A Step-by-Step Studying Process

Written by Yeng Chang:Yeng

I have taken exams P, FM, and MFE using Adapt, and can say that Adapt is an essential part to the studying process for these exams. For all three of these exams, after I reached an earned level of 7, I passed them. I have a bit of a problem with test anxiety, and what Adapt has done is helped me (over)prepare for the stress of these actuarial exams – it forces me to recall formulas quickly, it puts me on a time crunch, and it has questions which are much harder than the actual exam. The difficulty level of Adapt is amazing, as it makes the actual exams a piece of cake. I left both P and MFE an hour early, and FM one-and-a-half hours before the three hours were up, and have scored an 8 on P; a 9 on FM; and (I expect) an 8, 9, or 10 on MFE; as I had to guess on only one question. One point I should make is that for FM and MFE, I had either horrible allergies or a lack of sleep, and to have these scores despite those conditions is amazing, and there is no way I would have achieved these scores without using Adapt.

Studying for these exams is difficult. I have never had the fortune of barely being able to pass these actuarial exams or luck on my side; I have always had to put in a lot of effort to pass these exams. I recommend this step-by-step process for people who are studying for these exams:

1) Get yourself to study. I struggle with this step. You would think that by this time, it would be easy for me to get started studying for an actuarial exam, but it still is a battle sometimes, especially when there are other things I’d rather be doing.

2) Learn the material. Prove everything that you read about in your textbook. Learn why the formulas work they way do, and convince yourself that these formulas are true. Especially for MFE, I found this very useful in learning the material, as there are generalizations for the pricing formulas that are not presented in McDonald that I was able to figure out on my own by proving a formula.

3) Teach/tutor the material. For exam FM, I spent a good 3-4 months for 6-12 hours/day studying. As I progressed through college, I didn’t have such time anymore. So when I studied for exams P and MFE, I tutored the material to my peers and created study notes (which you can find on the Actuarial Outpost, by the way) and received feedback as I was creating them. Doing this step may seem very time consuming, but in fact, I’ve found it to be more efficient than just learning the material and doing problems alone. It actually has cut down the number of study hours I need to learn the material. For exam MLC, as you can find on the Actuarial Outpost, I am currently working on a supplementary notes packet which requires me to be able to explain the mathematics behind it to others. I’ve learned a lot so far in the process of making this notes packet and hope to pass MLC in November.

4) Do practice problems. This is where Adapt is useful – if you get an earned level of 7 or higher, in my case, you should expect to pass. This step also helps with preparing you for the stress of the actual exam and figuring out where your deficiencies are. Use whatever sample questions have been provided to you by the SOA/CAS. Make sure you find the most difficult problems possible for these exams; you want to make the actual exams look easy.

If you follow this step-by-step process, you should be able to pass the exams. Is it easier said than done? Yes. Will it be easy? Definitely not. But it leads to a very thorough understanding of the material, and due to the cumulative nature of some of these exams (especially MFE, MLC, & C), following this process will help you with studying. Best of luck to you as you go through these exams!