The DipFA© is a fabulous ifs School of Finance exam mainly because it doesn’t just require regurgitation of knowledge. It requires careful assimilation of knowledge from a variety of online and offline resources and one application of this is the real world in which AMIs are found.
Let me share with you in 950 words the top four metrics to remember, how to warm up, plan, do, and review your coursework…for success.
- 30. The Coursework section is a large part of the final grade. 30% overall. The final exam is worth 70%, but it is necessary to pass both sections to obtain the grade.
- 150. There are 150 points for course work. 100 is for the answer, but 50 is for the structure, presentation, and evidence of the use of appropriate resources for your investigation. This last bit is known as the bibliography.
- 2,500. The examiner wants you to produce around 2,500 words, which does not include the bibliography. This is not a long time and the evidence shows that most students in recent years have struggled to stay within this number. Please note that the coursework question will be quite “meaty” and you will have a hard time passing with less than 2500 words. The key is, have you answered the question sufficiently, in the required depth?
- 4. You have just under 4 months to complete the research and coursework submission, so this gives you an idea of the amount of study to expect.
If you were to run for 2 hours, maybe a half marathon, there is no way you would start without warming up. Likewise, many students tackle coursework right away without warming up properly. The ifs expect you to analyze your strengths and weaknesses and study your weak areas before starting the course.
They provide some cool tools to do this. You have the Gap Analysis Tool, which is an online test of your knowledge and can produce interesting results to show your weak areas. Your next step is to research and study these areas.
They also provide Subject Gateways, which are mini coursework questions designed for you to research and study specific areas. Discussions based on these can take up most of your initial time and these dialogues can take place online in the forum or face to face with other students. After the 4 months is a long time just to write a 2500 article, so it is expected to warm up first.
Make sure you know exactly what the course question is asking for. Obviously, you’ll read the question multiple times, but have someone else read it as well and tell you what’s needed. Sometimes an alternative opinion can open up the true meaning of the question. Note the specific words used. Calculate, compare, describe, evaluate, explain, identify, illustrate, sketch, state are practically the keywords to consider. Know what each of these words requires of you first. If you have doubts, look for them by putting in Google “definition=calculate”, for example.
One of the best ways to plan is to use Mindmaps©. Google “mindmap:filetype pptPT” and you’ll get some interesting PowerPoint presentations showing examples and instructions on how to create them. The benefits of mind maps are numerous: they allow creativity, sporadic thinking, they don’t funnel you down an alley, they allow you to add to your thoughts later, and change the order of information. Ideal tools for test planning.
The ifs provide a lot of material on which to do your research, but go further and make sure you stay up to date. For example, your most recent coursework requires you to write an article for an accounting magazine. You know what’s keeping accountants awake right now? If you don’t search on Google.
Structure traditionally and you won’t go wrong. Remember the News at Ten technique also known as:
- Tell them what you’re going to tell them
- tell them
- tell them what you told them
Have a clear beginning that describes your purpose, maybe start with something to grab the reader’s attention, a fact, a quote, something initial or different.
Then move into the bulk of the essay outlining your key points as you go, and then end with a clear summary and call to action. Most of the essay should have headings like this article, after all, many people read quickly these days and headings help them to do so effectively.
All things classic. Some other reminders for you:
- Don’t get mad when you start writing. A clear mind map will prevent this, but keep in mind that many students repeat your messages without earning additional points.
- Be totally clear who your audience is and write as if you are speaking to them. She would write differently for accountants than she would for beekeepers.
- Break up your essay with bullet points, graphs, tables…methods for displaying information in bite-sized chunks. Your challenge is not to write up to 2500 words, but not to write too much, so these methods will reduce your word count.
A bibliography is an essential element of your course work, as it should demonstrate where you have researched and should reference these publications, blogs, podcasts, videos, ezines, websites, magazines, or books in a standard format. Look up how to display your bibliography, the ifs show you how to do it correctly.
Carefully review your own work. Have you repeated yourself, stammered, included everything from your mind map, directed writing to your correct audience, been clear and precise, have headings, bullets, and tables if applicable?
Finally, don’t trust your own ability to correct, give it to a colleague to correct, a second eye always sees things differently.
Enjoy the process, do your research and produce a document worthy of full marks and you will not only have improved your knowledge, but also demonstrate that you can apply it to the real world and benefit your clients with your expert financial advice. Isn’t that what we do well?