Tag Archives: AF7

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

AF 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 AF7 exam

CII AF7: Free preparation guide

If you are thinking of sitting the CII’s AF7 exam, then go into it with your eyes open. Based on the latest CII published results, this is the hardest AF exam to pass with a pass rate of just 44.23% (2018). If you expect to pass purely because you do transfers at work, clearly this isn’t enough for many people.

If you want to know about important dates, what’s been tested in the past, exam technique and what study options are available, click here for our FREE AF7 preparation guide.

You will also find preparation guides for AF1, 2, 4 and 5 on the same link.

The CII AF7 is a popular exam. Safeguarded benefits is a big area for many financial advisers and if you are involved in the transfer of safeguarded benefits in some way, then this might be the subject for you. It also satisfies the FCA additional exam requirement to advise on safeguarded benefits.

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. 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 30-35 marks each.

With a pass mark of around 60%, this means that you will normally need 60 marks to pass the exam.  The 60% pass mark applies to the exam overall so you could bomb on one case study and still pass if you get enough marks elsewhere.

What’s been tested in the past?

AF7 is a relatively new exam, launched in October 2017. Like any relatively new exam, it takes a few sittings to see what the examiners are choosing to focus on. The best way to spot these areas is to look at the past exam guides. Here are some key areas:

  • TPR and the transfer process
  • FCA regulatory requirements, e.g. APTA, COBS
  • DB schemes and CETV
  • Death benefits

The last two exam guides are now provided on the CII website. Click here for the link to the CII website. You should ensure you spend time studying these.

How much revision will I need?

The CII suggest around 100 hours of study for this exam. Whether you need this amount – more or less – will depend on your existing knowledge of the area. Even if you have good knowledge of transfers already, there are likely to be areas of the syllabus that you are NOT familiar with. And you will still need to practice that all important exam technique, if nothing else.

With the current low pass rate for AF7, one thing is clear – relying on just your day job is unlikely to prove successful. Don’t under-estimate this exam.

Do I need to read the CII AF7 study text from cover to cover?

Unless this is a brand new area for you, the answer will probably be ‘no’. For many people, just reading a study text is not likely to be an effective method of revision. You’re unlikely to remember much, especially if you just read without taking notes.

Most people sitting this exam will have some knowledge. Some will have quite extensive existing knowledge. So just use the study text as a reference source – focus on using past exam papers and top-up your knowledge by reading about the bits you are not familiar with.

Click here for a link to our exam technique.

Click here for more details about how you can learn on the go.

If you want to access our FREE preparation guides for other CII AF exams, they are available on our site for AF1, 2, 4 and 5. Just click here.

Prepare well and be successful.

The Diploma Doctor

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 CII’s April 2019 AF7 exam had 12 questions in total (which may 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 it?

The simple answer is ‘not very’. Based on the last published CII results (Summer 2018), the pass rate for AF7 is 44.23%. This makes it the second hardest AF exam subject. Forget about the fact it is only worth 20 credits – the majority of people currently 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 19/20 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.  If you don’t, you won’t score well.

What did the April 2017 AF7 exam test?

I’ll answer this question in two ways:

     1. The scope of the technical areas tested

The April 2019 exam is the fourth AF7 exam so the content in this is likely to be typical of what you might expect in future exams. Certainly, it has focused on the key areas involved in transfers. 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.

    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 April 2019 AF7 exam, the examiners’ used three types of instructions:

In the April 2019 exam, including part questions, there were 8 ‘state’ questions; 4 ‘outline’ questions and 5 ‘describe, evaluate or explain’ questions. No other instructions were used. It was the same with the October 2018 AF7 paper. Future exams could introduce different instructions but a pattern does appear to be developing.

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.
  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 learn around your work or family commitments. Click here for details.

Related blogs: AF7 study options. Click here

Prepare well and be successful.

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

AF8

CII AF8 – new syllabus released

On the 6th October 2017, the long awaited syllabus for the new AF8 Pension Planning exam was released.

