A group of financial planners who recently passed the FASEA exam have offered their tips for success to delegates at the 2019 FPA Congress during a chat with the authority's chief executive, Stephen Glenfield.
Glenfield sat with Tupicoffs' Delma Newton, Kearsten James of Cooper Wealth Management and Paul Bradford, principal adviser at Mentor Financial Services Group who all recently passed the FASEA exam.
"I'm sure everyone here wants to hear from you rather than the chief executive of FASEA yammering on too much," Glenfield laughed, kicking off the panel.
He then offered some practical advice for advisers on how to frame the exam.
"The FASEA exam legislative instrument and policy tells you what is going to be in the exam," Glenfield explained.
"The exam is about practical knowledge. It's not about remembering all the aspects of the act perfectly."
Rather, he said the exam requires advisers to "identify their obligations under the Code of Ethics".
"The questions posed will require advisers to provide general knowledge despite their area of specialisation," Glenfield said.
However, he countered concern on this point by saying that FASEA and exam partner Acer have put emphasis on ensuring the fairness of questions.
And, Glenfield cleared up a point on the marking of the exam.
"There's no targeted pass rate for the exam. There's no bell curve. The exam tests for competence," he said.
"Results today have been strong and teasingly this is across all advice specialties."
Roughly 6200 advisers have sat the exam or signed up to sit it in an upcoming session, Glenfield explained that accounts for about one quarter of the advisers on ASIC Financial Adviser Register.
Newton provided some practical insights for undertaking not only the exam but the ethics course.
She shared that the assignments were surprisingly challenging for her.
Newton went on to explain what Google Scholar is, how Harvard referencing works and said she understood for some advisers the amount of typing required for the assignments might present a challenge, but said she viewed it as good practice for the exam.
Sharing his experience, Bradford said he printed out all the study material for the exam and it filled five arch lever folders.
"I'm old school, I prefer to use the highlighter... but I realised I shouldn't have printed out the whole lot - I should have been more specific on the planning sections," he said.
In response, an audience member asked: "Has FASEA considered pruning the Corporations Act to the relevant areas for advisers to read for the exam?"
Glenfield agreed that was a sensible suggestion but said FASEA has tried to bring forward the most relevant parts on its website.
"It's a fair point for us to consider," he said.
As for the experience on exam day, some of the panelists admitted to slightly daunting experiences.
"On the day you don't have anything with you except your drivers' licence, a pencil and a piece of paper," James said.
"You can't have water at your desk. You can't take in food. Some people had to take their watches off."
Bradford added he was surprised to find that it seems everyone gets the FASEA exam questions in slightly different orders - he had felt confused when he got a multiple choice question first up and the person next to him started typing a long answer.
All the panelists advised doing practice exams for experience but warned some questions in practice exams are not relevant to what's actually in the FASEA exam.