Tag Archives: AF4

R06 July 2023

CII AF exam dates 2024

Here are the CII AF exam dates for 2024 which are include two sittings. 

Sitting One (February to March)

AF1: 20th February

AF5: 13th February

AF7: 5th March

AF4: 7th March

Sitting Two (September to October)

AF1: 10th September

AF5: 17th September

AF7: 24th September

AF4: 1st October

Written exams vs coursework?

Of course, the CII now offer AF6 and AF8 on a coursework basis. This means that you have to submit assignments and there isn’t a specified exam date. But you do need to complete all three assignments within a 12 month period so if you intend to sit one of these subjects and a written AF exam, schedule the writing of your assignments to avoid the times when you will need to study for the AF written exam.

Enrolment for the assignment-based exams – AF6 and AF8 – can be at any time.  Note that the 12 month clock starts ticking when you enrol, not when you submit your first assignment.

Which is the easiest CII AF exam?

In theory, this might be a sensible way to select an exam. In practice, it might not quite workout this way. We always suggest selecting an exam that is of most use to your work and to your business. If you work in a specialist area, then your day-job may help to give you a head start in a subject where others struggle.

Here are the latest CII pass rates for the AF exams at the time of writing (July 2023):

AF142% (-1% on the previous year)

AF457% (+7% on the previous year)

AF572% (+9% on the previous year)

AF697% (no change)

AF761% (+5% on the previous year)

AF875.3% (no change)

NB The pass rate for assignment-based exams such as AF6 and AF8 suggest that these exams are easier than they are. This is because the pass rates are only based on those that submit and successfully complete all of their assignments – and do not include people who ‘drop out’.

Click here for the figures for previous years and to see the trends.

Want to know more?

CII website – AF exams

Free AF exam preparation guide (for AF1, 2, 4, 5 or 7). Click here

For details of all written financial services exams (e.g. J07, J05), click here

Prepare well and be successful.

Sam Patterson


CII exams

CII Exams: when are changes examined from?

CII exams and changes

With Budgets and Autumn Statements, legislative and tax changes happen frequently – it’s a fact of life. If we take the the recent 2022 Autumn Statement as an example,  there are a range of changes. Some of them, like SDLT, were implemented immediately in the previous infamous ‘Truss’ ‘mini-budget. Other changes (such as reducing the threshold before additional rate tax is payable)  have been announced but will not be implemented until April 2023. All potentially confusing. But more importantly, if you are sitting a CII exam, when are these changes examined from?

What happens if there are no changes?

I’ll start with a simple scenario. The standard testing period for all CII exams is from the 1st September for a period of 12 months.  This is when any syllabus changes to an exam are examined from. If you sit a R03 exam in mid-August 2023, the tax rates used will be based on the 22/23 tax year. If you sit R03 on the 5th September 2023, it will be based on the 23/24 tax year.  Taking the August 2023 example, this throws up a bit of an anomaly because you would have been using the 23/24 tax rates in work for several months. But the CII have to have a set date for a change to become effective and the 1st September is that date.

Why September? In a typical year, most tax changes become effective from the 6th April. The CII then has to update all of its exam support material, issue it to students, and give them a fair period of time to allow study before examining it. When you look at it like this, a changeover in September makes absolute sense.

Of course, this isn’t a problem with the AF exams. In 2023, the first exam sittings are in February and March (22/23 tax year). The second sitting are in September and October so these will be based on the 23/24 tax year. Hopefully, this is all clear.

CII exams and the ‘3 month rule’

I’ve just looked at the most straightforward scenario. But what happens if changes are introduced during the testing period, i.e. between September to September? This is where the ‘3 month rule’ is usually applied to CII exams.  It is fairly rare for any legislative or tax changes to be introduced immediately. With legislation, there is usually a consultation and then an implementation period. With tax changes, it does happen from time to time as we saw with changes to SDLT in September 2022. Normally, this means that any changes will not be examined by the CII until after a period of at least 3 months after changes are implemented (not from when they are announced).

What happens if changes are announced over 3 months in advance – for example those to be introduced at the start of the next tax year?  The general rule (there have been some exceptions) is that they get examined from the following September.

