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RE Focus: Why do I keep on failing?

We regularly receive desperate calls for advice from candidates who have repeatedly failed the level 1 regulatory examination.

Perhaps we should start off with the bigger picture – on Tuesday, we heard from the FSB that 86% of key individuals who were obliged to write the regulatory exam by the final cut-off date, attempted to write the exam at least once. Of these, 92% have now done so successfully.

The corresponding figure for representatives is that 91% attempted to write, and currently, 92% of those had passed.

This does not help one bit for those who have yet to pass, and I have spent many hours on the phone, talking to despondent people who are very disheartened after failing on more than one occasion, despite really studying very hard.

One enquiry I received early on Tuesday morning contained information which, after analysis, could possibly help a lot of others in the same position.

The candidate took the trouble to attach the material he used to prepare for the exam to his e-mail. It was evident that he had spent a lot of time working through the material, and had gained the required broad knowledge to enable him to operate within the law.

There was also a problem, though – the learning material consisted of someone else’s interpretation of the legislation, and there were factual inconsistencies between the various sources of information. This obviously caused doubt in his mind as to what was right.

Part of the information he sent was a “Bank of 500 questions”. Whilst I have no doubt that it contributes to a better understanding of the knowledge required, it can create a false sense of security because of the level at which it is pitched. If you prepare for a grade 12 exam by doing old grade 8 papers, you are in for a surprise, come exam day.

Most of those who have spent a lot of time preparing for the exams, and have written on a number of occasions, will know that their knowledge is not the problem – it is conveying it in the actual exam.

To address this matter, you may want to consider refining your focus to the essentials of the exams: the “syllabus” and the “text books”.

The syllabus is made up of the Qualifying Criteria – there are 8 tasks for reps, and 16 for key individuals, all with subsections. These are the essentials that you need to know to be able to operate within the law.

The actual, applicable legislation is the textbook for the REs. If you do not refer to this, you will find a huge discrepancy in the wording in your easy to read study material, compared to that used to formulate the questions in the exam.

There is a set of two books available to assist candidates in overcoming this problem. The one contains the qualifying criteria, the other the applicable legislation. There is very clear linking between the two books, which help candidates prepare in a focussed manner, using the actual sources from which the questions were drawn up.

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