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I Did it My Way by Michael Pashley

This article is intended for those who have achieved the CII Level 4 Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning and have decided to study for the Level 6 Advanced Diploma.

In short, to achieve the Advanced Diploma, you need to accumulate 290 CII credits. If you hold the Level 4 Regulated Diploma, you have earned 100 credits and therefore have a 190 credit shortfall. I won’t go into detail here, but you will need a minimum 4 Advanced Diploma modules which total 120 credits, plus gap-fill from the Diploma level modules. If you hold the more retro CII Diploma in Financial Planning, or any other financial planning qualifications, it would be worth asking the CII for a learning statement to enable you to calculate your shortfall.

Once you know your shortfall, it’s time to plan your route to Chartered, i.e. which exams do you want/need to take? Have a read through the CII’s financial planning qualifications brochure, freely downloadable from the CII website. It explains how to achieve the Advanced Diploma, apply for Chartered status, and provides details of all the financial planning exams the CII offers to allow you to plan your route.

Selecting your chosen exams can be tricky. The main dilemma for many candidates is whether to take more “easy” 10 credit level 3 exams, or fewer “hard” 20-30 credit level 4/6 exams. Personally, I took the latter approach, and focused on pensions and investment qualifications – AF3 and AF4, J10, R08, J05, and J12.

There were three key benefits of this strategy. Firstly, it focused my study, and allowed me to build a deep, broad, specialist technical knowledge of investment and pensions, enabling me to sit my AF level 6 exams with confidence. Secondly, I was double-bubbling my learning, getting double credits for the same (or very similar) syllabuses. Lastly, it broke what seemed to be an unreachable target into smaller manageable projects.

Each exam had its own unique plan, which took the form of a calendar. I would write out what studying I would do each day, down to the chapters and page numbers of the study texts; what audio revision chapter I would listen to on the way to work; and what mock exam I was going to sit. If I missed a day because something came up, I made up the time and kept track, updating the plan daily. I also kept an overall plan which helped me remain motivated throughout this long and tough journey (click on Exam Plan below):

Exam Plan

Resources Available to Candidates
In addition to the resources offered by the CII, Expert Pensions offers a full structured study plan, with essential study notes, workbooks, exam-style questions, videos, virtual workshops, and face-to-face workshops all coming together to form what we believe to be one of the most comprehensive CII exam solutions in the UK.

Top 10 Study Tips
1. Plan carefully, and stick to the plan.
2. Focus your study and double-bubble your credits.
3. Use a combination of different learning techniques to help you study in different ways.
4. Understand how to effectively explain concepts using a Statement, Analysis, Evaluation paragraph structure.
5. Practice exam questions to learn what kind of answer the exam is looking for. Remember that questions are often repeated in subsequent exam sittings.
6. When marking your mocks, never give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Mark harshly, and hone your answers to the point that you’re giving the examiner no choice but to give you the mark.
7. Read examiners’ comments on the exam guides to find out common pitfalls.
8. Don’t get intimidated by any of the AFs. If you’ve focused your study, you should be able to pass confidently. Understand that an exam is just an opportunity to demonstrate your ability.
9. At the same time, don’t underestimate them. That AF1 in particular can be a right nasty piece of work.
10. Reward your victories. I budgeted a takeaway for a Diploma exam, a meal out for an AF, and a watch for achieving the Advanced Diploma.

Best of luck to you on your route to Chartered, and please get in touch with us if you’re considering taking on the challenge.

This article is intended for financial services professionals and is not approved for use with retail clients. A Level 4 industry knowledge is assumed for those reading. The article is not financial advice and should not be interpreted as such. While EP Limited believes the information in this article to be factually correct as at the date of publication, this cannot be guaranteed. Neither EP Limited, nor its representative, can be held accountable for any action taken or not taken as a result of this article. © 2018-19 Expert Pensions Limited.

Michael Pashley APFS, CertPFS(DM), MCSI
Chartered Financial Planner
Technical Director (Investments and Pensions)

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