“You have one hour starting now.”When you turn over the paper you see the questions are not the ones you revised for. All you can do is scribble frantically – not easy when your memory is as blank as the sheet of paper. Exams are the stuff of nightmares.
Which is why most people are only too pleased to forget about them when they leave school. So it is amazing to find out that over 200 people have sat the new PMI examinations organised by the Chartered Insurance Institute.
Lynn Bryson is the division director at the CII in charge of examinations. She explains that the exams are not a pushover. “They are set at technician level and the candidates need to prepare well for them.”
The exams are known as the P15, described as an introduction to PMI and P75 which is more advanced and refers to transacting PMI.
Introduced in October 1996, the two exams were initially aimed primarily at insurance company staff, and Bryson says many private medical insurers have been extremely supportive. “Many companies have been prepared to back their staff and encourage them to study and achieve these qualifications,” she says.
But while it has been largely insurance staff who have sat the exams to date, Bryson points out they are equally relevant for intermediaries.
Bryson explains that since PMI is not regulated, a framed certificate on an intermediary’s office wall can be reassuring for clients. “For IFAs, these exams do not count as part of PIA requirements, but are a useful bolt-on.”
The exams can be taken at a location convenient for the candidate as the CII has a network of over 70 centres. Results are then posted out with the grim or cheering news of either a fail, fail by a narrow margin, pass or distinction.
The exams are also backed by the Association of Medical Expenses Insurers (AMEI). This is a group comprising most private medical insurers and reinsurers in the UK. It meets quarterly with the aim of promoting the industry and an understanding of its products.
This year’s chairman is Charles Bench, a marketing consultant with Legal & General Healthcare. Part of his role has been to encourage health insurance industry employees to take the exams and raise awareness.
He comments: “Many other areas of insurance are regulated, but PMI is not. These exams help to improve standards and increase confidence among consumers.”
Legal & General encourages its staff to sit the CII examinations and allows them to have study time during work hours and pays the tuition fees.
One Legal & General member of staff who benefited from this is Michelle Jones, a business analyst based in the company’s Brighton offices.
Her year was off to a great start when she received the news that she had passed both the P50 and the P76 exams. What is more she achieved a distinction in both papers – the highest pass mark available.
She emphasises that the candidates need to be dedicated if they are to achieve similar success.
“These aren’t exams which you can leave to the week before and still expect to pass. There are no multiple choice and the questions mostly require detailed answers in essay form.”
She says one of the more demanding study areas was learning about health insurance topics which were new. “Even though I already work in the industry, I knew nothing about actuarial reserving but had to find out what actuaries actually do and how it relates to healthcare,” she explains.
Jones is already an ACII and she believes this having worked for this qualification and acquired the study habit then helped her in her PMI exams.