I sat the AF4 exam today.
I sit the AF3 and AF4 exam every year. There’s nothing like road testing your own study material, in person. It was the turn of the AF4 exam today.

I was just finishing off my beer (it was screaming out for me earlier), before posting this.
And I needed that beer, I can assure you.

The AF4 exam forum is fizzing with discontent: AF4 exam forum

Hmm..reit, where do I start?

No cash/gilts
None/little equities
No hedging or derivatives/options
None/little Portfolio theory
None/little Portfolio performance

At first glance, it looks bad, but let’s not get too down on ourselves.

Q1: IPO/accounting ratios/equity ratios/investment trusts
Q2: Reits/reits/NISA/
Q3: Rebalancing/portfolio analysis/CAPM

When you’ve spent 200hrs (and more) studying and preparing hard for the major syllabus areas, then on AF4 exam day the BIG ones don’t IMMEDIATELY appear, it can catch you off guard. At first glance, it can feel bad.

I myself was initially a bit surprised, as I slurped my usual 3-shot Americano (weapon of choice for exams) and munched on my second banana.
I took a chance to do some slow thinking; those first 10 minutes are so critical to the next 3 hours of the exam.

You know how important it is to stay calm and work through the exam, one-step-at-a-time.
Rule Nos 1: RTFQ

As i worked my way through, I picked off the little 2-3 marks here and there and just kept going in a steady rhythm.
Of course, REIT borrowing is stupid, IPO’s are a small part of the syllabus and I don’t remember much about fruit boxes in the AF4 exam syllabus, but you know you are going to get 20 marks where you will score zero. Just forget those and move on.

I thought Q3 was decent; some good marks there;
Q2 was manageable (only in part and after I’d dismissed the REITS borrowing) and Q1 had marks for the taking with a load of ratio analysis marks, if you read the accounts from right to left and not the usual left to right; what was all that about?

On reflection, there was some good marks to be had in small, but regular amounts.
Yes, there was no BIG portfolio questions or hedging or gilts, but I think you’ll be surprised by how much you have got in the bag, by doing small parts correctly and RTFQ.

Having said all that and bearing in mind your comments:

”Not sure what the cii are doing? The content of that exam shocked me. Virtually nothing on investment performance, portfolio comparisons, sharpe etc. q1 was so different and hard going. I’d sat the previous7 papers 3 times each and felt so underprepared when I saw the questions….
I do believe the CII has moved the goalposts on the AF exams….”

And to balance the discussion..

”There were a number of areas that I felt that I didn’t know sufficiently well but I came out afterwards feeling that I had a fair chance of passing. To me this looked far better than the October 2014 paper. I attempted all of the questions but some of the listing questions left me struggling and the question on REIT borrowing left me seriously scratching my head…”

Gone are the days when we can predict 100+ marks in these AF exams.

Those days are gone and I for one will be adapting to the brave new world.
This exam has convinced me.

These are not diploma exams. The CII want them to be a step up and they are asking questions from a wide and deep L6 syllabus.

These level 6 AF exams are being adapted to meet the CII’s Chartered ambitions.

No more predictions from me!
From now onwards it’ll be more content, more questions and more videos.

In a nutshell; more preparation.
It’s the only way.

They want us to be better prepared across the whole syllabus. It’s just a shame nobody can man-up from the CII and give us guidance; we have to spend 200hrs of study, £100’s and a load of pain to find out (including me).

I sit these exams to feel it, see it and do it. I want to feel the pain of the study and the diary management. The cost of the time and effort.
I want to feel how it feels turning over the paper, seeing the paper and being prepared to do it.
I know how it feels when the BIG questions don’t appear. And when they do.

The CII are making chartered harder to get for firms.
They have made that clear in recent weeks.

And as one forum member put it: ”…If only the CII would be more professional, explain themselves….”

Times are a changin’

Remember back in 1997 when FPC did it?
Remember back in 2007 when AFPC did it?

In 2017, AFPC won’t do it for Chartered status.