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9 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Passing Your CII Written Exam

9 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Passing Your CII Written Exam

With the written exams just completed, we had a few queries both before and after the actual exams regarding exam technique and marking.  This article is to remind you what the CII expects and what will give you the best chance of gaining marks.

1. Be specific and not too generic – keep the clients in mind at all time.

This is particularly true for the advanced financial planning exams where answers should be related to the actual case study.  If they are not, there is a risk you won’t be awarded the mark.

2. Use bullet points.

Not only will the examiner be delighted as bullet points are a lot easier to mark (and easier to find if they are not hidden in a lot of text).  Using bullet points doesn’t come naturally to some, and a lot of candidates continue to write pages and pages of text, but it’s worth taking the time to practise. You’ll find that bullet points save you time, and importantly, prevent you from waffling – which rarely results in extra marks.

3. Use the number of marks available as an indicator of how many points are needed.

If the question is for 8 marks, you will be expected to make 8 different points – one point wouldn’t be given 2 marks.  However two marks might be within one sentence for example:  ‘Their home is owned as joint tenants (for 1 mark) therefore Julie will inherit Tom’s share (for 1 mark)’.

The examiner will look for the correct points throughout your whole answer, i.e. they won’t just mark the first 8 points you give, so if you can think of more, write them down.  Also if the question asks you to recommend and justify something, then don’t forget to do both as you would expect that half the marks will be for the recommendation and half for the justification.  If it helps, then draw yourself a line through the page to clearly show your recommendation one side and your justification the other; again the examiner will love you for this.  You can also do this if you are asked for the pros and cons of products or a particular comparison.

4. Show all your workings in calculations.

This is particularly important in AF1 and other AF exams where there will always be calculations. Make sure you show every step of the process you’ve used to arrive at the answer.  If one mistake is made in the middle (clumsy finger on the calculator, for example), you won’t then be marked wrong for the rest of the calculation.  Instead, you would lose one mark only for that one error, assuming the rest of your process is correct.  A lot of marks can still be achieved even if the final answer is incorrect.

5. Start each question on a new page.

This means you have some space should you need to go back to enhance your answer or you remember something else. Remember also to cross through any notes you make in your answer book which you do not want to be marked.

6. Read the whole question first.

If you don’t, you may find that your answer to (a) is really the answer to (b) and you may find yourself writing it all out again.  You will only get the marks if they are in the right place.

7. Make sure you are answering the question you are being asked.

Use a highlighter for key words to help you focus your answer.  More than anything, answer the question written in front of you, not the one you wish was written in front of you. The most common fault in most written exams is candidates not keeping to the point of the question.

Exam Technique for Written #CIIExams: Answer the question written in front of you, not the one you wish was written in front of you. Click To Tweet


8. Remember to state the obvious.

Spell out the particular tax you’re talking about or which class of national insurance contribution or which product.  You know which one you’re talking about; just make sure the examiner knows too so they can award you the mark.

9. Use abbreviations appropriately.

We get asked a lot about the use of abbreviations.  Our view is that some are so well used they will be fine, so things such as IHT, NICs, ATR and SDLT.  We have been asked about EOW and A2R, and our view is these are not used as a matter of course, so spell out ‘expression of wish’ and use the more common ATR for ‘attitude to risk’.

Lastly, remember there is no negative marking.  The CII uses a positive marking system with no marks taken away for incorrect answers.  However, if conflicting answers are given, even where one of them is right, you may not be awarded the mark if the examiner feels you have hedged your bets.

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 calculation workbook taster now!

Click here to download our free calculation workbook taster for CII AF1

Alternatively, you can download the taster for AF2, AF4, AF5, AF7 or R06 if any of those exams are causing you some worry.