Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority

Capstone assessment - frequently asked questions


The information on this page addresses common questions the OMARA receives about the Capstone assessment.

Capstone announcement 14 August 2020 FAQs

Q1. I understand that the College of Law will stop conducting the Migration Agents Capstone Assessment (the Capstone) at the end of 2020.  Does this mean that I will not have to undertake and pass the Capstone to register as a migration agent from 2021?

A1. Passing the Capstone is a legal requirement for all new applicants for registration as a migration agent. There are no plans to change this law. The Department will be procuring a new provider of the Capstone assessment to commence as soon as practicable.

Q2. I have heard that the College of Law will no longer run the Capstone after the end of this year. Will there be a new provider of the Capstone assessment? 

A2.  Following the recent announcement by the College of Law, the Department will be procuring a new provider to deliver the Capstone. The legal requirements to register as a migration agent have not changed and are available on the OMARA website.
Registration requirements


Q3. Who will be the new provider of the Capstone assessment?

A3. A new provider of the Capstone has not yet been appointed.  As such, no further details are available at this time. Further information about the Capstone will be posted on the OMARA website as it becomes available.


Q4. Is there a schedule of dates in 2021 for the new Capstone intakes?

A4. The dates for the new Capstone intakes in 2021 have not as yet been set.  Further information about the Capstone will be posted on the OMARA website as it becomes available.

Q5. Will the new Capstone be different in terms of fees and structure?

A5. A new provider of the Capstone has not yet been appointed.  As such, no further details are available at this time. Further information about the Capstone will be posted on the OMARA website as it becomes available.

Q6. I have just completed the Graduate Diploma in Australian Migration Law and Practice. I don’t know whether to sit for the final Capstone assessment this year, Intake 3 2020, or wait until the Capstone is available with a new provider next year.  What should I do?

A6. This is a decision that you will need to make based on your personal circumstances.  Passing the Capstone remains a legal requirement for all new applicants for registration as a migration agent. The dates for the new Capstone intakes in 2021 have not as yet been set.  Further information about the Capstone will be posted on the OMARA website as it becomes available.

What is a Capstone?

A capstone assessment tests whether students have acquired the central knowledge and skills in line with the intended outcomes of a study program.

What does the Migration agents Capstone assess?

The migration agents Capstone assessment (the Capstone) assesses whether a candidate meets the Occupational Competency Standards for Registered Migration Agents (OCS) available on the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA) website. Meeting the OCS is the intended outcome of the Graduate Diploma in Migration Law and Practice.
Occupational competency standards

Why was the Capstone introduced?

In 2014 there was an independent review of the OMARA (the Review) which, among other things, looked at what entry qualifications should be required to register as a migration agent. 

The Review found that the Graduate Certificate was not an adequate qualification for registration as a migration agent. A number of submissions to the Review suggested the course did not properly prepare migration agents for practice in an area that is legislatively and socially complex. The Review recommended that the Graduate Certificate be replaced with the Graduate Diploma as the prescribed course for registration.

The Review also recommended that there should be a stand-alone Capstone assessment, de-linked from the Graduate Diploma or any of the universities offering it. It further recommended that OMARA tender for the development of this exam. This recommendation was supported by the Government.

How was the provider of the Capstone assessment chosen?

In line with the Review recommendation, the OMARA sought proposals from organisations with relevant expertise to deliver the Capstone. The College of Law Limited (COL) was selected on the basis of a competitive tender by an evaluation panel established by the OMARA.

The evaluation panel was independent from any of the organisations proposing to deliver the Capstone. It included a Professor of Education, as a subject matter expert (SME), who had extensive experience in adult education and assessment studies, and had completed a PhD in competency based education for occupations in Australia. The SME was familiar with the Occupational Competency Standards for registered migration agents (OCS), having assisted the OMARA with their development. There was also a probity adviser on the panel to ensure proper process was followed in the selection of the successful tenderer. The term of the agreement was a period of three years with an option to extend for a further three years.

Factors taken into account when assessing proposals to deliver the Capstone included:

  • expertise as an examination provider, particularly in testing the achievement of occupational competencies
  • the skills and experience of personnel who will provide the assessment
  • evidence that all the OCS would be assessed and details of how they would be assessed
  • evidence that the assessment would be authentic and details of how the practical aspects will be addressed
  • the anticipated cost to each candidate who sits an assessment.

How was the cost of the Capstone determined?

As stated above, the cost to candidates of undertaking the Capstone was one of the factors taken into account by the panel when selecting a provider to deliver the Capstone. The cost of the current Capstone is comparable to the cost proposed in other tenders and was considered to offer the best value for money when all relevant factors were taken into account.

Establishment of a rigorous and comprehensive practical assessment involves significant complexities and associated costs. For example, delivery of the Capstone involved the development of a bespoke IT system, recruitment and training of highly qualified and reputable assessors as well as the establishment of an advisory committee and focus groups for assessment testing. The Capstone is delivered on a user pays commercial basis and the fee for sitting the Capstone must cover these costs.

