R04 exam: Pass first time

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R04 exam: Pass first time

The CII’s R04 exam, Pensions and retirement planning, has a current pass rate of 61% which makes it the hardest R0 multiple-choice exam.

The exam has 50 questions, and you have an hour to complete it. 39 of these questions are single-response questions that only need one answer. 11 of the 50 are those pesky multiple-response question that require more than one answer. These are much harder to answer.

10 tips to pass first time

Here are our top ten tips to make sure you pass the exam first time – or at least make it more likely!

  1. Put in the hard yards. The CII recommend around 50 hours of study and most people will, unfortunately, need this. If you have limited experience of pensions, odds-on you’ll need much more than this. Why? Because R04 covers a really broad syllabus ranging from the background to pensions, relevant state benefits and the different methods of drawing a pension income. Unfortunately, it also includes HMRC tax rules and these aren’t most people’s idea of fun!
  2. Work smarter, not harder. It’s not just about how much study you do, but it’s also about the quality of your study. Most people learn best by ‘doing stuff’, rather than just reading (which is passive). If you use the study text, for example, use highlighter pens, write summary notes and use the CII online RevisionMate practice questions. You might also use our audio material so that you can learn on the go.
  3. Practice, practice and practice some more. The best way to know what the R04 exam will look like is to complete the R04 CII exam guide at least twice. We suggest that you at least look at it at the start of your revision so you get a feel of the depth of knowledge you will require. You’ll then know which parts of the study text to ignore because they are too complicated. Unless you just enter for the exam, you’ll also get access to loads of practice questions on the CII RevisionMate. There is no excuse for not practising and it is the best way to learn, as well as assessing your knowledge.
  4. Focus on chapters 2, 6, 7 and 8 of the CII R04 study text.  The R04 exam questions are not allocated equally across each chapter in the study text. So if time is short, why wouldn’t you focus on the chapters that are most heavily examined? These four chapters not only account for over half of the tricky multiple response questions (which will require a greater level of understanding), but also over half the overall questions in the R04 exam.  In other words, you are unlikely to pass R04 without a decent grasp of the content in these chapters.
  5. Don’t panic about the HMRC tax regime! OK, let’s be clear about this. You cannot ignore this area as it will typically account for around 10 of the 50 questions in R04. That’s the bad news. On the positive side, some elements of the pensions tax regime are almost impenetrable which means that it is difficult for the examiners to test the more complex areas when they expect you to answer a question in around a minute.
  6. Calculations. The number of questions that involve a calculation will vary between exams but are typically less than 10. Being able to calculate a commutation factor or a straightforward tax liability on a pension income or a death benefit should be expected. An in-depth calculation of pension input periods less so. Keep this in mind when you are looking at some of the examples in the study text.
  7. Focus on the content you don’t know. If you are sitting R04, this is unlikely to be your first R0 exam so hopefully, you are likely to be familiar with at least some of the content. As few people will read the study text from cover to cover, focus your reading on the bits you are unfamiliar with AND which get examined. Why? The fact is that some knowledge goes a long way. Even if you don’t know the answer to a question, a little knowledge will help you to eliminate one or more of the incorrect answers. This leads me on to the next tip.
  8. Guess! Questions in R04 are marked positively so if you guess and get it wrong, you don’t lose anything. If you get it right then, bingo, one mark closer to the pass mark. Use a process of elimination to reduce the likely number of options but if in doubt, guess!
  9. Read the exam questions twice. Trust me, if the question gives you information, you’ll need to use it somehow. The CII doesn’t give information to just ‘pad out’ a question or mislead you. So read the question twice and ask yourself: ‘how do they expect me to use this information?’.
  10. Study in short bursts. For many people, a prolonged period of caffeine and last minute cramming just doesn’t work. Regular short bursts of 15-20 minutes is far more effective. Click here for more detail.

R04 resources

Click here for our FREE R04 practice question

Click here to access our revision hub

Be prepared. Good preparation leads to success. If you want to know how you can learn on the go and fit it in around everything else, click here for details.

Our job is to help you pass R04 first time. Hopefully this article has helped.

Ian Patterson

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

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