Example:

The 2022 Autumn Statement announced that the dividend allowance would be reduced to £1,000 in April 2023. As this falls within the 23/24 tax year, this would get tested after 1st September 2023. The Statement also announced that the allowance would be further reduced to £500 in April 2024. The CII generally do not test these changes in advance so expect this to be examined after 1st September 2024.

Legislative changes

By definition, these tend to be a little more random than tax changes. Some years there are key legislative changes such as the GDPR changes to data protection in 2018; in other years there may be little or nothing that will impact on CII exams. Again, the 3 month rule will typically apply.

Where does this leave students?

The best advice is to look on the CII website for the exam subject you intend to sit. The CII does issue qualification updates to advise you of changes in the current tax year. For example, the R03 page on the CII exams website  includes a qualification update on the right hand column. Click here. This provides a good example as it shows that the SDLT changes are examinable from the 23rd December 2022. See the AF1 website page for the position with AF1 under the heading ‘unit updates’.

If you are in any doubt, always check the relevant CII exam page for any qualification updates.

Further support for your R0 or AF exam

We provide support – like this blog – to help people pass their R0 or AF exam first time. Our material is written by ex-examiners and our audio material is written by the authors of 6 current CII study texts. That’s why we modestly like to think that we are exam experts.

Click here to see R0 specfic blogs and helpful tips

Click here to see AF specific blogs and helpful tips

Click here to access our FREE AF preparation guides

 

Prepare well, stay calm and I hope this helps with your preparation.

 

Sam Patterson,  APFS, Chartered Financial Planner

R06 July 2023

CII AF exam dates 2023

Here are the CII AF exam dates for 2023 which are include two sittings. 

Sitting Two (September to October)

AF1: 12th September

AF5: 19th September

AF7: 26th September

AF4: 3rd October

Written exams vs coursework?

Of course, the CII now offer AF6 and AF8 on a coursework basis. This means that you have to submit assignments and there isn’t a specified exam date. But you do need to complete all three assignments within a 12 month period so if you intend to sit one of these subjects and a written AF exam, schedule the writing of your assignments to avoid the times when you will need to study for the AF written exam.

Enrolment for the assignment-based exams – AF6 and AF8 – can be at any time.  Note that the 12 month clock starts ticking when you enrol, not when you submit your first assignment.

Which is the easiest CII AF exam?

In theory, this might be a sensible way to select an exam. In practice, it might not quite workout this way. We always suggest selecting an exam that is of most use to your work and to your business. If you work in a specialist area, then your day-job may help to give you a head start in a subject where others struggle.

Here are the latest CII pass rates for the AF exams at the time of writing (July 2023):

AF142% (-1% on the previous year)

AF457% (+7% on the previous year)

AF572% (+9% on the previous year)

AF697% (no change)

AF761% (+5% on the previous year)

AF875.3% (no change)

NB The pass rate for assignment-based exams such as AF6 and AF8 suggest that these exams are easier than they are. This is because the pass rates are only based on those that submit and successfully complete all of their assignments – and do not include people who ‘drop out’.

Click here for the figures for previous years and to see the trends.

Want to know more?

CII website – AF exams

Free AF exam preparation guide (for AF1, 2, 4, 5 or 7). Click here

For details of all written financial services exams (e.g. J07, J05), click here

Prepare well and be successful.

Ian Patterson

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

cii af exam results 2022

CII AF exam results 2022

We now have the CII exam results 2022. 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.

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 has 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 and AF8. 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 2022?

The latest pass rates are actually those up to the year ending in 2021. These are the latest available at the time of writing (July 2022):

AF1 – 43%  (minus 1% on the previous period)

AF4 – 50%  (minus 5% on the previous period)

AF5 – 63% (minus 9% on the previous period)

AF6 – 97% (minus 1.7% on the previous period)

AF7 – 56% (plus 13% on the previous period)

AF8 – 75.3% (plus 3.8% on the previous period)

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 one of the hardest AF exams – until this year where there was a welcome improvement. The ‘mantle’ of hardest AF exam now falls to AF1 although to be fair,  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. Third-party support with your specific assignments is banned under the CII rules so you will need to work alone when completing your assignments – and this can be daunting.

