2 2 Is 4 Is 3 Quick Maths 10 Hours How to Pass the Final Exam of the DipFA

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How to Pass the Final Exam of the DipFA

Introduction

I have been helping students with their DipFA qualification for almost two years now and this article is designed to share all the best practice, tips and strategies that can help you achieve a good grade in this challenging exam.

I’m going to share with you a number of tips that have come out of reports from examiners, students I’ve worked with over the years and I’m going to share with you a very good structure that can help you prepare.

First of all, what is the final exam about?

How does the exam work?

This is a 3-hour written exam, soon to be written, where you have to digest a case study first and then create a carefully written report for your fictitious client.

The case study is delivered to you in advance, about two weeks. You have time to prepare, read up on areas of weakness, gather some numbers to back up your report, and write it completely in advance. And you should too, why not, that’s why they send it to you earlier.

On the day of the exam, you will have a couple of hiccups, i.e. some subtle changes in the exam paper that may slightly change your report, but if you have done your preparation well enough, these changes in last minute won’t cause you too many problems.

Imagine your customer

The case study will be as real as possible, there will be some anomalies and these must be checked. However, you should treat it as a real person and write the report to that person, not to the examiner, although you will want to impress them to get marks. Be careful with too many impressions, as you may fail and the examiner may mark you for overdoing the technical aspects.

Plain language is very important, keep in mind who the customer is and write for them to understand. Imagine them sitting with a cup of tea with their feet up, reading your report and trying to make heads or tails of it while drinking their beer.

The marking system

It is important to appreciate the marks you get from the paper so that you can focus on the right area.

Get a total of 150 points –

  • 10 for the introduction, summary
  • 10 to calculate accessibility
  • 30 for presentation, language, style
  • 100 for your picks, recommendations and tips.

So spend some time on a well-crafted introduction, calculations and style and you’ll already have 50 points, and you only need 75 to pass.

A structure consecrated in time

  1. Introduction
  2. Purpose of the report
  3. Synopsis of the situation
  4. Summary of objectives
  5. Need more information
  6. Attitude towards risk
  7. Assessed affordability
  8. Immediate improvements/quick fixes
  9. Recommendations
  10. next steps

The structure explained

Introduction

Begin the report by writing to the client and address them by name and speak in the first person, for example, “Brian, we discussed your desire to buy a house overseas and to do so I will look at . . .”

Agree on the purpose of the report and it must relate to your goals and objectives. Talk about the information gathered, but be brief here, don’t just repeat what’s on Factfinds. Summarize to suit your own words and language to suit the client

Here you may want to start making some assumptions so you can clearly agree on their goals. This may be followed by some questions to ask if you need more information or to confirm or clarify something. Assumptions are fine, as long as you know how to clarify them or just ask the customer to confirm them. I know you wouldn’t make any assumptions in real life, but would you?

Only when you and your client know where you’re going can you really dig into the report and decide what action to take.

Accessibility has been assessed

Here you can get some useful notes to show your knowledge of Income Tax and National Insurance to work out how much money you can afford to pay for your regular income product that you will recommend.

Don’t space out your calculations like a textbook; instead, write them so the customer can understand them. Narrate each line of figures so they know what you mean and can follow along.

Be accurate, obviously you will get marks for correct answer. But you’ll get more marks for the work done along the way. It’s like taking maths exams at school.

Immediate improvements/quick fixes

There may be very quick things that can improve the situation for your customers that don’t deserve a title in the recommendations section.

For example, changing the name of an investment from husband to wife to minimize taxes or paying off a credit card or other high-interest loan with money from deposits.

Recommendations

This section is worth 100 points and is the meat of the entire report. Break your recommendations down into blocks and allocate time based on how important they are. Try to decide how many marks the examiner can allocate to each section and then spend the relevant time on each.

Try to prioritize them as this is good financial planning practice.

Explain the options to the customer, explain them and talk to the customer as you go.

Make your recommendations and justify why, using real figures where you can. Don’t leave it open for the client to decide and too much “we’ll decide that when we meet again”.

You want to get grades with a strong recommendation with a valid reason.

If you are not qualified to give advice, pass them on to someone who is or to another professional such as a lawyer.

Think about your five W’s: what, who, how, why and when, for example

  • What is the advice?
  • Who is involved
  • How will you make it work?
  • Why do they need it?
  • When should you start it?

next steps

The final part of the report is the next steps section. Here you’ll want to wrap things up, give clear direction so the client knows their next steps, confirm your review agreements, perhaps the fee structure.

Some final advice

Watch the time: 3 hours is a long time when you’re sitting on the beach doing nothing, but it goes really fast when you’re enjoying yourself. Seriously though, plan your time and make sure you finish the report. You get the most marks in the first few minutes of any section, so you should at least start each section.

Presentation and structure. It should be clearly designed and look like a proper professional report with headings, subheadings. Maybe tables, a series of bullet points, charts, illustrations. Why not, it’s for the customer after all, so maybe a risk chart might work better than a wall of words. Most people, nowadays, are visual in nature and pictures can paint a thousand words.

All technical terms explained. Don’t throw in a technical term, without explaining it, just don’t. Anything slightly complex will need to be explained in words the customer can understand. Watch out for TLAs – three-letter acronyms – our world is full of them, do you know what they mean but your customer?

Less is more. Good communication is powerful and uses few words, just look at posters and flyers; they are conservative with their use of words. Why waffle when a short and concise statement will do. Also you only have 3 hours to write.

Summary

Some useful ideas and tips here, I hope you agree. Remember to do as much preparation beforehand to maximize your success on the exam. Good luck

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