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Putting professionalism into practice

The Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning goes beyond the benchmark exam standards and enables professional advisers to develop their specialist planning capabilities. And with completion leading to Chartered status, this QCF Level 6 qualification gives holders clear differentiation from the main body of advisers.

It builds on existing skills and develops knowledge gained through previous study and workplace training, better preparing you to offer a sophisticated and comprehensive approach to financial management.

The Advanced Diploma requires completion of at least four of the following six key financial planning units:

  • Personal tax and trust planning
  • Business financial planning
  • Pension planning
  • Investment planning
  • Senior management and supervision
  • Financial planning process - compulsory

On completion of the Advanced Diploma you will be better prepared to offer a sophisticated and comprehensive approach to financial management, ensuring that you provide your clients with a level of service that meets or exceeds their expectations.

Upon completion of the Advanced Diploma PFS members are entitled to use the designation APFS (Continuing Professional Development requirements apply).

Chartered Financial Planner

Advanced Diploma holders are also eligible for Chartered Financial Planner status (subject to having five years' experience, not necessarily post-qualification). Chartered status reinforces the importance of professionalism in a fast-moving and competitive market.

It also helps place the financial advice sector on a par with other professions, such as accountants and solicitors and distinguishes holders from their competitors and peers.

Crucially, independent research confirms that the Chartered Financial Planner title, which is now held by some 4,000 individuals, resonates best with the public in terms of recognition, trust and confidence.

The CII also offers corporate Chartered status to qualifying financial advice firms, further enhancing the visible professionalism of the advice sector. The eligibility criteria for corporate Chartered status includes a specified number of directors holding individual Chartered status in their own right.

Study support

We offer a comprehensive suite of Advanced Diploma learning support. Visit our supporting your route to Chartered page to find out more.

PFS Fellowship

Those wishing to continue their studies can also work towards Fellowship of the Personal Finance Society. A total of 350 credits are required to obtain the fellowship, this must include obtaining 290 credits through completion of the Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning. The remaining 60 credits can come from any of the examinations offered within the CII financial services qualifications framework.

Why the Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning?

The Advanced Diploma delivers many advantages:

  • Demonstrate your commitment to learning and personal development, assisting with career progression.
  • Supports lifelong learning as credits awarded in respect of relevant study already undertaken are retained throughout your working life and can count towards completion.
  • Supports personalised learning activity through the provision of clearly-defined, targeted topics appropriate to your job role.
  • Differentiates you from other financial advisers, providing a competitive edge.
  • Develops enhanced technical knowledge and sophisticated financial planning skills to support the provision of high quality advice
  • Upon completion PFS members are entitled to use the industry's leading designations 'APFS''. This is respected throughout the industry and increasingly acknowledged by the public as demonstrating professional standing (Continuing Professional Development requirements apply).
  • Advanced Diploma holders can apply to become Chartered title-holders.

Is the Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning right for me?

The Advanced Diploma is appropriate for a wide range of people, including:

  • Financial planning staff wishing to progress to the highest financial planning qualifications and designations (Associateship/APFS, Fellowship/FPFS and Chartered status).
  • Anyone who gives financial advice to clients, including independent financial advisers, tied advisers, para-planners and related staff such as pension analysts, financial analysts, senior administrators, etc.
  • Accountants, lawyers, actuaries and other staff carrying out financial planning activities.

Your next step

Now that you have read about the Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning, gained an understanding of what it offers and decided that it meets your career development plans, it is time to finalise your entry.

The links at the top of this page contain all the information you require to study for and complete this qualification. As you read through these, you will learn about the units on offer, the available learning materials, terms and conditions relating to entry, and the different ways you can enter.

Further useful information:

  • Learning statement - For details of credits you hold and confirmation of your personalised completion requirements for the Advanced Diploma.
  • FAQs - Our frequently asked questions relating to studying towards CII qualifications and examinations.


CII qualifications require completion of one or more units, each covering a specific topic that is individually assessed. Assessment methods vary depending on the level and subject matter of a unit, and include:

  • Multiple choice examinations - the assessment method for Certificate, Award and financial services 'R0' Diploma units assessed in the UK.  Exams are delivered on-screen at a network of over 80 public centres across the UK. Sittings are available year-round, often on a weekly basis.
  • Written examinations - the assessment method for Diploma and Advanced Diploma units, excluding financial services 'R0' Diploma units, and also all units examined outside the UK. Sittings are typically available twice yearly in April and October at over 50 public centres throughout the UK and over 100 public centres outside the UK.

What you need to know

It is essential that candidates familiarise themselves with our service, in particular the rules and procedures that are in place. This should include both exam policies (before the assessment) and notes to results (after the assessment).

