Tag Archives: AF4

AF4

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 second hardest CII AF exam. Of the four written ‘technical’ AF exams (AF1, 2, 4, 7), the pass rate for AF4 is just 49% (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 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 (October 2018 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, 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. In the October 2018 paper, only three instructions (or verbs) were used:

  1. List, state or identify. There were 7 questions (or part questions) totalling 24% of the marks. Typically, this type of question is only worth 3-6 marks.
  2. Comment, describe, or explain. There were a whopping 17 questions (or part questions) that used these verbs which amounted to 52% of the marks.
  3. Calculate. There were 7 questions (or part questions) totalling 24% of the marks.

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: Over half of this paper needed you to describe or explain. With this type of question, the examiner wants 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. 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
  • Passive investments, ETFs and benchmarks
  • CAPM, alpha and beta
  • Time value of money
  • Macro economics
  • Making client recommendations
  • Analysing company accounts
  • Investment advice
  • 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.

Unique study notes – 150 pages of what you need to know about AF4. Click here

Best wishes. Prepare well and past first time.

The Diploma Doctor

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, AF2, 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 isn’t 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 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, AF2, 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, AF2, 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.

The Diploma Doctor

AF8 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 two CII AF exam papers on the CII website:

Click here for AF1

Click here for AF4

Click here for AF7

To access the CII exam paper only for the last exam, click here

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

AF7 – further exam tips and analysis of the last AF7 paper

Tip 3 – AF exam revision 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 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 you 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 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.

If you really do believe that your knowledge is insufficient, try our study notes. These download in a couple of minutes and provide a synopsis of all of the important bits for either AF1 or AF4.

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.

The Diploma Doctor

CII Af exams

CII exam dates: 2019

Want to know when the CII AF exam dates are in 2019? What’s the last date for entering the exam without having to pay a late entry fee? Which is the the easiest exam – statistically? If you want the answers to these questions, then read on.

The CII 2019 exam dates

The CII written April AF exams are held between the 8th and 10th April. The specific times and dates for each exam are:

The CII April 2019 AF exam dates:

8th April 9.30 AF1.

9th April 9.30 AF4. 2.00 AF7.

10th April 9.30 AF2 and AF5.

The CII October 2019 AF exam dates:

7th October 9.30 AF1.

8th October 9.30 AF4. 2.00 AF7.

9th October 9.30 AF2 and AF5.

Late payment charge

An additional charge is payable if you register for an AF exam after the following dates. Changes after these dates are not generally allowed.

April exams: 27th February 2019

October exams: 28th August 2019

Written exams v 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. Avoid writing assignments during March when you will need to study for the written exam.

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 work-out 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 (current as at summer 2018 – the latest published figures at the time of writing):

AF1 – 49.10%

AF2 – 48.28%

AF4 – 48.96%

AF5 – 64.60%

AF6 – 60.00%

AF7 – 43.74%

AF8 – figures not available as this is a new exam

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

Want to know more?

CII exam handbook – click here

Free AF exam preparation guide. Click here

Blogs on choosing your AF exam. Click here

Prepare well and be successful.

The Diploma Doctor

cii chartered status

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 J11 (Wrap and platform services) and J12 (Securitised advice and dealing). Taken together, all of these are worth a whopping 110 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.

FA4, FA5 and/or FA6

Collective investment scheme administration (FA4), Individual savings account administration (FA5) and Investment client servicing (FA6) are all level 3 exams that are worth 10 credits. This means that they are each one hour exams that comprise of 50 multiple-choice questions. But this doesn’t mean that they can’t also be used to get credits towards Chartered and Fellowship.

In simple terms, the content of FA4 and FA5 overlaps with much of the content of R02. FA5 is the pick of the bunch as ISAs (and their various reincarnations) are central to the financial planning process for many advisers. The content of FA6 can also be found in J12, but at a lower level. So if you need an extra 10 credits or so, these would be worth considering.

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.  This could be the easiest 20 credits you’ll ever get!

Details of the syllabus for each 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 AF6), 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 all about training and competence; it’s not so don’t let that put you off!!

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.

The Diploma Doctor

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 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, 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 two underpinning Diploma subjects for this exam: R02 and J10 (Discretionary investment management)

On successful completion, 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, J12 looks at securities and dealing and J11 looks at wrap and platform services.  The content in these subjects could also be tested to some degree in AF4. So if you go the full monty, this is a potential total of 110 credits for investment related subjects.

