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Testing time

Well, since my last article, I have had the results from my April sitting of AF3 pensions planning, failed it by a narrow margin, had a remark of the paper where it was still a fail and have also since sat the AF3 exam again on October 3. There, that was a quick article!

These CII AF exams are tough and should not be underestimated. I thought I had done quite well in the April exam and was surprised to have failed and I have heard from a number of candidates in the same position. I did receive feedback from my re-mark, which said: ’I needed more detailed knowledge from a technical perspective.” Although frustrating to me and others who may have failed these exams, I guess it is correct from an advanced planning subject leading to chartered financial planner status.

I therefore had to dust myself down and pick myself back up to start work for an October sitting of the exam and that is exactly what I did. I attended a two-day CII face-to-face revision training course which was excellent with an excellent tutor and a great bunch of students all willing to help each other and share stories and ideas. A number of advisers on the course were sitting the AF3 exam for the second or third time.

Not to make excuses but it has been a very tough subject to study in view of all the recent pensions’ legislation changes we have experienced over the last year or so.

From changes to annual allowances, lifetime allowances, transitional protection and rules to unsecured pension changes to drawdown flexibility and limits.

But it has been a great opportunity to keep up to date with these technical changes and that is beneficial in my day job. I can use this technical knowledge in the real work I am doing with clients.

Having failed the exam already, I was very dedicated and have spend a lot of time studying again for the October sitting of the AF3 pensions planning exam. It is a huge syllabus covering most of the technical detail from the J04 and J05 pensions coursebooks and I concentrated on covering the syllabus material and past papers for exam technique. I sat the exam on October 3 for the second time and again found it very difficult. As I suspected, there were questions on fixed protection and carry forward but also questions on Qrops and state pensions for individuals retiring abroad. This just demonstrates the broad level of knowledge required to pass this challenging exam. I hope I have done enough to pass but I did find it tough.

Instead of taking a break, I have decided to soldier on and have already started studying the AF2 business planning subject using the J03 tax and legal aspects of business syllabus. Which I intend to sit in April 2012 with my aim firmly set on getting enough AF credits to apply for chartered financial planner status.

Garry Hale, Director, HK Wealth Managers

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