Last month we had the announcement that the CII is withdrawing completely from offering any face to face revision workshops for individuals studying RO, JO or AF exams.

On Thursday 4th January, BTS found out that, for most financial services regulated exams, the CII have introduced an all-inclusive packaged approach. This means that you can no longer pay for an exam sitting without also having to fork out for the relevant CII study guide and RevisionMate package. These packages are coming in at just under £300 for most RO exams.

As many of you will know, BTS are a company that specialises in regulated exam support, and have done for the last 14 years. So, we are not a new organisation into this market but one with extensive experience of what these exams are all about and what you need to achieve a pass. The results we have achieved, tracked, and documented to date are outstanding.

What have the CII provided as rationale for these changes?

The CII now state:

‘Each qualification unit comes with the essential tools to support core learning. For a single fee, study packages typically include: study text, assessment entry and access to RevisionMate, our online study tool.’

However, some of the decisions that the CII are making seem at odds with equipping learners with the ‘essential tools’. For example, the CII have:

  • as mentioned above, pulled the plug on face to face support.
    Those of us long in the industry all recognise how valuable a workshop is. There is only a certain amount of learning that can be done on your own. Most people benefit from spending time with a trainer who can explain key concepts with a pen and a flipchart.
  • now given students no choice in the study guides they have to use.
    Whilst the CII study guides are an excellent source of technical information, it would be impossible to claim that they are the most effective learning and development tools currently available. Just look at CII published exam pass-rates…
  • now given students no choice but to purchase RevisionMate question packs.
    For many years, since the introduction of professional financial adviser standards demonstrated by first a level 3 and now (since the Retail Distribution Review) a level 4 qualification requirement, students have benefitted from having a choice of learning and development tools to suit each individual. We all have different learning styles and as a result a ‘one size fits all’ approach cannot equip all students with these so called ‘essential tools’.The alternatives to RevisionMate only evolved out of the negative feedback and pass rates achieved historically from using the CII materials alone.

    BTS students often tell us about the different standards of the technical information they studied initially using CII materials with what is in the exams themselves. They have also commented on how helpful it is to know why an answer they gave in a practice question is wrong, with detailed explanations, rather than simply that it is ‘wrong’.

Why are BTS so concerned?

Our first priority is, and has always been, achieving excellent pass-rates for our students through the use of high quality exam support materials. This new CII development will probably lead to lower pass-rates, additional resits and increased costs.

To date, everyone has benefitted from having the freedom to choose within a competitive market “the best” learning and development option for them. They have not been limited and restricted to the “essential tools” from the CII, as is now the case.

So, where do we go from here?

BTS will continue to provide our proven and comprehensive study guides together with our increasingly popular RO Study Buddy App support questions

Withdrawing from offering these is not an option, because we know from experience how valuable these are for students. Go onto our website, read all the feedback and decide for yourself.

These developments have the potential to affect the whole market.

  • Choice will be restricted.
  • Costs may well rise for every student, particularly given the expected increase in failed exams due to, for some, the less than ideal material studied.

Is restricting choice to “the essential tools” really preferable to the current options and choice of the best tools available for everyone to achieve the results they work for?

Is it just us…?

In such a regulated industry, surely the objective of the CII is to promote and deliver the highest possible standards and success rates?

Figures over many years show that, for many students, the option of being able to “shop around” freely for the best learning aids and packages for them has resulted in their individual success. The addition options only exist because there is a need for them, and because the CII’s essential tools don’t meet each student’s learning style. It makes no sense to deprive so many of this high-quality learning material.

If the CII truly support the goal of increasing the success rates and standards of those working so hard in our industry, they should consider these new changes very seriously.

Please could you, as our readers, customers and contacts, let us know your thoughts?

  • Are we overreacting here?
  • Are you happy to have to pay up to £300 for each exam support package, for each RO unit, with no choice in what you buy?
  • Do you want restricted choice?

As an industry, we have a choice here. We can either roll over and accept this, or we can stand up, voice our concerns, and feedback our concerns to the CII en-masse.