Kaplan's Brian Knight

The results from Kaplan’s practice FASEA exam reveal that about “60 to 70 per cent” of advisers are able to pass at the first attempt, with most performing better at the multiple-choice questions than the ones requiring written responses, according to Kaplan chief executive Brian Knight.

“They’re much stronger in the multiple choice,” Knight says. “We noticed they needed help in the short answers, which you would expect given a lot of them haven’t completed an exam in a long time.”

Knight says the Kaplan Adviser Practice Exam (KAPE), which is conducted under full exam conditions, is proving to be exhausting for some. “We found sometimes that they physically struggled a bit with the three and a half hours,” he tells Professional Planner. “If you haven’t done something like that before, it’s quite strong.”

He says the results for advisers are broadly encouraging.

“We’re getting above 70 per cent in the multiple choice and around 60 per cent in the short answers. They’re not missing by much.”

“They were generally good on the regulatory stuff, which we thought they might have been a bit lower on,” Knight continues. “The ethics series [results] tended to be a bit up and down.”

Knight believes advisers are gaining confidence from doing the exam and surprising themselves with their proficiency.

“Most advisers are getting a bit of a boost because a lot of them think they’re going to do quite badly, but they’re doing quite well, especially in the questions that are scenario based.”

A parting gift to the industry

The practice exam was essentially gifted to the industry by Westpac’s BT, who originally approached Kaplan with what he calls a “corporate job”: produce a replica exam so they could understand how their licensed advisers would perform and where they could improve.

Drawing on the learning outcomes that were already provided by FASEA, and having a professional understanding of how ACER historically prepare exams, Kaplan put together their best doppelganger of the test.

“It wasn’t easy,” Knight says. “As a larger, high-end education provider we had the expertise, but it took a couple of months.”

He says BT was “pretty happy” with the exam and received valuable insights from the first tranche of results.

At that point Knight says he realised how valuable the practice exam would be to the industry. “No one else was doing much,” he says. When he approached BT about offering it to advisers across the country, they said yes.

“We asked them if we could provide it to the whole industry – with us just covering the administration and the cost of marking it – and they were agreeable to that,” he explains.

Westpac subsequently announced its exit from the provision of financial advice in March.

No profit for us

The KAPE can be sat in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney and costs a maximum of $125 per sitting. “You’ve got to price out a marker’s fee and pay for someone to do the enrolment and co-ordinate the results,” Knight says. “It’s an admin fee only, there’s no profit for us.”

Kaplan also conducts full-day “FASEA exam preparation” sessions, available monthly in the same cities, for “around $500” according to Knight.

Advisers are not obliged to reveal exam results to their licensee, Knight explains, but licensees generally want this information to help ascertain what areas they need to help their licensed advisers with.

He says Kaplan is onto its second iteration of the KAPE, which was revised after FASEA made their own revisions to the exam guidance and provided more detail. “The first version had a bit more on behavioural finance than what FASEA subsequently came out with, and the second version has been tweaked for that,” Knight explains.

A third version of the KAPE will be available in September. FASEA will conduct the second sitting of the adviser exam in September and a third in December, after the first was completed in June.

All financial advisers must pass the FASEA exam by 1 January, 2021.

Tahn Sharpe is a Sydney-based financial services journalist with a background in financial planning. He writes on advice, superannuation, investment, banking and insurance issues, is a certified SMSF Adviser and holds an Advanced Diploma of Financial Planning.
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