Tag Archives: J07

AF6

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

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CII exams: getting to CII Chartered status (part 2)

CII Chartered status

If you are sitting exams on the road to CII Chartered status, one of the questions that we frequently get asked is ‘which CII exams should I sit next?’. Likewise, we also sometimes get asked about ‘what exams should I take to get CII Fellowship?’ Some exams could be considered for both. This is a big area – and it’s one that I’ve started to look at in two previous articles:

  1. Which CII AF exam should I sit next? Click here
  2. CII exams: getting to Chartered. Click here

The road to CII chartered status is a long journey and that also means that many people want to select the subjects that help them to shorten this journey. So in this article, I’ll look at a few more ideas that will help you to decide.

Investment subjects

In our article ‘which CII AF exams should I sit next?’, we looked at AF4 and the associated underpinning level 4 exams: R02 and J10. We also said that it is worth also considering J12 (Securitised advice and dealing). Taken together, all of these are worth a whopping 90 credits. The important point is that there is also a significant amount of overlap between each of them which makes revision for them that little bit less onerous.

Let me continue on a similar theme as there are also other investment-related subjects that you could also consider.

FA5

Individual savings account administration (FA5) is a level 3 exams that is worth 10 credits. It is a one hour long exam that has 50 multiple-choice questions. But this doesn’t mean that it can’t also be used to get credits towards Chartered and Fellowship.

In simple terms, the content of FA5 overlaps with much of the content of R02. ISAs (and their various reincarnations) are central to the financial planning process for many advisers.

Details of the syllabus for each can be found here.

LP1 and/or LP2

Other options that are definitely worth looking at are Life and pensions customer operations (LP1) and Financial services products and solutions (LP2). These are worth 15 and 20 credits respectively and are again level 3 exams that test using multiple choice questions.

LP1 isn’t a technical paper. Instead it focuses on the fair treatment of customers, effective communication and  teamwork. In contrast, LP2 looks at the basics of life and health insurance products, mortgages, the key asset classes and tax wrappers (investment bonds, ISAs and pensions). As this is level 3, these are all areas that are covered at a relatively basic level.  Both of these could be the easiest 35 credits you’ll ever get!

Details for LP1, for example, can be found here.

AF6 and J07

The final combination I’ll look at is AF6 (senior management and supervision) and J07 (supervision in a regulated environment). If your current or future role might involve managing people (which is what J07 is all about) or managing a regulated firm (that’s what AF6 is about), then this combination also has some overlap. Both might provide a welcome break from the ‘technical’ subjects. AF6 is worth 30 credits at Level 6 so it can count towards the four AF subjects that are required to get to Chartered.  J07 is worth another 20 credits. People sometimes think that J07 is just about regulation and training and competence; it’s not so don’t let that put you off particularly if you manage people.

Conclusion

We believe that the purpose of exams is to make people more knowledgeable and effective. Sensibly, people who are on the road to CII Chartered status would choose the exams that are most useful to both themselves, and their business. That said, it pays to know what your exam options are and how to use this knowledge to your benefit.

Remember, work smarter, not harder. Until the next time.

Ian Patterson

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

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