Reading some of the recent press comments and blogs, there is an adviser body that thinks the new diploma in regulated financial planning has been dumbed down because it is tested online through multiplechoice questions. In fairness, some of the PFS members attending the regional presentations on qualifications have also raised similar concerns.
So is this a valid criticism or just a perception?
Having challenged quite a few people, both within the CII and externally, I am persuaded that the new diploma is not an easier qualification. The new diploma was developed by advisers and examiners and the testing methodology was carefully considered before the change was introduced.
Objective testing is a tried and tested approach within higher education. Increasing numbers of universities and professional bodies, including those in the medical profession, have adopted this method of assessment even at levels above QCF level four.
Because the questions typically take candidates less time to complete, with answers not having to be written out, it is possible to have a greater number of questions, thereby testing a greater proportion of the syllabus. The breadth of this coverage lessens candidates’ ability to “question/subject spot” since more of the syllabus will be covered.
Additionally, the testing methodology will extend beyond mere knowledge recall, involving comprehension, application and analysis-based questions that focus on the specified learning outcomes for the units in question.
Objective testing also removes any possibility of variations in marking due to subjective factors such as personal bias. All questions are considered to ensure no bias exists in the questions themselves. A range of techniques is also employed to ensure that the objective testing is robust and to minimise the chances of candidates making a lucky guess. This includes, for instance, checks to ensure the removal of obviously wrong answers, ensuring no inadvertent narrowing of the answer pool.
There are also significant benefits associated with testing this way as it enables online examinations and electronic marking, meaning candidates can get immediate provisional results notification, with full confirmation sent within seven days. And in the event that a candidate fails they can enter to re-sit in as little as seven days. This addresses a concern raised by many existing diploma entrants that three exams sessions a year, as is the case with the existing diploma, isn’t flexible enough when trying to balance work/life commitments.
Finally, Gary Bottriell, a highly respected IFA and Fellow of the PFS, has tested the methodology by sitting a 100-question mock exam as part of the rigorous pre-launch assessment. His comment says it all: “Anyone who doesn’t prepare for this exam, thinking it will be easy, is in for a shock.”
Fay Goddard is chief executive of the PFS