Monthly Archives:February 2018


CII R0 exams: the best order?

The CII R0 exams are a hugely popular way of achieving Diploma status. Some people have no other choice than to sit all six R0 exams; others sit some of the R0 exams to accumulate CII credits towards Chartered status.  Either way, it makes sense to think about the order you wish to sit them.

To achieve the CII’s Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning, you’ll need all six (or have credits from previous study). Going through from R01 to R06 in order might not always make sense. Here are the things to consider.

What is the easiest R0 exam?

This is a question we frequently get asked. It’s easy to answer and we’ll show the most recent exam results below. Whether it’s the right question is another matter!

The CII exam results for the main R0 exams in 2021 (the most recent results) are as follows:

R01: 69%

R02: 65%

R03: 57%

R04: 57%

R05: 78%

R06: 74%

There is clearly some variation between the different exams. But R06 is a very different exam to R03 as it is a ‘written exam’ and it is based on a case study that is issued two weeks before the exam.

Based on this analysis, the two easiest exams are R03 and R04 but we would caution against sitting these first. For most people, R04 (pensions) is a complicated area if you are not familar with it through your work. Many find that there are time pressures in the R03 (taxation) exam – you won’t have much time spare at the end!

Having said that, R05 (protection) has the highest pass rate. This is because ‘protection’ is less complex than some of the other areas, is generally more familiar to many students, and the exam does not have any of the beastly multiple-response questions where to get a mark, you have to get each of the options correct.

How do i decide which exam to take first?

We’ve just seen that exam results are a factor, but not the only factor. In reality, many people (especially those new to the profession) sit the R0 exams in order, i.e. they start with R01 and finish with R06. But this doesn’t need to be the case – you can sit them in whatever order you like. Here are our thoughts:

  1. Sit the subject you are most familiar with first. If you are working for a mortgage firm, you’ll probably be most familiar with protection so R05 might be a good place to start. If you work for an investment firm, you’ll be starting your study with some knowledge of investments (R02). Familiarity with a subject is a great way to ease yourself into the R0 exams. Remember that the syllabus to each subject is broad. Even if you are familiar with an area, there is likely to still be plenty in the exam that you are not familiar with so some study is almost always necessary.
  2. Don’t feel you have to leave R06 to the end. This tests broad financial planning scenarios. Contrast this with R02,3,4 and 5 which are specific planning areas where the knowledge you’ll need is narrow but deep. R06 will require knowledge that is broad but shallow. The case studies are issued two weeks before the exam so you can prepare on the technical areas that are most likely to be examined in advance which helps immensely. Our audio material gives the types of Q&As that have been asked previously in R06 for each client financial objective. Finally, there are only three R06 exam sittings in 2023 so if you leave R06 to your final exam, and you don’t pass, you will wait months before you can sit it again and get the result. The other R0 exams can generally be sat at any time.
  3. Regulation is not most people’s favourite topic! If you start with R01, it’s all about regulation (e.g. FCA, AML, GDPR), basic economic and legal background and an overview of financial services and providers. This isn’t what many students regard as exciting so why start with this? Besides, the more experience you gain in the workplace, the more you will inevitably become aware of FCA regulations so it makes sense if you leave this one.

Best order?

Subject to the above factors, here is what we suggest as an order to sit R01 to 6. Other training providers and students will have a different view but here goes…..

R05 – the most straightforward R0 exam with the highest pass rate

R03 – a tough exam but elements of it are also covered in R02, R04 and 6 so the knowledge you get in this exam will help with the other three to some extent

R02 – another tough exam but there is significant overlap with R03, i.e. investment products

R06 – sitting this isn’t really dependent on sitting the other exams first so you can be flexible when you sit it. Dovetail sitting this with when you sit other R0 exams and be aware that it’s only examined three times a year

R04 – leaving this until later on gives you time to prepare (if this is not a subject you are familiar with). It is the joint hardest R0 exam

R01 – you are unlikely to use much (if any) R01 content in the other R0 exams, and you’ve got to do it sometime!

How can we help with your exams?

We provide MP3 study material for R01-6 inclusive.  They should be used in conjunction with a study text and practice questions such as the CII’s RevisionMate questions. There’s never enough time to study for exams so our MP3s provide a convenient way of making use of time such as commuting, walking, in the gym… That’s why over 66,000 people have used our material in the past.

We also have a number of blogs for specific R0 subjects to help you pass first time:

R01, R02, R03, R04, R05, R06

Until the next time, prepare well.

