Who would have guessed how much goes into preparing for financial services exams?!
I had intended to use this site as a diary to share my experiences of going through the process but I didn’t commit to it enough, perhaps in part because of a feeling of guilt that this site would be a form of procrastination instead of using my time to work through the content of the RO exams.
Passing R01 Financial services, regulation & ethics
The short version of the first part of my journey is I passed R01 in June 2013, after 2 months of revision during evenings and weekends.
On a cloudy and unusually cold morning in June, clutching hastily scribbled revision notes, I nervously boarded a train from my home station of York heading to Hull. You can do the CII exams at a number of different test centres but the one in York is at Full Sutton Prison which is quite far out of York which is difficult without access to to a car, so I opted for the exam centre at Hull College.
My mission that morning was simple:
- To locate Hull College
- Find the examination room in time
- Pass my first ever financial exam, R01 Financial services, regulation & ethics
Steps 1 and 2 were easily achieved with mobile phone sat-nav, and asking for directions but the third step required a little more work.
The CII estimate it takes 60 hours of study to prepare a candidate for the exam. I’m afraid I didn’t track the amount of time I studied for but for about 5 or 6 weeks the big blue study text book rarely left my hands.
The objective of the unit is to develop knowledge and understanding of the financial services industry, including regulation, legislation and the Code of Ethics. This meant learning countless facts about tax law and financial products. It was through reading the textbook that I discovered how much I didn’t know, but I made it through the exam on my first attempt.
The feeling of relief was amazing and passing first time gave me a lot of confidence for the other exams.
Moments after passing R01 In June 2013
Passing R02 Investment Principles and Risk
I didn’t start revising for R02 straight away after passing R01 because I wanted to wait for the new text book issued in July 2013. If I had ordered the text book straight away in June I would only have had until the end of August to pass the exam before the syllabus changed. I didn’t think there would be too many changes to the content but I didn’t want to risk it so gave myself a month off study and enjoyed the summer with my girlfriend.
Finally the big blue R02 book arrived, just in time for my trip to Barcelona!
Barcelona with my girlfriend, taking a break from studying for my Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning
Truth be told I didn’t open the book many times on holiday but it was oddly comforting knowing I had the book with me! After getting back I spent most of September doing a bit of reading and revising every day and booked the exam for October 2013. I was nervous from reading accounts of multiple failures by other students.
The R02 text book had lots of formulae and figures that had to be memorised for the exam. Whilst it was a little daunting, the actual content was really interesting, considerably more so than the content from R01 which at times seemed like a never-ending list of changing regulations through the years.
It was my curiosity in investing that made me start this journey in the first place so it was great to read more about the details that I’d missed with my limited experience of index funds and ISAs.
This wasn’t part of the plan…
How breaking my foot helped me pass R02
September 2013 was also eventful because I badly broke my foot and had to have an operation on it! I even brought my RO2 book to hospital to read!
I wasn’t able to get around much for several months but at least I could still study!
For the exam I opted for a taxi ride to York’s examination centre at Full Sutton, as I was on crutches and didn’t fancy trying to make the journey to Hull. And, to my great relief (and surprise) I passed the exam.
One of the main challenges in the exam is getting through the questions in time. For the last 10 questions I only had 10 minutes to complete. I was working out questions until the very last second. So imagine my relief when the exam ended and a little pop-up appeared on screen saying I had passed R02!
Apart from the pain of my broken foot I was feeling on top of the world. I knew studying for this CII Diploma of Regulated Financial Planning was going to be a lot of work but I was relieved to prove to myself that I was academically capable of passing challenging exams on a first attempt.
Failing R03 Personal Taxation
You could say I was cocky after passing R02 on my first attempt. I had been quite nervous going in, and yet when I got my final breakdown I had done much better than just scraping by with a pass. I ordered my next big blue book that would dominate my life and when it arrived I booked the R03 exam.
I had expected R03 Personal Taxation to require much less study-time because it’s only a 10 credit unit compared with R01 and R02 which are both 20 credit units. But I was wrong.
Whilst the study text was a little cheaper, it is just as thick as R02 and the content requires a lot of in-depth study and careful revision.
Like R02 there are quite a few calculations to be learnt and memorised, as well as the complex rules about inheritance tax and direct/indirect investments.
I once again travelled to the York examination centre and sat the exam, but I didn’t have the same luck as I had for R02, and when the time was up I saw that I had failed it. I picked up my crutches and hobbled out, dejected.
I didn’t know the margin that I had failed by but I was sure I would pass on a second attempt which I booked a week later. But once again I failed. I later found out I was one mark away from passing.
R03 would require a lot more work than I had initially thought.
Moving onto R04 Pensions and Retirement Planning
It was now December 2013, and I couldn’t face the thought of reading that Tax book over Christmas so I decided to press on to R04 to the topic of pensions and retirement planning. As I had enjoyed learning in more detail about investments in R02, I was confident I would find the content of R04 just as interesting, and I had a little more time over Christmas to dig into the content.
I was reading through the pension book slowly but soon it was January 2014 and the month came and went in a blink of an eye.
Truth-be-told, I felt a little stalled on my journey to become Level 4 qualified, and the CII examination body must have been reading my mind when this email arrived in my inbox:
I had made some decent progress into R04 but R03 was haunting me and after some contemplation I decided to return to R03.
It’s time to pass this exam.
UPDATE: I’m delighted to announce I passed R03! You can read about passing R03 here
Can you add anything to this? Be sure to join the discussion by leaving a comment below this post.
This post was written by Adam, a Financial Services Apprentice (and aspiring financial planner) based in York, UK. Read more here. To follow his progress just put your name and email in the boxes below and join the Financial Planning Academy