Most give FASEA exam thumbs-down

20 February 2020

Despite its high pass rate – 90% for the first sitting, 88% for the second and 86% for the third – many advisers, even those who passed, were left unsatisfied by the questions and conditions of the Financial Advisers Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA) exam.

Of those surveyed by Money Management, only 21.7% said the exam questions were fair, while 62.3% said the conditions were fair.

Among the biggest complaints about the exam was that, despite being open-book, the exam had intense conditions placed on it that matched a closed-book exam.

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The exam covers multiple areas of specialisation, which means advisers who specialise in one area were expected to accurately answer questions on areas they don’t specialise in to pass the exam.

Advisers had said they lacked feedback from results, leaving them unaware if they had performed poorly in a certain area, despite FASEA chief executive Stephen Glenfield’s previous assertions that unsuccessful candidates would “receive guidance on which knowledge areas they need to improve to enhance their ability to pass at a future sitting”.

In the ethics component, only a third (34.9%) said it was relevant, while a 32.6% each said it wasn’t or that it was hard to say.

Ambiguous was the key word as advisers felt the questions were subjective, unclear or poorly worded.

Another notable complaint was learning disabilities were not accounted for, neither were there any provisions for people who used English as a second language, which is significant for a multi-cultural country, which becomes a greater issue when combined with the ambiguous questioning line.

Although there was no shortage of exam preparation resources available in the market, older advisers still felt the pressure of sitting an exam for the first time in decades, if at all.

Many in the industry already had experience in tertiary education, including exams, and felt the FASEA exam didn’t compare in fairness.

You can complete the survey here.




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I have sat the FASEA practice exam and passed on first attempt.
I am yet to sit the actual exam.
The structure of the practice exam was poor.
A major problem was the movement between the question and the reference material and the enormous waste of time and exam anxiety with the wasted time and having to try and recall exact question wording whilst seeking the correct information from the reference material, despite making copious notes on a pad to assist.
If the exam questions had been in paper form and the reference material online, then it would have made the whole process for the participant much more efficient and the question could be easily referred to whilst scanning through the massive amount of reference material.
For older advisers not as efficient using technology quickly, this would have proven even more difficult.
Whilst I completed the exam, it was only with seconds to spare over 3 very heavy hours of concentration but with an enormous amount of wasted transition time as noted.
I believe with a more traditional approach to the process I could have completed the full exam with probably 30-40 mins to spare and with significantly less stress and wasted time.
In addition to all this, I believe many of the questions were ambiguous and not relevant to everyday advice experience.
This exam needs to be made more user friendly and time efficient and the focus of the questions should have been vetted to ensure a realistic approach to ethics application could be relatable to many of the participants.
There is no point in structuring an exam to assess people on aspects that will never be part of their daily process.
The point of the whole process is to ensure advisers will act and respond in an ethical manner according to the expectation of the Code Of Ethics and ethically in general.
The examples noted in the exam questions are designed to confuse and whilst an exam is quite obviously designed to test a participants knowledge, there is no value in making the questions unrelatable and not relevant to the environment and situations that 90% of advisers will encounter.
The debacle that had been the FASEA process to date is manifested in the structure and the style of the exam that now exists.

Well, that's an essay - as usual from you. Do you mean you sat the Kaplan Practice Exam? The FASEA Practice exam is simply a document so there is no "moving between the question and the reference material" unless you decide to look things up for yourself using any resource you like.

I'm in the same boat Agent 86 and I agree totally with your comments being an 'elder statesman'. I've sat and passed the practice exam (through Kaplan) and have (reluctantly) enrolled for the next series of THE FASEA exam ($$$$$ thank you very much; $kaching$… $kaching$) despite having sat and passed the Ethics and Professionalism in Financial Advice FASEA Bridging Course late last year ($$$$$ thank you very much; $kaching$ …. $kaching$). Not really sure what (additional) knowledge will be gained by sitting THE FASEA exam, but, as some say, it is what it is. Unfortunately the whole sector is a mess which is going to take years and years rectify so that the average person can obtain meaningful and affordable advice.

Agent 86, whilst what you have written makes complete sense and is true, it is important to keep in mind that the reforms are a government sanctioned culling exercise of FP's and stockbrokers. Clearly Australia has an oversupply......