Information on the cost of the Capstone is available on both the OMARA and COL websites. While the cost structure of the Capstone changed from Intake 3, 2019, the overall cost of completing the written and oral components of the Capstone remains the same at $2500+GST. Prospective candidates should be aware of these costs, and the costs involved with becoming a registered migration agent and maintaining registered status before commencing study for the prescribed qualification.

How was the Capstone developed?

The Capstone assessment was developed by highly experienced and reputable migration advice professionals, who have practiced for many years in a broad range of migration related areas. It includes a variety of assessment types (see below) and was developed based on extensive real world experience. Development was a collaborative process, involving input from an appropriately qualified advisory committee, the OMARA and a focus group of newly registered migration agents who trialed an early draft of the Capstone assessment and provided feedback on their experience. This feedback informed amendments to the assessment model. The revised assessment was submitted to OMARA for consideration and approval. Ongoing feedback received from the advisory committee, assessors, candidates and the OMARA shapes the development of future assessments.

How does the Capstone work?

The Capstone provides candidates with the opportunity to demonstrate that they are able to provide professional advice on Australian migration matters in accordance with the OCS. The assessment integrates work tasks and experiences expected of registered migration agents in everyday practice.

Each question in the Capstone is based on the OCS. Question scenarios, including the interview, are created and conducted by an experienced migration practitioner to ensure authenticity.  Every assessor has extensive client interview experience on which they can draw to ensure a realistic interview experience.

The amount of reading time allowed has been assessed by the focus group as sufficient given the amount of information in the briefing note and the level of knowledge a candidate should already possess in order to adequately prepare for the interview.

Candidates have 3.5 hours to complete the written assessment component, which consists of the following parts:

  • Part A – 5 multiple choice questions
  • Part B – 4 short answer questions
  • Part C – 2 practical writing tasks

The oral assessment tests candidates’ ability to apply the law and policy to the client’s circumstances and advise the client accordingly in plain English.

Candidates have 1.5 hours to complete the oral assessment component, which includes:

  • preparation for an interview scenario
  • participating in an interview with an assessor
  • summarising the interview in a file note.

Candidates must pass the written component before they may attempt the oral component. A candidate must pass both the written and oral component within the same intake to pass the Capstone assessment. 

How is the Capstone assessment marked?

A panel of highly experienced and reputable RMAs mark the Capstone. These assessors have at least 10 years’ experience in a broad range of migration advice areas and are approved by the OMARA. Assessors receive training and are given a detailed Marker’s Guide to ensure their assessments are consistent. The assessment is subject to internal and external moderation processes. Any borderline results are reviewed.

Written assessment

The weightings of the questions in each component of the written assessment are set out below: 

  • Part A Multiple choice – each question is worth two marks (total of 10 marks)
  • Part B Short answer questions – each question is worth 5 marks (total of 20 marks)
  • Part C Practical writing tasks – a letter of advice question is worth 35 marks and the submission to the Department question is worth 35 marks (total of 70 marks)

Oral assessment

The oral assessment point allocation is broken down as follows:

  • 20% on how the interview is conducted
  • 60% on the quality of the oral advice
  • 20% on the file note.

What support is provided to candidates?

Detailed information about the Capstone is available on the COL website. This includes a comprehensive Program Manual and an Intake Guide for each assessment intake. A telephone enquiry facility is available for any specific issues not covered by the publicly available information.

English proficiency

The OMARA has received some feedback from the COL that a lack of English language proficiency may have had an adverse impact on candidates’ performance in the Capstone. Individuals intending to register as a migration agent should be aware that the English proficiency required for registration as a migration agent is an overall score of IELTS 7 or TOEFL 94, with minimum acceptable scores in each subtest – see the information on this website for full details of the English language requirement. 
English language requirement

The English language requirement applies to all initial applicants for registration (other than lawyers), including those who have completed the Graduate Diploma and passed the Capstone.

Individuals considering a career as a migration agent may wish to undertake an English language test prior to enrolling in the Graduate Diploma to ensure they have the requisite language skills to ultimately register as a migration agent. The English language test results are valid for two years for registration purposes. Those who cannot achieve the required score may benefit from undertaking English language studies to improve their proficiency before committing to the significant financial outlay required for completion of the Graduate Diploma and Capstone assessment. 

 

What is the success rate of candidates attempting the Capstone assessment?

The table below shows the percentage of candidates, and the qualification they hold, who successfully completed the Capstone assessment in each assessment intake.

Intake

Graduate Certificate

Graduate Diploma

Intake 1, 2018

14%

N/A

Intake 2, 2018

19%

N/A

Intake 1, 2019

0%

13%

Intake 2, 2019

18%

27%

Intake 3, 2019

0%

25%

Intake 4, 2019

19%

15%

Intake 1, 2020

0%

30%

Intake 2, 2020

14%

23%

*Total

13%

22%

* Average calculated across all intakes