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What the CII Exam Pass Rates DON’T Tell Us

What the CII Exam Pass Rates DON’T Tell Us

Update : 6 March 2014 : This post is now closed for comments as the post relates to the release of the CII 2011 pass rates. The 2013 pass rates are now available. You can read about them and post your comments on those here
It was short and sweet.  It was an email that simply said:

“I just wanted to send you a quick email to let you know that the official CII exam pass rates for 2011 are now available. You can find them here:
I would be very interested to hear your comments about the numbers of people passing and failing.”

I sent this out to Brand Financial Training’s entire customer base on 8 February.  Within MINUTES, I had started to receive responses.  By the end of the day, my inbox was overflowing.  I really did not expect such a massive response, but that indicates the strength of feeling on the matter.  Here’s what your responses told me.

How Many Sittings Does It Take To Pass?

The overwhelming question I received back was how many of those who had passed had passed first time, second time, third time….  So being pro-active and wanting to provide our customers with useful information, I emailed the CII to ask them.  They eventually replied with :

“Unfortunately, statistics are not available for the information requested.  I regret any disappointment this may cause.”

“Are the CII avoiding opening a can of worms?”

Whilst I wasn’t surprised by the negative response (you can imagine a can of worms being opened), I was not impressed by the claim that statistics were not available for that information.  Do I really believe the CII don’t have that information?  Of course not.  It would be very odd if they didn’t know how many times candidates had sat an exam.  Be honest!

I do understand the CII’s reluctance to share such information. We know from our own research that many candidates do not pass first time, or even the second time.  If the CII released the statistics, I have no doubt there would be a backlash.  Let’s face it, the CII aren’t exactly loved by the financial services community at present.  You just have to look at various forums or at LinkedIn or Twitter to see that.

To be fair, some of the anger towards the CII is mis-directed.  They are the obvious place to vent anger in this very difficult year for many.  Some of that anger should really be pointed at the FSA, and perhaps some of that anger is more about individual struggles.

However, I keep my ear to the ground and read comments on places like LinkedIn, and I read the official CII responses.  What I think candidates find really hard to bear, is the distinct lack of compassion and understanding they are shown.  Whether they like it or not, the CII are the “face” of qualifications and RDR, so they WILL get angry candidates who are expressing anger at an aspect of the 31/12/12 deadline that is not in the control of the CII, just as they WILL get anger thrown at them by people who do have grievances about the CII and the CII exams, just as they WILL get anger thrown at them which is down to individual struggles.  No, it’s not all the CII’s “fault” but it is up to them to respond in a manner that doesn’t fuel that anger.

Showing a lack of compassion and understanding is not helpful.  Failing to release information which candidates want to see and that surely must be accessible within the CII makes the perception of the CII worse.  It shouts “We’re hiding something”! Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, but the message everyone is receiving is that they don’t want candidates to have the facts.

Customer Service To Save Reputation

What I believe this all boils down to is customer service.  If you don’t respond to your unhappy customers in an open and honest manner, then you will make the matter worse.  It will get talked about in offices, at meetings and on social media.  Others will get angry.  And before you know it the reputation of an entire institution is damaged.  And that is what is happening with the CII.  Yes, I believe that some of the anger towards the CII is mis-directed and the FSA is to blame for some of the issues raised, but the CII still need to address that anger in a positive and compassionate manner.  Social Media and responding directly to customer comments is a great way to start re-building that bridge.

“The CII need to build bridges”

How Many Are Given Fails But Should Have Passed?

Additionally, I had email responses regarding the re-marking of exams (mainly J0 and AF exams) which we mentioned on LinkedIn and Twitter.  It seems there are many of you who have paid to have your papers re-marked to find that you had in fact passed.  Whilst it’s great to discover that your fail has been changed to a pass, it is very demoralising knowing that your future papers may be similarly incorrectly marked .  Money Management picked up on this and it resulted in a short article about concerns over re-marking.  You can read it here:

It’s Not All Negative

On a positive note, many of you did take the time to respond to say that some of the low pass rates showed them that they are going to have to work hard to get a pass, and that they welcomed the information.  I agree that the pass rates at least tell us that R0 exams are not as easy as some may think – multiple choice doesn’t equal “easy”.

Open Invitation to the CII

If anyone from the CII is reading this, I would love to have the opportunity to have a telephone or email interview with you with regards the CII and how the CII is viewed in relation to passing exams.  It would be an opportunity for you to show that you listen and do care about what some members of the financial services profession think and feel about you.  It would also give you an opportunity to respond to some of the anger that is perhaps mis-directed towards the CII and should be pointed  towards the FSA.  We would want to distribute this to our customer base, providing you with an ideal opportunity to improve your customer relations.  Please do email me directly at to arrange.  It would be great to speak with you.

I invite comments from everyone on this post.  Please do put your view forward below!