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CII AF7 and AF8: Planning your pension Exams

I was reading the 2017 printed CII brochure and was caught out.

It didn’t mention anything much about the AF8 exam, but the newly updated 2017 web-based version does on page 13 (and thanks to Jason Whitchurch for the heads-up):

It outlines what is going to happen with both the AF7 exam and the AF8 exam and here’s a summary of the key points and how it could work for you:

AF7 exam
20 credits
First exam on 10 October @2pm
2 hr exam (short questions and case study)
Pension Transfers permissions (along with other R0 exams)

We know that this can be doubled-up with AF3 (and AF8) and on 10 October you could be sitting down for 50 advanced pension credits (9.30am for 3 hrs and 2pm for 2 hours) and/or top-up your AF3 success with 20 more from AF7.

I like a double-bubble. I’ll see you on 10 October.

And there is more….

AF8 exam
30 credits (yes – 30 credits)
Assessment by coursework (no fixed exam date)
3 x 3000 words of coursework over 12 months (plan it into your schedule)
Starts October 2017

So, we now know what is going to replace the AF3: 50 credits rather than 30 credits; CII have added 20 credits to the advanced pension planning exams and made 30 credits flexible and accessible throughout the whole year. Good news for busy people.

I can hear the whoop whoop from here: you could sit AF3 (30 credits), AF7 (20 credits) and also do AF8 (30 credits) and get 80 advanced credits for you pension studies toward Chartered.

Now that is triple-bubble! Nice. I like that a lot.

That makes a lot of sense to me. But, be aware that unlike IFS, the CII tell candidates that they should not comment in forums or collaborate in any way with this exam. So, we will NOT be having an AF8 forum for example, but we WILL be offering workshops to help you with structure, knowledge and critical evaluation skills (50% of the assessment marks).

This will give you an idea what AF8 will look like:

The IFS AwPETR approach is an interesting contrast to the CII approach, but both are of a very similar nature: critical evaluation and critical thinking are KEY. And that’s what the workshops will be focusing on – and we’ll run them every couple of months to make sure that there is choice throughout the whole year (more on that later in the summer).

80 pension credits at advanced puts pensions right where it should be: top of the pile

So, what does this mean for getting chartered?
You still need 120 advanced credits (with your diploma):

Pensions = 80 credits
AF3, AF7 and AF8 = 80 credits at advanced

Investment = 30 credits
AF4 = 30 credits at advanced and/or
PCIAM exam (which is sat in the June or December and also gets you 30 advanced credits)

Financial Planning = 30 credits (compulsory)
AF5 = 30 credits

That journey takes you to 140 credits at advanced.
That’s a journey I like. It’s accessible. It’s manageable and it can be done in a timely fashion, with the right help.

It’s two techincal subjects + financial planning.
It’s a nice combination of pensions (mainly) and one (or two) investment exams. And you can spread it over a whole year – with coursework and with an exam in June or December if you fancy it?

BTW – just in case you didn’t know – I actually would recommend you considering the PCIAM exam before the AF4. It’s a much more accessible exam for financial planners with some good working knowledge of investments and wealth management.

Here’s something for you to consider carefully:

The pass rate for the AF3 in 2016 was @37%.
The pass rate for students completing the expert pensions structured study plan is nearer DOUBLE that figure for the April 2017 exam.

You have twice as much chance of success as the national average (in 2016) when students study with EP.

(If you’d like to see an example of the data and/or the prize draw we ran to encourage people to give us the exam scores – please do drop us a line. All names and numbers are anonymous – and even more exciting is that the BIG DATA professors at Manchester Metro University are helping us correlating the exam scores with the learning activity that we tracked for every student. That’s an exciting collaborative project involving EP and MMU – with more on that later in the year).

We have the statistical evidence to back up the fact that the EP structured study plan works: double your chances of success

27 thoughts on “5 tips for calculating annual allowance

  1. Great article, I was thinking along these lines as well.

    One question though, is it possible to pass AF5 without having done AF1 or AF2, just AF3 and AF4?

    Would there not be quite large knowledge gaps?


  2. Yes it is possible, if you understand the AF5 exam.

    1. Thanks John

  3. I was braced to buy into your full AF3 package (starting in Jan 17) but the changes have got me thinking. Shorter term, I want to be able to transact pension transfers (sooner rather than later actually); longer term, I want to get to Chartered but no huge rush.

    Diploma is all in place (incl R04 and R08), also PMI Auto Enrolment exam.

    Should I just crack on as planned or hold off for the new exam in July……

    It would be unfair to ask you for an answer but what factors should shape my decision making?

  4. Graham,

    If I was you – I’d maybe try the AF3 in April? It’ll be great prep for the AF7….and even when you pass the AF3 in April, I know you’ll want to have a go at the AF7?