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 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 and there was a relatively small drop on the previous year’s results. 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 can 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

CII AF4 exam

CII AF4 exam: what gets examined?

If you are preparing for the CII’s AF4 exam, Investment planning, here’s what you need to know about the exam and what has been tested in the past.

What does the AF4 exam look like?

The CII AF4 exam is 3 hours long written exam paper. It consists of 3 case studies – one worth 80 marks and two smaller ones that are worth around 40 marks each (the number of marks can vary slightly from one exam to another).

The main case study will typically have 12-18 questions (or part questions) in total. The two smaller case studies typically have 8-10 questions (or part questions). Overall, the paper will have 160 marks and you will normally need around 88 marks to pass. This pass mark applies to the overall exam so you could bomb on one of the smaller case studies and still pass if you get the marks elsewhere.

How easy is it?

The simple answer is ‘not very’. Based on the latest published CII results, the pass rate for AF4 is only 50% making it the second hardest AF exam subject.

What is the CII AF4 exam all about?

Be warned. You may find that AF4 doesn’t closely resemble your day to day job – even if you regard yourself as a bit of an investment guru. Historically, every AF4 paper has included some form of analysis of direct investments (usually equities, sometimes gilts). You should be prepared to take on the likes of P/E ratios, ROCE and return on equity. To be fair, the marks awarded for these areas has reduced over past exams but as ever with investments, past performance is no guide to future performance!

Also remember that it will test widely across the investment landscape – anything from investing in gold, OEIC diversification rules, EIS, MPT, contrarian investment style, to M0 and M4 money supply

The last published paper (as at July 2022) was the May 2022 CII AF4 exam paper. This is the last published paper and it was a typical paper.

What historically gets tested in the CII’s AF4 exam?

Like many CII AF exams, if you look at enough exam papers over a long enough period, you’ll spot some common themes and trends. This is NOT the same as saying you can predict what will be in the AF4 exam you sit, but it can provide a useful focus when studying.

An analysis of past AF4 exam papers shows that it is highly likely that you will be examined in the following areas:

  • Performance measurement, e.g. sharpe and information ratios
  • Direct investments, e.g. property, equities and FI
  • Equity ratios, e.g. dividend yield, P/E earnings, ROCE, dividend yield, NAV
  • Indirect investments, e.g. OEIC, IB’s, EIS, VCTs
  • Passive investments, ETFs and benchmarks

Areas frequently tested historically:

  • Alpha and beta
  • Investment theories, e.g. MPT, CAPM
  • Macro economics, e.g. M0 and M4; business cycle
  • Making client recommendations
  • Risk and capacity for loss
  • Investment styles, e.g.  value, momentum, GAARP

Other tested areas:                                                                    

  • Investment advice process
  • Risk profiling
  • Analysing company accounts
  • Time value of money
  • Platforms

How do I use this to prepare for the AF4 exam?

  1. Familiarising yourself with the CII’s AF4 exam should be a key element of your preparation. Don’t just read past exam papers, complete at least two of them UNDER EXAM CONDITIONS.
  2. With your revision, as a minimum, make sure you know your stuff on the key topics. You should aim to have a good overall knowledge across the syllabus – our audio book will help you to learn around your work or family commitments.
  3. Be smart with your revision. Try using Brainscape electronic memory cards. Click here for details.

Related blogs: Top tips to pass an AF exam first time. Click here

Prepare well and be successful.

Ian Patterson

Author of the CF8, J07 and AF6 CII study texts, ex-examiner

AF4: the essential guide

So you want to pass the CII’s AF4 exam first time? That’s great but the bad news is that AF4 is the third hardest CII AF exam. Of the three written ‘technical’ AF exams (AF1, 4, 7), the pass rate for AF4 is just 50% (the latest published results). This means that you need to focus your preparation in the right areas.

A typical AF4 exam also has a different ‘look’ to the other AF written exams that you need to be familiar with.

To see the full pass rates and how these have actually declined for AF4 over the years, go to this page.

What can we learn from past AF4 exam papers?

A lot. We all know that working through past exam papers is one of the best ways to prepare for the CII’s AF4 exam.

Tip: Don’t just skim through them, start off with a blank sheet of paper and complete at least two of them under exam conditions.

