Top tips for blitzing the FASEA exam

04 December 2019

Money & Life team

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Three CFP® practitioners share their top study tips and insights for preparing and undertaking the FASEA exam.

To date, approximately 6,200 advice professionals on the Financial Advisers Register have either sat or are about to undertake the FASEA exam, according to FASEA CEO, Stephen Glenfield. Speaking at the 2019 FPA Professionals Congress in Melbourne, three CFP® practitioners shared their insights on the FASEA exam and provided their top study tips to assist other practitioners who are preparing for the mandatory exam.

Keyboard typing practice

According to Delma Newton CFP® from Tupicoffs, as the exam is computer-based, practitioners need to work on their keyboard typing skills to enable them to complete the exam in the required three-hour period. She used her experience gained by completing Kaplan’s bridging course – Ethics and Professionalism in Financial Advice in July 2019, as valuable practice in preparation for the FASEA exam, particularly with typing out assignments.

“There may be planners who are a little rusty with their typing skills, so take every opportunity between now and your exam to hone in on those skills,” she said. 

Test exams

Paul Bradford CFP®, principal adviser and owner, Mentor Financial Service Group, spoke about the importance of doing test exams in preparation for the FASEA exam. He completed both the Kaplan test exam and the Integrity preparation course, including a timed practice exam. Delma also completed the sample exam, which she said was valuable in identifying gaps in her knowledge.

“Some questions in the FASEA exam are short answer and others are multiple choice, so test exams help you better prepare for this format,” Delma said.

Printing the study material

The volume of reading material required for the FASEA exam was something that surprised Kearsten James CFP®, a financial planner at Cooper Wealth Management.

“I actually printed out all the material and I couldn’t believe the quantity of paper this used. I broke up all this material into three folders: ‘must read’, ‘nice to read’, and ‘completed reading’. By doing this, I was able to approach my study one piece at a time. I was spending about 1.5 hours reading per day,” Kearsten said.

“Once I completed my reading, I would move it from the ‘must read’ folder to the ‘completed reading’ folder. By doing so, I felt like I had accomplished something. And only when I had time left over, would I tackle the reading in the ‘nice to read’ folder.”

It was a similar approach undertaken by Paul, who admits to being “old school” when it comes to studying, preferring the touch and feel of printed hard copy material, compared to digital copy.

Delma highlighted all the important sections of the reading material, and also wrote out her own study notes, which she would often refer back to.

Paul added that the FASEA exam is all about the practical implementation and application of advice in relation to legislation and Acts. “So, when studying, it’s worth remembering that the FASEA exam is about the practical application of advice to given situations, under the law. Technical strategy really doesn’t come into it. So, don’t get hung up on numbers.”

The experience on exam day

On the day of the examination, Delma emphasised that individuals must take their enrolment sheet and licence with them, otherwise they will not be permitted to sit the exam that day.

Kearsten also advised practitioners to be mentally focused but calm on game day. As the actual exam is completed on a supplied computer, in a room with other planners, each person cannot take in any additional items. While a person’s water may be stored at the back of the room, planners will not be allowed to take in food, phones or smart watches into the exam room.

Practitioners will be supplied with paper and a pencil, to enable them to jot down notes during the examination.

Kearsten also advised that as the exam rooms can get quite cool or warm, it’s best to wear layered clothing, which can be removed or added to as the temperature in the room changes.

Paul added that the computers used for the exam are all adjustable, so people should adjust the computer for their comfort.

“With a number of people in the room doing the exam at the same time, the sound of keyboards and people typing can be a little noisy. So, if you think this might distract you, wear ear plugs,” he said.

Paul also reminded practitioners not to be distracted by the fact that other planners around you might be furiously typing up answers, while you’re doing multiple choice questions. He said while the questions are the same for each exam paper for that exam round, the order that the questions appear on each exam paper are different.

And while planners are permitted to go to the toilet during the exam, Delma added that individuals will be escorted to the toilet and back, to safeguard the integrity of the exam.

“Overall, I felt comfortable with the amount of time I had to complete the exam,” Kearsten said. “I had time to go back and check any questions I was unsure about.”

Delma agreed: “I finished with about 20 minutes to go, which gave me time to recheck my answers. So, don’t get caught up on a question. If you get stuck on something, move on and come back to it later.”

Best exam preparation tips

“My best tip for planners is to use your time wisely,” Kearsten said. “Give your best response first in the exam and then go back and check your answers, if you have the time.”

Delma agreed: “Keep track of your time, particularly when it comes to finding the right reference of the legislation. And in the exam, remember to refer to the highlighted links in the case studies.”

For Paul, his best tip is not to print out all the material.

“Choose the material that is relevant to financial planners doing their everyday job, and how legislation and Acts apply to the practical application of it. That’s the material you want to print out. It will reduce your reading material by about one-quarter.”

For more information on preparing for the FASEA exam, click here.