It’s nearly a year ago since the CII announced that it was going to withdraw its hugely popular AF3 exam. One of it’s successors – AF7 – will be examined for the first time in October 2017.  In simple terms, AF7 picks up the DB transfers elements of the AF3 exam. If you would like to know more about AF7, click here.  For more information about our AF7 talking books, click here

So what about the accumulation and decumulation elements of the AF3 exam?  The release of the AF8 syllabus confirms what this subject will be picking up, and what it isn’t. And there are a few surprises in there!  First, I’ll take a quick look at how AF8 is assessed.

How will AF8 be examined?

The approach to assessing AF8 is different to most of the other CII AF exams.  Currently, most of these are assessed using a 3 hour written exam (apart from AF6).

Coursework assessment will require you to successfully complete three assignments over a 12 month period. The good news is that you can complete the work when you choose, research is allowed (so no more trying to remember information like revaluation rates), and technique (while you still have to understand the rules) is less likely to catch out candidates. If you don’t like exams, then this is manner from heaven!

On the other hand, candidates will have to be structured in how they plan and complete the assignments. Allowing for a re-sit, then the timescale then becomes 7-8 months – and not 12 months.  The rules on receiving assistance are tight. There is no more going on a course or asking a friend. Finally, the depth of your answer will have to be greater than the examiners would have accepted in a corresponding exam. This is NOT a soft option.

What about the syllabus?

Like any CII exam, it is based on the syllabus. If you haven’t seen this yet, then click here for the link.

When the CII announced the demise of AF3, the general feeling was that the AF3 content would be split between AF7 (Pension Transfers) with AF8 picking up the rest.  The syllabus shows that this isn’t fully the case. AF8 is migrating away from being a pensions exam, and towards pensions being a part of wider later life planning issues.

So the AF8 exam will look at pension decumulation issues. But it will also look at estate planning and ‘later life issues’. This also suggests ill-health and care scenarios (potentially). We’ll have to wait and see whether the exam will pick up much in the way of long term care planning but if nothing else, expect to find some scenarios where a client is in their 70’s in receipt of pension income, has suffered an illness or is in  ill-health and probably has alternative investment income that can utilise to meet their care costs.

It also looks as if this will be more of a ‘planning’ paper, rather than a ‘technical’ paper. If so, how will this be different? Well, a planning paper will have more ‘additional information’ (or fact find) questions, it will ask you to evaluate the client’s circumstances, and ask you to make recommendations and provide solutions and evaluate different options.

Perhaps the main surprise is about pension accumulation. The AF8 is focussed on those approaching retirement or in retirement. So pension accumulation is unlikely to play any major part in the AF8 exam (apart, perhaps, from people maximising their pension contributions prior to retirement. If so, this means that this important aspect of pension planning isn’t going to be directly tested at AF level anymore.  Interesting times….

Until the next blog

 

The Diploma Doctor

 

af-study-options

CII AF7 study options

Whether you have decided to sit the CII AF7 exam on Pension Transfers or you are just considering doing so, what are your AF7 study options?  If you are not sure what is available, here are some thoughts that should help you.

Should I bother buying the CII AF7 study text?

Slightly surprisingly, this is a question we are getting asked quite a lot. I say surprisingly because you will get the CII AF7 study text whether you like it or not when you enter the AF7 exam!  This represents a different approach by the CII. With the other financial services exams, you buy the exam entry and study text separately and so have the option of whether to buy it or not.  With AF7, the study text and exam entry are combined in a bundle that costs £271 for CII Members.

If I’ve already successfully completed AF3, will I still need to read the AF7 study text? 

So you will get the AF7 study text anyway. A closely related question is ‘should I read it?’ I think that the answer to this question will be ‘yes’ for most people sitting the AF7 exam. Anyone who has already seen the AF7 study text will know that you are not going to find the depth of AF7 content in any other CII study text.

As there is no study text for AF3, I’ll have to make a comparison with R04 as this is the primary text you would read in preparation for AF3. There are some similarities with parts of R04 – but there is a lot of new content. This extra depth (and how it is tested) is what sets AF7 apart from R04.

If you’ve passed AF3, then you have already passed an exam which includes content on pension transfers.  But this is only part of a much wider syllabus. Unless this is something you do day-in, day-out, you’ll probably find that you won’t have the breadth and depth of knowledge that is required to pass  the AF7 exam.

If you’ve passed G60 and you are considering sitting AF7, then most people will have some further study to do. Much has changed in the world of pensions since you sat this exam.

