Jane’s CII AF4 Exam Experience: Insights, Tips, and Challenges
To ensure we stay in touch with candidates’ exam experiences, we regularly ask our team members to sit the latest CII exams. It’s always good to hear the perspective of some of our most experienced team members. In this article, Jane shares her thoughts on the AF4 October exam.
This article is correct as at 30 October 2023.
So it was 9:28 am on a Tuesday morning, and I found myself in a Novotel conference room with around 50 others waiting patiently for the invigilators to say we could open the exam paper and start. I haven’t been sat in a hall for a written exam since long before COVID-19, and I absentmindedly wondered how I would cope with ‘writing’ for 3 hours without the use of a keyboard…
I was there to sit the AF4 exam, which let’s face it is always a bit of an unknown; as a fellow candidate mentioned to me as we queued up outside wondering what might be tested in this session, ‘the syllabus is wide and any of it could come up’.
At precisely 9:30 am, the wait was over and scanning through the paper, I felt the stress levels reduce slightly as some very familiar topics jumped out of the page.
The AF4 Exam Experience
The first question involved a 35-year-old who had shares and investments in his family’s plant and machinery company and other related building services companies such as scaffolding! The information given was over a page long, and although it’s tempting to go straight to the questions, it is worth carefully reading the information given as there are many bits of content that should be included in the answers. As you’d expect, the questions varied from modern portfolio theory through to some economic areas, some general investment knowledge, as well as one calculation on return on equity.
Case Studies and Questions
The detail within the other two case studies is a little hazy, but the questions tested some familiar topics such as redemption yields on gilts, more economic knowledge (quantitative tightening), and the expected factors question – this time on mitigating financial loss. One thing that did stand out for me was there were no long calculations; so no money-weighted or time-weighted rates of return and no analysis of performance against a benchmark.
There seemed to be a lot of quite low-marked questions too, so if knowledge was a bit lacking in some areas such as behavioural finance for example, then not too many marks would have been lost (although I did seem to find myself writing quite a lot about inflation and interest rates in all three questions!) At this level, you must know what’s going on in the economy and use that information at times to answer the question. One question asked for the differences between RPI and CPI, and unless I’m mistaken, I don’t think that information is in J10, R02 or the AF4 case study workbook, suggesting that for this exam, wider reading is required.
Exam Preparation Tips
Anyone sitting this exam in the future should definitely study past exam guides; some of the questions on gilts in Question 2 I had seen before so it pays to spend time on what’s been tested in the past. In addition, our own AF4 calculation workbook and mock papers enabled me to practice, beforehand, each of the potential calculations and also some of the theory questions that are often tested.
Keys to Success
The key to success in any of the level 6 exams is to ensure, as much as possible, that the answers given relate to the content of the case study. In Question 1, for example, there were hints throughout of the behaviour the client was demonstrating when it came to making investment decisions, which should have been used to answer the question on behavioural finance.
The good news is that no one left in the first hour, but people did start putting down their pens not long after 2 hours. Does this suggest that this was an easier paper than some that have come before OR did those early exit candidates get lucky with what they had studied the most and the questions that came up?
Personal Approach to the Exam
As for me, I used the three hours in full; I like to go back and check questions a couple of times to make sure nothing else springs to mind. I generally leave at least eight blank lines between answers to make sure I can go back and add anything else in.
AF4, of course, is the only written exam left at level 6, and three hours of writing is intense – few of us are used to doing this anymore. Judging by the number of candidates who had to be escorted to the restrooms, some of us are not that used to sitting still for three hours either!
I prefer sitting an exam in a local centre rather than being at home in front of a screen. I like the fact I don’t have to worry about the online invigilator watching my every eye movement and facial expression, wondering whether I have somehow stuck revision aids on the wall after I have already shown them around my room with the laptop camera! In an exam room, you have actual people wandering around, and I can relax and just think about the exam knowing they can see I have nothing to help me.
Results are out on Friday the 1st of December, and with a bit of AF4 luck, it will mean a celebratory glass of something fizzy… after all, it will soon be Christmas by then as well 😊
Grab the resources you need!
If you’re studying for your CII AF4 exam, and you’re wanting to feel confident on exam day, grab our free taster to try out one of Brand Financial Training’s resources for yourself. Click the link to download the AF4 Mock Paper Taster now!