Tag Archives: CII

Crack the Code to R06 July 2023 Success!

The case studies that will be tested in the July 2023 sitting of R06 are now available. If you haven’t seen these yet, you can download them here.

Case study is downloaded, but what do I do now?

You now have until now until Tuesday 4th July to prepare for the exam. The case studies are issued in advance of the exam for a reason – to help you prepare for the exam. This will test across a range of different aspects of financial planning that are based on two client case studies. As you will not know the actual questions you will face in the R06 exam until the day, it makes sense to prepare for any eventuality before then.

With around two weeks until the exam, you may think reading the case studies are your last chance but our audio material is over four hours long and covers all aspects of planning covered within the R06 exam. For more information or to download the audio material, click here.

What areas should I focus on in the CII R06 July 2023 exam?

Based on the case studies, we believe that you may be required in the R06 July 2023 exam to have a knowledge of the following topics:

Case Study One: Declan and Carmen
  • Further information you would need from Declan and Carmen to provide financial advice regarding income throughout retirement.
  • Advantages and disadvantages of Discretionary Trusts.
  • Recommend and justify the appropriateness of a Discretionary Trust.
  • The role of Trustees.
  • Benefits of cash-flow forecasting.
  • Information related to the Trust Registration Service.
  • EIS.
  • Holdover Relief.
Case Study Two: Sam and Kerry
  • Describing what Salary Sacrifice is.
  • Advantages and disadvantages of Salary Sacrifice.
  • Comment on current protection arrangements.
  • Positive and negatives in relation to ESG investing.
  • Describe positive and negative screening.
  • SRI.
  • Guardianship.
  • Lifetime ISAs.
  • Comment on current protection arrangement.
How does the CII R06 July 2023 exam compare with previous exams?

I have to say, there are some familiar themes. Case study one is a couple in retirement, with an objective to ensure sufficient income throughout retirement, which is nothing new. However, something that is slightly different is that both Declan and Carmen are over State pension age and already in receipt of pension income, so it’s difficult to see how the examiners may test any areas surrounding pensions. From the information already provided in case study one, I’d expect Discretionary Trusts to be tested and potentially Holdover Relief, given these are two technical areas that would link in well with the information provided in the case study.

In terms of case study two, there is a huge emphasis on protection, which again is nothing particularly new for R06. Also within the case study, there is clearly a protection shortfall for Mr and Mrs, including an over-reliance on death-in-service benefits. From technical areas within case study two, Salary Sacrifice seems the obvious one that jumps out, in addition to a clear signal towards ESG investing (covered in detail on page 3/21 of your R06 study text!). A potential outlier that may be tested from case study two is guardianship; Sam and Kelly have three young children and we know Wills are up-to-date, but there is no mention of guardianship?

What do I need to do to pass the CII July 2023 R06 exam?
  • Familiarise yourself with the clients’ circumstances, right down to remembering the names! Although the case studies that you will have in the exam are identical to what you have already, you should know their circumstances well. You should also be able to apply your knowledge to their circumstances – generic answers will not score well.
  • Revise and read around the technical aspects. Google is a good place to start or use the CII R06 study text.
  • Be familiar with the technique and style of answers the CII will want. This is NOT just about applying your day job to an exam paper. 
  • Be sure to check out our FREE downloadable podcasts here.

Best of luck with the exam!

Sam Patterson

AF1 & the Trust Registration Service – how could it be tested?

Are you planning on sitting an upcoming CII AF1 exam? If so, I’d look to brush up on your knowledge relating to the Trust Registration Service. But don’t bother looking in any of the CII study texts…

Despite being tested in both the September 2022 and February 2023 AF1 exam papers, the Trust Registration Service is unfortunately not covered in any real detail in either the AF1 or J02 study texts.

However, given its prevalence in the industry, I can understand why it is featuring in the AF1 Tax and Trusts exam (and it is covered by the syllabus of the AF1 exam!). So I wanted to produce an article to concentrate on three main areas:

  • provide a background to the Trust Registration Service.
  • cover how it was tested in the last two AF1 exams.
  • possible future ways it may be tested in upcoming exams.

Should you wish for a further AF1 revision aid that allows you to learn on the move, click here to download over 6 hours of audio material covering all things AF1!

A background to the Trust Registration Service

The Trust Registration Service is basically the government’s way of keeping track of all of the trusts in the UK. The service itself is managed by HMRC and it records all of the information of trusts and the individual’s associated with the trusts, including settlors, trustees, beneficiaries and any other key connected parties.

Trusts that were in existence on or after 6 October 2020 had to have been registered by 1 September 2022, with any trusts created now needing to be registered within 90 days of creation. In addition to this, any changes to trust details or circumstances must also be logged with the Trust Registration Service within 90 days of the change.

