Expert Insight into the New Harmonized LLQP Program – Part Three

On January 1, 2016, the Harmonized Life Licence Qualification Program (LLQP) will come into effect. The Harmonized LLQP standardizes the entry level qualifications of new entrants to the industry across all jurisdictions in Canada (including Québec).

Ashton College Financial Services instructor Byron Boone was one of three Ashton instructors who assisted in the creation of exam questions for the the new Harmonized LLQP certification exam. Last week we featured Ian Whiting, who assisted in the creation of 25% of the new exam questions, and the week before – insights from Becky Wong. This week tips, we’ll be sharing insight and feedback from Byron Boone, a financial planner with over 30 years of experience in the industry.

What was your work with the new harmonized LLQP?

I wrote some of the questions for the harmonized LLQP. It wasn’t for CISRO though – it was for a course provider: I wrote certification exam questions and I edited other people’s exam questions. I also mapped the curriculum onto the textbook to ensure the distribution of the exam questions was correct.

Why was the new harmonized LLQP introduced in Canada?

One of the reasons for introducing the new LLQP was its fragmented nature: every province had their own test and different preparation materials available, and hence there were different levels of competency. A number of provinces got together to review the whole process, and they realized that the current system was not really meeting their needs.

There were too many differences between the tests and course content from different providers under the old LLQP version. Every course provider had their own textbook and would emphasize or de-emphasize certain topics. Sometimes, the text terminology wouldn’t necessarily match the actual LLQP provincial exam. So there was a big difference between in the LLQP exam success rate depending on the course provider and something needed to be done about it.

Furthermore, it was hard to continuously keep reviewing and updating so many materials all the time (which, of course, is necessary to ensure quality, but is very time and resource-consuming when you have so many versions to take care of). The provincial regulators realized that if they had a standard textbook, it would be easier to update it.

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What are the key differences between the older version of the LLQP and the new harmonized LLQP?

The main difference is the fact that students now need to be competent in each of the four different modules. Furthermore, there are two different Ethics and Professional Practice modules: one for all provinces except Quebec (Common Law), and another specifically for Quebec only (Civil Code). Prior to the new LLQP, it was possible to pass the LLQP exam even without understanding some of the components, which could result in some people in the industry not knowing all the products. The new harmonized LLQP requires you to have the depth and breadth of knowledge necessary to successfully advise clients.

The exam was also changed to open-book format. This change actually makes more sense, because in real life, you don’t do everything from memory: if you need more information, you can look it up. Being able to look up, interpret and apply information is a skill by itself, and it reflects what happens when you’re on the job.

The course providers have strict rules and regulations on the kinds of questions they can provide (for example, having no negative questions), so they came up with different situations and scenario-based questions under those guidelines.

Another difference is having more situational questions included on the exam. In the older version, some questions were oriented towards memorization and recall, while now it is more important to synthesize and apply the information. Students must understand how certain regulations and products work in a particular case and draw conclusions.

The textbooks are the same across Canada. The exam is fairer this way. Every student in Canada has exactly the identical study material and same-style exam, so everybody has an equal chance of passing the exam.

What are the key changes to the LLQP exam?

There are four modular exams under the new regulations, each are 75 minutes long. So the total exam is now five hours long instead of four; however, you can take them separately, and not in one sitting. I believe it is less stressful this way. There are also more materials to study under the new LLQP (around 800 pages), but that gives the students more training and more product knowledge.

Moreover, if you fail one part, you don’t fail the whole exam: you can just go back and retake the part you failed. This ensures more consistent competency across all the exam topics.
Interestingly, there is also an additional textbook on taxation. This textbook does not have a course component, nor is it examinable separately (the questions for the exam come from the main four textbooks), but I believe you are still expected to read it and be familiar with the material.

What tips do you have for students studying for the LLQP exam under the harmonized system?

One piece of advice would be to concentrate on understanding the logic behind everything: you should know how things work, why they are designed a certain way, and how to apply the knowledge in practice. The new exam really concentrates on scenario-based questions, so having the ability to reason is key.

Under the new LLQP, studying becomes not simply about “cramming” and possibly forgetting, but about learning and having more competency in the subject. It is important make sure you understand the materials. When studying, learn how to apply your knowledge – application and logical reasoning are the keys to success.

Another piece of advice I would give is to be familiar with the location of material when you take the open book exam. If you are bringing your own book, know where the key topics are in the textbook. Put sticky notes or comments at the key parts if you can – you will save a lot of time that way. And of course, be calm when taking the exam: there is more material to study now, but it is still doable.

About Byron Boone

Byron Boone has been a Financial Services instructor at Ashton College for almost three years. Byron teaches the LLQP and facilitates corporate training sessions for Ashton College.

Byron Boone has nearly three decades of financial sales and management experience. A believer in continuous learning, Byron holds a Bachelor of Arts (Economics) from the University of British Columbia, an Executive Master of Business Administration from Simon Fraser University, and a Certificate in Financial Management from British Columbia Institute of Technology.

Byron also has more than a dozen finance-specific licences and designations, including the Life Licence Qualification Program (LLQP) and is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP)


The Life Licence Qualification Program

Take the LLQP at Ashton College, in partnership with IFSE, and learn from industry professionals with years of experience in their field.

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