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Alternative assessments

The focus over the past months has been on helping members attain the required qualifications, yet we have still had to be careful not to overlook the need to keep up to date with everything that is happening in a dynamic and challenging environment.

Economic trends, fiscal and regulatory changes and market developments all need to be tracked and understood if we are to deliver well informed advice to clients. Yes, good old fashioned continuing professional development.

Many advisers are already qualified at level four through attainment of one of the legacy qualifications so may say ongoing CPD is business as usual. But the next step for anyone in this position is to go through a mapping exercise to identify what exam gap-filling CPD they will be required to undertake.

Gap-filling CPD is different from ongoing CPD as it requires advisers to meet specific learning outcomes relating to the new exam standards.

We expect all advisers, however well qualified, to be subject to some gap-filling CPD and the extent will depend on what was included in their legacy qualification. The Chartered Insurance Institute and Personal Finance Society will be providing assistance with identifying the gaps and offering CPD programmes to help you plug them.

It is worth noting that the FSA accepts that some of the gap-filling may already have been achieved and this will be accepted provided it meets the right learning outcomes and you have a record of your attendance and course or event details.

For those that have been waiting to see what an alternative assessment might look like, I can now give you an update.

The model will be piloted by the CII in September this year. As you know, the FSA has already made it clear that any alternative assessment must meet the QCF level four requirement and be assessed by an Ofqual awarding body, such as the CII.

The alternative route is aimed at experienced advisers and to ensure the candidate is comfortable with the level of knowledge and skills required to pass the full assessment day, the CII will provide free access to a trial assessment. This is designed to avoid advisers signing up to the full programme and its associated costs without being clear on the level of knowledge required. When the adviser is confident to proceed, the alternative assessment will be made up of two components. First is evidence submission, where candidates disclose previous qualifications and provide evidence of CPD. Second is the assessment day which we expect to include a short knowledge test and other aspects, such as a professional discussion, a case study, scenario discussion, role play and a technical interview with an independent assessor to establish equivalent knowledge and skills levels.

If the assessment is passed, it gives the adviser the equivalent to the new benchmark qualification with no gap-filling CPD. It will be a good option for those that are confident of their knowledge and skill but uncomfortable with written exams.

Fay Goddard is chief executive of the Personal Finance Society

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