Bespoke Training Solutions’ Luiza Todd considers this perennial question and finds it’s something of a jigsaw puzzle.
This is a question BTS get asked frequently. The honest answer is no, there is no one order that is always right for everyone.
It’s worth pointing out at this point that each of the R0s provide a piece of the whole ‘Diploma jigsaw’. So, no matter what order you choose, there will always be something that comes up that won’t fully make sense until you have completed the later R0s. Many candidates find that it’s not until they have completed all the R0s that they can say they fully understand how the subjects link together.
So, let’s consider some of the options, and their pros and cons.
The most obvious order would appear to be in numerical order. That could work absolutely fine. Sitting the R0s in this order still means that the flow of exams is sensible in terms of cross-over of knowledge between papers (such as with R02 and R03).
Some people advocate sitting the typed (historically hand-written) exam, R06 financial planning practice exam early. They often point out that a candidate who has not passed R06 has no level 4 qualification and cannot apply for a Statement of Professional Standing (SPS). So, having a go early can help if a few attempts are needed to pass. As it is a very different style of R0 exam (not multi-choice/response), some candidates don’t pass first-time, especially if they underestimate the level of study and preparation required. We can see benefits and some logic in such a suggestion, but as R06 is based on knowledge from all the other R0s, sitting it first is not an approach that BTS tend to recommend.
A good starting point
So, what approach do we use most commonly with our clients? The R0 that BTS recommend as a good starting point is the R01 financial services, regulation and ethics paper. This is mainly because many companies and Academies ask potential candidates to have passed R01 before they are accepted, as this shows that individuals are committed to the process, and have the academic ability plus drive to pass an R0 exam.
From there we suggest candidates move on to the R05 financial protection exam. This is widely viewed as an ‘easier’ paper, though having sat the exam myself again in December 2020 it was trickier than expected (I still passed with a good score!) Once R01 and R05 have been passed, a candidate is a third of the way through their exams, and that can do wonders for confidence levels!
The next R0 we tackle is R03 personal taxation. This is the paper with the lowest countrywide pass rates. The main reason for these poor pass rates is that candidates have 60 minutes to answer 50 questions, and if you get quite a few calculation-based questions, as is the norm, time can be very tight indeed. Individual questions can have two parts to a calculation – very tough to do these quickly and get them right. That said, many of us have at least some experience of taxation. We are used to seeing income tax being due on what we earn and VAT being due on goods we buy. So R03 will at least have some familiar elements, even if it’s not at the level needed for the exam.
Next, BTS recommend candidates tackle the R02 investment principles and risk paper. R03 and R02 have a great deal of cross-over, so doing these two in quick succession makes a lot of sense. Again, R02 is a tricky paper, and getting trickier in recent times. Questions can include grids and tables just to make them more difficult to assimilate.
The next exam we’d suggest is R04 pensions and retirement planning. By now many candidates are a bit ‘R0’d out’ having gone through the big hitters that are R02 and R03. They may be hoping for an easier journey through R04, but the pensions paper is a bit of a killer – not just because each area is hard to understand without some study (and BTS support!) but due to the volume of areas candidates must understand and be able to apply in the exam for an exam pass. So many different bits of knowledge are required (we do wonder who coined the phrase ‘pension simplification’??) and this makes the R04 paper tougher, but still eminently passable.
The last paper BTS suggest candidates attempt is the R06 financial planning practice. This is an exam based on two case studies, released a few weeks before the exam sitting. Candidates need a combination of good base knowledge, lots of study and applying the right question answering techniques to get an exam pass. Again, it is an exam that some in the industry label as easy. However, we at BTS have seen too many candidates struggle with this exam before they came to us for support to agree with this.
Generally, questions will be testing candidates on their protection, tax, investments and pensions knowledge, so it is a harder paper to sit and pass without this base knowledge. Hence our suggestion to sit it last, though that can be a bit nerve-wracking, as previously mentioned.
As a final comment – again there is no absolute right or wrong order in which to sit these exams. R02/3 and 4 ideally should be sat in a set order but it’s really up to personal preference with the others. Whichever order you choose, the success formula is the same, study the base knowledge, access training for support and practise as many questions as you can.
About Bespoke Training Solutions
Bespoke Training Solutions (BTS) have been supporting regulated exams for 17 years, specialising in R0 support with outstanding candidate tracked results and feedback. Resources include digital and printed study guides, group and 1:1 training, e-Learning modules and a mobile app of practise exam questions. Visit www.bespoketrainingsolutions.com to learn more on how BTS can help you on your regulated journey.