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School for support

Advisers can get invaluable help in achieving RDR qualifications by linking up with the Money Marketing Academy website run in conjunction with the CII

Steve Jenkins
Steve Jenkins, Director Financial services markets, The CII

The retail distribution review is designed to achieve a step-change in the professionalism of financial advisers.

The FSA has said that holders of a current level 4 qualification such as the CII QCF Level 4 Diploma in Financial Planning, will satisfy any new qualification stipulations. A candidate has to pass four out of the eight units available. The industry is starting to respond to the call to improve qualifications ahead of the deadline.

Steve Jenkins, director of financial services markets at the Chartered Insurance Institute, says: “Since early 2008 when the RDR was announced,over 47,000 diploma bookings have been made. The number of diploma bookings for 2010 is already up by 39 per cent on this time last year, building on the numbers from 2009 which increased by 63 per cent on the previous year. This shows the surge of activity through 2009 is continuing into 2010 and the market position will get significantly stronger as the year progresses.

“We are seeing a large number of first-time diploma candidates, proving that many are making the move to ’no-regrets’ qualifications, as outlined by the FSA. Around 9,000 entered a diploma subject for the first time since January 09 and over 20,000 are currently studying for the diplomas.”

The CII and Money Marketing have joined forces to create the Academy – a web portal which aims to provide support to advisers who are setting out to attain level 4.

In support of the Academy, this is the first in a series of articles looking at each stage of the Diploma in Financial Planning in more detail, offering insight into what the examiners will be looking for and providing helpful tips on how to pass the exams.

The Diploma in Financial Planning develops advanced technical knowledge and understanding across a broad range of key advisory areas and is split into eight exam units. The format of the individual units reflects the needs of today’s market for current, targeted technical learning.

Steve Davis, an exam revision specialist from Times Up Training and an ex-CII examiner,
says: “The main reason people are failing exams is due to not putting in enough study time. It is not easy managing a job, a life and, in many cases, a family so it means it can be difficult to put time aside. My advice is to find ways of maximising learning while minimising the time needed, so studying smartly.

“Work out when your optimum time to study is – when your brain is most alert – and try to put some study in at that time each day. Attack pages in bite-sized chunks so you feel you are achieving something in each session. Make lots of lists on pocket cards to carry round with you and regularly check, create stories, pictures and mnemonics, all to aid memory recall and try to make it more interesting. Search on Google for subjects and find an article that explains it differently.”

“Don’t just rely on the study guide – always get a copy of the last three examination reports as a minimum. They are available from the CII and give you insight into question interpretation – a common challenge for candidates – and what the examiner is looking for, as well as tips on layout of information to maximise marks.

“Once you are in the exam, write your answers in bullet form. Think about it as one mark per relevant, accurate bullet point. Answer the questionsyou know first and come back to the tricky ones later. Once you have answered a couple of the questions you know – and have a few marks under your belt – this will build your confidence for completing the exam.

“Some of the exams focus quite heavily on calculations, so show all your workings step-bystep as there are usually good marks up for grabs with questions requiring calculations. Don’t risk a single mark – this can be the difference between a pass and a near miss. Always phrase your answer using the right terminology and state the obvious, spelling out your answer to the examiner.”

“Topicality is also a big focus in all of the JO exams. Ensure you are up to speed with any new developments.

“Finally, make sure you read the question and check how many marks each one is worth – this will give you a steer on how much time you should spend and how many defining bullet points you should give to pick up the marks.”

For further support, email

Key Facts:

  • Over 15,700 individuals currently hold the Diploma or above, of which:
  • over 11,000 individuals hold Diploma (or equivalent);
  • over 2,000 hold Advanced Diploma level (or equivalent);
  • nearly 600 are fellows and
  • over 1,990 hold Chartered status.


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