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Cemap co-ordinates

As good as it was, the birthday wine that toasted the passing of another year could only be a temporary diversion to the envelope containing the Cemap syllabus that lay unopened in my office.

However, as the saying goes, a journey of 1,000 miles starts with a single step and it was time to open my up to now discarded birthday present – a big black ringbinder announcing itself as the syllabus for the Certificate in Mortgage Advice and Practice.

Using my best time management and organisation skills, I immediately put it on top of the nearest filing cabinet while I got on with the more pressing jobs of the day.

The problem with leaving it in sight for the rest of the week was that it became more menacing every time I looked at it. I was left with no other choice – I was going to have to start reading it.

The start of the book introduces you to the concept of active learning. Any pursuit which includes the word “active” always fills me with a little apprehension but this did not look too bad. The idea of active learning is to break down the material so that it is not simply a case of learning big blocks of information.

There are numerous case studies and what-ifs which help to make the facts more understandable. It is the old IFA method of telling stories to get the message across and, while some of it is very basic, it does works.

The syllabus breaks down the housebuying process and the life of a mortgage into three parts. The first part is all about the early days of the housebuying and mortgage application process. This includes finding a house, putting in an offer, applying for a mortgage, fulfilling the lender&#39s underwriting requirements and getting a mortgage offer.

The middle section covers the issue of the mortgage offer and the remainder of the house-buying process from exchange of contracts to completion. The final section looks at post-completion matters such as transfers of equity and arrears&#39 handling.

The first part, I thought, would be the simple bit, as I advise clients on the mortgage process every day. But then I reached what shampoo adverts call “the technical bit”. If you thought a corporeal heriditament was a type of flower, then think again.

I quickly discovered that being an IFA is not all that is required here. You also have to be a building society manager, a solicitor, a surveyor and an arrears counsellor rolled into one. As far as the Cemap exam is concerned, it is unimportant which area of the industry you come from. There are no concessions – you are expected to know it all.

Okay. I have now read the introduction and the first few chapters and, so far, so good. There are plenty of legal terms and technical bits to remember but there is a pint with my name on it and I have done my first hour of the recommended 40, so I have earned it.

The book is left untouched for a week and then it is back into it with a vengeance.

An email to the Scottish Widows Bank Cemap help facility (cemap.help@scottish widows.co.uk) confirms that, as I am studying for the paper based on English law, I do not need to bother with the sections relevant to Scottish law. That removes a bit of reading. However, mindful of my fellow IFAs North of the border, another email confirms that they can ignore any mention of English property law as they will not be tested on that, so I have checked that out for you.

A lot of the material in the early chapters is straightforward and, with sections on the different types of mortgages and life products, I can feel some early marks coming my way.

One thing that does stand out is the way the syllabus assumes all lenders have the same criteria, underwriting and processes. In the real world, I may be able to get a self-cert, non-status, sub-prime loan but, in the Cemap world, the examiner thinks I will struggle to place a deal like this. I am going to have to bear this in mind when answering the questions.

Another few hours of study under my belt and still no surprises. But I can see why the pass rate is not that high as the level of detail is beginning to cause overload and my thoughts are wandering to a cool pint in a warm beer garden.

As the Institute of Financial Services&#39 version of the Cemap exam is completely multiple choice, there is no room for waffle – I am going to either know the answer or not.

My study plan is taking shape. I will fit the Cemap revision in over the next few months and sit the exam in September. I am about to go on a short family break to Cyprus and, after packing all the essentials, I am concerned that taking the Cemap book along will put me over the baggage allowance.

This would also seriously annoy my wife, to whom I have promised that I will not take anything remotely work-related on holiday.

I decide to have one last look through the first section before I go but, after a while, I get bored and flick to the end to see what happens – sorry to spoil it for you but they get repossessed.

In my next diary, I will have a look at section two of the syllabus and also check out what support is available to IFAs who have not yet sat Cemap.

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