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af7 exam

Spotlight on the AF7 exam

If you are preparing for the CII’s AF7 exam, here’s what you need to know about the exam.

What does the AF7 exam look like?

The AF7 exam is 2 hours long. It consists of 3 or 4 short answer questions and then two additional case studies. These both have three to four questions making 9-12 questions in total. The exam typically have 12 questions in total (although this could vary between papers). Overall, the paper will have 100 marks with the short answer questions accounting for around 30 to 35 of the marks, and the case study questions accounting for 30-36 marks each.

You will normally need 60 marks to pass the exam.  The 60% pass mark applies to the overall exam so you could bomb on one case study and still pass if you get the marks elsewhere.

How easy is AF7?

The simple answer is ‘not very’. Based on the last published CII results, the pass rate for AF7 is a historically high 56%. Historically, this has been the hardest AF exam subject. Forget about the fact it is only worth 20 credits – the majority of people historically fail this exam.

Why short answer questions and case studies?

In simple terms, the short answer questions will test your knowledge across the syllabus, and each case study will require you to apply your knowledge to the client scenario that is provided in the case study.  In simple terms, it’s regurgitation v application.

Click here to access the CII AF7 22/23 syllabus.

Example 1

State the key documents that an adviser must keep on file having given advice to a client on a pension transfer from a DB scheme.

This is regurgitation because this is generic knowledge that applies to any client in this position. If you know your AF7 material, you should be able to answer this whilst you are reading this. You’ll either know it, or not.

Example 2

Outline the factors you would need to take into account before advising the client to transfer her deferred benefits in order to meet her financial objectives.

This is a bit harder isn’t it? That’s because you’d need to know about the client’s circumstances before you could answer it. The question or case study will provide this information – your job is to spot this and make sure you use the information you have been given to answer the question  If you don’t, you won’t score well.

What does the AF7 exam test?

I’ll answer this question by analysing in detail the April 2019 exam paper. This was a typical paper. I’ll look at it in terms of what it tested – the technical content – and how it tested it – the style of question:

     1. The scope of the technical areas tested

The May 2022 exam is likely to be typical of what you might expect in future AF7 exams.  The marks are also pretty balanced across each of the topics so you will need to know your stuff across key elements of the syllabus. Here’s the areas that were examined and the available marks:

Statutory pension transfer process: 12 marks

Assessing the security of an underfunded deferred pension: 8 marks

Transitional protections: 5 marks

CETV: 7 marks

Additional information: 8 + 7 marks

Cashflow/ stress tests: 6 marks

Class 3 NICs: 6 marks

Lifetime annuities: 8 marks

Benefits of transferring DB to personal pension: 10 marks

Death benefits: 4 + 7 marks

Actions to meet clent objectives: 4 + 4 marks

Sustainability of fexible withdrawals: 7 marks

    2. The instruction in the question

Each question in AF7 will use a verb.  Examiners like to describe these as ‘instructions’ because they tell the candidate what they want you to do. If you look at the verb and the number of marks for each question, this should give you a pretty good idea how much depth to go into when answering it.

In the May 2022 AF7 exam, the examiners’ used three types of instructions:

In this exam, including part questions, there were 4 ‘state’ questions; 3 ‘outline’ questions and 6 ‘describe, evaluate or explain’ questions. Future exams could use different instructions but this exam reflects the typical pattern used in AF7. Ensure you are comortable with these different questions and how to answer them.

How do I use this to prepare of the AF7 exam?

  1. Familiarising yourself with the AF7 exam should be a key element of your preparation. Don’t just read past exam papers, complete them UNDER EXAM CONDITIONS.
  2. There are key topics that most (if not all AF7 exams) will cover. Make sure you know know your stuff on these. The analysis above is intended to help you with ths.
  3. Section 1 of the exam will cover a range of technical areas across the syllabus so make sure you have broad knowledge. Try our MP3 audio – nearly 4 hours of material that will help you to fit your learning in around your work or family commitments. Click here for details.

Related blogs: AF7 study options. Click here

Prepare well and be successful.

Ian Patterson

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