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Behind the scenes: the CII on setting exams

The CII has less influence than you might imagine on the exam process. Most of the significant decisions are taken by industry practitioners.

The learning outcomes and content are put together with significant input from practitioners and employers. The exam also has to meet the correct level of learning as determined by Ofqual. The interpretation of the learning outcomes is done through meetings between CII internal staff and practitioners with relevant experience in the subject area.

A senior examiner is selected and is supported by a deputy examiner, these are both non-CII people – they are generally experienced and
respected people running their own IFA businesses or working elsewhere within financial services. They are supported by other assistant examiners, again all from outside the CII.

Once the questions are compiled, they are then run through an editing committee and once the complete paper has been compiled, it is sent to an assistant examiner to sit under exam conditions. Their feedback is used to determine whether it remains suitable as it is or whether any additional changes need to be made.

Finally, the paper is ready to be issued and the senior and the deputy examiners construct a marking scheme that will be adopted by all people who will mark the paper, again these will be the assistant examiners, your peers.

When the paper is sat, the senior and the deputy will mark a random sample to check that the marking scheme works in real life. If they notice any irregularities or that a particular question has been widely interpreted in a particular way, then they have the power to alter the marking scheme.

Then all the markers come together for a day to review the marking scheme and to run through sample papers as a group. Then they must mark 10 papers and have these double checked by the senior to ensure marking is consistent. If they cannot meet the marking standard, they are not allowed to mark the papers.

Dennis Hall, chartered financial planner, Yellowtail Financial Planning


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There are 7 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. And the point of this article is …..
    I thought that the process was confidential and not supposed to be broadcast.

  2. A Chartered Financial Planner 2nd March 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Given the nonsense that appears on these boards about exams I would have thought some transparency would have been welcomed.

  3. A Chartered Financial Planner 2nd March 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Given the nonsense that appears on these boards about exams I would have thought some transparency would have been welcomed.

  4. For the benefit of NJH – this is an abridged version of something I wrote to try and dispel the myths that surround the CII exam process. I am sick to the back teeth of uninformed people talking utter nonsense about something they clearly know nothing about, and creating a maelstrom of misinformation that sucks every other uninformed into believing that CII exams are somehow designed to be a mechanism to fail candidates in order for the CII to earn revenue unethically. Some clarity around the process would help – or so I thought.

  5. Hi Dennis,

    The problem with what you have written is that whilst that is the ‘theoretical’ process, we all know that the CII regularly cock things up, and there is no way in the world that the process, as you have described it, has been followed. I’ll give you an example – last year, a significant number of AF3 candidates faced a 2 month delay in getting their marks after the exam. They were continually told by the CII that the marker had failed to return the papers on time, was not contactable, and had effectively gone AWOL. So if that is the case, how on earth can you claim that he attended a meeting with all the other markers (who managed to mark the papers on time)? It’s nonsense, and about time the CII started to test candidates in an honest and open way, instead of testing irrelevant and trivial material, whilst ignoring large (and arguably more relevant) chunks of the syllabus that might actually help us all in our daily activities.

  6. We all make mistakes, it is how you correct them that is the measure of an individual or an organisation.
    Thank you Dennis for explaining the process.

    I have found my way to pass my Level 4 without my handwriting being a problem (RO exams) and that is now sorted. It could becoem a problem if Level 6 becomes mandatory, but then I will just have to play the diasability card.

    Although I am often critical off the CII, that is simply because there is room for improvement. I try to suggest improvements if I criticise something. I have suggested a solution to David Ross for the problems that Ben Rees has mentioned, i.e. the scanning of all exam papers on site with the candidate being given a copy of what they have written to take away so that they can learn from their mistakes, but at present the costs are apparantly prohibitive for this process.

    As to Ben’s comments about the syallabus. I don’t know about the AFs, but the levle 4 syllabus is not within the CII remit. Ifs, CII and so on all test the same syllabus, it is just their methods which differ.

  7. Hi Phil,

    All good points – my point was not about the syllabus per se, more the out of date and sometimes disingenuous way in which the CII poses questions, and the common focus in CII exams on obscure elements of the syllabus. If we are trying to raise standards and promote better knowledge amongst advisers, why do the CII feel it necessary to ask double negative questions? This is not testing knowledge in a fair way for many people. I find it hard to think of other professional exams where the examining body face so much (in my eyes justified) criticism for the way in which they test people. Why not just test knowledge in a simple and clear way?

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