How’s it been tested previously in AF1 exams?

For the September 2022 AF1 exam, there was a five mark question testing knowledge surrounding who was responsible for registering a Discretionary Will Trust and by when? On this occasion, there was a mark available for the following points:

  • Trustees must register the trust with the Trust Registration Service..
  • ..within two years after the date of death..
  • ..if the trust still exists and has not been wound up..
  • ..or earlier if the trust accepts additional assets..
  • .. or if it becomes a taxable trust.
  • The Will Trust is excluded from registration for a period of 2 years from the date of death.

For the February 2023 AF1 exam, there was also a five mark question testing knowledge surrounding who was responsible for registering a Discretionary Trust and the penalties for failing to register the trust in time. For this question, the marks were allocated for the following answers:

  • Trustees must register the trust within 90 days..
  • ..of the date it was created.
  • A penalty of £5,000 may be payable for failure to register a trust on time..
  • .. although there is no penalty for first offence/late registration..
  • .. unless trustees deliberately fail to register.
What areas relating to the Trust Registration Service haven’t been tested?

It’s important to state at this stage that I have no knowledge of whether the Trust Registration Service will be tested again in an AF1 exam paper, especially given the deadline to register all existing trusts (and no doubt was a headache to the majority of people in the industry!) passed in September 2022.

However, looking at the two ways the Trust Registration Service has been tested previously, it can become clear that a few topics related to the Trust Registration Service haven’t been tested in an AF1 paper yet. These are:

What types of trusts are exempt from registration?

  • Trusts with a perceived low risk of money laundering are excluded..
  • .. which would include registered pension schemes..
  • .. charities..
  • .. trusts established by statute (for example intestacy).
  • For a full list of other trusts exempt, please click here.

What trust information does a trustee need to register a trust?

  • Name of the trust
  • Date the trust was created
  • To say if the trust is an express or not
  • Details about if a non-UK trust has a business relationship with the UK
  • Details about any UK land or property the trust has purchased.

What personal information does a trustee need to provide when registering a trust?

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • National Insurance number
  • Address
  • Telephone number
  • Country of residence
  • Country of nationality

Any of the above would need to be incorporated into the case studies of the relevant AF1 exam, however, it would seem that these are areas related to the Trust Registration Service that has not yet been tested.

I hope you’ve found this article useful and good luck with your AF1 exam preparation!

Sam Patterson


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

R06 July 2023

CII AF1 exam: how to pass it

So you want to pass the CII’s AF1 exam first time? The good news is that this is a very doable AF exam as long as you prepare in the right way. And the stats bear this out – of the three ‘technical’ AF exams (AF1, 4, 7), AF1 is the hardest with a pass rate of just 43% (the latest published results).

To see the full pass rates and how these have changed over the years, go to this page.

What can we learn from past AF1 exam papers?

We all know that working through past exam papers is one of the best ways to prepare for the CII’s AF1 exam.

Tip: Don’t just skim through them, start off with a blank sheet of paper and complete at least two of them under exam conditions.

Tip: Start this process towards the beginning of your study, not at the end. Learn about the technical aspects and also about how the examiners’ expect you to set your answers and apply your knowledge. Sure, you’ll make lots of mistakes but view this as a way of learning, not to assess whether you are ready for the exam or not.

What technical areas are covered?

The really useful bit is that the AF1 exam does tend to cover similar areas from one exam to another, but not always. If we look at an example AF1 exam paper (April 2022), each of the three main personal taxes were covered (this is typical). In this paper, the marks were split between them approximately:

  1. Income tax (around 31%). This is higher than usual 25-28%.
  2. CGT (around 14%). This is slightly lower than the typical 20%.
  3. IHT (7.5%). Typically, this would be around 15-20% of the marks. 

Note that this balance will vary between exams – as the last exam shows. Typically, these three areas are worth around 2/3rds of the total 160 marks available.

Around 26% of the marks were awarded in this exam for undertaking a calculation. This around the average of 20-25% of the total marks. You can normally expect at least one calculation question for each tax

Tip: To be successful with AF1, you’ll need to be comfortable with undertaking calculations, so practice doing these before the exam for the 3 key personal taxes. In particular, make sure you are comfortable with undertaking an income tax calculation which includes things like the treatment of a VCT, benefits in kind, and pension contributions.

Tip: Whenever you undertake a calculation in an AF1 exam, marks are awarded for demonstrating the correct process. So make sure that your calculation is laid out clearly. One way of doing this is to ‘label’ each step of the process. Believe it or not, you can get most of the marks in a calculation question if you do this even if you get the answer wrong.

