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The road to a diploma

By Ben Mussell, published 04 January 2019.

I've been at Candid for six months. It's been a steep learning curve and I've learnt a lot, but my biggest achievement so far has been passing all the required exams to be diploma qualified. It's taken me five months and nineteen days to be exact...not that I've been counting.

When I started, I was given a target of nine months to do the six exams. At the time I remember thinking that it seemed a big ask with the amount of work required. Not to mention that having finished university a few months earlier, I'd started getting used to not having the looming pressure of exams. With this in mind, it makes it all the more satisfying that I've finished ahead of schedule.

I made a tentative start, taking my regulation and ethics exam first in August. I'd given myself about seven weeks to prepare, which ended up being the longest I took for any of them. I spent the first five of these weeks trying to get my head around the hefty textbook, which was dry enough to send even the most enthusiastic reader to sleep. It became apparent from some pretty awful attempts at practice exams that my approach wasn't working. Fortunately, in the remaining two weeks, I managed to focus my efforts more effectively with less emphasis on the textbook, eventually getting to a position where I had a chance of passing.

When the day of the exam arrived, I'd be lying if I said I was confident. I didn't feel much better during the exam either, where despite being able to attempt all the questions, there were very few answers I was sure had been correct. So when I went to submit my answers at the end, it was a great relief to find out I'd passed and by a quite significant margin. It was a huge confidence boost to say the least.

Next up was Pensions, probably the second hardest exam. I booked it for September, giving myself less time than for the last, but with a clearer idea in mind of the best approach. The exam came and it was another pass, less emphatically this time given the complex subject material, but I was definitely starting to build some momentum.

I was feeling good about the exams, so the three hour written case study exam came next at the start of October. Again preparation felt smooth and I came out of the exam, confident I'd passed. A feeling which turned out to be justified when I received my results a couple of months later.

By this point my confidence had peaked and the prospect of finishing before Christmas seemed a possibility. On the back of my recent exam success and to give myself a chance, I made the undoubtedly impulsive decision to try and pass my protection exam with only eight days of preparation. It soon became clear that the decision was a bit rash. Certainly, having to spend most of my free time over the next week studying wasn't enjoyable. Ultimately, I got away with it, passing the exam, but I wouldn't be repeating the same ambitious timeframe.

I passed the penultimate exam, investments, in November. So it was all set up for me to book in for the last and most difficult exam, tax, on December 7th. Over the preceding weeks, I started feeling the pressure again. The end being so close and the prospect of not having to study over Christmas made it seem increasingly important not to slip up. The exam itself delivered on being undoubtedly the hardest of the lot, but I was extremely pleased to find out I'd again managed to pass.

Much as I'd love to say passing so quickly was purely a reflection of my own individual brilliance (though it definitely helped), that certainly wouldn't tell the whole story. Ian and Justin have been hugely supportive from the start, making sure that I had sufficient time and resources to prepare for each exam. I'm not the finished article just yet, but it's been a positive experience so far at Candid. I’m confident that I'm in the best possible place to keep developing and hopefully I can start to put my new qualification to good use for the benefit of our clients.