Tag Archives: cii AF3


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


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.


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