And there other investment related options as well, but I’ll leave this for another time.

AF7 – Pension transfers

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

On successful completion, 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

Diploma Doctor

CII AF exams

CII AF exams: study options with four weeks to go

So your CII AF exams are in around four weeks’ time. The CII suggest 150 hours of study is required for the written AF exams (100 hours for AF7) and some people will have already have done this amount of work. For many others, the hard work is just about to start.  You’ll probably have done enough exams by now to know what works best for you. Whether you are a ‘steady studier’ or a last minute ‘crammer’, you’ll know the last four weeks are crucial.  In this article, I’ll share some ideas about your AF exam study options and how to make the best of the remaining time you have available.

I’ve not done a CII AF exam before – how does it differ from a CII R0 exam?

  1. The CII AF exams are written exams, not multiple choice exams. The opportunity to ‘rule out’ a few options doesn’t work with the AF exams.
  2. AF1, 2, and 4, although they are Advanced Diploma exams, are based on the knowledge from the Diploma exams. In theory, there should be nothing new they can throw at you.
  3. R0 Diploma exams are largely about recall of knowledge with some application.  CII AF exams are largely about applying your knowledge to the case study that is given in the exam. Rarely in an AF exam would you get a ‘list’ type question. For example, you are unlikely to get a question asking you to list 7 features of FAD but you may be asked why FAD might be a suitable option for a client. In this case, the details provided in the case study will make it clear that some features will be more useful to  the particular client than others.
  4. Being Advanced Diploma exams, AF subjects will typically test more complex areas of the subject so preparation really is the key.

What does each AF exam tend to focus on?

Ah, it would be great if only we could tell you this!  The Syllabi for AF subjects are very broad. The good news is that the examiners will test some core areas in most papers and throw in a few more peripheral areas so they cover the full syllabus over a period of time. If you’ve done little study so far, with four weeks to go, it’s time to make sure you are OK with the core areas.

So what are these core areas? We’ve looked at the past exam papers and identified what these are. These can be found towards the end of each of our FREE preparation guides. Click here to download our guide for each of the specific  AF1, AF2, AF4, AF5 and AF7 exams.

With 4 weeks to go, what should my study plan look like?

This is what we recommend. The focus should be very much on doing practice papers at this stage, practising your technique and making as many mistakes as you can. Make these before you go into your exam! Use Diploma study texts and Google to check technical areas that you are not comfortable with.

AF exam study options

There are a range of these to suit how you prefer to study. I’ll cover the main ones:

1. The CII exam package.

This is a bundle that includes the exam entry. Along with this, it also includes study texts (eBooks) and access to RevisionMate – the CII online learning support. This varies between subjects but also includes a case-study workbook and multiple-choice questions to test your knowledge. For example, AF1 includes the eBooks for R03, R05, and J02.

2. Use existing R0 Diploma study texts.

These are great for checking examples and technical aspects. If you are using a text which isn’t in the current tax year, you obviously need to ensure the tax rates etc are still current.  With four weeks to go, your time is probably better used on practice questions, rather than trying to read study texts from cover to cover.

3. Practice papers.

Back to RevisionMate. This package also now includes lots of Practice Papers which are close to exam standard and are based on the current tax year.

4. Audio MP3 material.

These are ideal for learning on the go and for making sure your knowledge of both the ‘core’ and the ‘peripheral’ syllabus areas is good. They are available for AF1, 4 and 7 and most include over 6 hours of material. It also includes comments from CII examiners on the all important exam technique you will need.  If you spend time travelling, running or in the gym, these are an ideal way of learning on the go and reminding yourself of the areas you need to know.  Click here for a sample and full details.

Prepare well and be successful first time.

Until the next time…

The Diploma Doctor

af-exam-study

AF exam study

Based on the CII’s published AF exam study pass rates, 50 to 60% of people who sit AF exams will fail. This is a pretty depressing statistic. It’s also something that is quite avoidable.

So as we watch the tennis, cricket and golf – and take in the sun – the hard truth is that it is also time to start studying for your AF exam in October.

The CII recommend 150 hours of study and for many people, this is not unreasonable. Part of the challenge with AF exams is that the syllabus areas are very broad.  This means that the day-job will only help you to a limited extent and there will be plenty of areas that most people will not have come across (or will be less familiar).

