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Moving from your Level 4 Exams to a Level 6 exam

What’s the difference between taking an R06 Level 4 and an AF5 Level 6 exam?

When candidates start to explore the Advanced Diploma as their next step to develop technical expertise, a common question is, ‘how different are the exams and do I need to take a different approach to the one that got me through the R0s?’.

The differences between Level 4 exams to a Level 6 exam level can seem vast. A comparison between R06 and AF5 is a good example as these two exams take a similar format; a written paper based on pre-released information – case studies for R06, and a fact find for AF5.

For those who have recently taken the R06 examination, although the style can seem familiar, AF5 requires more in depth, more challenging and more critical thinking. The level of detail required is substantially higher.

Level 4 Exams to a Level 6 exam

How can you reach the next level?

You need to display that you fully understand all the technical details behind any statement. If it is not written in your answer the examiner will assume you do not know it.

An R06 style answer may be:

“By paying a spouse a low wage, you can save on National Insurance payments.”

In contrast, an AF5 style answer may be:

“By paying a spouse a salary between the lower earnings limit and the primary threshold, the spouse would not have to pay employee National Insurance contributions but would qualify for benefits such as the single tier pension.  As an employer, by keeping earnings under the secondary earnings threshold, employer National Insurance could also be avoided.”

You can see in the example where Level 6 critical analysis is coming into play. You need to demonstrate that you have focused on information-gathering and fact-analysis. It’s all about understanding and relating back to your client(s) fact find.

If you want the fact find analysis to be professional and accurate, you must have a clear understanding of the financial objectives/aims that your client(s) are facing. Read the fact find thoroughlyBe analytical, not descriptive.

Be prepared for the ‘good, the bad and the downright ugly’ questions you might get asked.  It’s a good idea to look at some past exam reports to see the themes that come back regularly.

Being prepared for the Level 6 exams in comparison to the multi-choice Level 4 exams, is much harder when there are no answers in front of you to select from. Instead, you must come up with enough quality answers on your own! Remember the quality and depth of answers needs to be there, plus you need to avoid the pitfalls mentioned in past examiner comments.

Moving from your Level 4 Exams to a Level 6 exam
Moving from your Level 4 Exams to a Level 6 exam

Using what’s already in your ‘toolbox’

With your Level 4 Diploma under your belt, the next step is to develop your existing skills so you can adapt to Level 6 more independently and effectively.  The people who reach the top level have one key attribute in their toolbox – they know they must practise, over and over, and over again!

Dig deeper to level up

To help you visualise the ‘depth’ and ‘breadth’ approach needed for you to jump from Level 4 to Level 6 status let’s take an analogy. Start by imagining you are standing on a beach and have been asked to study it. At Level 4 you stand and look at the soft sandy beach in front of you. You can see the sand and the ocean beyond and you know what you are dealing with.

At Level 6 you need to go and get a whopping big spade (and possibly some people to help you) and dig an enormous deep hole. You start by studying the sand, you move onto the shells buried in the sand, you study the creatures that use the sand, you take note of the sunbathers and ice cream eaters, you look at the tides and anything else that lies above, below, and beyond.

Passing the AF exams is not all about technical knowledge

A big part of passing these exams is your question answering technique – it’s not the volume but the quality of what you type down that will score you the marks.


Read our Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning FAQs to find out information such as;

  • How do I enrol for the Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning?
  • What are the AF / J0 Exams?
  • What order should you sit the AF / J0 Exams?
  • What is the CII Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning

         and more!

Find out more in depth help and advise to structure your Advanced Diploma AF studies by viewing our AF1, AF4, AF5, AF7 and AF8 Study Plans.

View Our Advanced Diploma AF Exams overview/toolkits to purchase any AF Study support including Study Guides, e-Learning modules, online workshops and study buddy for AF1, AF4, AF5, AF7 and AF8.

Read another insightful article on ‘The CII Level 6, Advanced Diploma Exam Pass Rates’ to find out more about information about the Higher Diploma AF Exams.   

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