The Times of Malta reported on Thursday (October 18th) that almost two-thirds of those that applied for a digital currency agent certification failed the standard exam – even though the assessment had been modified to make it easier for candidates to pass the test.

Malta’s Virtual Financial Assets (VFA) Act, which is scheduled to become effective as of November 2018, will require finance professionals looking to “act as agents” in the crypto industry to complete a training course and pass an assessment – which tests how well they understand concepts related to Bitcoin (BTC) and other cryptocurrencies.

The first such examination took place in September and local sources said that around 250 lawyers, auditors, and accountants took the test – which was commissioned by the island nation’s financial regulator, the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA).

Negative Marking Scheme

Malta’s Institute of Financial Service Practitioners had been tasked with administering the examination, which included several multiple choice questions (MCQs) that were checked by using a “negative marking scheme.” As most educators would know, a negative marking scheme deducts points from an examinee’s score if they choose the wrong answer.

Notably, the results of the exam – which was designed to test the examinee’s basic understanding of concepts related to blockchain technology and cryptos – showed that the test-takers performed very poorly as the pass rate was very low.

The test administrators then removed the negative marking scheme, however, the pass rate still remained quite low (only 39 percent). After learning that they had failed the test, the examinees expressed frustration because finance professionals will not be issued a license to offer crypto-related services if they cannot pass Malta’s government-administered test on cryptocurrencies.

“Blockchain Island” Strategy

As most crypto watchers would know, Malta is one of the world’s most crypto friendly jurisdictions as the island nation’s authorities believe digital assets have the potential to transform the world’s future economy.

In order to improve the country’s economy and create more jobs for locals, its government introduced the VFA Act – which is among two other laws that are a part of Malta’s “Blockchain Island” strategy.

Moreover, Malta’s progressive laws are aimed regulating its blockchain and crypto industry, while also providing a business environment that is conducive to the growth and development of innovative financial technology.

Malta also needs VFA agents that have passed its crypto exam, because their services are required by local blockchain startups that are planning to conduct initial coin offerings (ICOs).

Qualified VFA agents are also required in cases where companies provide portfolio management and investment advice on digital currencies.

Increasing “Capital Requirements”, Adding A Written Section To Crypto Exam

Commenting on the low pass rate, Malta’s authorities said (in September):

[It has] become evident that certain industry players are not sufficiently prepared to register as VFA agents… [there is a] need to address an existing expectations gap, particularly in view of the inherent risks of this sector.

Malta's Government

In September, the MFSA had also proposed adding a written response section to Malta’s exam on cryptocurrencies, in addition to adding other compulsory requirements such as “continuous professional” development and education.

Malta’s regulators further recommended increasing “regulatory fees” and “capital requirements” associated with cryptocurrency licenses and businesses operating in the island.