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Passing the first level FAIS Regulatory Exam







By Tamara Jacobsen, Director, Applied Learning Academy

Applied Learning Academy specialises in training and support solutions for the first level regulatory exams. We receive many requests for assistance from representatives and key individuals who have not been successful in passing the first level of the FAIS regulatory exam, even after multiple attempts. To be able to offer better assistance, Applied Learning Academy has developed and piloted a regulatory exam analysis tool. The purpose of the analysis tool is to identify an individual’s specific weak or problem areas, and to provide tailored guidance and recommendations to each individual on further preparation for the regulatory exam. Although most requests are from people who have been unsuccessful in passing the regulatory exam after multiple attempts, the analysis tools is also useful to assess exam readiness and applies to preparation for either the representative or key individual regulatory exam.


If you have been unsuccessful in the first level regulatory exam, or would like to know if you are sufficiently ready to write the exam, we would be happy to help you become successful through our exam analysis tool. The first step is to complete a special assessment exam comprising 30 multiple choice questions. Although the questions cover regulatory exam topics, they have been designed to enable us to assess and analyse specific areas, e.g. level of specific detailed knowledge in different topics, different types of exam technique. The second step is to submit your answer sheet to us. Your results are then analysed and a personal development plan is provided, based on the results of the analysis.

Special introductory offer: R450

Please contact us if you would like further information: Call 011 452 8829 or visit


Through our pilot programme of the exam analysis tool, we identified common trends that contribute to the lack of success in the exams. We would like to share information on these identified trends as it may help you or your staff member in conquering the regulatory exam.


It is not obvious that detailed, specific knowledge is required to pass the regulatory exams. By detailed, specific knowledge we mean that a thorough knowledge of the legal requirements is needed. The exams are NOT a test of general knowledge – they are a test of knowledge of legal requirements and their application within the financial services industry. This concept is best demonstrated through an example.

Question example

The Registrar has requested information from a financial services provider on 14 November 2016. By when must the financial services provider furnish the requested information to the Registrar?

Option A         Before 21 November 2016

Option B         On 21 November 2016

Option C         On 22 November 2016

Option D         Before 23 November 2016

The legal requirement states that information must be provided to the Registrar within seven days of a request. If while studying, attention has only been given to ‘seven days’, this question will be difficult to answer accurately. Further the options provided make provision for a lack of detailed study as there is an option for ‘before’ (within) seven days (option A), on the seventh day (option B), after seven days (option C) and before/within seven working days (option D). The correct answer is option A, being within a seven day period. 

Without the detailed and specific knowledge of the legal definition and meaning, the likelihood of answering questions such as in the example provided is low. The truth is that anyone who wants to pass the regulatory exam has to really study and learn the information in detail, paying attention to every word.

Lack of detailed and specific knowledge is by far the most common factor resulting in lack of success in the regulatory exams.


The second most common factor contributing to lack of success in the regulatory exams is lack of reading skills, both when studying and when writing the regulatory exam. In other words not enough attention has been given to the detail. Our pilot analyses programme showed an alarming level of errors in relation to reading of details in questions and answer options. This particular problem has increased over the last four to five years, possibly because of the enormous amount of written information that candidates deal with in their day to day work and lives, e.g. emails, administration documents, Whatsapp messages. Words that change the meaning or result in an option being correct or incorrect are missed, causing disappointing results. Again this is best demonstrated through an example. 

Question example 

Brady Brokers is a category I FSP specialising in life insurance (long term insurance subcategory A and B1). They have submitted an application to the Registrar for Mr Clifford to be approved as their appointed compliance officer. In phase I of the approval stage, the Registrar’s evaluation will include:

  1. Mr Clifford’s honesty and integrity
  2. Mr Clifford’s qualifications against the list of recognised compliance qualifications
  3. Whether Mr Clifford is an unrehabilitated insolvent
  4. Whether Mr Clifford has at least one years experience in risk management or compliance specific and three years experience in the particular category of FSP
  5. Mr Clifford’s ability to render services independently and objectively

Option A         i, ii, iii and iv

Option B         i, ii and iii

Option C         i ii, iv and v

Option D         all of the above

The first step should be to analyse the question to establish what is being requested. In the example, the requirements for approval of a compliance officer in terms of phase I of the application have been requested. The second step is to identify those options that accurately list phase I requirements. Option (i), (ii) and (iii) apply. Option (v) is not relevant at all as this is a phase II requirement. However, option (iv), which is relevant to phase I approval has mixed up two requirements – it should read: Whether Mr Clifford has at least THREE years experience in risk management or compliance specific and ONE years experience in the particular category of FSP. Most candidates did not read the option carefully enough to notice that the experience requirements were mixed up, meaning that it is an incorrect statement. The correct answer is therefore Option B. 

Our best advice for anyone preparing to write or rewrite the regulatory exam is to slow down, study and learn all the details including all the important wording, and to read every question and answer options very carefully before making a selection. The incorrect options under multiple choice questions are called distracters for a reason – they are designed to distract the person who is being examined from the correct answer option if his/her knowledge is not sufficiently detailed and accurate.     


In this communication, we have made reference to particular skills areas. In summary, there are three core skills needed to be successful in the first level regulatory exams:

  1. Detailed, specific knowledge;
  2. Knowledge and understanding of the exam and exam technique and skill;
  3. Practice.

Applied Learning Academy has developed a support pack for the level 1 key individual and level 1 representative regulatory exam. This is a good supplement to a workshop or for self study. The support pack has been created to address all three core skills needed and includes the following:

  • Summary of the material: all key information has been included in this summary for ease of study including the legal provisions and additional explanations to help with understanding:
    • All important and relevant information has been identified and included – if it is in the summary, it must be learnt;
    • Information is cross referenced with the material and law for further reading or reference.
  • Summary of time periods: this document summarises the multiple time lines found in the legislation and notices. These are important to learn as questions on these arise in the exam;
  • Exam tips and techniques: this provides detailed information on the exam and in relation to technique to build the required exam techniques and skill. This document includes:
    • Techniques on tackling the different types of multiple choice questions, using examples;
    • The number of questions to expect from each topic;
    • The different levels of questions and how many to expect at each level;
    • Other key information on exam technique.
  • Mock exams: two mock exams are provided on the same basis as the actual exam in terms of content, number of questions and style of questions. This part of the support pack is aimed at providing practice as well as development opportunities.
    • An answer sheet and explanations of the answers is provided to enable you to use the results as a development tool to strengthen knowledge and/or exam technique. 

Further reading...

Please feel free to contact us if you require a workshop, support pack, analysis of your exam readiness or any other information in relation to the regulatory exams. Support is available for both the representative’s regulatory exam (RE 5) and key individual’s regulatory exam (RE 1).

Source: Applied Learning Academy
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