Tag Archives: AF5

CII exams

April 2018 CII AF5 exam

The fact find for the April 2018 CII AF5 exam are now available. If you have’t yet seen it yet, click here.

What do I do now?

You have from now until the exam at 9.30 on the 18th April to prepare. The fact find is issued in advance for a reason – to allow you to prepare. You will not know the actual questions you’ll face in the exam until the actual day but it makes sense to prepare for any eventuality before then.  This involves:

  1. Thoroughly familiarising yourself with the client details.
  2. Researching some of the potential technical areas that might be examined (based on the client’s circumstances in this exam).
  3. Practising CII AF5 exam style questions (if you are not already familiar with them). Click here to download the October AF5 past exam paper for FREE.

What areas should I focus on in the April 2018 CII AF5 exam?

The questions in the CII AF5 exam are based on the client’s financial objectives; both long term and short. You’ll be provided with these in the exam hall so to help you prepare, here are our thoughts as to what these might be:

Possible short term objectives:

  • Purchase a holiday home
  • David to make gifts to his daughter
  • Review the suitability of their investments
  • Review their wills
  • Regular gifts for grandchildren’s university education

Possible long term objectives:

  • Maximise tax efficiency – income tax and CGT – of their investments
  • Preserve their estate/minimise IHT
  • Income options from their PPP/ SIPP

AF5 exam: technical areas to study

Based on the client’s circumstances, we believe that you may be required in the April 2018 CII AF5 exam to have a knowledge of the following topics:

• The risks of purchasing a holiday home
• Benefits of using a financial adviser
• How David’s investment trust works, inc the tax position
• Investment bonds and chargeable events
• VCTs and EIS schemes
• Deferring state pensions (pre-6/4/16)
• Pension Protection Fund
• IHT planning, especially the treatment of PETS, gifts out of income, and how gifts impact on the RNRB
• Trusts: Immediate post death interest (IPDI), interest in possession, and discretionary

• Cash flow modelling
• How David and June can improve the tax efficiency of their investments
• Spousal by-pass trusts

How does the April 2018 AF5 exam compare with previous exams?

The honest answer is that we don’t know until the day of the exam. Overall, there seem likely to be some familiar themes that we’ve seen before. There may be some value in looking at past AF5 papers with similar financial objectives to see how they were examined. None of the ‘technical areas’ appear to be terribly demanding, especially for those who prepare well before the exam. The one certainty is that there are a lot of areas the examiners could include based on the client’s circumstances. As always, preparation is the key.

Remember that AF5 is not just about technical knowledge. You still need to be familiar with the types of question the examiners will ask and the type of answers they expect to see. If you want to see  how many marks the examiners typically award for the main types of questions and see our detailed tips on exam technique, download our FREE preparation guide here.  This gives you helpful information like there will always be the following three types of question in AF5:

  • a risk question, e.g. the risks associated with the purchase of a holiday home, or David’s investment trust
  • an additional information question – despite the fact find, you do not have all the information you would need to provide advice
  • a review question

It is easy to forget that this is a financial planning paper, so it won’t just be about technical aspects. Expect ‘additional information’ questions (which candidates tend to answer badly) and advantages/drawback questions. In this exam, there might also be a question on cash flow and, as  always in an AF5 exam, there will be ‘review’question asking you about what you would cover during during an annual review meeting with these clients.

As always, preparation is the key. Good luck.

The 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

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 37% and 63%. 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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