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Beating the clock

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  • 05/09/2002
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Time is running out for advisers that do not have a professional mortgage qualification, however, comprehensive training and support is available online ' if you know where to look

By now there can be very few unqualified mortgage advisers who have not yet started to worry about studying and maintaining a full time job. It can be difficult to find the time to attend training courses ‘ if and when there is any free time available.

But while most brokers should now have a wealth of information on the exams and the syllabus contained in books, it can be daunting to just dive in whenever there are a few moments to spare. Consequently, as time marches on, many brokers will be relieved to know there is an increasing amount of accessible online and downloadable training material available from the various examining bodies. Most of this material contains similar learning and revision aids to those contained in hard format, but they often contain more mock exam questions and can provide instant feedback.

Beating the books

Gary Taylor, principal IFA at the Romford branch of Ashley Law, used downloaded training material. He says: ‘Having done the exams I can understand why some brokers won’t want to be faced with thick books when there are only a few months to go ‘ it can be a big psychological block. The problem with crash courses is that the market is so busy at the moment you may not have time to go on them, or if you do you are not fully focused.’

Mark Turney, proprietor of Cambridge based brokerage, Mortgage Solutions, agrees: ‘We do a lot of work online, so it seemed logical to download information on the exams from the internet. What we noticed immediately was that these interactive training packs were far better than all the books and packs we had. You feel it is more manageable and can get more of a feel for what you are trying to learn this way.’

One of the major differences between traditional and electronic training methods is that books only contain a finite number of questions, and once they have been answered correctly they are only useful for reference.

Taylor says: ‘With a computer-based training tool you can do a practice exam straight away and receive an instant appraisal. It tells you the areas you need to work on, so you can focus on that. You can keep going backwards and forwards until it gets easier and you are comfortable with the terminology of the questions. You can do a section at night wherever you are ‘ at home or in the office when it is quiet, and you do not have to get a book out.’

Online aids

So what is available in electronic format? The three institutes behind the accredited Professional Mortgage Qualification (PMQ) exams have all entered the online arena in some form, although their approaches all differ slightly.

The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) is the body behind the Mortgage Advice Qualification (MAQ). In addition to the standard textbooks, it has devised an online educational facility to accompany the text books. The information is taken from the books and literature designed for the exam, and most of the study options are available either online, or in a downloadable format. It includes ‘mortgage pass-plan learning’ ‘ an interactive tutorial covering the MAQ syllabus in depth. This includes self-assessment programmes, and examiners reports from past exams that have sample questions and model answers.

Steve Radford, public relations manager at the CII, says: ‘We offer a full range of training facilities online or on disk. However, if the candidate has a query over any issue they can still phone us, or sign up for face-to-face training.’

The CII’s MAQ exams still require candidates to go and sit public exams as written answers are required. But with so many brokers still to qualify, the body has set up extra sittings for the MAQ exams, which will run monthly from September to December.

But Radford notes brokers need to step up their study program by whichever means they can, with a view to sitting the exams as soon as possible: ‘If advisers only take the exam in December they will not get the results until 13 January 2003. If they fail they will have to re-sit after this period.’

The Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland (CIOBS) offers the same Certificate of Mortgage Advice and Practice (CeMaP) examination route as the Institute of Financial Services (ifs). The body offers exams and training to brokers in both Scotland and England and the only difference between the two papers is where there are differences in law and the papers are split into English and Scottish sections

Tess Joyce, PR and media relations manager at the CIOBS, says: ‘We have put information for Papers One and Two online, and brokers using us to take their exams can access our online learning facility. An introduction area gives generic hints and tips on studying for those who haven’t taken an exam for years, and then there is the actual exam information.

‘While this is not an exact reproduction of the books, there is a review of the subjects and a series of quick questions. There are multiple choice questions and review questions. They are similar to the actual exam, but unlike the books they are randomly generated each time.’

The other main examining body is the Institute of Financial Services (ifs). Unlike the other two bodies it has not gone down the online training route, and its electronic guides are only available on disk, which takes the form of an e-learning CD-ROM for CeMaP.

Simon Ashmore, marketing officer at the ifs, says: ‘It is useful at the moment because it contains lots of questions that could come up in the exam, and allows candidates to regularly re-test themselves. It provides a feedback report of their strengths and weaknesses. And, if in the future, brokers actions are judged on outcomes rather than completions, then it will be useful in identifying deficiencies in knowledge and targeting them specifically will be very useful.’

However, of the three main bodies ifs is the only one to go a stage further and put the exam online. Its Prometric system uses the same questions as the paper-based version. Ifs uses touch-screen technology and is available at over 150 Prometric training centres around the UK. The centres are shared with driving test examination centres, and they are the first of their kind in the UK.

Ashmore says: ‘We introduced it for CeMaP Papers One and Two in January 2001 and for Paper Three and the Bridge paper in February 2002. It took longer to set these two up as we had to change elements such as the case studies to an objective testing (multiple choice) format.’

Electronic training of all forms is likely to become more popular over the coming months as brokers look to cram before their exams. According to the latest figures from the Mortgage Code Compliance Board (MCCB), it appears that of the 80,226 advisers registered to become professional mortgage advisers, only 32,892 have now qualified, which is around 41%.

Meeting the deadline

But with so many advisers yet to qualify, getting the right training and passing first time becomes more significant, especially as failure could mean the broker can only advise when supervised by a qualified adviser. With this in mind it would seem prudent to explore every avenue available in the run up the all-important exams.

Brad Baker, head of communications at the MCCB, says: ‘While the MCCB does not endorse any of the training guides available, it does encourage brokers to use the tools that most suit their needs. The MCCB always welcomes tools that make it easier and more convenient for brokers to study. People study in different ways, and the more types of material they have access to, the better. However, electronic training aids are optional and they do cost more than the standard guides.’

While electronic aids are designed for ease of access to the subject, Joyce warns that they should not be used in isolation. ‘I would say they are a useful aid, but not a solution and the books are still easy to work through at any stage. If I was a student I would do a mix of both as the online version is something that can be done whenever there is a spare five minutes.’

Taking time to train for the exams is vital for brokers who wish to continue working. The need to pass will not go away, and neither will time pressures, so taking advantage of electronic training facilities available is more than just another revision tool.

Ben Marquand is deputy editor

sales points

Most e-training software contains the same information as hard copies, but has many more exam questions.

E-training allows brokers fast access to questions, information and feedback at any time of day.

The deadline is now only four months away and 59% of those registered for the exams are still to pass.

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