Tip: Start this process towards the beginning of your study, not at the end. Learn about the technical aspects and also about how the examiners’ expect you to set your answers and apply your knowledge. Sure, you’ll make lots of mistakes but view this as a way of learning, not to assess whether you are ready for the exam or not.

The AF exams do tend to cover some similar areas from one exam to another. There will always be exceptions to the rule but if you get a ‘typical’ AF4 exam, there’s a lot to be learned by looking at what is examined, and how. If we take an example AF4 exam paper (May 2022 paper).

Here are some high-level points:

  1. This exam may not resemble what you do in your day job. For example, the syllabus includes direct investments so you might be asked to work out the cover yield, NAV, earnings per share or dividend cover. Most advisers don’t have the FCA permissions to advise on securities, let alone the inclination to do so!
  2. This AF4 exam had 32 questions (or part questions). You won’t find this in other AF exams but this is typical of AF4. Many of them are only worth a few marks (6 or under). This is how the examiners’ are able to test widely across the syllabus – so you need a real breadth of knowledge.

AF4 exam: question types

I’ll mention the types of question that are used in AF4. These are typically very different to the other written AF exams. In the May 2022 paper, only three instructions (or verbs) were used:

  1. List, state or identify. There were 14 questions (or part questions). Typically, this type of question is only worth 3-6 marks.
  2. Comment, outline, describe, or explain. There were 10 questions (or part questions) that used these verbs. These require more analysis and a higher level of detail than the first group of verbs  shown above.
  3. Calculate. There were 5 questions (or part questions).

Tip: In the AF4 exam, the instruction is the examiner telling you what to do. List or state does not need any amplification; a couple of words or short sentence will be fine.

Tip: Around half of this paper needed you to describe, outline or explain. With this type of question, the examiner will usually want you to show what you know, and link this back to the information you have been given. A one or two word answer will not be enough to score well.

Tip: With a calculation question, marks are awarded for demonstrating the correct process. So make sure that your calculation is laid out clearly. One way of doing this is to ‘label’ each step of the process (particularly if there are 10 marks for a question, as in this exam). Believe it or not, you can get most of the marks for doing this even if you get the answer wrong.

AF4: the technical knowledge you will need

Past performance isn’t a guide to future performance. We know this just like we know that a technical exam like AF4 will test across the broad syllabus. Although AF4 has some recurring themes, they will also test some more peripheral areas of the syllabus.

These areas have historically been frequently tested in AF4:

  • Performance measurement, e.g. sharpe and information ratios
  • Direct investments
  • Equity ratios, e.g. dividend yield, NAV
  • Passive investments, ETFs and benchmarks
  • CAPM, alpha and beta
  • Time value of money
  • Macro economics
  • Investment styles, e.g. momentum, vale and GAARP
  • Making client recommendations
  • Analysing company accounts
  • Risk profiling
  • Risks

Getting to the point where you can pass

You know that you are going to have to put in some hard yards with AF4. The CII suggest 150 hours of study is required and unfortunately, many people will need approaching this amount of study. Which begs the question, what will this look like?

For general AF study tips, click here

Free revision material for AF4, click here

Study whilst on the go. Our unique audio material gives you 6 hours of AF4 content that helps you to fit your learning in around the rest of your life. Click here for details.

 

Best wishes. Prepare well and past first time.

Sam Patterson

AF exam

AF exams: make your study count

Most people who are unsuccessful in a CII AF exam will still be within around 5% of the pass mark

In many cases, those that are successful just answer the questions a little bit better, or know a little bit more. Few people like exam study and even fewer like re-sitting exams so we’ve produced an exam technique and study hub to help you to pass your AF exam first time.

You need to consider two elements:

  1. What you do before the exam, i.e. how much and how effective your exam study is
  2. What you do in the exam,  i.e. how good your exam technique is

In this blog, I’ll look at 5 tips on how you can make the most of your revision before you enter the exam hall. CII AF exams – AF1, AF4 and AF7 – require between 100 and 150 hours of study. Unfortunately, most people will need this amount of study. There are no easy short cuts when you are sitting degree-level exams like these AF subjects. But there’s still plenty of scope for working smarter, not harder.

