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Taking a closer look at the very challenging CII AF7 exam

Taking a closer look at the very challenging CII AF7 exam

Here we’re taking a closer look at the CII’s AF7 Pension Transfers exam. It’s a challenging exam, which is evident in the low pass rate. We delve deeper into what was tested in the last two sittings, and give readers some hints on how to prepare themselves for exam day.

If we look at the annual pass rates for the CII Advanced Diploma exams in 2017, we can see there was a rise in delegates passing AF1 (tax and trusts), but a drop in those passing AF2 (business planning), AF4 (investment planning) and AF5 (financial planning) – we are not sure why the result for AF6 was n/a.  What is also interesting is that the first sitting of AF7 the Pension Transfer exam produced the lowest AF paper result, with only 43.74% of candidates gaining a pass in that paper.

Annual Pass Rate
Annual Pass Rate
Annual Pass Rate
Annual Pass Rate
Annual Pass Rate


AF7 is a challenging paper, for a reason

The first thing to say about the AF7 exam is that it has to be a challenging paper; in the CII words ‘the objective of the pension transfer qualification is to develop the specialist knowledge and skills needed for advising on the transfer of safeguarded benefits’.  Pension transfers are in the news all the time, and regulation is being updated regularly along with FCA consultations.  The CII Level 4 ‘Certificate in Pension Transfer Advice’ satisfies the FCA qualification requirements for those wishing to get involved with pension transfer business and is on completion of R01 Financial Services, regulation and ethics, R02 Investment principles and risk, R04 Pensions and retirement planning and AF7.  So let’s focus on the AF7 exam by looking at the papers from October 2017 and April 2018.

The #CII's #AF7 Pension Transfers exam is very challenging, as is evident in the low pass rate. This article tells you how you can better prepare yourself. Click To Tweet


Provide accurate and detailed answers to get maximum marks

With the April 2018 paper, the first question was on the statutory transfer process, which included the timescales and who is responsible for the various elements.  This is clearly an important process and judging by some feedback we have received, it would have been necessary for candidates to have produced a detailed and accurate answer to be awarded the maximum marks.   For example, the trustees clearly have very specific responsibilities such as letting the client know they need to take financial advice (if necessary), setting a guarantee date and providing a statement of entitlement – all of these elements would have needed to have been specifically explained, along with specific timescales of when they had to be done by.  Other areas, such as providing evidence of the advice, has to be provided by the client and again, to get the maximum marks on offer, this would have needed to be specifically mentioned along with the relevant timescale.

Lists of generic terms gained no marks

Also notable, from the exam guide for the October sitting and the examiner’s comments in particular, is that in one question candidates had to identify and explain ‘factors’ that had been given in the case study that were relevant to the pension transfer advice.  The examiner comments that many of the candidates wrote a list of generic terms of information that would be needed – and these gained no marks.  To gain good marks, candidates needed to consider information given in the case study and pick out relevant elements.  In the model answer we can see what was expected, for example:

  • She has a low to medium ATR
  • She has limited investment experience
  • She wants to pass on assets to her children

Analyse the case study

In the April 2018 paper, the ‘factors’ question was:

Outline the factors that you would consider when advising (David) whether or not he should transfer some or all of his deferred benefits in order to meet his objectives.  The case study needed to be analysed and some of the key points to pick out would have been:

  • David would prefer part of his income to be secure/guaranteed
  • But he also wants to have flexibility to take ad hoc lump sums
  • Francisco Ltd allows partial transfers
  • Francisco Ltd allows benefits to be taken from age 60 with a 3% pa reduction
  • Bertram Ltd allows benefits to be taken from age 60 (no reduction – but from age 55 with a 3% pa reduction)
  • David will get his State pension at age 66

Pick out relevant factors from the information given

To get the maximum marks on offer, all candidates had to do was pick out the relevant factors from the information given.  This is standard testing of AF subjects, so future students should ensure they practise this type of exam question.

Our feeling is with this paper that the marking will be strict – it has to be because of the nature of the work that the adviser can then go onto practise.  Students must ensure they are precise with their answers as the examiner will have less flexibility than perhaps with other AF exams when they are marking student’s papers.

With the October exam looming and April’s done and dusted, it will be interesting to see how the pass rate figures look for 2018.

Grab the resources you need!

If you’re studying for your CII AF7 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 AF7 mock paper taster now!

Click here to download our free taster mock paper for CII AF7