R04 Pensions and Retirement Planning

R04 Pensions and Retirement Planning

R04 Pensions and retirement planning

Pension and retirement planning is the 4th unit in the running order of the CII Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning. This unit develops an understanding of the wider context for retirement planning, including pensions law and regulations.

The R04 exam is one hour long and there are 50 questions to answer. 39 standard multiple-choice questions, and 11 multi-response questions. The R04 exam syllabus and learning outcomes show the weighting of these 50 questions. But you need to know a bit about so many different pension areas.

Exam format: 1-hour multiple choice exam

What makes the R04 a tricky unit?

The CII R04 pensions and retirement planning is a level 4 unit worth 10 credits, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it is any easier than the other R0s. Many BTS candidates say that they find the pensions exam harder than personal taxation or investments.

The R04 exam also now has the lowest countrywide pass rate of all the R0 units. In 2021 pass rates were 61% meaning that over one third of candidates that sat the exam did not pass. So why is it such a tough ask?

Well, whoever coined the phrase ‘pension simplification’ needs a very strong talking to. Despite HMRC efforts it remains full of different rules, dates and calculations. Anything but simple (BTS think pension simplification is an oxymoron). Add on top of all these rules the examining body questions that contain double negatives, grids and tables in question stems, and you have one tough old exam.

BTS R04 Study Toolkit

The BTS R04 Study Toolkit follows our tried and tested STEP approach.  As always we get the best results when candidates follow this approach as they progress through the unit. Candidates need to understand some pretty technical pension concepts, but more importantly be able to apply them in their exam. The BTS R04 Toolkit is invaluable in helping you with this aim.

Our mission is clear:


This BTS R04 study guide is not a shortened version of the knowledge required for an exam pass. If you are hoping for a 50 pages document that tells you everything you need to know to pass the exam, this is not for you (and no such document exists). What the BTS guide does contain is some brilliant ways of explaining the key pension concepts so you learn ‘bit by bit’. Scattered throughout the guide are activities, examples, and exam style questions to help along the way.


BTS R04 training is AMAZING. With a subject as complex as R04 you need a facilitator that knows their stuff and has years of experience coaching candidates in this subject. BTS Associate facilitators love pensions as a subject and are skilled at bringing key subjects to life through examples, visuals and exam style practice questions. Painting pictures is absolutely essential with pensions as your subject matter to ensure candidates both understand and can apply key concepts to exam style examples. 

Not everyone learns best within a group environment. With one-to-one support your BTS facilitator can concentrate on the areas you are struggling with. If you would benefit from some more bespoke training support, get in touch with us to request a call back.

Click here to access the current schedule of R04 support workshops.


BTS R04 e-Learning concentrates on the most heavily weighted R04 learning outcomes. The programme starts with L02 pension simplification (bit of a beast), moves onto defined benefit scheme (always lots of lovely R04 questions here), then looks at L06 pension freedoms and finishes off with L07 state pensions. These are four of the really key areas required to kick R04 into touch with a first-time pass.

It is packed full of fantastic explanations and examples which bring this subject to life. There are activities and exam style questions to practice on, plus end of module tests and finally a full specimen exam. We have also included videos and ‘call the expert’ audios.


The BTS R0 Study Buddy app replicates the CII exam standard as closely as possible. BTS designers sit and pass (usually with a decent mark) the R04 exam every year. We do this for two reasons – firstly to ensure our knowledge is still good enough to guides our many candidates. The second reason is to ensure that our R04 App questions are as ‘exam style’ as they possibly can be. As what is the point of spending time (and monies) using questions that are either way too easy or concentrate on technicalities that rarely appear in the exam itself.

Find out more about how the Study Buddy app can help you and how to purchase it on your device

What is the BTS ‘track record’ with the R04 unit?

Pretty darn good. We regularly coach groups of candidates that all achieve a first-time exam pass. BTS have been supporting the R04 exam since it came out – we love it. And that love comes across in every single word we have written, activity we have designed and question we have come up with. See some feedback below from some of our R04 students…

"Such an amazing R04 workshop! I wish I had known about this for my previous R0 exams. It’s made a tricky subject a lot more understandable. Thank you BTS."

Helen Ballantyne | Personal Wealth Support | March 2021

"So pleased to have passed my R04 exam this morning first time with 82%. A huge thank you to Bespoke Training Solutions Ltd who provided a fantastic two day R04 workshop as well as their study guides and study app. Their resources made a huge difference to my revision, and overall understanding. One more to go until I am qualified!"

India Johnston | Paraplanner | March 2021

"I cannot thank you enough for all of your help! It really gave me another outlook on the R04 exam. I felt so much more confident going into the exam than I have done going into all the previous exams."

Jack Furnell-James | Paraplanner | March 2021

"I am totally thrilled that I have passed another R0 exam with the help of BTS. I have used their Study Buddy app for every exam that I have done. I just did the R04 exam and questions were so similar to the exam so this resource is a must!! I also purchased the Study Guide for this exam. When reading the CII study text my head was all over the place, the BTS R04 study guide explained things so easily for me. I only had to read something once to understand. I cannot recommend BTS enough. I have done two courses with them for R01 with Luiza and R03 with Jeff. These courses really helped me too. Now on to R06 my last exam!! Thank you BTS I could not have done it without you!!"

Alex Curtis | November 2020

BTS R04 Learner Journeys

Click on the profiles below to find out how recent BTS candidates achieved their R04 success:

Insights, help and advice for R04

Below, you will find a range of recent articles providing insights, help and advice for this R0, we hope you find these useful. Remember if you have any questions on your journey feel free to get in touch with the BTS support team.

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