Exam Q&A: AF7 – working out what the examiner wants

17 January 2024

For the start of this year’s exam season, Professional Paraplanner has teamed up once again with Brand Financial Training to answer your questions on the exams ahead. In this article, the team responds to questions on the AF7 exam.

Q: It would appear with AF7 that higher level exam technique seems to catch people out. Is there an effective way to work out what the examiner wants?

In terms of ‘higher level’ exam technique, here are some key points from our AF7 experts:

Dedicate some revision time to ‘factors’ questions and ‘additional information’ questions.

The ‘factors’ questions are usually asking you to analyse the information and then list the relevant details that would impact on the financial advice. In the past exams there have been a number ‘factors’ questions around risk and around the suitability (or not) of transferring.

The ‘additional information’ questions are just that, listing relevant additional information an adviser would need for the advice process. Ensure you are writing ‘new’ information required and not repeating information that has already been provided.

You can spend time focussing on each of these questions in turn by studying a number of past exam guides. We suggest you study the wording of the question, then study the model answers and then look at the examiner’s comments. You’ll soon get a feel for what the examiners are looking for and where candidates have tripped up in the past.

State the obvious

For example, if asked for the implications of a client taking their tax-free cash, don’t forget to state they will have a lesser fund to draw income from. It’s obvious but correct! Never assume that the examiner knows what you are thinking.

Provide a high level of detail.

This is an AF paper after all so, for example, don’t just state the client is ‘not in good health’ but explain why this would impact the advice i.e. the client is in poor health so may not live long enough to benefit from the DB scheme and reach the breakeven point.

Read and re-read the question.

We offer this advice for all CII written exams because it is so important. The wording can be tricky.  A prime example was a question in the last AF7 exam which asked for ‘the factors you would consider in deciding whether the purchase of a lifetime annuity should be recommended’ At first glance this question looked to be asking for the suitability of this course of action when in fact it was looking for the pros and cons of the purchase.

Past Exam Guides

These are a must for AF7 as they will help you familiarise yourself with the ‘staple’ or ‘core’ questions which come up time and time again. It is worth practising answering some of the past questions yourself and see how your answers compare to the CII model answers, then read the examiners comments.  This is the best way to get practical experience as to what the examiner is looking for.

Pick the low hanging fruit

There is no requirement in AF7 or any other narrative exam to answer the questions in the sequence they arise. If you get a curveball and nothing comes to mind after a minute or so, move on. Answer the questions you feel comfortable with and can score good marks on first and then have a go at the others. The more marks in the bag, the less pressure you will feel under.

Q: What questions do you think will appear in this year’s AF7 exams?

If you want to get a better idea of the subjects likely to appear in the forthcoming AF7 exams, the best way is to look at the past papers and spot the trends.

It’s clear from analysing past papers that certain questions come up time and time again in AF7. These ‘core’ questions account for a large percentage of the exam and AF7 candidates could take this as an indication of where to focus their revision. The core questions include:

  • FCA requirements- the first question is usually a regulatory one.
  • The fact-finding question. Be careful you read the question carefully here, is it asking for additional information from the scheme OR from the member? – ensure you get that distinction right as this will lead to two very different answers.
  • Pros and cons of transferring/not transferring benefits from a DB scheme.
  • Questions around the transfer advice process such as timescales, documentation, responsibilities of trustees/adviser.
  • CETV/TVC calculation process
  • Reasons for a reduced or increased CETV
  • PPF – level of benefits/criteria for entering
  • Death benefits
  • Cashflow forecasting
  • APTA – what need to be included

Every paper is likely to have one or two curveball questions and you are unlikely to know everything so, in the exam, rather than spending valuable time struggling with a question you may well be advised to move on and return later if you have time. As stated above, the AF7 exam is likely to consist mostly of core questions so ensuring you have enough time to answer these thoroughly is more likely to pick you up the most marks.


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 at https://brandft.co.uk

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Professional Paraplanner