    Buy a package that gives you access to AF3 and AF7 over 12 months?
    Who’ll be doing that come 1 December 2016?

  5. Come back and see us on 1 December for a look at the options.
    But, seriously, if the permissions is what you are after – then get started asap; don’t think sitting AF7 means you’ll pass?

    Start getting prepared asap.
    2017 = pension permissions and sooner rather than later, means giving AF3 a shot, with AF7 on the horizon ….

  6. Thanks John. Okay count me in, I shall be in touch on 1 December.

  7. As ever, John’s encouraging comments to help Graham were spot on: likewise the resulting good intent of Graham.

    Too little supply by advisers, too great a demand and good advice needed out there for DB holders means many a financial planner should up their game and cease the opportunity to help the public while the going is good.

  8. Do I have time to register and sit AF3 by the April Deadline?

    1. Very unlikely – not impossible, but a lot of work.

  9. Hi John

    I am Diploma level 4 but want to get licenced for pension transfers and to be honest understand them better too. What single exam could I take to do this through the IFS or should I take a combination or wait until 2018 exams set up?

  10. Neil, you can do this through the iFS AwPETR exam ….but, that is now closed for June – next exam is December.

    The AF7 in October (CII) is the next chance..

  11. John, I’ve just done my AF1 and AF5, hoping for positive results in June to add to my AF4 and AF6 and complete my level 6. I too am looking to get the pension transfer specialism, but have been a bit put off AF3 by its hideous c 35% pass rate over the last two years. What would you suggest for a route? I was thinking of going down the IFS road due to the part coursework assessment and lower pass mark, plus the fact that I’m a bit wary of sitting a brand new exam with no past exam guides to provide a reliable guide on content. What do you think?

    1. Hi Andrew.
      The iFS AwPETR is a great little exam. The next intake is August for the exam in December.

      The AF7 is going to be very similar to the iFS: lots of critical evaluation and critical analysis AND some good strong technical questions.
      It’s going to be a great little exam.

      The first sitting is on 10th October.

      Why don’t you do both?

  12. Truthfully, I’m not sure I want to bother sitting two exams which are effectively a duplicate of one another as there’s unlikely to be any practical benefit. Would rather just pick the best bet and get it done. Which was why I was thinking IFS as the pass mark is lower and there are (I assume) past papers to go off. Do you have any idea of the approximate pass rates for the IFS one – they don’t appear to publish them like the CII do.

    1. Indeed.
      It depends how important it is for you. I’ve seen a few people ‘double-up’ to give them a double chance.

      There are no pass rates issued by iFS, nor any past papers (apart from the odd exemplar) – and the pass mark is low to mirror a more academic marking schedule. I’d forget that: a pass is a pass.

      The absolute key thing you need to pass the iFS AwPETR exam is an ability to critically evaluate and analyse a pension transfer – across the whole syllabus…

      Good luck, Andrew.

  13. HI John

    im bit confused here. i hold a MSc in Finance. Please let me know where should i start. Do I need to complete the Diploma and Advanced Diploma both prior to the charted status?? sorry if i sound stupid..

    1. Ravin

      email me at this address and let me know how many financial services exams you have sat?

  14. Please can you send the 1st weeks study guide for AF4 please?

    1. What specifically can’t you find?

  15. I’m looking at purchasing AF3/7 study plan but notice it says notes are released weekly. Will I automatically have access to notes released previously as I’m doing exam in October so need to make sure I can access everything before then

    1. Hi Michelle, yes if you purchase you will have access to the previous study notes together with the full study workbook. Give us a call if you need any more information. Thanks. The Expert Pensions team.

  16. Hi there,

    I have recently started studying for R08 but I haven’t done RO4, my thought was to do RO8 and then JO5 – pension income options – as it will equal 30 Diploma credits, rather than 20 – is this a good way of going about it?


  17. Amy,

    yes – that makes good sense. But, R04 is the bedrock of all your pension studies; R08 and J05 are mainly about retirement benefits.

  18. Hi,

    Does that route work if you have no prior exams. I have the Level 4 Investment Management Certificate with the CISI, but don’t believe this gives me any exemptions and would need to have some credits from level 3. Clarification on this would be greatly appreciated.


  19. Hi Russell, you’d need to ask the CII what the CISI IMC gives you in terms of credits and then come back to me for a detailed reply – happy to do so if you email me on

  20. Hi John, I am interested in signing up for af7 support, I know it’s probably difficult to say but how’s many hours do you think is required to really give me the best chance possible and over what time scale? I can see the exam date is April, I am currently traveling the world so would not be able to attend the workshops but would the study plan (the 2nd option) work for me if I’m going to study it abroad?

    Thank you in advance


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