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5 Days of Exam Q&As: Day 2

18 January 2021

Professional Paraplanner has teamed up with Brand Financial Training to answer your questions around the exams scheduled for 2021.

In our last Parameters survey we asked you for the questions you would like to ask the experts around exam and qualification training. Over the course of this week we tackle a range of those questions.

In Day 2, we answer your questions around AF exams, in particular overlapping exams, exam planning and AF4 resources.

Paraplanner questions:

  • Is there a logical order in which to sit AF exams?
  • What is the best approach for tackling the AF exams?
  • Is it best to do the corresponding J exam when doing the AFs?
  • Which of the CII exams complement each other/could be taken together?

The Brand Financial Training member answers:

As the answer to these questions are largely intertwined I will tackle them together.

There are a large number of units available at all levels of the CII’s financial planning exams.  This can make your choices of when and which exams to sit very confusing but on the other hand it does allow you to tailor the units you take to the areas you are most interested in.

If you are looking to achieve Chartered status you require 290 CII credits in total, 120 of these must be at Level 6 (AF exams), including AF5.  You will also require an additional 40 credits at Level 4 or above.  All other credits can be gained at any level (except LF1).

Some candidates opt for taking similar exams together.  This may be because their work focuses in one particular area or it may be because they wish to take advantage of some of the overlap between some exams.

Let’s take a look at pensions for example where there are a number of options.  At Level 6 there is AF7 Pension Transfers and AF8 Retirement Income Planning; at Level 4 we have R04 Pensions and Retirement Planning, J05 Pension Income Options; and at Level 3 we have FA2 Pensions Administration and LP1 Life and Pensions Customer Operations.  A common approach would be to take R04 as part of the diploma and then J05 alongside or close to AF7 or whilst doing the coursework for AF8. You might then be wondering why you would choose to sit a Level 3 unit such FA2, but you may find that you need an extra few credits at any level to achieve Chartered so a 10 or 15 credit Level 3 unit may well fit the bill.

Let’s now have a look at some specific combinations of units with overlapping content that candidates often take together or close together.

AF1/R03/J02

The technical content for AF1 is from R03 and J02 although, as with all the AF units, candidates would be expected to do more ‘reading around the subject’ than with the Level 4 units.

AF2/J03

AF2 is essentially based on the technical content from J03. The questions in AF2 may feel harder in some respects because they are set within a more detailed case study environment.

AF4/R02/J10

AF4 does have a lot of cross over with R02 and in particular J10; in fact many students choose to sit AF4 and J10 close together because of the amount of overlap.

AF7/AF8/J05/R04

The pension transfer exam AF7 will require detailed knowledge of pension income options/decumulation and death benefits and so again there is some cross over but perhaps not as much as some of the combinations above. AF8 will draw on your knowledge from all other pension exams.

AF5 will pull on your knowledge and experience from your other financial planning exams so we do recommend that this is one of the last ones on your list.

It is also important to note that whilst there may be overlapping content, the units themselves differ in terms of style, format and approach to the exam content. It is really up to you if you feel you can cope with two exams within a few days of each other. As AF8 is a coursework unit this does offer some flexibility to spread the workload and now that the CII are moving away from holding most exams over a three-day period and instead staggering them throughout the year this may also make it easier to choose to sit overlapping exams closer together.

So, in summary, it can seem complicated choosing which exams to sit and when but taking some time to look at the options and mapping out your route to Chartered will make the path much clearer!

As we are covering AF exams today in our Q&A I’ll also take the opportunity to answer the following question re AF4 resources:

Question:

Where to go for up-to-date resources for AF4 with the format of the exam being changed going forward – how outdated will old resources be?

Answer:

Brand Financial Training have a range of AF4 resources all of which are regularly updated, not just with all tax and legislation updates but also to ensure they are in line with the current format of the CII exam. For AF4 we would definitely recommend mock papers and the calculation workbook as you are likely to get a few calculations in AF4. We also have audios, E Learning (taken from R02) and study notes so it’s really down to what suits your style of learning.

Full details can be found on our website https://brandft.co.uk/

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About Brand Financial Training

Brand Financial Training provides a variety of immediately accessible free and paid learning resources to help candidates pass their CII exams.  Their resource range ensures there is something that suits every style of learning including mock papers, calculation workbooks, videos, audio masterclasses, study notes and more.  Visit Brand Financial Training

Professional Paraplanner