How I reached QCF level 4 through alternative assessment

Ian Highton grey background

At the beginning of December 2010, I was invited to take part in the alternative assessment pilot for the CII. Having willingly accepted, I initially thought it would at least be good experience whilst also helping the CII test the robustness of their assessment process.

When I realised that by achieving a pass in the pilot assessment I would be awarded the Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning and have no requirement to gap fill, I decided that it was too good an opportunity to pass up and therefore focused all my energy into preparation for the Assessment day at the end of January 2011.

Having been an Independent Adviser since 1997, I considered myself to have considerable experience, however with only 50 credits due to my pre 1994 FPC and CeMAP, I had a long exam route ahead of me to reach the 140 diploma target.

Once I had identified the gaps in my knowledge by completing the CII Pre-assessment diagnostic tool, and each of the CII R0 example past papers, I was spending around three hours each day on study and revision. I found the material and resources for the R0 exams from Calibrand, ExamAngel & Wizard Learning an invaluable source of support.

In preparation ahead of the Assessment Day, I needed to submit three years CPD and you also have the opportunity to submit additional evidence to show that you have met specific learning outcomes. However due to my time limitations, I just submitted CPD evidence.

I think it is important to stress that the assessment requires you to evidence that you have met 100 per cent of the learning outcomes and NOT that 100 per cent of your answers are perfect.

Provided that you have done sufficient preparation, you should find no surprises. Your CPD and evidence will have been checked to satisfy any learning outcomes. On the actual assessment day you need to demonstrate that you have met the ‘remaining’ learning outcomes.

The day commenced at 8.30am with a series of calculation questions covering a range of issues. This was followed by face-to-face discussions with an assessor and was based on four case studies that were spread throughout the day. Before each discussion, you have 20 minutes to read the case study and accompanying questions. You are able to make notes which can be taken into the discussion. Questions may be ignored if the outcome has already been demonstrated elsewhere. The case studies are very broad, covering wider related issues. This gives you every opportunity to demonstrate the breadth of your knowledge. The assessor may also ask supplementary questions based on the responses you give in order to clarify your understanding. The day finished at 6pm after a final technical interview to establish your knowledge and skill levels. The focus is primarily on testing your ability to ‘apply’ knowledge across very broad areas.

The day is mentally very draining, but ideally suited to experienced advisers preferring a face-to-face method of assessment.

Ian Highton is a partner at Essential Financial Advisers