  1. Make sure your study is effective. It’s not just about the hours you put into studying.  People learn in different ways so learn what works for you. Click here and invest 23 minutes of your life to watch a FREE video that can revolutionise how you revise.
  2. Make a plan. Think about how much study you can commit to, and how best to fit this study in around your work and other commitments. Start early and study in bite-sized chunks: 20 to 30 minutes is ideal.
  3. Use a variety of study methods. Learning doesn’t all have to be something which requires dedicated ‘study time’. We produce MP3 material for the AF1, AF4 and AF7 exams. With 3-7 hours of material (depending on the subject), you can be learning while you commute, drive or jog.  Study doesn’t have to impact on your home life, work life, or both. Click here for details. Try using Brainscape (which is free) to make ‘electronic index cards’. Register as a member (or log-in) by clicking here to access our AF4 revision cards on Brainscape.
  4. Look at past AF exam papers. Two of these are provided on the CII exam site for each respective subject (AF1, AF4 and AF7). Others are supplied as part of your CII exam enrolment on RevisionMate. Ideally, everyone would complete at least two of these under exam conditions before the exam. This doesn’t sound a lot, and it isn’t, but I bet most people who sit an AF exam DON’T do this.
  5. It’s not all about knowledge. Most people who fail a CII AF exam will do so because their exam technique wasn’t great; not through lack of knowledge. AF exams, aren’t about remembering lists; they are about applying knowledge. The information provided in the case study is there for a reason – so use it! Ensure that you use those FREE past CII exam papers to practice your technique. For most people, this is what will make the difference.

Further CII AF exam resources:

To find out more about how you can learn on the go, or our unique concise study revision notes – click here

Click here for exam specific tips: AF1 , AF4 and AF7

We’ve summarised the key areas that have been tested historically in AF1, AF4, AF5 and AF7 in our FREE exam Preparation Guides for each exam. To access these, register as a member (or log-in) by clicking here.

Prepare well and be successful first time. Until the next time.

Ian Patterson

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

CII R03 exam

CII AF exams: a week to go

You’ve got around a week to go before your CII AF exam – what should you be doing to maximise the time you have available? Here are our top 5 tips to make the most of this important time.

Tip 1 – don’t panic

No one ever goes into a CII AF exam thinking they are over-prepared. It just doesn’t happen. Sure, some people will be better prepared than other people – but nearly everyone will be wishing at this stage that they’d done more work. Regard it as a necessary part (unfortunately) of taking any degree standard exam – which is what a Level 6 CII AF exam is. Acknowledging and understanding this does, hopefully, reduce the nervousness a little.

Tip 2 – Practice past CII AF exam papers

You will find the two most recent published CII AF exam papers on the CII website (click on the link on the right-hand column of each subject):

Click here for AF1

Click here for AF4

Click here for AF7

Although probably not quite exam standard, you will also have received a case study workbook if you have chosen the enrolment or enrolment plus option from the CII for the AF1 and AF4 exams. These provide a range of case studies to practice on.

We all should know by now that practising past exam papers under exam conditions is one of the best ways to prepare for a exam. If you haven’t already completed these exam papers under exam conditions, then this is the time to do it.

Let me be clear what I mean by exam conditions. The AF1 and AF4 exams both have 160 marks and these exams last for 180 minutes. So if you don’t have a 3 hour block of time to spare, complete 40 marks (a short case study) in 40 minutes. This gives you a feel about what time pressure you will face in the exam and what it feels like to stare at a blank piece of paper and have to come up with the answers the CII would like to see.

There are also other benefits:

  1. It will help you to learn. You learn best by making mistakes so make as many of these as you can before the exam!
  2. They help you to practice the all important exam technique. You will not get this by simply reading through the question and answers provided for you. Remember, that most people that pass the exam don’t know any more than those that fail – they just answer the questions better. For more information, click here.
  3. You can get some idea about what might be in the exam you sit. Let me explain. Examiners need to test across the syllabus so although some themes will be consistent between exams, the specific technical bits are likely to differ. For example, AF1 will test on income tax but if the last paper tested the tax position of P11D employee benefits, your exam might test on self-employed income tax.

