CISI’s Applied Wealth Management – Exam Tips







CISI Applied Wealth Management Exam Tips:


  1. Use the words in the questions to gain maximum marks

Imagine that you are an investment manager or adviser (not hard hopefully given most candidates’ day-to-day roles!) Now consider that there is a fundamental three-stage process to providing investment advice namely:

  • Information gathering,
  • Performing analysis and
  • Making recommendations including their justification.

Now imagine that these processes in “exam land” rarely overlap. You should be getting an idea of the types of questions you will face in this paper. Relative to a scenario presented, the examiner will specifically ask you using key words and phrases, to carry out one of the three parts of the process. The style is one of the few effective ways that you can objectively assess both a candidate’s advisory skills and knowledge in timed narrative exams.

The reason I start off with this point is that consistent failure to adhere to the specific tasks set in the exam is one of the biggest reasons why people don’t pass. In a day-to-day management or advisory role, we often assess a client’s situation “in the round” that is, whilst gathering information about their circumstances, our brains are whirring away analyzing the situation, its pros and cons and maybe, we are even beginning to consider potential solutions.

To summarise, look out for the key words in the question and decide whether you are being asked a fact-finding, analysis or recommendation type question. Answer accordingly. It is so easy to deviate away for instance, making recommendations when you should be analyzing a situation. Here are a few examples of what some of the key words and phrases may look like in the exam:


  • “Identify the further information that you would require from the clients in respect of their protection and pensions savings needs.”
  • “What further questions would you ask your client in respect of their investment needs?”


  • “Critically assess the merits and pitfalls of Mr X investing into either investment trusts or life assurance investment bonds.”
  • “Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of Miss Y using her available funds to save regularly into either her SIPP or, her ISA.”


  • Recommend a suitable portfolio to meet your clients’ investment needs.
  • Justify your recommendations.


  1. Answer the exam sections in any preferred order

Many people answer the questions in these exams in numerical order. This can suit an awful lot of candidates but not everyone.

If you don’t think about this, two problems could surface in the exam.

Firstly, you could simply spend too much time on low mark questions at the beginning of the paper, leaving yourself little time at the end to answer questions that are worth a lot more.

Secondly, you need to understand which questions are going to require more thought to answer (e.g. portfolio construction, product recommendations etc) and which are more knowledge based forms of testing such as understanding features and benefits of different product solutions which could be answered a lot quicker.

You can answer the sections of the paper in ANY order you wish. You just need to clearly identify the questions you have addressed both in the script itself and on the front of your answer book.

In terms of the route you decide to take, go into the exam with a preferred Plan A, but if on the day, the questions don’t suit that route, have an alternative plan that you are comfortable with. As you practice more and more with mock or past examination papers, you will start to feel naturally more comfortable with one strategy over others but just make sure you have practiced enough beforehand to be flexible.


  1. Get to know the different parts of the exam really well

By that I mean, through reading past examiner reports and practicing as much as possible yourself, try to get a feel for what the examiner wants from you in each section.

Section A is much more likely to be a test of your knowledge and / or analytical skills and will require you to impart a fair degree of information for the 5 marks per question on offer. You need to be succinct, clear in answering the specific question and detailed enough with the content to pick up maximum marks. Sounds easy but it isn’t. It gets easier with practice though.

Sections B and C are similar in many ways, often asking you to use all the information in the case study provided to demonstrate your fact-finding, analysis and recommendation skills. An obvious tip but necessary – Make your answers as relevant as possible. If fact-finding, focus on finding out the information that you DON’T know from the case study – not a list of generic questions many of which could have been answered from the scenario presented. You need also to get to grips with just what information is needed from a client in different situations. Take a look at one of your firm’s own fact finds if you can and go through the main sections to identify the elements usually deemed essential. If analysing, could you present your answers in a way that allows the examiner to easily identify relevant points. My favourite method when say, analyzing different products is to write a series of headings on the answer sheet that will allow me to objectively compare the two arrangements. For instance, if not asked otherwise, what about these headings as a fairly standard template for packaged products?

  • Features
  • Benefits
  • Risks
  • Tax treatment
  • Charges

You could also use a similar methodology when building a set of recommendations and providing a justification for them. If for instance, you recommend investments within a portfolio, lay them out in a clear table identifying the investment type, the amount and if required, the income it provides. When justifying the investments, what about using the following mnemonic to help with your explanations?

R = Risk of the investment

I = Income and capital growth provided / received

T = Tax treatment both internally and to the investor

A = Accessibility or liquidity without unnecessary costs


C = Charges of the investment to the client and again within the fund.

These are a few useful tips. As with both the other papers, becoming more and more familiar with the syllabus, understanding it and applying it to different scenarios will help as will exam practice to refine your technique. A good learning or revision course will always help to speed up that process.

See our courses at:

See our other services at:



Comments are closed.