CII AF exam results

cii af exam results

CII AF exam results

Which are the easiest AF exams?

The latest CII AF exam results show which are hardest, and which are the easiest. These will be of interest to anyone who is looking to sit these CII exams so go into your AF exams with your eyes open.

Are all the CII AF exams the same style or format?

You could be forgiven for thinking that this should be a straightforward question. It isn’t. Some of the variation in pass rates is not solely due to the subject matter, but how it is examined. Perhaps surprisingly, there are significant differences between the exams.

AF1 and 4 are ‘traditional’ AF exams. They have 160 marks and these are split between three case studies: one worth 80 marks and the two other case studies are usually worth 40 marks each. Written answers are required and you will need around 55% to pass, i.e. 88 marks.

We haven’t included any comment on AF2 as it is being withdrawn in 2021.

AF5 is based on a completed fact find that is issued 2 weeks before the exam. On the exam day, you will be faced with 8 questions (usually with sub-sections) that are based on this case study. The pass rate for this exam is relatively high because you should be able to identify some of the technical areas that will be tested and prepare for them before the exam.

AF7 is again different, perhaps because it is only worth 20 credits whereas all the other AF exams are worth 30 credits towards Chartered status. It is also a 2 hour exam rather than a 3 hour exam and the exam is only worth 100 marks with a nominal pass rate of 60%. Section A has 3-4 short answer questions which test your knowledge across the syllabus. Section B consists of two case studies and EACH will usually account for 30-35% of the total marks for the exam.

Finally, we have AF6, AF8 and IFP (Inclusive Financial Planning). The format of these exams is very different because they are all assignment-based which means that you never have to enjoy the pressure of a timed written exam.  Instead, three assignments need to be successfully completed within a 12 month period. This creates it’s own pressures but ultimately, it should allow you to complete them when it suits you best.

What are the CII AF exam results?

Here are the results for 2020 (the latest available):

AF1 – 44%  (minus 5% on the previous period)

AF4 – 55%  (plus 6% on the previous period)

AF5 – 72% (plus 15% on the previous period)

AF6 – 98.8% (plus 2.8% on the previous period)

AF7 – 43% (no change on the previous period)

AF8 – 71.5% (minus 4.5% on the previous period)

IFP – as this option is currently a pilot, pass rates are not published

What conclusions can we draw from this?

Overall, these figures reflect the ‘easiest’ and the ‘hardest’ exams but we believe that you still have to be careful how you interpret these figures. If you look at the data over a period of time, AF5 has always been the easiest of the written exams – probably because of the pre-issue of the fact find information allows candidates to pre-prepare. Conversely, AF7 (slightly worryingly given the importance of DB transfers), has always been the hardest AF exam. Likewise, AF1 has consistently been one of the harder AF exams.

AF6 and AF8 deserve a special note. The pass rates for these subjects are sky-high – especially AF6. Many people will assume that these are much easier than the written exams but this would be a mistake. Being assignment-based exams does NOT automatically mean that this format is easier and you need to understand why this is. The CII base their pass rates for these subjects on those that complete their assignments. So anyone who drops out or doesn’t complete all their assignments ISN’T counted as a fail. In other words, just about everyone who completes AF6 passes but people will have dropped out along the way.

We’ll look in more detail on each individual AF exam subject below.

AF1 – Personal tax and trusts.

In terms of CII AF exam results, this is the second hardest AF exam. This is probably due to the fact that taxation, whilst very important to most financial planning, is not something that all people get directly involved in. It’s a very wide ranging subject so other than saying that the typical AF1 exam will have questions on income tax, CGT and IHT, that doesn’t narrow your study options down too much. It is also the one AF exam that will almost certainly ask you to complete calculations.

For many people, this will be the first AF exam they complete and it sets the foundation to some of the other subjects. For example, there is some overlap with AF4 on the taxation of investments. AF5 is quite likely to have some element of tax planning in it such as VCT or EIS schemes.

Click here to find out more about AF1 and how to pass it.

AF4 – Investment planning.

This is usually one of the harder AF exams but there was a pleasing improvement in results over the last year. This hopefully means that more people are going into this exam with their eyes open. This exam does like testing things like dividend yield, P/E ratios, money weighted return and sharpe ratios. It’s fair to say that these (and similar direct investment ratios) are not something the average paraplanner or adviser will deal with in their day job (or perhaps is even allowed to). Prepare well and don’t just rely on your day job, and you should do well.

Click here to see what get’s examined in AF4.

AF5 – Financial planning process.

Statistically, this is the easiest ‘written’ exam. We’ve already alluded to why this is so why do some people still fail? This is partly because they didn’t prepare sufficiently around the potential technical areas before the exam. For example, if the case study says the client’s have an elderly infirm parent, this might mean that LPAs will be tested. But how? It could be the duties of being an attorney, the process of setting them up, or the benefits to the client of doing so. Make sure you cover all the bases and don’t try to be too clever and cherry pick.

Equally important is poor exam technique. You must understand what the examiner is asking you to do when reading the question. The only way to develop this is to practice this art using the past papers that are available on the CII website.

AF6 and AF8 – Senior management and supervision and Retirement income planning.

These are attractive because of the high pass-rates and because they aren’t timed written exams.  But they still have their pitfalls.  You do have to structure your time well. There is little point in registering and then not starting your first assignment for 3 months. The 12 month clock starts ticking when you register and all 3 assignments must be completed (including any re-sits) within the 12 month period.  Please don’t under-estimate how much work is required writing three 2,500 word assignments and be very clear about how the marks are awarded (see the CII coursework assessment guidelines and instructions).

With AF8, don’t just think that this is a pensions exam. It is more of a ‘later life’ exam and is likely to include elements of pensions, investments, IHT and care planning.

Click here for more information on AF8.

Other resources.

We have a library of posts relevant to each individual exam on our Exam technique and revision hub.

Want to know more about our audio books for AF1, 4 or 7, click here

If you want to know more about our 150-170 page study notes for AF1 or 4, click here

By registering as a member on our website, you can access a FREE preparation guide for either AF1, 4 or 5

Prepare well and pass first time.

Ian Patterson

Ex-examiner and author of the current CII CF8, J07 and AF6 study texts

Marie Patterson
Ian Patterson