Here are three resources that will help you to prepare.

AF exam study preparation guide

We provide a free preparation guide to AF1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. This explains all about the exam, provides some tips on technique and how to study, and highlights areas that the respective exam seems to cover time and again. This is intended to help you go into your AF exam with your eyes open, and well prepared.

Click here to download

MP3 audio material – AF1, AF3 and AF4

We also believe that it isn’t just about how much study you do, but how effective it is.  As a result, we are the leading provider of MP3 audio material for the AF exams. These help you to revise and make use of your time when you are driving, or in the gym. This reinforces what you know, and helps you to identify and learn about what you don’t.

Updated versions of this will be available by mid-August. If you can’t wait, buy the current version and we’ll automatically send you the updated version at no extra cost. Click here for details.

Brainscape

This website is nothing to do with The Patterson Group – but we love it.  It’s an on-line version of that classic of all revision methods  – the flash card (or index card). The beauty of Brainscape is that you can make your own cards  electronically so they are on your iPad.  It also has a ‘mastery’ feature so once you are confident with a question and answer, it doesn’t come up so often so it forces you to focus on the bits you really struggle with.  It’s just great for ease of access and brilliant when you have a spare 10 minutes to revise. It’s also free when you register.

Click here for their website. If you then search for AF4, you’ll see that we’ve set up a set of AF exam study flash cards. This is our little gift to help you to pass your AF4 exam first time.

Good luck with your exams.

The Diploma Doctor

AF exam

Preparing for your CII AF exam

What do you need to know to pass a CII AF exam first time?

The CII AF exams deserve some respect. Let me give you two reasons why. Firstly, the pass rates for the key technical exams (AF1 through to AF4) vary between 40% and 49%. Secondly, you will be required to apply your knowledge to more complex planning scenarios. The AF exams often mirror familiar day-to-day planning scenarios but AF questions will often be towards the harder end of the spectrum. And, of course, you aren’t able to use Google. And you have to do all of this usually under the pressure of a 3 hour written exam.

Preparation is key

Anyone who has played sport to a decent level will know that preparation is key. You don’t just turn up at the football ground or golf club and hope that you will perform at your best. In fact, how you perform will probably be a direct result of  how much training or practice you have put in. Passing an AF exam is no different.

So how much time do I need to spend practicing? The CII recommend 150 hours for AF1, AF2, AF3, AF4 and AF5 exams. For AF7 – it’s 100 hours.

Having said this, we also live in the real world. Most of us recognise that you need to do more than attend a one day workshop and then sit the exam. When preparing for an AF exam, someone once asked me: “do I have to sacrifice my business or my family life?”. It might sometimes feel like this, but it doesn’t have to.

What do I need to do to be successful first time?

Success in any AF exam is about two things:

Knowledge + application = success

Firstly, you need to know enough about a subject. This is hopefully obvious. But if you are sitting AF4 – Investment Planning – chances are you will need to know about the time value of money, dividend yields and the different ways of measuring investment returns. If you are  a typical financial adviser or para-planner, you are just not going to come across this in your daily work. And I could give lot’s of example for the other subjects – the AF syllabus for each subject is broad and you will need to prepare for this.

If you speak to a CII examiner, they are all likely to say the same thing. People often have enough knowledge to pass but fail to use it properly. What they mean is people in the exam don’t link their answers to the information provided in the case study, or don’t go into enough depth with their answers. Part of anyone’s preparation MUST be about completing at least two past CII exam papers. It’s the only way you will be able to understand both the exam and what the examiners are looking for.

Working smarter, not harder

Most people will have to put in hours of study, but really it’s about being smart about it. No one has enough time. That’s what our preparation guides are all about. They don’t cover any technical content. Instead, they succinctly tell you in around 16 pages what you need to know to get through the exam first time. There are individual preparation guides for AF1, AF2, AF4, AF5 and AF7. They tell you what some of the study options are for each exam and set out a suggested revision timetable. They outline your revision options and they include an analysis of past exam papers for each subject to identify the recurring areas – and every exam has them – that get examined.

The preparation guides are available to you FREE. Just click here and register as a member.

I would say “good luck with your exam”. But as we all know the more you prepare, the luckier you get!

The Diploma Doctor

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