Licensees and training providers have been bombarded with queries and concerns from advisers around the lack of feedback in the FASEA exam process, with many saying they are in the dark on how they can improve their knowledge as the deadline for passing the exam looms.
Speaking to ifa, Synchron general manager of operations Ian Knight said the dealer group had received “overwhelming adviser comment” around the lack of feedback given in the exam process, where advisers who fail are currently provided with up to three broad ‘knowledge areas’ that they will need to revise in order to pass.
“Advisers are very much wanting a score, feedback on the areas they did not get right and how best they can correct that knowledge deficiency by way of references to applicable and relevant content,” Mr Knight said.
He added that older advisers in particular had recorded a number of consistent concerns around the exam, two of which were the broadness of the suggested study and content to refer to, and concerns around what specifically to study and how to prepare.
In a LinkedIn post earlier this month, Joel Ronchi, principal consultant of adviser education and training provider myIntegrity in Practice, detailed the struggles of an older adviser he had recently worked with who had failed the FASEA exam and was given three areas of study to work on – “financial advice regulatory and legal requirements”, “financial advice construction”, and “applied ethical and professional reasoning and communication”.
“I literally had an adviser with over 22 years experience on the phone in tears as she explained how she had failed and what the potential impact on her life will be, and how she can’t get any insight or guidance on where she did not perform well,” Mr Ronchi said.
He told ifa the ambiguity of the exam questions as well as the feedback provided to advisers after the exam had combined to make some advisers feel they were being set up to fail.
“There is an overarching feeling of incredulousness about how the exam questions are worded and the context in which they are presented,” he said.
“Most advisers can accept this as part of the challenge, however if they fail the exam, advisers are then dumbfounded as to where they went wrong because of the lack of feedback and ambiguity of the exam questions.”
In response to queries from ifa round the logistics of the exam process, a spokesperson for FASEA said it was “worth advisers taking the time to understand the feedback process for those who fail the exam”.
“Essentially the FASEA exam assesses candidates on three main knowledge areas. Should a candidate fail the exam, analysis of their performance is undertaken to determine whether they underperformed in a particular knowledge area, or across all knowledge areas,” the spokesperson said.
“Based on this analysis ... if a candidate [who fails] has clearly underperformed on one knowledge area versus others, they receive advice to revise that particular area. If a candidate has underperformed across all areas consistently, they will be advised to revise all knowledge areas.”
Industry calls for more exam resources
Mr Knight said there was “major adviser support” for FASEA to be provided with additional resources to be able to offer detailed feedback around how exam candidates had performed.
“Synchron has also had a number of advisers request FASEA provide one dedicated educational textbook that contains all relevant exam information in the one place, that is scripted in a fashion that provides clear study guidance and is ‘the source of truth’,” he said.
Mr Ronchi agreed that the authority, along with exam administrator ACER, needed to be provided with better quality resources to ensure consistency of marking and individualised feedback.
“I think the feedback needs to be at the individual adviser level as this is the level at which the exam is occurring. This may necessitate a consideration of available resources – human and financial – or investigation into the consistency of the marking of short answer questions completed by human assessors engaged by ACER/FASEA,” he said.
“There would also need to be scope to offer feedback to those who pass, as based on my years of experience, there will be an interest from this cohort and they will want insight as to how they performed.”
The comments come as advisers face further uncertainty around when laws will be passed to allow an extension of the FASEA exam compliance date to 1 January 2022, with Parliament being scaled back as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and a Senate vote on the laws looking unlikely any time soon.
FASEA has also cancelled all exam sessions scheduled for April because of health concerns surrounding the crisis, with the options for advisers to take the exam remotely or postpone until June.
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