The AF5 exam needs to be clarified

I sent this to the CII on 17 october 2014, as a result of the feedback from students who sat the AF5 exam in October 2014.

”Dear CII: Refer October AF5 exam
In April, I wrote to congratulate you and the senior examiner on the AF5 exam.
In June, I met Keith at the Scottish Chartered Financial Planner conference in Glasgow.
You know I’ve had my reservations about how much the AF5 exam is fit for purpose.
And I’ve made that clear. The subtle changes in April was a step in right direction.
This week I feel a little embarrassed.
My clients, 99.9% of whom are progressing to chartered, are relying on me – together with the support of credible training organisations like Wizard learning, Brand Financial Training and Verridian, to help them to achieve that professional status.
You guys decided to make a few changes to the AF5 exam this week.
I’ve no issues with that.
I welcome the flight to quality and competence @Level 6.
I welcome the appetite within the CII to change and make the exams @L6 fit for purpose.
I welcome anything that demands demonstration of level 6 financial planning skills and technical competence. The more intense and more demanding the better, as far as I am concerned.
It was somewhat surprising then to receive critical feedback from my clients about their AF5 exam preparation.
It has surprised me.
What they are telling me has come as a surprise, maybe even a shock.
I’d like to share that with you.
I haven’t seen the paper or the marking schedule.
I’ll be looking forward to seeing both, in due course.
At this time, I can’t say too much (without sight of the paper), but I can tell you categorically, the feedback and the expectations that the students were presented with on Wednesday afternoon, were not what they were expecting; the general consensus was that exam was not of a similar level of expectation of the previous level of AF5 exam, according to them.
Maybe if you are going to review/have reviewed this exam (or how all/any of the AF exams are being examined), it might be worthwhile communicating it clearly to ALL of those whom are supporting the chartered cause – including your members who are sitting these papers?
I know it is a wide syllabus; but is the AF5 exam about financial planning or is it a combined AF1,2,3 and 4 technical paper?
If it is, I also better have a re-think about what it takes to support it?
I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts, in due course.
I’m afraid this time, although I like your AF5 senior examiner’s approach to this exam and would encourage you to keep him on-board, I think this might have been one step too quickly, maybe?”

 

I received this reply from the CII (October 2014 AF5 exam):

Thank you for your feedback on the exam which I will pass on to the Senior Examiner.

The syllabus and the learning outcomes are used to set the examination and past papers are reviewed as part of this process to ensure that standards are maintained over time. The paper should focus on the financial planning process and I was not aware that there had been a significant shift in the way we test candidates in the exam since April.

The Senior Examiner will be meeting with the assistant examiners to sample mark and agree the mark scheme next week and this will enable the team to take into  consideration any feedback received on the exam for marking and for setting next year’s exams.

 

I’ve received nothing since.

Having seen the AF5 exam examiners guide for October 2014 (issued last week), here was my reply (sent tonight):

”Dear CII
I’ve now seen the paper and the examiners comments (issued last week).
The delegate feedback I have received and my initial note to you about this exam is totally vindicated; this exam was WAY off previous.
This exam is changing are you are not telling anyone.
This exam was TOTALLY different to previous and I’m not going to tell you in what way. you know exactly what I mean.
This is better. Of course it is.
This is a better examination of a chartered financial planners technical credentials and skills of application. That isn’t in dispute.
But, help me. Please help me understand what you are trying to do with this exam.
How do we teach it; what do we tell students to expect?
Tell them that it has changed?
Or tell them that they will be asked tasks in the same way as the previous exams since 2007?
Tell them to practice using past papers, as you so clearly put on your examination guides?
Or not to practice in the same style and content as before?
Your learned guidance would be appreciated.
We are entering the exam season and a speedy reply would be much appreciated.”

I’ll let you know if and when I get a reply.
This exam is too important to be messing around, both for me and, more importantly, the students aiming to get chartered status.

For me to do my job and teach the key learns as best as possible, I need clarity on what and how the syllabus is going to be tested in the exam.

Then I can teach it with clarity and get back to getting 100% of students through this exam.

Please, Mr CII, can we have clarity on what you expect of your students for the AF5 exam?