AF1 exam: question types

I’ll mention the types of question that are used in AF1. In the April 2022 paper, the following instructions (or verbs) were used:

  1. List or state. There were two questions that used these totalling just 4% of the marks.
  2. Detail/describe/explain/outline. There were a whopping 20 questions (or part questions) that used these verbs which amounted to 69% of the marks.
  3. Calculate. 26% of the marks.
  4. Benefits (0 marks) and factors (0 marks). These were not used in this paper but they are used from time to time.

Note: The balance of these ‘instructions’ was broadly similar with previous recent exams.

Tip: In the AF1 exam, the instruction is the examiner telling you what to do. List or state does not need any amplification; a couple of words or short sentence will be fine.

Tip: Over two-thirds of this paper needed you to describe or explain. With this type of question, the examiner wants you to show what you know, and link this back to the information you have been given. A one or two word answer will not be enough to score well.

AF1: the technical knowledge you will need

Past performance isn’t a guide to future performance. We know this just like we know that a technical exam like AF1 will test across the broad syllabus. Although some of the broad areas that will be tested can be predicted in advance, they will also test some more peripheral areas of the syllabus.

So in addition to the 3 personal taxes, these areas have also historically been frequently tested in AF1:

  • Trust taxation: income tax, CGT and IHT
  • Bankruptcy
  • Taxation of investments – both direct and indirect, e.g. EIS and VCTs
  • Use of trusts / role of trustees
  • Wills / intestacy
  • Powers of attorney / LPA

Getting to the point where you can pass

You know that you are going to have to put in some hard yards with AF1. The CII suggest 150 hours of study is required and unfortunately, many people will need approaching this amount of study. Which begs the question, what will this look like? These are all areas that I’ve looked at in other blogs so click onto them if these are of interest:

For study tips, click here

If you think that your revision technique can be improved, click here for our dedicated exam technique and revision hub.

Learn on the go. Our unique audio material gives you 6 hours of AF1 content that helps you to fit your learning in around the rest of your life. Click here for details.

Best wishes. Prepare well and past first time.

Ian Patterson

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

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

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

CII AF exam

Which CII AF Exam should I sit next?

One of the questions that we frequently get asked is ‘which CII AF exam should I sit next?’. Oh, if only there was a simple answer!

We believe that the purpose of exams is to make people more knowledgeable so sensibly, people would choose the AF exam that is most useful to both themselves, and their business. The road to chartered is a long journey and that also means that many people want to select the subjects that help them to shorten this journey.

This is a big subject area so, in this blog, I’ll consider some of the main CII AF exam options.  In two subsequent blogs, I’ll look at the options for the Certificate and Diploma subjects that are worth considering:

CII exams: getting to Chartered. To view it, click here

CII exams: getting to CII Chartered status (part 2). To view it, click here

CII Chartered requirements

To complete Chartered Status, the CII require a total of 290 exam credits. 120 of these must be from AF subjects which means that a minimum of four 30 credit Advanced Diploma subjects will have to be completed (if you don’t have existing credits from the previous AFPC or earlier exams). This must include AF5, as it is compulsory. The remaining credits can come from other Diploma or certificate level exams.

Click here for a link to the CII qualification guide.

Remember that there are two exam sittings per year of the written AF exams: in April and October. Coursework-based exams can be entered when you like during the year and you will then have 12 months to complete them.

CII AF exam options

You need at least four AF exams, but which ones are best for you?  There’s the usual caveat about prioritising the ones that are most relevant to your work – and this might make your choice obvious.  If not, here are the key questions to consider:

Do you prefer coursework, rather than exams?

If so, you have two choices: Senior management and supervision (AF6) and  Retirement income planning (AF8).

AF6 is aimed at people who run a regulated firm (or might do so in the future). With AF8, it might be called ‘Retirement income planning’ but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it’s all about pensions. It’s more of a later life planning module that includes at-retirement pension options, tax and estate planning, and potentially care planning.

How much of a hurry are you in?

The benefit of doing coursework is that you will have a year to complete it. With some sensible planning, this shouldn’t prevent you from also sitting two or more written AF exams. With 3 exam sittings, this opens up a chance of you getting 4 x 30 exam credits within a year (three exam-based exams and one assignment-based exam).  We never recommend trying to sit two written AF exams at the same sitting – this usually ends in tears. But completing a coursework option as well as a written AF exam is possible with hard work.

What is the easiest CII AF exam (in terms of pass rate)?