AF1 – further exam tips and analysis of past AF1 key topics

AF4 – what get’s examined

AF7 – further exam tips and analysis of a past AF7 paper and tips on technique

Tip 3 – AF exams: revise in small chunks

OK, I get it. For many people, the last week before an exam is head-down full-on cramming. But it isn’t just about how much revision you do – it’s how effective it is.

Even if you are cramming, work on the basis of 20-30 minutes of study followed by a 10-15 minute break. Make your break something completely unrelated before returning to your studies. For the science behind this, click here.

Tip 4 – Don’t start trying to read a study text from cover to cover

Understand that you will go into this exam with gaps in your knowledge – everyone will! With a week to go before the exam, this is not the time to do loads of reading. By all means use the AF7 or the R0 study texts as a reference source to check-up on points – especially those that you don’t come across in your day to day activities. The end of chapter summaries, for example, are also useful. But your main focus should be on completing questions at this stage.

Tip 5 – Focus on your AF exam technique

If I had to give just one tip, this would be it. Many people that fail an AF exam do so because of poor exam technique. Here’s what to focus on:

  1. With a case study, read the questions FIRST before looking at the information provided. Your brain is then better able to connect the information provided with the question being asked.
  2. Look at the verb in the question. List or state require a one or two word answer. Explain, describe or outline will require a longer answer that links information to the client’s circumstances.
  3. Use the information provided – the examiners have given it to you for a reason. Every bit of information should be used in some way so think to yourself: ‘how am I supposed to use this information?’.

Prepare well, stay calm and I hope this helps with your preparation.

 

Ian Patterson

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

paraplanners career qualifications

CII exams: getting to CII Chartered status (part 2)

CII Chartered status

If you are sitting exams on the road to CII Chartered status, one of the questions that we frequently get asked is ‘which CII exams should I sit next?’. Likewise, we also sometimes get asked about ‘what exams should I take to get CII Fellowship?’ Some exams could be considered for both. This is a big area – and it’s one that I’ve started to look at in two previous articles:

  1. Which CII AF exam should I sit next? Click here
  2. CII exams: getting to Chartered. Click here

The road to CII chartered status is a long journey and that also means that many people want to select the subjects that help them to shorten this journey. So in this article, I’ll look at a few more ideas that will help you to decide.

Investment subjects

In our article ‘which CII AF exams should I sit next?’, we looked at AF4 and the associated underpinning level 4 exams: R02 and J10. We also said that it is worth also considering J12 (Securitised advice and dealing). Taken together, all of these are worth a whopping 90 credits. The important point is that there is also a significant amount of overlap between each of them which makes revision for them that little bit less onerous.

Let me continue on a similar theme as there are also other investment-related subjects that you could also consider.

FA5

Individual savings account administration (FA5) is a level 3 exams that is worth 10 credits. It is a one hour long exam that has 50 multiple-choice questions. But this doesn’t mean that it can’t also be used to get credits towards Chartered and Fellowship.

In simple terms, the content of FA5 overlaps with much of the content of R02. ISAs (and their various reincarnations) are central to the financial planning process for many advisers.

Details of the syllabus for each can be found here.

LP1 and/or LP2

Other options that are definitely worth looking at are Life and pensions customer operations (LP1) and Financial services products and solutions (LP2). These are worth 15 and 20 credits respectively and are again level 3 exams that test using multiple choice questions.

LP1 isn’t a technical paper. Instead it focuses on the fair treatment of customers, effective communication and  teamwork. In contrast, LP2 looks at the basics of life and health insurance products, mortgages, the key asset classes and tax wrappers (investment bonds, ISAs and pensions). As this is level 3, these are all areas that are covered at a relatively basic level.  Both of these could be the easiest 35 credits you’ll ever get!

Details for LP1, for example, can be found here.

AF6 and J07

The final combination I’ll look at is AF6 (senior management and supervision) and J07 (supervision in a regulated environment). If your current or future role might involve managing people (which is what J07 is all about) or managing a regulated firm (that’s what AF6 is about), then this combination also has some overlap. Both might provide a welcome break from the ‘technical’ subjects. AF6 is worth 30 credits at Level 6 so it can count towards the four AF subjects that are required to get to Chartered.  J07 is worth another 20 credits. People sometimes think that J07 is just about regulation and training and competence; it’s not so don’t let that put you off particularly if you manage people.

