What did you think of the FASEA exam?

17 February 2020

How do advisers feel about the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA) exam?

As advisers deal with gaining education qualifications and sitting the FASEA exam, Money Management has sought the views from advisers on if they think the exam is fair and what their personal experience was like if they had attempted it.

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Completed 14/2/20. Weirdest exam I've ever done. In a right versus wrong exam, how can the examiners expect us to give an answer to a multiple choice question asking us something along the lines of "In your opinion, which of the following parts of the Code of Ethics might be most misinterpreted................?"
These exam writers are playing with our lives, so I think we have a right to expect better from them. 25 years in this industry and this exam has done nothing to improve my belief on where the industry is heading.

You can't even have a clear bottle of water on the table. You have to raise your hand and ask permission to go to the front/rear of the room to get your bottle. How do you know which one is yours, seeing as you are sitting alongside 100 other advisers? It is incredibly disruptive. At least with the bridging courses run by the universities & Kaplan, you can at least have a bottle of water on the table. AND the fact that it's electronically based with people tapping away on keyboards (despite ear plugs) is just another distraction, along with having to ALT/TAB between your answer page and the reference materials. Having it paper based would have made much more sense (and the industry argued for this), but FASEA, as usual, didn't want to listen to anything to make it "easier" for advisers.

Agreed, the process of having to transfer between question and reference is ridiculously time consuming and distracting.
It would be much simpler and fairer to all to have the questions on paper so it was easy to constantly refer back to the question wording whilst utilising the reference material.
It is also unfair to older advisers who may not be quite as slick as younger advisers with technology, but would have ample time available to get through the exam if the stress associated with the constant backward and forward process was eliminated.
It is designed to place elevated challenges to older advisers who may well know the relevant information required but may not be able to type quickly or efficiently move between modules.
This is about assessing ethics is it not....not testing someones typing efficiency or technology skills ??

I complete the exam in June. Like all the other tasks completed by FASEA, the lack of understanding of our profession, and refusal to properly engage or consult with practicing advisers shone through loud and clear. Many of the multiple choice questions were a matter of perspective or opinion based, with no absolutely correct answer. I'm not talking about one or two questions, I noted them and later worked out they accounted for 45% of the exam result. The fact that FASEA refuses to set or release an official passmark shows they are more interested in their own appearance than genuinely raising standards and positively contributing to our profession. Same goes for the education standard, code of ethics, professional year and CPD which are all deeply flawed and have clearly been designed to make FASEA look good, with an ironic disregard for ethics and honesty. Back to the exam, I am deeply concerned about the impact of it on those advisers who may be suffering from mental health issues, of which I know quite a few. There should be a proper safety net or alternative route for those who freeze in exam-type situations. As it stands an adviser would have their career and/or business destroyed if they can't pass it regardless of any other qualifications. With that kind of pressure, it is adding significantly to the mental health problems already plaguing our profession.

I did my exam in Dec and have passed. The multiple choice questions and answers were unclear, badly worded and they were obscure questions. I would say at least half of the questions or answers were of a poor quality. It felt like the exam was drafted by monkeys where English was their second language. This resulted in a lot of frustration during the exam and it felt like a complete waste of time studying for the exam. The way the multiple choice questions were worded was unreasonable for any exam. I have sat a few exams in my time including a Bachelor of Laws, Bachelor of Finance, the full 5 subjects for the CFP and Diploma and Advanced Diploma of Financial Planning. The fact that an adviser cannot appeal the multiple choice questions is not only unfair but it shows that FASEA know that the questions are badly worded (note that short answer questions can be appealed).

I am disappointed that the financial planning bodies including the FPA have not done more on this issue.

Did you refer much to the "open book" materials?

Yes I did refer to source materials. Some questions asked which part of the act would be in breach....you would need a section reference and a comment.

I sat it for the first time today. It is definitely the most unusual exam I have sat and I would say it is somewhat a reasonable test of the aspects they are trying to test for, there is also a lot of the bizarre. This included today a question that was effectively "what is the client most likely thinking".....and having to get 2 true and false right to get 1 mark or otherwise get zero if you get 1 right and 1 wrong, never seen that ever anywhere.

I passed last year, thank god. I don't understand all the secrecy around the exam. I still don't know what the pass grade is and based on the information released by FASEA, it sounds like they are making up the pass grade as they go along, so they can rig the results to suit themselves. Hows that for ethics?
I also agree with other comments here, many of the questions and case studies were embarrassingly stupid and naive. It looked like an academic wrote the questions after reading a textbook. I would love to know if the so-called 'retired advisers' whom FASEA promised to consult as part of the exam preparation, were actually ever called upon? If they were, their feedback must have been ignored.
Anyway, if the exam was ever going to meet the communities expectations, it should have tested technical competence, it should have been written by experienced advisers and the pass grade, results and questions should all have been made public after each sitting. As it stands, the exam may appear to outsiders as a mark of professionalism or competence, but within financial planning circles it is a complete joke.

I found the written questions more often based on obscure scenarios, which are unlikely to be encountered in a planning office. This added bizarrely to the opinion based multiple choice questions. I await my results, hope I passed, I possess a wealth of experience (34 years), but I'm left wondering where this is leading us.

I passed the exam in the first sitting and all of my fp friends passed it now. Sadly, the exam is a complete joke within financial planning circles. The questions were ambiguous and clearly written by someone with little if any practical experience. There is a very concerning lack of engagement with the adviser community from FASEA. So in that context, it is hardly surprising they have released an unworkable code of ethics with zero support from the adviser community. It's very sad, as I was hoping this organisation would raise standards and improve the perception of our profession. I fear this will severely backfire if FASEA don't rapidly change tack and engage with us. The extension would not have been necessary if they focussed on the task given to them by the government and worked collaboratively with us. It seems FASEA has been hijacked by professional board hoppers with their own agenda, rather than people with experience and a genuine desire to see our profession flourish. There are a lot of very good people who care deeply about our profession, who want improved standards, ethics and education. Why are we stuck with such a useless board with very little representation from experienced and practicing advisers? This would not be tolerated at the AMA, the CPA or the law institute.

I see a lot of dissapointment, but with a little prep, the exam.(sat 13/02/20 wasnt so bad.
Prep doing the TAL master class, the practice exam questuons and the 32 examples in the code Guidence was sufficient. Sure there was a fair amount on Privacy act and TPB code, but its a 65% pass mark, either some are placing too much pressure on them selves or not putting a little effort into preparation.

I think you should read the comments first. people aren't saying it was a difficult exam. people are saying - mostly - it was a stupid exam.

I passed on my first sitting, did very little preparation for it, I already hold a fasea approved master's degree in financial planning degree so my preparation having completed a master's degree was more than adequate.

I concur with other's opinions that it was a dumb exam. written by mostly dumb people.

with fasea and asic and then the dealer groups and executives running fp businesses who have no idea about finance or financial planning no wonder financial planning looks like a bomb of smelly shit has gone off in it

That's not correct 'Not So Bad'. FASEA said 65% was a 'starting point', but if you read the FASEA Q&A on their website (see below), they have basically given themselves carte blanche to manipulate the pass mark to whatever grade gives them the outcome they desire. Maybe I have a sick sense of humour, but I find it slightly amusing to see the portion of advisers passing the exam started at 90%, then dropped to 88%, then 86%. Nice round numbers which look reasonable to outsiders scrutinising FASEA. Smell's like a pass mark which was workshopped at board level. I would suggest that's why they didn't display the marks for each question in the first sitting (as required in the legislative instrument), or tell us you had to get both true & false questions right to earn a mark. I'm guessing that decision was made later, so they could manipulate the results to suit themselves. But given the statement below, they can pretty much skew the results any way they like anyway. I'm going out on a limb here - if you sat the exam in February you'd better hope you were in the top 84% of candidates! Let's face it, it's not an exam, it's a competition. Here is the absurd statement from FASEA on the pass mark:

'The starting point for standard setting is aligned to the range of a typical university credit grade, i.e. 65%-74%. To ensure equity and fairness for all candidates, the ‘Pass Mark’ will be reviewed for each exam cycle and may be adjusted to account for differences in exam difficulty and to maintain standards'

Does anyone know if the written answers are marked by people or are they being algorithmically assessed by key words? Some of the practice exams I've sat seem to give you 0 even though you covered the content, it may be the way it's written.

They're assessed by people, that's why it takes 5-6 weeks to give you your result. the multiple choice stuff would be marked the moment you click finish.

Did the exam yesterday and my opinion is that it's designed for the next generation of Advisers, not the current one's. The next generation will have completed a full Bachelor's degree which I assume will cover all of the legislation in depth, so they shouldn't have a problem with it. But for existing Advisers, we know our obligations on a day to day practice level but don't always know the exact wording from the legislation, hence the challenge presented by the exam.

I almost laughed out loud at a few of the questions where they were asking my opinion on a scenario but obviously my opinion had to line up with theirs otherwise I'd be wrong. Bit weird.

As an aside, I find it bizarre that an adviser with 2 years experience can oversee a provisional adviser.

this is what happens when we are led by conflicted bodies like the AFA and FPA whose membership is made up of largely institutional advisers

the government, therefore, does not take into account even in the slightest their recommendations and submissions

so what we have left is the state we are in, total diabolical mess, as one can imagine dreamt up by paper-pushing beaurecratcs who could never succeed in private business as they would be too incompetent and therefore are employed as government beaurecrats to mess up business

Only a junior adviser would be stupid enough to do it. The Prov Adviser needs to write your advice documents, give your clients advice, identify and document ethical dilemma's with respect to the advice you have given and then submit 5 files for auditing to the licensee. Sounds like fun doesn't it?

Sounds like a barrier to entry. Most financial planning graduates in the future will end up working in compliance. Very few will be able to find someone willing to supervise them as a provisional adviser, let alone pay them at the same time. There's far too much risk and overhead for most experienced advisers to bother with it.

It will most likely happen at the larger institutions, and we all know how that goes....

Typical FASEA question:... "MM is asking for an online Survey to be completed, Joe is an adviser and is now answering question 4. What would Joe's next step be?
a) Read question 5, having just answered Q4
b) Press next to get to question 5, moving on from question 4
c) Think about answering question 4.
d) Answer question 4, then hit next.
e) none of the above.

Typical advsier response is either 1) could I just get a little more info or 2) is this a trick question.

I’m horrified that the industry continues to allow this complete and utter stupidity.

It’s rape upon rape upon rape, this is another gouge financially in the shit stack.

Laws are simple - know your product know your client. Full stop.

Ethics are ethics your either a crook or you’re not.
‘Crimes act’

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