Tag Archives: cii af exams

CII AF exam

CII AF1 exam: what’s historically been tested?

If you are preparing for the CII’s AF1 exam, Personal Tax and Trust planning, here’s what you need to know about the exam and what has been tested in the past.

What does the AF1 exam look like?

The CII AF1 exam is 3 hours long written exam paper. It consists of 3 case studies – one worth 80 marks and two smaller ones that are worth around 40 marks each (the number of marks can vary slightly from one exam to another). The main case study will typically have 12-18 questions (or part questions) in total. The two smaller case studies typically have 8-10 questions (or part questions). Overall, the paper will have 160 marks and you will normally need around 88 marks to pass. This pass mark applies to the overall exam so you could bomb on one of the smaller case studies and still pass if you get enough marks elsewhere.

How easy is it?

The simple answer is ‘not very’. Based on the published CII results, the pass rate for AF1 is currently only 43% making it the hardest AF exam subject. Worryingly, the pass rate has dropped over 20% since 2018.

What is the CII AF1 exam all about?

Be warned. You may find that AF1 doesn’t closely resemble your day to day job – even if you regard yourself as a bit of a technician. Historically, AF1 papers are the one AF exam that will usually include calculations, for example on income tax, capital gains tax and IHT. They will also usually examine some of the more complex areas such as Business Relief or non-domiciled spouses in an IHT calculation. With income tax, calculations are likely to include higher and additional tax rates, various types of income and perhaps P11D benefits. Few people will cover this type of variety of scenarios based just on their work experience. The last two published exam papers can be found here – click on the ‘useful links and downloads’ section.

What historically gets tested in the CII’s AF1 exam?

Like many CII AF exams, if you look at enough exam papers over a long enough period, you’ll spot some common themes and trends. This is NOT the same as saying you can predict what will be in the AF1 exam you sit, but it can provide a useful focus when studying. An analysis of past AF1 exam papers shows that it is highly likely that you will be examined in the following areas:
  • Income tax calculations
  • CGT calculations
  • IHT calculations
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Taxation of investments, e.g. onshore investment bonds, REITS, VCTs and EISs
Areas frequently tested historically:
  • Bankruptcy
  • Trust taxation: income tax
  • Trust taxation: CGT
  • Trust taxation: IHT
  • Use of trusts
  • Wills, DoV, and intestacy
Other tested areas:
  • Role of trustee
  • Self assessment
  • Residence and domicile
  • NICs

How do I use this to prepare for the AF1 exam?

  1. Familiarising yourself with the CII’s AF1 exam should be a key element of your preparation. Don’t just read past exam papers, complete at least two of them UNDER EXAM CONDITIONS.
  2. With your revision, as a minimum, make sure you know your stuff on the key topics. You should aim to have a good overall knowledge across the syllabus – with around 6 hours of material, our  audio book will help you to learn around your work or family commitments.
  3. Be smart with your revision. Try using Brainscape electronic memory cards. Click here for details.
Related blogs: Top tips to pass an AF exam first time. Click here AF1 & the Trust Registration Service – and how it could be tested? Click here Prepare well and be successful. Ian Patterson Ex-examiner and author of the CF8, J07 and AF6 CII study texts

AF6, Senior Management and Supervision

AF6 is one of the two current coursework or 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 AF6?

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

Many people don’t like written exams so AF6 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.

What’s the difference between AF6 and J07?

The CII’s J07 (Supervision in a Regulated Environment) is for people who manage other people. This would include T&C supervisors, small business owners, and any team leaders or managers. It looks at generic topics such as leadership,  communication, employment law, and coaching skills, in addition to the FCA requirements such as SM&CR, Consumer Duty and T&C. Click here to see the full J07 syllabus which changed quite dramatically in summer 2022 when the syllabus was extensively updated.

AF6 is for people who manage a business (or part of a business), now or in the future. Topics include managing risk, the impact of business strategy on risk, governance and oversight, and how leadership impacts on a firm’s culture. Click here to see the full AF6 syllabus.

J07 provides some useful background to AF6 but there is limited overlap of the syllabi. The style of each exam is also completely different. Because of this, it is quite possible to sit AF6 before sitting J07, or without sitting J07.

How easy is AF6?

On the face of it, this is where there is some very welcome news. The current pass rate is a massive 97%.  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 drop out and don’t finish. In practice, the percentage of people that pass AF6 will be much lower compared to those that started it. 

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 is also limited study support available from commercial providers. The CII provide materials (as we’ll see below) but most other training providers don’t feel able to provide support for this exam due to potential difficulties with plagiarism. The assignments you complete have to be your own work without assistance. In other words, there is very limited scope to support you when you complete specific assignments and 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 AF6. The generic support provided in this blog is as far as we go. We’d love you to pass and we’re here to help as much as possible with this and your other CII exams.

AF6: 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 63 days to mark and return it (63 days x 3 = 189 days = half of the 12 month period). 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. As a minimum, the CII website says that you now have to submit assignments after 3, 6 and 9 months as shown in your assignment documentation.
  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.
  3. Read the AF6 study text one assignment at a time. Assignment 1 is historically based on chapters 1 2, 3 and 4; assignment 2 is typically based on chapter 5 and assignment 3 is usually based on chapter 6. Note that the syllabus and study text changed significantly in 2023 and this might change going forward. Doing this means that you can read the text focusing on the most relevant bits for the particular assignment you have. If you have limited knowledge of FCA regulation, then read chapter 1 before you start to provide an overview.
  4. Know how the assignments are marked. These are set out in the CII Exemplar and this is essential reading. It is the best way of understanding what your assignments should look like. 30% of the marks are based on your knowledge of the subject, 50% on analysis and application of knowledge; 15% is on structure, and 5% is for demonstrating wider reading. When you receive your assignments, you will also receive a link to a ‘walkthrough‘. This takes the assignment wording and explains different elements of it explaining what the examiners’ are looking for. Given the otherwise limited assignment-specific support you will receive, pay close attention to this.
  5. Show your analysis. Half the marks in AF6 are awarded for analysing and applying knowledge. This means that you must link your knowledge to scenario you are given. The study text frequently shows the benefits and drawbacks of something and adopting a similar approach in your assignment is a good way of demonstrating analysis.
  6. Structure your assignment as a formal report. The AF6 assignments often ask you to write a ‘formal’ report. So do just that. Consider using an executive summary, introduction, content and conclusion. Often, the examiners set out 3-4 areas in the assignment they’d like you to consider in your report so use these as a framework to structure the content of your answer.
  7. Demonstrate your wider reading. Make sure that you show lots of citations and wider reading and nine or more relevant examples. Quoting material from the AF6 study text is unlikely to impress the examiners but do use the weblinks provided in the text or from your own research.
  8. Complete the easiest assignment first. Of course, what one person thinks is the easiest assignment will probably differ to another person! The point is that just because the assignments are numbered 1, 2 and 3 does not mean that they have to be submitted in order. If this is your first experience of coursework, it makes absolute sense to start with the assignment you feel most comfortable with.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 8 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 AF6 or copying material without referencing it may fall foul of this. The CII do use plagiarism software. 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…

Ian Patterson

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

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, 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’s not 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 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, 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, 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.

Ian Patterson

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

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

On successful completion of all these subjects, 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, there is also J12 that looks at securities and dealing.  The content in these subjects could also be tested to some degree in AF4. So if you go the full monty and also sit this, there is a potential total of 90 credits for investment related subjects.

AF7 – Pension transfers

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

On successful completion of all these subjects, 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

Ian Patterson

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