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How to Pass the CII R02: Is the R02 Exam Getting more Difficult?

The CII R02 Investment Principles and Risk exam has never been an easy R0 to pass, but is it getting more difficult?

This is a question that many recent R02 candidates ask. Even those who pass the CII R02 come out of the exam saying, “That was tough!”.

R02 has never been an easy exam to pass. Why would it be? It’s a level 4 exam.

That said, there seems to be a recent trend that the exam questions are certainly doing what you’d expect, and really testing candidates abilities to apply the knowledge they have gained. In this article, BTS director, Jeff Scholes reflects on his recent annual sitting  and shares some tips on what to expect and how to prepare to pass the CII R02 exam.

100 questions, 2 hours. Easy, right?

In the not-too-distant past, here at BTS we always used to say that candidates have plenty of time to answer the 100 questions in the 2 hours available. Many candidates could complete the questions with 30 minutes to spare, giving them time to review their answers. Now, even the experienced trainers of R02 tell us that they only had 10 mins or so left to be able to review what they had completed.

One reason for this is that the latest batch of CII R02 questions seem to be a lot more ‘wordy’ than they used to be. Candidates have to decipher which of the elements in the question are key, and which can be ignored, which really tests how well the subject is understood.

BTS spend so much time in our study materials making sure that candidates fully understand the subject. It’s no good just learning facts. To pass the R02 you need to be able to apply knowledge in situations where the subject is presented in a way that you may have not seen before.

How to pass the CII R02: Is the R02 exam getting more difficult?

How to approach long and wordy CII R02 questions

The best advice on these long and wordy questions is NOT to read them quickly in a dash to get to the answers. If you do, you can almost guarantee that you will have to go back and read them again. That is not good use of your available time.

Take time to consider each of the words in the question; the examiner will have included them for a reason. In fact, the language they have used will help you see exactly what they are testing. Key words like ‘directly-held’ or ‘equity-based’ will give you clear pointers towards the right answer, but skimming over these words can lead you to believe that the incorrect options are true.

Spotting distractors in the CII R02 exam

Another point about the content and words within the questions is that there are now far fewer ‘obviously wrong’ options. You may have heard us mention this before, but professional question-writers call the wrong answers in multiple choice or multiple-response questions ‘distractors’. The job of these wrong answers is to distract you into believing that they may be correct…

From my last and recent sitting, I can say from experience that there are now far fewer blatantly incorrect distractors. The ones in my exam did their job well, and definitely distracted me enough to make me have to work to see why they were incorrect!

How to pass the CII R02 Is the R02 exam getting more difficult
How to pass the CII R02 Is the R02 exam getting more difficult

Improving your memory for calculations and formulae

Another factor that creates time pressure in this 2-hour exam is the fact that there are now more questions where candidates have to repeat calculations a number of times. Certain questions, such as those on yields or ratios, rarely ask you to carry out a calculation just once. More often, they will present information in a table and ask you to do the same calculation three or four times, and then work out which is the higher or lower, or ask you to state the difference between two calculated answers.

For calculation questions you need to build up your brain-muscle memory in advance. You can probably guess which calculations are likely to come up, such as:

  • Simple income tax
  • Capital gains tax
  • Performance fees
  • Price-earnings ratios
  • Redemption yields
  • Rental yields
  • Etc. (the list could go on)


Make sure you can do these without hesitating. The only way to get that muscle memory is practice. It’s worth remembering the adage “Amateurs practice until they can get it right; professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong’.

Practise exam-standard R02 questions

Get your hands on as many exam-style questions as you can. In the exam, the pressure of the moment will make you feel that the questions are ‘harder than I expected’ but the more near-exam style practice you can have had, the more likely you will be able to tweak what you have learned and apply it to the questions in front of you.

The exam-style questions in the BTS study guide, e-Learning module and on the app are all as exam-standard as we can make them. Find out more about the study resources in the BTS R02 study toolkit.

Don't just take our word for it...

“Without the Study Guide, Study Buddy and especially the 2 day course I don’t think I would have passed. The CII official book is full of text and the revisionmate resources are no way near as good or useful as BTS Resources.”

Ben | R02 Candidate | February 2022

“I would advocate to anyone not to give up on exams. I completely underestimated the workload / life balance. Nonetheless, I was not giving up and want to thank BTS for your support as it has really helped, so thank you. ”

R02 Workshop Attendee | February 2022

“I passed my R02 exam today with 94% and I can’t thank you and BTS enough. I used the past paper questions and the similarity to the exam questions today was amazing, all so relevant and at the exact difficulty level.”

Max Green | Graduate Financial Adviser | May 2021

“The next exam passed today!! R02 investment principles & risk. What a great start to the weekend! Only 2 left!! Thank you to Bespoke Training Solutions for the training course that focused my studies before the exam.”

Prue Ockenden | Mortgage Adviser | April 2021


View Our R02 Exam overview/toolkit to purchase any R02 Study support including Study Guides, e-Learning modules, online workshops and study buddy. 

Find out more in depth help and advise to structure your R02 studies by viewing our R02 Study Plan.

Chat with other R02 candidates in the dedicated BTS R02 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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