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How to pass the CII R01: What makes R01 such a tricky exam?

How to pass the CII R01 Financial services, regulation and ethics unit – what makes this a tricky exam?

For many candidates, this is the first exam that they attempt in the CII Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning, and as first exams go it’s a bit of a baptism of fire! The support team at BTS often take calls from new R01 candidates who tell us they are finding this unit a bit overwhelming. For anyone new to financial services, (and for some who have been in the sector a while!) this unit can take some getting to grips with.

In this article we look at some of the reasons why candidates can come unstuck in this exam, and recommend strategies, tips, and study resources to help candidates to know how to pass the CII R01 exam.

What is the national pass rate for the R01? How is the national pass rate calculated?

The national pass rates quoted in the table above, published by the CII, show the percentage of candidates who passed the exam during the year, calculated by dividing the number of passes by the number of sittings. This doesn’t tell you whether the sitting was the candidate’s first sitting or a resit.

What is does tell you is, of all the sittings in each year, approximately a third of candidates fail this exam. BTS work with many candidates who have previously failed the exam before reaching out for support.

Their first question is often – how do I pass the CII R01 exam?

How to pass the CII R01: What makes R01 such a tricky exam?

What does the R01 syllabus cover?

Regulation, regulation, and more regulation!

The R01 syllabus isn’t the most scintillating. It’s not easy to get excited about regulation, legislation and ethics! 

The CII R01 paper requires candidates to have a broad understanding of the regulation, legislation, and Code of Ethics for the financial services industry.

It is this breadth of understanding (of not the most interesting of subjects!) that can make it a tricky paper to crack.

Many candidates start their study of the R01 using the examining body study text which is a rather dry read. The CII book is a technical manual with lots of text on the regulation, legislation and ethical requirements for the sector. This can be pretty heavy going, especially for candidates studying alone, as many do with R01.

What many R01 candidates don’t realise is that they don’t have to use a CII package. It is possible to book the exam stand-alone or ‘assessment only’, though this will be the last option on the CII webpage! Candidates can then choose study materials from other training providers, like BTS. Choosing study materials that suit how you like to learn will be invaluable in helping you to pass the R01 exam.

How to pass the CII R01 What makes R01 such a tricky exam
How to pass the CII R01 What makes R01 such a tricky exam

What can you do to bring the subject to life?

Study using materials that break the syllabus down into manageable chunks.

The BTS R01 study guide uses worked examples, such as the one below, throughout every chapter to support your learning and build your confidence. This means that by the time you reach the practice questions at the end of the chapter you have a good question/answer model to follow and a better understanding of the R01 exam style.

What is the R01 exam paper like?

Despite being a multi-choice exam with the answers in front of you, candidates often find the CII question wording tricky to decipher, and sometimes it feels like all the answer choices could be right. Or none of them!

The exam questions can be very tricky, far trickier than many practice questions on offer in the market, so candidates get a real shock in the exam, and not in a good way. No candidate wants to start the exam to find the questions they have practised on are much easier that those they now face. Yet that’s the situation many find themselves in, as not all practise questions on the market reflect the standard in the actual exam. 

At BTS, we sit the R0 exams every year to keep our materials fit for purpose. The BTS Study Buddy App contains hundreds of exam standard questions to practise in the weeks leading up to the exam. All are as close to the exam standard as we can possibly get them.

Practise as many exam standard questions with the BTS App as you can to avoid a nasty shock in the exam.

BTS top-tips for to pass the CII R01 exam:

1. Avoid answers that are too definitive – words such as always or never are not usually associated with the correct answer.

2. When answering multi-response questions – getting rid of the answers that are obviously wrong will usually leave two possibly correct answers.

3. The first few questions are always extra hard in the R01 exam – don’t let that put you off! You will get to some stuff you know we promise.

Are there any training days available for R01?


It can really help to have someone who has exam expertise talk through key concepts.  

BTS revision workshops help candidates to focus their revision by concentrating on the learning outcomes that have high question weightings in the exam. For R01, some examples of these are learning outcomes 4/5/6 and 7.

Focusing on some of the heavier weighted R01 learning outcomes that are essential for an R01 pass will help you to know where best to invest your study time.


View Our R01 Exam overview/toolkit to purchase any R01 Study support including Study Guides, e-Learning modules, online workshops and study buddy. 

Find out more in depth help and advise to structure your R01 studies by viewing our R01 Study Plan.

Chat with other R01 candidates in the dedicated BTS R01 online forum room to help keep up to date , find out any new information and gain help and advise from others.

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