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CII R05 exam

CII R04 exam: the five myths

I’m going to make a rash assumption: you would like to pass your CII R04 exam first time.  If so, you need to understand the type of exam it is. Over the years, a number of ‘urban myths’ have developed about R04. This blog is intended to explore five of the most common R04 myths so that you can go into the CII R04 exam with your eyes open.

Myth 1. R04 is the hardest R0 subject.

If you look at the CII stats, this isn’t technically true. But it isn’t far off. Let me explain. The latest CII statistics show that the pass rate for R04 was 58% in 2019 (latest figures available).  In other words, just over 42% of people fail this CII exam.  This makes it the second hardest CII R0 exam, after R03 Personal Taxation.  So R04 is definitely at the harder end of the spectrum, even if it isn’t the hardest.

In our experience, R04 is a challenge because many people aren’t comfortable with pensions. This is especially so for those who are new to the profession, but it also applies to many of those with more experience.  This means that you are going to have to put in some hard yards – see Myth 5.

Myth 2. R04 is tested using just standard format multiple choice questions.

Afraid not. The R04 exam will require you to answer 50 questions and, of these, 11 of them are likely to be the multiple-response style question. This is the trickier type of question because there will always be more than one right answer. This means that it is harder to ‘rule out’ certain answers which in turn makes it harder to guess the correct answer. They also tend to take longer to answer than the standard format question.  So with this type of question, your pensions knowledge has to be good.

Tip: From a revision point of view, focus on chapters 5, 6 and 8 of the CII R04 study text. All of the multiple-response questions are found in just these three chapters.

Myth 3.  With R04, it’s easy to ‘cherry pick’ the areas to study.

This is definitely incorrect. The syllabus for R04 is broken down into 8 areas which are reflected in the chapters in the CII R04 study text. The three most heavily examined areas are:

  • Chapter 2 – HMRC rules – which has a total of 10 standard format questions;
  • Chapter 6 – pension income options – which has 9 questions; 5 standard format and 4 multiple response; and
  • Chapter 4 – DB schemes – which has a total of 7 standard format questions.

These three areas account for over half the questions in R04 between them. That’s the good news if you are looking to focus just on the areas likely to be examined.  The bad news is just less than 50% of the marks are to be found in the remaining five chapters. None of these chapters have less than 4 questions so you will also need a decent knowledge of all of these chapters if you are to pass.

NB. You will need to answer around 33 questions to successfully pass your CII R04 exam.

Tip: If your revision time is short, focus on chapters 2, 4 and 6. Even if time is not short, still focus on these areas but do not ignore the other chapters.

Click here for the link to the CII R04 exam syllabus

Myth 4. I need to know everything in the R04 study text.

It would be great if you did, but it really isn’t going to happen is it?  The key point I’d like to make here is that you are allowed to not know content. You can still pass this exam and get around 17 questions wrong!

You will probably also get the feeling that the examiners will test you on the most obscure of points in order to catch you out. The general feedback we get is that this isn’t usually the case in the exam. The questions tend to focus on mainstream areas such as DB pensions, auto-enrolment, pension scheme death benefits, pension contribution limits and the LTA, and the various methods of accessing pensions.

Remember that if you have 50 questions to complete in 60 minutes, the examiners are allowing around a minute a question. CII examiners are reasonable people. There is only so much they can ask you to do in 60 seconds so if you are really struggling to get your head around the complexities of pension input periods, then don’t worry with the more complex aspects. Time constraints mean that the examiners couldn’t test you on these even if they wanted to.

If you want some tips on technical areas, then click here to get a student’s perspective.

Myth 5. I just need to read the CII R04 study guide.

For most people, this is not a great idea. Sure, you will need to read parts of the text but we would suggest that you:

  • read it selectively. You learn by doing so if you do read the text, make sure you also make notes or ‘index cards’ as you are more likely to remember the content;
  • keep re-reading the end of chapter summary pages in the CII R04 study text;
  • use practice questions. If you’ve bought the CII study text, you have also purchased the ability to use their on-line RevisionMate tool. This has lots of ‘free’ questions to test your knowledge. Do these, then do them again, and use the text as a reference tool to understand why you got things wrong;
  • learn on the go. No one goes into R04 feeling over-confident so keep topping up your knowledge. Use ‘dead’ time such as commuting time, at the gym, running or walking the dog etc. Use our MP3 talking guides to reinforce your learning across the full syllabus – without having to dedicate extra time to your study.

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

Tip: The CII recommends 60 hours of study for the CII R04 exam. Most people will need this and more.  You will need to be smart with your study and do the ‘hard yards’ of study.

Prepare well and pass your CII R04 exam. Until the next time…

The Diploma Doctor

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