AF4 Investment planning: study requirements and guidance

The CII lists the relevant study texts for the AF4 exam as being the CII study texts for R02 and J10, together with their AF4 case study workbook.

Regarding further reading, candidates may need to obtain a wider knowledge beyond the CII study manuals and case study workbook, as the general principle is that the CII will set an exam based on the syllabus, not on their manuals/workbook. The CII material is written with the syllabus in mind and the examiners will often refer to the CII manuals for technical points as well as to past papers to ensure continuity of style and approach.

What makes an AF paper different from a ‘J’ or ‘R’ paper is that candidates must be able to apply the knowledge they gained during their diploma level studying to relatively complex client situations, which are given in the form of case studies.

A lot of the knowledge required is that already contained in the Wizard Learning AF4 Investment planning study package, which includes access as detailed below.

Most of the other reference materials listed in the CII syllabus are very expensive and often out-of-date, and go into a level of detail beyond which the examiners will test.
Extremely few people will purchase these reference materials in order to possibly pick up a few additional marks. Although please note that CII/PFS members can borrow most of the additional study materials listed from Knowledge Services.

Most useful resources
In our view, the most useful resources to help with exam preparation for AF4 are as follows:

The case study book sold by the CII is well worth purchasing as it gives you an up-to-date range of case studies (with model answers) across the syllabus that will ensure you know what to expect in the exam.  It will also help build up your knowledge and identify the areas on which you need to focus your studies.

The CII past papers are also a must, although some of the technical/legislative points may have changed, they will nonetheless show you the typical questions that the CII ask on each element of the syllabus. You may wish to sit these as mock papers or simply read through the questions and model answers to help get a feel for the exam and how to approach the questions.

Our AF4 study package will also be of great assistance; not only to help refresh your investment knowledge but equally as important to help you with the application of knowledge by providing additional mock case studies to try, as well as self-marked questions.

The full contents of our AF4 study package are:

  • AF4 self marked paper: Online exam paper where you type in your answers online and then mark yourself against the model answers
  • R02 Investment Principles and Risk: Online course
  • R02 Investment Principles and Risk: Assessment package containing 300 multiple-choice questions
  • J10 Discretionary Investment Management: Assessment package containing 300 multiple-choice questions plus 12 case studies with multiple-choice questions - note we don't offer an online course for J10 so the CII textbook will be required
  • AF4 self-marked question paper: Two 15 question self-marked assessments where you mark your typed in answers against a model answer
  • AF4 case study 1: Case study with 20 related multiple-choice questions including explanation of answers dealing with investment performance, investment management services, investment principles, market and the environment covering performance measures and risk
  • AF4 case study 2: Case study with 20 related multiple-choice questions including explanation of answers dealing with investment principles, market and the environment covering further performance measures, collective investments, other investments including direct investment
  • AF4 case study 3: Case study with 20 related multiple-choice questions including explanation of answers dealing with various aspects of direct investment into bonds, the advantages and disadvantages of direct investment and collective investment considerations
  • Learning to Learn: 5 online learning skills courses.

We would suggest that you get started by doing a mixture of revision, going through mock case studies and reviewing past papers. How you are getting on with these will be a good indicator as to how you will perform in the exam and whether you need to revisit a syllabus area. Many people will pass the exam by this method alone and those who get a good pass tend to be those involved in the technical end of financial planning already.

Should you feel the need to read more widely, the books listed on the CII AF4 syllabus are indeed the most likely suspects. The books and reference materials listed are unlikely to be of much practical assistance for the reasons detailed above, and whilst reading relevant journals and magazines can be useful for keeping your knowledge up to date, they may actually cause confusion. 

The AF4 exam is based on the law at a fixed point in time, and subsequent changes will not be examined until a later point.  The general rule is that the new tax year and changes that arise from the Finance Act will be examined from the 1 September each year.  Other changes that are not related to the Finance Act will be examined 3 months after they have legal effect.  In other words your exam will be based on the legal position 3 months before your exam date.  Care therefore needs to be taken in this regard and it is recommended that you check the Learning solutions updates which can be found under ‘Unit updates’ on the AF4 content page of the CII website.