Ian Patterson

Ex-examiner and author of the current CII study texts: CF8, J07 and AF6


CII R03: the five myths

In this blog, i’ll look at five commonly believed myths about the CII R03 exam. Like any exam, it helps if you understand what type of exam it is. It’s just as important to know the type of exam it isn’t.  So, if you want to pass R03 first time, read on and go into the exam with your eyes open.

Myth 1. As R03 is only worth 10 credits, it’s nice and easy.

Really, I don’t think so. More importantly, the CII exam statistics show that the pass rate for R03 – at 56% in 2019 (the latest figures available) – is THE hardest CII R0 exam.  So why is this?
1. Around 11 out of the 50 questions are multiple response questions. This means that there will be more than one correct answer to get a mark. These are much more difficult than the one from four standard question.  Work on the basis that if you get 50% of these correct, you are doing well; and

2. There is a lot to do in the typical R03 exam.  This is partly to do with calculations (see myth 4) and the length of some written questions to ensure what they are asking you is precise.

Click here to read a students guide to taking R0 exams

Myth 2. When completing the CII R03 exam, you should be comfortable for time.

This is probably the biggest myth. The CII R03 exam lasts for 1 hour and in that time, you have to answer 50 questions – that’s one question every 72 seconds. Very few people will come out of the R03 exam thinking that they had plenty of time. In fact, quite the opposite.

So apart from being aware of this, what can I do? Firstly, you need to practice lot’s of questions before you go into the exam.  This will get you familiar with the ‘style’ of the questions in the exam. Secondly, be aware of the information that is provided in the tax tables for the R0 exams. These include most of the information that you will need to carry out calculations. Familiarise yourself with these and don’t feel you have to remember, for example, the personal allowance for income tax, national insurance rates, stamp duty rates, or the annual exemption for CGT. All are provided for you.  If you are aware of this, and you know where to find the figures, it’ll save you some precious time in the exam.

Myth 3.  I just need to read some parts of the CII R03 study text.

This is a yes and no moment. We generally caution against reading all of a CII study text.  The general principle is that you ‘learn by doing’. It’s not how much study you do, but how effective it is so we suggest that most people should usually start with practice questions, continue to do so throughout your study and finish with them.  If you’ve previously completed the CII’s CF1 exam, then this has a dollop of tax in it that will help with R03. If you’ve completed R02, you’ll have some knowledge of how investments are taxed if nothing else.

That said, there are no obvious areas in R03 where there are likely to be a limited number of questions so it is difficult to ‘cherry pick’. The table below shows an overview of the syllabus cross referenced to the CII study text:

R03 syllabus learning outcome 
Number of questions
Chapters of CII R03 text 
Understand the UK tax system
15 standard format questions
Largely chapters 1, 2 and 3 but also elements from 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8
Analyse taxation of investments
8 standard format/ 7 multiple response
Chapters 9 and 10
Impact of tax on individuals and trusts
6 standard format/ 4 multiple response
Chapter 11
Undertake calculations and recommend tax planning solutions
10 standard format questions
Chapter 12

Many of you will have some experience of the UK tax system before attempting R03. You are likely to know the areas you are least comfortable with so focus on these chapters first.

Click here for the link to the R03 exam syllabus

Myth 4. R03 is all about calculations.

With it being a tax exam, don’t be surprised if you have to face some tax calculations. The good news is that these are only likely to be 10-20% of the questions and people generally over-estimate the numbers they will actually face.  The examiners can only ask you to do so much in the time available so if there is a full tax calculation, it will be relatively straightforward. The bad news is that the examiners can ask you to do part of a calculation. For example, calculate someone’s taxable income as opposed to their tax payable (which is a very different proposition). As ever, you need to read the question closely.

Myth 5. There isn’t much support material around for R03.

Yes there is, if you know where to look. When you enter for the exam, you can either buy the CII enrolment or enrolment plus packages. Both provide you with the CII R03 study text and access to their on-line CII RevisionMate resource. This includes ‘FREE’ multiple choice questions, split between each chapter.  The standard of these is broadly equal to that in the actual exam so they are well worth using.

In addition, depending on which option you pay for, you’ll also get access to further practice questions, audio material and key fact booklets. Click here for more details of what you will get.

If you like learning on the go, click here for details of our R03 audio material

There are plenty of other commercial training providers who will also offer practice questions and alternative study texts.  Just Google ‘CII R03 exam’ and see what you come up with.

Until the next time…

The Diploma Doctor