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The CII Advanced Diploma – The Path of Least Resistance

The CII Advanced Diploma – The Path of Least Resistance

If you are about to start working your way towards Chartered status, the road ahead can seem pretty daunting. There are so many units available at all levels of the CII’s financial planning exams, and this can make your exam choices very confusing. There is some good news; there is significant overlap in technical content in some of the CII exams. If taken close together, it can reduce the need to study the content twice and can help you be more prepared for the more challenging AF exams. In this article, we guide you through some of the exam combinations.

A note on the J and AF exams

R01 to R06 provide a good, broad technical knowledge and a great base for you to begin your Advanced Diploma. Some of the J exams cover a lot of the same subject material as the R0 exams but are more focused and require more in-depth knowledge on the subject.

AF exams are not easy – they go beyond what is expected from the Diploma level exams, because they are expecting you to apply the knowledge that you have learned, not just repeat it, through questions relating to detailed case studies.

Taxation and Trusts – AF1/R03/J02

The technical content for AF1 is from R03 and J02 and is often the first AF exam students take; knowledge gained from studying AF1 is useful also for AF2 and AF4 and certainly for AF5.  The exam tests various aspects of the different taxes and will always include technical knowledge around trusts and/or the taxation of the different trusts.  The key to passing AF1 is in the preparation and understanding that the knowledge must be applied to the case study.  There will always be calculations within AF1, and here is where a lot of easy marks can be picked up, as even if the final answer is incorrect a lot of marks can be picked up for demonstrating the correct process, so practise setting them out using past exam guides is vital.

Business planning – AF2/J03

AF2 is essentially based on the technical content from J03. Note these exams are due to be withdrawn this year.

If you are about to start working your way towards Chartered status, the road ahead can seem pretty daunting. This article guides you through some of the exam combinations. Click To Tweet


Investment Exams – AF4/R02/J10/J12

AF4 does have a lot of cross-over with R02 and in particular J10. Many students choose to sit J10 close to AF4 as it does have significant overlap and is a good grounding for the AF exam.

All four of these investment exams will cover asset classes, investment advice, portfolio construction, investment ratios and analysis, and investment performance and reviews.

J12 is the newest of the investment exams, and in this syllabus, you will see more specialist areas of investment tested – for example, depositary receipts in the equities section, much more detail on warrants and foreign exchange. The dealing, settlement, and clearing chapters are of course only relevant to the J12 module, but much of the rest of the syllabus is covered elsewhere, so if you have already completed R02 and J10, then J12 might be a natural progression.


The pension transfer exam AF7 will require detailed knowledge of pension income options/decumulation and death benefits and so again there is some cross-over with R04 and J05 but perhaps not as much as some of the combinations above. AF8 draws on your knowledge from the other pension exams.


AF5 is about applying knowledge and experience from your other financial planning exams, so we do recommend that this is one of the last ones on your list.

It is also important to note that whilst there may be overlapping content, the units themselves differ in terms of style and format. It is really up to you whether you feel you can cope with two exams within a few days of each other but now that the CII is moving away from holding most exams over a 3-day period and staggering them throughout the year, this may make it easier to choose to sit overlapping exams closer together.

It can seem complicated choosing which exams to take and when, but taking some time to look at the options, consider the syllabus, and then mapping out the route ahead can make things much clearer and hopefully save you a lot of studying time!

Mock papers are a must to help prepare for the AF and J exams to ensure you understand the type of questioning and the level of detail required.

Grab the resources you need!

If you’re studying for your CII AF1 exam, and you’re wanting to feel confident on exam day, you’ll need to prepare as much as possible. Grab our free taster to try out one of Brand Financial Training’s resources for yourself.  Click the link to download the AF1 mock paper taster now!

Click here to download our free taster mock paper for CII AF1

Alternatively, you can download the taster for AF2, AF4, AF5, or AF7 if any of those exams are on the horizon.

Information in this article is correct as at February 2021