Having completed the Master of Financial Planning in 2016 and the bridging Ethics and Professionalism unit in August 2019, I felt that the FASEA exam was a waste of time and money. Having sat the exam 6 December 2019, any study I did was of little use. Having passed the exam, I felt that it held no value to me and it tended to refer more to licensee obligations.
The layout of the exam did not help as short answer and multiple choice questions were mixed haphazardly. I guess this was to prevent accidently looking at another candidate's answers.. I was disturbed by the content of the exam with so much irrelevant material which could determine whether one could continue one's practice. Ladies and gentlemen, my advice is don't overcommit to studying because there is no real format to the exam and give your most logical answer to the question. Forget the forums and complaints because FASEA does not care. Just sit the exam as there is a chance you will be one of the 90% pass rate. Life goes on.

I have spoken to a number of people that failed the exam and they all have the same feed back. The feed back is every area tested on the exam....

As one of these older advisers who will struggle with the exam, and the study, and the technology blah blah blah I sat the exam and passed. I always felt I had passed. There was nothing in the exam that I thought left-field or hard. If you have been in Financial Planning for 10 years and are competent you should have no issues. If you have spent years doing the stupid reverse questions in the CPD providers training you should be used to the mumbo-jumbo nonsense that prevails. I spent two weekends before the exam just reading all the stuff and doing the practice exam and going over the FASEA website to understand how the exam website operated.

I laughed at the groups of 30-40 year old advisers who turned up and were mucking around talking about football and cricket. My suggestion is to study the best F1 Drivers before a race. The likes of Hamilton and Schumaker and Senna stayed quiet and focused with their mind on the job they were about to do. It is serious boys and girls so be serious.

Most people that I know who have failed the exam did no preparation - irrespective of their level of education which varies. Not a good plan when you need to know at least something about the Reg Guides, TASA, AML/CTF, LIF and the Privacy Act. It is not an Advice exam - it's a Regulations exam

This comment is spot on. Concentrate on those areas, particularly the Reg Guides as they are full of examples that are not unlike the scenarios in the exam. Quite a heavy focus on Privacy Act and AML stuff is why I found.

If I can offer a slightly optimistic note for anyone who finds all of this dull, demeaning and oppressive...

At the moment, planners are being treated as criminals guilty of negligence at best, and outright malfeasance at worst. At the same time, planners are being held to the highest of standards and expectations. Much of the interpretation of right and wrong is backdated with no acceptance of timeframes or implementation processes.

At some stage, planners will be the highest-standard profession on the planet. That seems far-fetched, but any objective look would come to something like that conclusion. Yet planners have zero professional benefits. We have no limited liability (Accountants), no legal privilege (lawyers), no ability to make a recommendation without full written justification (Medico's) and have audit standards as high as any profession. At any given time, we face a professional or business existential crisis for transgressing any one of a horde of requirements from our many and varied regulator masters.

It's a bit like "all responsibility with no authority". At some stage, there has to be a benefit to meeting all of the requirements surrounding financial planners. Right now, the only potential benefit is profitability (which is something of an unfunny joke). Just what benefit will exist to attract new people to financial planning?

We've all seen the recent suggestion that an advert for financial planners will attract 2 or 3 responses, while an advert for a financial planning compliance checker will attract up to 300 applications. It'll be a while before that turns around. When it does, what benefit will attach to being a financial planner?

What is the planner list of demands, once everyone else's demands are met?

Love this... and so true the accountants bang on how good they are and yet the client take full responsibility if something is wrong.. I have been thinking Coles etc with underpaying their staff millions how many accountants checked this stuff...

Stop the bleating. A 90% pass rate suggests that the exam was too easy. The standard of financial advice needs to be lifted and this will not happen with kindergarten level exams and qualifications.

The exam is reasonably fair & passable provided you have industry experience & use logic. My advice would be to do it as a closed book exam & answer as best as possible. What's the point of open book if it takes you 5 - 10 minutes to find the relevant section in the corporations act!
You might have half a chance looking for an answer with the FASEA code however, as the provided online document is only a few pages long as opposed to 700 for one of the chapters.

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