What other AF7 study options are available?

With this being a new exam, there are currently a limited number of other AF7 study options

I will declare that I have a vested interest here. We sell the AF7 audio talking books that provide over 3 1/2 hours of material and cost £58.33 (+VAT). These are great if you have some existing knowledge to build on and you can learn while on the go. If you do not have this knowledge, then I wouldn’t suggest that you rely solely on the audio material to get you through the exam. In this case, you have no other choice but to bite the bullet and study those elements of the study text that you are least familiar with.

Click here for details of our MP3 talking books.

There are also practice papers that you can purchase from other training providers. Search for ‘AF7 mock papers’ or something similar to find these.  Training providers are bound to develop other materials in due course.

Finally, don’t forget the FREE CII AF7 exemplar. This is a specimen exam paper and it should be compulsory revision for everyone who sits the AF7 exam. Click here for the link.

Best wishes for the exam
The Diploma Doctor

P.S. Many of our blogs are inspired form questions we get asked. If you have questions about the CII R0 and AF exams (not technical queries), tell us and we’ll do our best to answer you.

AF7 exam

The CII AF7 exam – how much overlap is there with AF3?

With two sittings remaining of the AF3 exam, a lot of people are asking us whether they should sit both the CII AF7 exam and AF3 in October 2017. In a similar vein, is AF3 really only AF7 plus a bit extra?

The deadline is looming to enter for the CII AF exams (without incurring an additional fee). It’s the 22nd September 2017 so the time will come shortly when you have to make a decision. Here are some of the things you should consider.

Is AF3 really only AF7 plus a little extra?

Not everyone will agree with me on this – but the answer is a ‘no’ from me. There is obviously some significant overlap between the two exams. The CII AF7 exam is about the transfer process and there will always be a transfer element to AF3. So there are some important similarities. And these don’t stop here. You can expect a healthy dose of death benefits under both subjects, LTA calculations, and the revaluation of preserved benefits. Other areas such as transitional protection are also likely to be similar. So there is, undeniably, significant overlap between AF7 and AF3.

But we believe it would be wrong to over-estimate this. The syllabus for AF3 is very broad and covers retirement planning in both the accumulation and decumulation phases. AF7 is unlikely to go into any depth on the accumulation aspects such as pension contributions, carry forward, salary sacrifice, tax planning aspects of pension contributions, Annual Allowance/MPAA, and national insurance. These could all be in AF3, but are unlikely to be in AF7.

Even where there is apparent overlap with some of the content, AF7 will examine it from the perspective of an early leaver whereas AF3 might not. A good example of this is with the retirement income options. The focus of the CII AF7 exam will be very much on the suitability of each option in the context of someone giving up their defined benefits.

Summary

There is overlap and some of this might be significant. But it is easy to understate the differences: AF3 is much more than AF7 plus a bit extra. There is perhaps a further clue in the number of credits that are available for each subject: the CII AF7 exam is worth 20 credits and AF3 is worth 30 credits.  As they say, ‘you don’t get something for nothing’.

Should I consider doing both AF7 and AF3?

If you are looking to get to Chartered as quickly as possible, the simple message is that AF7, AF3, R04, R08 and J05 are all subjects where there is a significant overlap in content. If you are sitting AF3, you will need the knowledge from each of these subjects to some degree. These five subjects are worth a total of 90 CII credits towards Chartered status. So if your aim is to reach Chartered as quickly as possible, why wouldn’t you want to ‘bundle’ these exams together and maximise the credits for the least amount of study?

You will need the knowledge to pass AF3 in October anyway so you might as well use it to get an additional 60 credits as well if you need them. However, you would be wise not to try sitting the written papers (AF3, AF7 and J05) all at the same time. So you will need a plan to sit these exams between the October 2017 and April 2018 exam sittings and in between.

Here’s a final word if you plan to sit AF3, AF7 and some of the other exams. You will need to plan this. Both AF3 and AF7 are scheduled on the 10th October. Doing both in the same exam sitting will mean you will have to sit 5 hours of exams in one day. This is a big ask. You might want to prioritise AF3 if for no other reason than there are only two exam sittings left.

If you want an effective way of learning AF3 and/or AF7 on the go, then click here

Best wishes

The Diploma Doctor

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