Key facts

Key facts for the Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning

Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF) Level Level 6
Number of available units 6 Advanced Diploma units
Plus access to Diploma and Certificate units
Compulsory units 1 unit
• (AF5) Financial planning process
Credits required to complete (existing credits carried forward) 290
Minimum 120 credits at Advanced Diploma level and 40 at Diploma level or above
Credits per unit 30
Combination of units at any level allowed Yes
Subject to completion requirements
Exam format AF1-AF4/AF6
• 3 hours
• Written case study questions
• 3 hours
• Client scenario
Average study time per unit 150 hours
Availability of exam sessions (Details shown apply to the UK. Outside of the UK exams are offered twice-yearly) Twice yearly
Entry requirements? None
Credits available for prior learning? Yes
Record of Achievement issued for each exam pass? Yes
CII/PFS membership designation APFS/Chartered Financial Planner
PFS members are entitled to use on completion


Completion requirements

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements for Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning units. However, the Advanced Diploma will only be awarded where you hold the Diploma in Financial Planning or the Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning.

A CII financial planning Diploma provides the essential technical knowledge required when completing the Advanced Diploma. For this reason it is strongly recommended that, if you have not already done so, you complete a Diploma qualification before tackling the Advanced Diploma, or that you study the two simultaneously.

Completion requirements

To complete the Advanced Diploma you need to:

  • Obtain 290 credits:
  • A minimum of 120 of these must come from Advanced Diploma units, as shown in the table below (where you already hold Advanced level credits from the withdrawn AFPC qualification scheme these will count towards this requirement). These must include the compulsory unit (AF5) Financial planning process (holders of AFPC unit (H25) Holistic financial planning satisfy this requirement).
  • A further 40 must be at Diploma-level or above.
  • The remaining credits can come from any of the units offered in the CII financial services qualifications framework.

Note: To be awarded the Advanced Diploma, you must obtain, by CII examination, a pass in an AF or withdrawn AFPC unit. This rule applied irrespective of how many credits your existing qualifications might provide. 

The following Advanced Diploma units are available:

Advanced Diploma units Cedits and level
(AF1) Personal tax and trust planning 30 per unit - Advanced Diploma 
(AF2) Business financial planning
(AF3) Pension planning
(AF4) Investment planning
(AF5) Financial planning process - compulsory
(AF6) Senior management and supervision

The mechanics of entering

There is no prescribed order in which units must be taken, and you select those most appropriate to your learning needs. The one exception is compulsory unit (AF5) Financial planning process, which should be completed last, as this tests skills developed through completion of the other advanced Diploma units.

You may sit as many exams as desired at a single sitting, although we recommend that no more than two units per session are taken.

The recommended minimum study hours shown below will vary according to your experience and ability. The nominal pass mark is also shown. However, the actual pass mark may vary slightly from one session to another to ensure that the pass standard remains constant.

Units Study Hours Exam Format Length of exam Nominal pass mark Exam sessions
AF1 - AF4, AF6 150 Case study approach. 160 marks spread over three compulsory questions. Marks for questions 2 and 3 may vary between examination sessions. 3 hours 55% April/October
• Question 1-80 marks
• Question 2-35 - 45 marks
• Question 3-35 - 45 marks
AF5 150 Candidates receive a 'fact find' two weeks before the examination. The examination tests key aspects of the financial planning process as applied to the client scenario. 3 hours 55% April/October

Specialist study streams

When studying for the Advanced Diploma you can combine different units to build on prior learning and complement your particular area of work, or an area of financial advice you aspire to move into, as the following indicates:

Study -streams

Recognition of prior learning

Under a scheme known as 'recognition of prior learning' you may be eligible to claim credits for relevant exams and qualifications obtained through awarding bodies other than the CII, such as professional bodies or universities.

Subject to the published completion requirements these can be used towards completing CII qualifications.

Find out more about applying for recognition of prior learning »

Important deadlines

The following information applies to candidates wishing to sit written exam units AF1-AF6 in 2015.

. Apr 2015 exams Oct 2015 exams
Exam entry
▪ Closing date for your exam entry and payment to reach the CII at normal fee

04 Mar 15

02 Sep 15
▪ At late entry fee
27 Mar 15

25 Sep 15
Exam entry confirmation* Dispatched within seven working days from receipt of application
Exam sittings
13-15 Apr 15

12-14 Oct 15

Exam results
released online** at and posted to candidates
Results are sent by 1st class past on the date shown. Please allow five days for delivery to a UK address and 14 days for a non-UK address
▪ UK centres
12 Jun 15

11 Dec 15
▪ Non-UK centres 19 Jun 15 18 Dec 15
Entry for the next exam You do not have to wait for your results before entering for an exam in the next session


* Please contact Customer Service if you do not receive these, either by emailing or calling 020 8989 8464. When you receive your admission permit you MUST read it in full and check whether any change has been made in the date or times of the units for which you have entered and that the units shown on your permit are those that you intend to sit. If there is any discrepancy you should contact Customer Service immediately.