Conclusion

We believe that the purpose of exams is to make people more knowledgeable and effective. Sensibly, people who are on the road to CII Chartered status would choose the exams that are most useful to both themselves, and their business. That said, it pays to know what your exam options are and how to use this knowledge to your benefit.

Remember, work smarter, not harder. Until the next time.

Ian Patterson

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

CII exams

CII exams: getting to Chartered

One of the questions that we frequently get asked is ‘which CII exams should I sit next?’. If you are on the road to chartered status, there are a wide range of options. This is a big area so in this article, I’ll look at some of the key options for the Certificate and Diploma CII exams that are worth considering.  I’ve looked at related areas in two other blogs:

CII exams: getting to CII Chartered status (part 2). To view it, click here

Which CII exam should I sit next? To view it, click here

CII Chartered requirements

To complete Chartered Status, the CII require a total of 290 exam credits. Assuming you’ve completed all of the R0 exams, that’s 100 credits out of the way. A further 120 credits must be AF subjects (including AF5 which is compulsory). This leaves a remaining 70 credits that can come from Diploma, Certificate or Advanced Diploma CII exams.

Click here for a link to the CII qualification guide.

Clusters of CII exams

What you’ll find is that most of the Advanced Diploma or AF exam subjects are based on the lower level Diploma exams. In other words, the technical content is Diploma but the use or application of this knowledge is a level 6 skill. In simple terms, view Diploma as being ‘what is it?’ and Advanced Diploma as being ‘how do I use it?’.

If you know the rules, this means that it is possible to ‘max out’ your credits and minimise your work. Here’s how.

AF1 – Personal tax and trust planning

Based on the CII AF1 syllabus, there are three underpinning Diploma subjects for this exam: R03, part of R05 and J02 (Trusts).

On successful completion of all these subjects, the credits are:

AF1 (30 credits at Advanced Diploma)

J02 (20 credits at Diploma level)

Total credits: 50. If you haven’t already got R03 or R05, then that’s an additional 20 credits.

Remember that J02, R03 and R05 are deemed to be the necessary underpinning knowledge for AF1 so if you need this knowledge anyway, why not also sit these CII exams (if you haven’t already) and potentially get up to 70 credits?

Sensibly, you’d sit these exams relatively close together to minimise your study and to ensure that you lose as little of your knowledge from your study as possible.

AF4 – Investment Planning

Likewise with AF4, there are underpinning Diploma subjects for this exam: R02 and J10 (Discretionary investment management)

On successful completion of all these subjects, the credits are:

AF4 (30 credits at Advanced Diploma)

J10  (20 credits at Diploma level)

Total credits: 50. If you haven’t already got R02, then that’s an additional 20 credits, making 70.

If you look at the syllabuses for R02 and J10 CII exams, you’ll find a significant degree of overlap. So if investments are your thing, why wouldn’t you ensure that you have credits for both of these?  For not too much extra study, you could get 40 credits between them.

Finally on the theme of investments, there is also J12 that looks at securities and dealing.  The content in these subjects could also be tested to some degree in AF4. So if you go the full monty and also sit this, there is a potential total of 90 credits for investment related subjects.

AF7 – Pension transfers

With AF7, the CII state that the two underpinning subjects are R02 and J05 (pension income options).

On successful completion of all these subjects, the credits are:

AF7 (20 credits at Advanced Diploma)

J05 (20 credits at Diploma level)

Total credits: 40. If you haven’t already got R02, then that’s an additional 20 credits, making 60.  If you want the qualification: ‘Certificate in Pension Transfer Advice’, you’ll also need R01 and R04. If you haven’t already got them because you started sitting CII exams more years ago than you care to remember, this is another 30 credits in addition.  Finally, AF8, or retirement income planning, is an Advanced Diploma subject that is tested using coursework and is worth another 30 credits. Pensions related subjects could potentially be worth a total of 120 credits.

If you want to know more about these AF exams and how to prepare for them, click here to access our FREE Exam preparation guides.

If you want to know how to fit your study in around your work and family commitments, click here.

Remember, work smarter, not harder. Until the next time

Ian Patterson

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

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