If this is how you want to select your AF exams, then the current traditional exam-based CII AF subjects can be ranked as follows (easiest first): AF5 (Financial planning process), AF7 (Pension transfers), AF4 (Investment planning), AF1 (Personal tax and trust planning). This is based on the latest published results. Please note that AF7 has traditionally been one of the harder exams and may be again in the future.

The pass rates for AF6 and AF8 tend to be higher (much so in the case of AF6). These appear artificially high as anyone who drops out once they have started is regarded as being ‘timed out’ rather than failing the subject.  In other words, the pass rates are based on those that complete their 3 assignments. The assignments are not as easy as these pass marks might suggest.

Click here and scroll down to see the actual pass rates.

Is there an order you would recommend sitting the AF exams?

Yes. AF1 is the CII AF exam that underpins most of the other AF written exams so we believe this is a good subject to start with – even if it is the hardest AF exam. With suitable preparation, it’s also possible to prepare for the four key areas it covers and give you a decent chance of being successful.

Also, look to sit AF5 as soon as you can. It is examined 3 times a year and, because it’s based on a fact find that is issued 2 weeks before the exam, there isn’t too much preparation you are able to do before this 2 week period. It’s also a test of your financial planning skills so the depth of technical knowledge needed usually isn’t that great. What technical knowledge that is required can be mostly be identified from the client scenario that is provided.

Where do I get more information about these CII AF exams?

The CII website (using the earlier link) is a good place to start. We produce free ‘preparation guides’ for AF1, 4, 5 and 7 which set out your study options, how to study, and the common areas that are tested in each exam.  Click here to access them.


Until the next time,

Ian Patterson

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

time management

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, 4, 5 and 7, although they are Advanced Diploma exams, are largely 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. In AF exams, questions that ask you to ‘list’ or ‘state’ information are not very common (except in AF4). 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 Syllabus for each AF subject 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, 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 ‘enrolment’ 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. For example, the ‘enrolment only’ AF1 package from the CII include the eBooks for R03, R05, and J02, a case study workbook and your exam entry.

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 the CII website. The site includes the full exam guides for the last two published AF exams (AF5 also has additional practice papers) which can all be downloaded for free. Being past exam papers, these are the closest you’ll get to finding out what standard the exam will require.

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…

Ian Patterson

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


CII AF exams: Top 10 tips to pass first time

For many people who are on the ‘road to chartered’ status, the hard work preparing for AF exams starts 4-6 weeks out from the written exam.  The CII suggests 150 hours of study for each AF exam, and, if you look at the stats, either people don’t do this amount of work or they do but it’s not effective.  With a pass rate of between of only 43% for some written AF exams, some people who sit these exams can clearly be more effective with their study. This post aims to highlight how to pass your CII AF exam first time.

So what does working smarter and working harder look like? Here are our top ten tips:

  1. Start early. Few people go into the exam over-prepared. You’ll have done enough exams by now to know how you work best – a steady long term revision plan or a last minute cram!  But don’t forget, the CII recommend at least 150 hours of study for a written AF exam (AF7 is 100 hours).  Unless the exam you are sitting is ‘your subject’, most people will need something approaching this amount of time.
  2. Make a plan. Over a 6 week period, this 150 hours amounts to about 25 hours per week. This will need to be planned and structured in around your other commitments. However desperate you are to the pass the exam, get your life/work/study balance right and allow time for family and downtime.
  3. Build in treats/rewards. Some people like revision; most don’t so make sure you reward your commitment to the cause.
  4. Know yourself. Identify where your technical knowledge is both weak and strong. Focus your revision in the areas you are weakest. How do you know?  Complete a practice question at the start of your revision under exam conditions and then mark it.
  5. Know the exam. Each exam does tend to have recurring themes that get tested on a frequent basis, and other areas that only come up from time to time. See Tip 8 and either look at past CII exam papers or click here for our FREE guide that summarises these for you.
  6. You learn by doing.  Don’t just read stuff – this is passive and most people retain little of what they read.  Write notes, memory cards, use Brainscape ( a FREE electronic version of index cards), and practice answering questions.
  7. CII Case study book and RevisionMate.  If you buy a CII case study workbook, for most subjects you’ll also get access on-line to past exam papers, the Diploma level study text and multiple choice revision question.
  8. FREE AF past exam papers.  To download two CII past exam papers, go to the CII site and select the exam you intend to sit. The papers can be found on the home page for each AF exam.
  9. Mix up your revision. Learning doesn’t all have to be something which requires dedicated ‘study time’. We produce MP3 material for AF1, 4 and 7 exam. With 3-7 hours of material (depending on the subject), you can be learning while you commute, drive or jog.  Make better use of your time. Click here for details.
  10. It’s not all about knowledge. Most people who fail the 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.

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