Posted on

We shared your ambition, Dave.

Here’s one of our most recent Chartered Financial Planners, sharing his experience of getting behind the goals.

”I’ve known John for many years now and have great memories of touring the depths of Beds, Bucks and Herts with him talking to advisers about everything pensions when we both work for one of the large insurance companies. What I always liked about John was his straight talking nature and how was able to get across technical matters in a simple, clear manner.

When I started planning my journey to Chartered at the end of 2015 I decided to tackle AF3 first, my thought process was to get the hard one out of the way first and obtain my permissions to become a Pension Transfer Specialist. This was to be my first Advanced Diploma exam and I knew I would need help to pass and the obvious person to contact was John and the Expert Pension Team. After a chat with John I was signed up, study material downloaded and in the hangover of the Christmas festivities my studying began in earnest. For anyone that has used John’s study material you will know that the syllabus is broken into weekly modules with a mix of study text, videos, quizzes and assignments. This helps you ensure that you have taken on board the main points and you are making sure by taking specimen questions that the learning has gone in. After three months of hard work exam time was around the corner and I signed up for a two day workshop. This was the icing on the cake, I left with mock exams, more questions to practice and with John’s words of now is the time to practice.

The next few weeks were spent testing my knowledge and as I walked out of the exam, although uncertain on how it went I was confident that I answered every question as best as I could on the day. Then the long wait for the results and I was pleased to have passed first time, I didn’t sail through but a pass is a pass.

Next on the list was AF4 and again I contacted John and signed up to the study materials and workshop. I sat the exam and didn’t feel confident at all, I felt that three months of study had been wasted. I heard John talk about PCIAM, dropped him a line and it seemed to make sense to use all my learning from AF4 and go for the winter 2016 exam. It’s an interesting exam, very different from the CII way of things and I really enjoyed it especially the essay question. A week before the exam I had my result from AF4 with a pass and went into the exam feeling confident and was pleased to hear that I had passed when the results were released in January.

That was 90 credits obtained and 30 left with AF5 planned for April.

Again with John’s help I planned for AF5, however this didn’t go according to plan. On the Monday morning before the exam I went down with a sickness bug (I blamed the kids) and I went into the exam on the Wednesday still not feeling 100%. I gave it my best shot but unfortunately I had failed. I was gutted, I was hoping that I would have got the required 120 credits for my Chartered Status in just over a year of exams, but it wasn’t meant to be. My feedback highlighted one thing, state the obvious and I missed out by 5 marks by not stating such simple things such as ‘Kim is a basic rate tax payer’! Lesson learnt.

Exam re booked for October 2017 and on results day in December I was pleased to have passed AF5 with 104, my Advanced Diploma passed and a phone call to the CII I had achieved my goal of Chartered Financial Planner status.

It’s been an emotional roller coaster over the past two years and I am certain that without the help of John and the team at Expert Pensions I would not be able to call myself a Chartered Financial Planner.

See you behind the goals.

See you behind the goals, Dave.
All the very best and good luck for the rest of 2018 – to every one of you trying to ‘get behind the goals’.

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


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *