Monthly Archives: June 2013

Rowan Higgs – My first exam…outside of school and University

A borrower whose loan commenced in June 2002 and claims Support for Mortgage Interest in October 2012 is subject to what waiting period before help is provided?

Any ideas? Up until March when I covered the chapter on Arrears and Mortgage Support neither did I. And up until I revised the topic again in May could I tell you the answer is 13 weeks. On Tuesday 18th I sat my first exam on my way to attaining Chartered status, and today I can confirm I have passed!

Preparation for this exam had not taken the same course as previous qualifications. There were no time tabled lectures and group tutorials, detailed coursework or never ending essays. I pulled no “all-nighters” in the library and there certainly wasn’t that statutory know-it-all mate to copy notes from. So my first task would be to figure out a way to balance self-study and maintain focus in the office.

My textbook was to become my bible over the following six-months. I had originally decided a good way to tackle this module was to simply break it down into chapters in my book. I’d sit down on a Saturday afternoon and make detailed notes on a whole chapter. Chapter 1: Regulatory Framework… After my fourth Saturday on the same chapter it dawned on me (and Alan) I had in fact got so bored and utterly lost that this was a useless approach. Your brain cannot absorb twenty odd pages of the history of the Financial Conduct Authority on a Saturday, nor can it stop you from straying away, to the pub.

I met with Alan and Cheryl at the end of January to think of a way I could realistically learn the contents of this book. Testing wasn’t my preferred choice but setting a date to do a mini-test at least gave me something to work towards. Alan suggested I did an hour a day of just reading a couple of pages. A sturdy house is made from bricks, not 14 giant panels stapled together. Day-by-day I carried on this method until I sat a test on the first 7 chapters where I achieved a sound 68%. This method was appearing to work. In April I sat another test on the rest of the book and I recall getting around the same mark. Personally I was over the moon. The book had been completed! Alan had other plans though. But pleased with my progress booked the official exam for June.

Some people love surprises, but surprise tests!? All the questions I had answered wrong Alan began spontaneously throwing in front of me. This was the definition of ‘working on your weakness’. Progressively I sat more and more tests in the board room. Each time we would identify the areas I was weak in, and work on these. If I was persistently under performing on a topic, then getting the “surprise tests” wrong meant I would have to deliver a presentation, the next day. Me, a whiteboard and 40 odd years of financial services experience in front of me. Daunting, but a brilliant way to learn. The fear quite literally embeds the syllabus deep into your brain!

One week before the big day I got my best result yet, 90%. A quick well done, then straight back onto areas I can still improve.

I sat the exam in White Chapel, muggy and nervous I took two and half hours to answer the 125 questions. But I wasn’t expecting these questions. They were different. This was not the exam I had got 90% in the week before. The style of the questions was convoluted and open ended, they applied the theory to actual situations and suddenly the topics I was very confident in became confusing.

I agonisingly hit the submit button and to my relief a big PASS flashed up on the screen. A week later and my results came in the post, 107/125 – chuffed to pieces. And I could not have done it without the support from everyone in the office. Alan has definitely taught me that it’s not about how long you spend revising, but how hard you do. The last few weeks leading up to my exam saw the best of me, and has laid down a winning formula of studying.

Tomorrow I’m sitting down with Alan to discuss the timescales in which I should sit my next exam; we’re aiming for end of July. Bring it on!