Important note: By taking a CII exam you are agreeing to the regulations stated on the exam permit as well as those detailed on our exam policies page

** To access your results online you will need to be logged in to the CII website using your CII Permanent Identity Number (PIN) and password.

Assessment information

It is important that candidates entering for a CII assessment familiarise themselves with our service, in particular the rules and procedures that are in place.


AF1 Personal tax and trust planning.

At the end of this unit, candidates should be able to:

Evaluate the needs of complex clients and recommend appropriate solutions based upon detailed understanding and analysis of the:

  • Basic structure of the tax system and self assessment;
  • Main personal taxes on income and capital that may be charged on individuals during life and on death, the self assessment system and how tax liabilities are computed;
  • Tax treatment of main social security benefits and interaction with other sources of income;
  • National Insurance, how it is calculated and applied;
  • Tax treatment of different kinds of investments;
  • Impact of residence and domicile on an individual's liability to UK tax;
  • Legal principles associated with the creation and management of a trust;
  • Main types and uses of trusts that are common in the UK and duties, powers and responsibilities of trustees;
  • Powers of Attorney including different types of power of attorney, the procedures for establishing a Power of Attorney and the implications of doing so;
  • Consequences of making a Will and dying intestate;
  • Bankruptcy; rules and the role of the trustee in bankruptcy;
  • Taxation considerations relevant to trusts.

AF2 Business financial planning

At the end of this unit, candidates should be able to:

Evaluate the needs of complex clients and recommend appropriate solutions based upon detailed understanding and analysis of the:the main legal forms of business;

  • Main legal forms of business and how they are set up and managed;
  • Consequences of bankruptcy or insolvency;
  • Business accounts and financial controls;
  • Taxation of business entities, its owners and employees;
  • Main legal responsibilities businesses have to employees, suppliers and customers;
  • Main principles of business protection insurance, including key person insurance, share protection insurance and partnership protection insurance;
  • Main uses of pensions for business planning.

AF3 Pension planning

At the end of this unit, candidates should be able to:

Evaluate the needs of complex clients and recommend appropriate solutions based upon detailed understanding and analysis of the:

  • HM Revenue & Customs tax regime for pensions;
  • Legal framework of pensions;
  • Features and risks of defined contributions and defined benefit pension schemes;
  • State retirement benefits;
  • Choices facing early leavers, transfer value analysis and transfer advice;
  • Various options for drawing income - their features, risks and tax treatment;
  • Different needs and solutions available to personal and corporate customers.

AF4 Investment planning

At the end of this unit, candidates should be able to:

Evaluate the needs of complex clients and recommend appropriate solutions based upon detailed understanding and analysis of the:

  • Economic environment and its impact on investment performance and investment decision making;
  • Main features, risks and returns of direct financial investments, collective investments and other investments;
  • Individual company performance and company accounts;
  • Measurement and management of risk and returns;
  • Main principles governing how to construct an investment portfolio;
  • Range of investment management services, how their performance is evaluated, and their regulatory environment.

AF5 Financial planning process

At the end of this unit, candidates will be able to apply the financial plan that demonstrates:

  • Understanding of the relationship and responsibilities between adviser and client and the need to establish the scope of the planning brief;
  • Evaluation of the different remuneration strategies available and how they might suit the different services required by clients;
  • Understanding and evaluation of the client's financial objectives, including the importance of prioritising those financial objectives;
  • Understanding of the assumptions underlying the financial plan;
  • Understanding of the client's financial status;
  • Understanding of what is meant by risk, the various risks faced by the client and the importance of the client risk profile in formulating a financial plan;
  • Evaluation of the different options available to the client with relevant evidence;
  • The ability to put forward an appropriate financial plan based upon analysis of client objectives, circumstances and options;
  • The ability to explain the meaning of any technical terms, the features of proposed products and the consequences of the proposed course of action;
  • Understanding of the importance of documenting any changes to the plan required by the client and how to document such changes;
  • Understanding of the review process and the different frequencies and methods available to review the plan.

AF6 Senior management and supervision

At the end of this unit, candidates will be able to:

  • Apply supervision principles and practice in a retail financial services business;
  • Evaluate supervision principles and practice;
  • Evaluate the competency requirements for senior executives and the governance of competence arrangements;
  • Evaluate the impact of leadership and culture in a regulated environment.