No matter where you are on your journey within the finance industry, it is likely you are no stranger to exams.
Financial services are renowned for excellence, and this reputation can be chalked up to one thing: a commitment to professional development. Advising within this sector requires you to work hard, attaining years of experience and numerous qualifications before you can work independently.
While any profession has its ups and downs, perhaps one of the more stressful aspects of becoming qualified is sitting the exams required to achieve your goals.
Since 2005, we have helped hundreds of budding advisers on their journey to success. Our courses, run between three and four times a year, help prepare advisers for whichever qualification they are pursuing next – from just taking one exam, to achieving Chartered status, and everything in between.
So, over the years, we have learned a thing or two about boosting your chances of passing an exam. Spoiler alert: it’s nothing to do with your “natural ability”, and much more down to how you approach your studies!
Here are five top tips to help you pass exams.
1. Your studies should fit into your life, not the other way around
When you took exams at school, it’s likely your whole life revolved around those tests.
But in adult life, studying for exams is a delicate balancing act. You might already be working in the sector full-time and have numerous personal responsibilities, like a family and home.
One critical mistake some advisers make when studying for exams is trying to make their life revolve around their studies. This could take the form of: spending less quality time with your kids; offloading responsibilities at work; or quitting healthy hobbies.
While tempting, these tactics could induce burnout and increase your stress.
Instead, it could be more constructive to make your studies work for you.
Taking on a realistic approach to your work-study-life can include revising in bite-sized chunks, helping you to digest course material in smaller sittings and reduce your stress in the process.
2. Take your time
When you’ve mastered step one (fitting your studies into your busy life), you will realise that cramming for exams over a short period might not be the best strategy.
If you have a hectic life to begin with, pressuring yourself to take exams within a few weeks of beginning your studies could lead to both stress and disappointment.
Usually, the CII holds exams for each qualification around three times a year. This can vary depending on the exam you are sitting.
While you might feel impatient and wish to book the nearest exam slot, it’s important to stop and ask yourself: do I want to rush this process?
By taking longer to build up your knowledge and skills, and seeking the appropriate guidance (more on this in step five!), you could have a better chance of achieving the results you want.
3. Focus on the process
If your end goal is to attain Chartered status, looking at the number of exams you need to pass could be like standing at the foot of a mountain. You might feel overwhelmed by the prospect of the ascent, no matter how badly you want to stand at the top and take in the view.
One important mantra to adopt when taking CII exams – or any other qualification – is to “focus on the process”.
For example, if you are taking the second of six exams that could lead you to attain your Advanced Diploma, worrying about the third, fourth, fifth and sixth exams right now is about as useful as a chocolate teapot!
Instead, try to direct your attention towards this one exam entirely. Once you pass, celebrate! Then, put it behind you and give the next test your full attention too.
By remembering to “focus on the process”, you can concentrate on climbing the mountain one step at a time.
4. Learn how you learn
Whether it’s note writing, saying things aloud, asking a friend to test you, or simply reading the information over and over, everyone has their preferred learning style.
But if you find your revision exhausting, ineffective, frustrating, or dull, you might be in a negative study cycle. Luckily, by shaking things up, you can break those bad habits.
When deciphering how you learn best, it might be helpful to make comparisons such as:
- Studying in total silence, then again with music or background noise
- Revising in short bursts, then trying longer periods of study
- Watching videos and listening to audio content around the subject, versus reading it in silence
- Testing your knowledge with a group of your peers, then trying solo study.
By conducting these little experiments and deciphering what works best for you, you can make your revision more effective, optimising the little time you have to learn the information in front of you.
5. Seek guidance from professionals
One of the great things about becoming a financial adviser is tapping into a solid community of experts who are committed to helping others on their journey.
Studying for exams alone can apply unnecessary pressure to your life. So, reaching out to professionals for help can be hugely constructive.
Joining a network can strengthen your knowledge, boost your confidence, and give you unparalleled access to support.
Whether you are looking to pass an exam, start your own firm, tackle a tricky client issue, or simply have a holistic chat with your peers, our network can offer the constructive support you need.
Get in touch
Need help passing your next exam? We’re here to help. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01925 637891.