer officer oral examination (STCW and National Law)

The objective of the oral examination is to assess the candidate’s knowledge of the practical operation and managerial component of marine engineering, which includes electrical, automation and control, mechanical and naval architecture components. It is also to ascertain whether the candidate has acquired the knowledge required for safe decision-making and for the performance of the functions relevant to the certificate for which they have applied for.

For STCW when considering the level of questions to ask for the grade of certificate the examiner will take into consideration the meaning and intent of “management level” and “operational level” as defined by the STCW Convention.

For domestic certificate questions the examiner will ask at the level relevant to the certificate and reference the syllabus for guidance.

For all grades of certificates. the oral examination examiners will test the candidate on those areas of knowledge and skills:

  1. Critical to preservation of life, the environment and property (including emergency procedures).
  2. Necessary for efficient operation.
  3. In the ‘theoretical’ subjects only to the extent necessary to test the candidate’s knowledge of the safety and operational aspects appropriate to the grade and sub-grade.

The examination will cover the safety critical areas vital to the protection of personnel, machinery and the environment, paying particular attention to emergency procedures and the safe control and operation of vital machinery and equipment.

As a general indication, examination for:

  1. Marine engine driver grade 1 (MED 1) is to cover, but not necessarily limited to, operational, routine and emergency duties and the maintenance processes of machinery and equipment less than 1500 kilowatts.
  2. Engineer class 3 near coastal is to cover, but not necessarily limited to,  management, decision making function emergency procedures, and the operation and maintenance processes of machinery and equipment less than 3000 kilowatts.
  3. Engineer watchkeeper is to cover, but not necessarily limited to, operational, routine and emergency duties associated with watchkeeping at sea and in port.
  4. Engineer class 2 is to cover, but not necessarily limited to, emergency procedures, and the operation and maintenance processes of machinery and equipment. However as a person holding an Engineer class 2 certificate can work as chief engineer on vessels with a propulsion power of less than 3000 kilowatts, the Engineer class 2 oral examination will also cover areas relating to management.
  5. Engineer class 1 is to additionally cover management and decision-making functions. 
  6. Electro-Technical Officer (ETO) is to cover, but not necessarily limited to, emergency procedures, and the monitoring, operation and maintenance processes of all electronic and electrical equipment including High Voltage on-board under the supervision of the Chief Engineer. The ETO must also have an understanding of all engineering systems on board from an operational perspective to be able perform duties related to electrical/pneumatic automation and control fault-finding.

All STCW engineers must also be able to perform duties as the vessel’s electrical engineer. Consequently, the oral examination may cover  electrical questions.

Engineers who hold a valid AMSA STCW certificate of competency as Engineer class 1, Engineer class 2 or Engineer watchkeeper are exempt from the requirements to hold a refrigerant handling license required by the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 and associated regulations. While the MAR Maritime Training Package core units that cover refrigeration are the same for Engineer watchkeeper and Engineer class 3 engineers those who hold a certificate of competency as Engineer class 3 are not exempt from the requirement to hold a refrigerant handling licence. The oral examination for all levels of engineering may include questions on refrigeration maintenance and the safe handling of refrigerant gases.

Questions

Questions will cover important safety matters, including fire prevention, detection and extinction, knowledge of the more serious mishaps such as burner blow backs, uptake, scavenge fires, and crankcase explosions appropriate to the grade of certificate.

Questions regarding boiler water gauge reading, manipulation and defects are compulsory for all candidates other than Marine engine driver grade 1. 

Engineer watchkeeper candidates and engineer cadets are not  required to produce their completed training record book (TRB) at the Engineer watchkeeper oral examination as these form part of the approved on board training monitored by the AMSA approved colleges. Candidates with task books for National Law certificates of competency will be required to scan their task books and email to the examiner prior to the oral exam, preferably at the time of booking orals.  A task book will be acceptable as a TRB if completed while attaining an Engineer class 3 certificate of competency.

For STCW international and domestic the examiner will use the Oral examination checklist — Engineer.

The letters on the checklists designate the relative importance of each topic and the numbers indicate the level of attainment required as follows:

  1. Letter A: covers critical areas, particularly emergency situations that affect the safety of life or the vessel.
  2. Letter B: covers areas that affect safety of life, or the vessel, in less critical situations, such as effective maintenance.
  3. Letter C: covers areas not covered by Letters A or B.

The numbers indicate the level of knowledge and skill required as follows:

  1. Number 1: highly developed level of knowledge/skill required.
  2. Number 2: developed level of knowledge/skill required.
  3. Number 3: basic level of knowledge/skill required.

Engineer class 3 and Marine engine driver grade 1 checklists use only the letters.

Last updated: 

Thursday 8 April 2021