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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


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

  1. An exam has 125 questions surely face to face cannot ask that many questions in a day. This is sub standard way of achieving QCF level 4. Are you only allowed to look at case studies under invigilation or allowed to 25 mins of free time and have textbooks and then take notes.
    This is a cop out by the CII.

  2. What was the proportion of candidates that passed the assessment day?

  3. an expensive cop out at 2000.00 a time but for some needs must if left to the last minute

  4. I am concerned about this knowledge gap business.

    What is the point in learning something which one is very unlikely to meet and, when one meets it, the time of study will be long past? A Gynaecologist is not expected to gap fill heart surgery but we are expected to fill ALL gaps.

    At present I deal with the very few occasions where my knowledge isn’t up to speed by referring my client on to a specialist. Any responsible practitioner would do that.

    Even if I fill certain gaps and not use them for a year, I may not have the market knowledge to know how best to place the type of product that I recommend.

    No-one can be a specialist in everything and it’s time the FSA realised it, instead of perpetuating this nonsense.

  5. As he has testified the process is challenging and I can assure you that it is as robust a test of the kearning outcomes required by the FSA as the exams. A fact recognised by the FSA who have acknowledged it as a suitable RDR compliant alternative to the examination route.

    David Ross
    Chartered Insurance Institute

  6. Staggers me to see comments which think this is a cop out!!

    The intensity and difficulty of this I could not imagine, I have passed every other CII test first time but wonder if I could cope with this.

    The more I read from people who hold higher qualifications than others the more I see qualifications as a breeding ground for the wrong type of adviser. No-one it appears who ever sat anything different to them is as intelligent or ever will be – in their minds anyhow.

    It looks as if the FSA should have carried out more research as they may find, like other professions and industry have already discovered that vocational training should have been first.

    Academia left exactly as it was before a badge for those who need one.

  7. Am I right in thinking that this method of assessment is only possible for experienced individuals with a bank of clients already?

    The article says ‘ideally suited to experienced advisers preferring a face-to-face method of assessment.’ but from what the assessment entails, it doesn’t sound possible for any one else anyway?

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