Tag Archives: AF8

cii af exam results

CII AF exam results

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.

We haven’t included any comment on AF2 as it is being withdrawn in 2021.

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 is only worth 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, AF8 and IFP (Inclusive Financial Planning). 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?

Here are the results for 2020 (the latest available):

AF1 – 44%  (minus 5% on the previous period)

AF4 – 55%  (plus 6% on the previous period)

AF5 – 72% (plus 15% on the previous period)

AF6 – 98.8% (plus 2.8% on the previous period)

AF7 – 43% (no change on the previous period)

AF8 – 71.5% (minus 4.5% on the previous period)

IFP – as this option is currently a pilot, pass rates are not published

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 the hardest AF exam. Likewise, 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.

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 second 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 but there was a pleasing improvement in results over the last year. This hopefully means that more people are going into this exam with their eyes open. 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 should 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

AF8 exam

AF8, Retirement Income Planning

AF8 is one of the two current assignment-based advanced diploma exams offered by the CII. This style of exam offers a very different challenge to the traditional variations on a written exam that are used to test the other CII AF exams. I’ll look at some essential background and then give you our top 10 tips to help you prepare for this exam.

Who should consider AF8?

The glib answer is any CII member who wants 30 credits towards achieving Chartered status.

AF8 is ideal if the stress of a written exam is not your thing. You have 12 months to complete the three assignments that you submit online – so you never need to go anywhere near an exam hall.

Please don’t regard AF8 as an ‘easy option’, it isn’t. Unless you’ve already completed AF6, it is a very different experience.

What’s AF8 all about?

The title of AF8 is Retirement Income Planning. So the first point to make is that there is likely to be limited content about the pensions accumulation phase – primarily it’s about decumulation. For example, you shouldn’t need to know too much about pension input periods. On the other hand, lifetime allowance, transitional protections and the various flexible pension benefits are all fair play.

It’s also important to realise that AF8 ISN’T just about pension planning. If you look at the AF8 syllabus, there are four elements and only one directly relates to pensions. The other three areas are:

  1. Estate planning and later life issues
  2. Financial planning tools such as cash flow planning, asset allocation and risk profiling
  3. Client objectives, income and expenditure, assets and liabilities, and tax planning

As a result, some people see AF8 as a later life exam, not a pensions exam.

How easy is AF8?

This is where there is some welcome news. The current pass rate is a relatively high 71.5%. Compare this to AF1, the hardest AF exam, with a pass rate of 44%. But remember, this pass rate is based on the percentage of people that FINISH and submit all three assignments – it does NOT include those people who fail to finish. In practice, the percentage of people that pass AF8 will be much lower compared to those that started it. 

You will receive three assignments and all three AF8 assignments need a mark of 50% or more to pass.

A word of caution

The most common question we get asked is ‘what is the best AF exam to sit?’. Our answer is always this: don’t sit an exam just because it has a high pass rate. Sit exams that are most relevant to you and your business. There should be more to sitting exams than just the credits at the end.

There is also limited study support available from commercial providers. The CII provide materials (as we’ll see below) but other training providers aren’t able to provide you with direct support on the specific assignments you are given. The assignments you complete have to be your own work without assistance. In other words, any other support is likely to only be generic. This can feel a little uncomfortable for some people. Click here to watch the CII video on what is plagiarism.

Because of this, The Patterson Group does not provide individual support for AF8. The generic support provided in this blog is as far as we go. We want you to pass and we’re here to help as much as possible – with this and your other CII exams.

AF8: top 10 tips

Here are our top ten tips:

  1. Start early. With 12 months to complete three 2,500 word assignments, it sounds like a breeze. This isn’t the case because once you’ve submitted your assignment, the CII could take up to 40 days to mark and return it (40 days x 3 = 120 days = 1/3rd of a year). Sensibly, you wouldn’t submit your second assignment until you have received the result from the first assignment. This means that you need to start quickly and be structured in how you approach these assignments.
  2. Finish early. The 12 month timescale starts when you enter the exam and finishes once you’ve passed your final assignment. If you submit assignment 3 after 11 1/2 months and don’t pass, you have no time to re-submit and will fail. All three assignments need to be passed within 12 months so submit assignment 3 by month 10 to be on the safe side. In our experience, many people who sit AF8 will need to resubmit one or more of their assignments so build in time to do so.
  3. Know how the assignments are marked. These are set out in the CII Coursework Guidelines  on page 5 and this is essential reading. 30% of the marks are based on your knowledge of the subject, 60% on analysis and application of knowledge; 5% is on structure, and 5% is for demonstrating wider reading and using examples.
  4. Show your analysis. Over half the marks in AF8 are awarded for analysing and applying knowledge. This means that you must link your knowledge to scenario you are given. Showing the benefits and drawbacks of something is a good way of demonstrating analysis.
  5. Read the assignment closely. If the assignment asks you to assess or evaluate, this is the part of the advice process between the fact find meeting and going back with your recommendations. So what has the client got, what haven’t they got, and what is the shortfall? Don’t go into making recommendations as you haven’t been asked to and you won’t get marks if you do. It is easy to write a wonderful assignment – but not the one the examiners’ asked for.
  6. Link your answers back to the client(s). Remember that 60% of the marks are given for your analysis and applying your knowledge. You won’t pass unless you use the information provided in the fact find document. Read the assignment and then read the fact find and ask yourself ‘how can I use this information?’. It’s been provided for a reason so don’t just give generic answers. Provide solutions to their problems.
  7. Demonstrate your wider reading. Make sure that you show lots of citations and wider reading – nine or more relevant examples. Quoting material from the AF8 study text is unlikely to impress the examiners but do use weblinks – either those provided in the text or from your own research.
  8. Use the CII specimen assignments.  These are a must. If you’ve not experienced CII assignment-based exams before (or even if you have), these provide great examples of what to do, and what not to. These are the best way of understanding what your assignments should look like.
  9. Use your word count + 10%. Each assignment will state a maximum number of words but you are allowed to go 10% over without being penalised. Make sure you do. If your word count for an assignment is only 1,400 words when the max is 2,500, you are unlikely to pass.
  10. Don’t cheat. This sound pretty obvious but you need to be clear how the CII define plagiarism. Page 7 of the CII Coursework Guidelines says: ‘Writing of assignment responses must be done individually without collaboration of any kind.’ Exchanging notes with other people sitting AF8 or copying material without referencing it may fall foul of this. Next time you get a CII magazine, notice how many people have been disciplined for plagiarism across the range of CII exams – they can and do catch people out.

We hope you find this useful. If you want to know more about our range of study support when you sit other CII AF and R0 exams, click here.

Until the next time…

The Diploma Doctor

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