Progressing Through Exams


Back in the early months of 2012 I began preparing for my first actuarial exam. I had some previous experience with Financial Mathematics from different courses at UConn, but I was still left wondering how I should study. Everyone I talked to had different ways to tackle the actuarial exam process and I needed to figure out what worked for me.

For Exam FM I decided to start by purchasing a study manual. I made sure that I went through every section thoroughly and I did the majority of the practice problems for each section. Some of the sections had a lot of questions, which seemed rather overwhelming to me. For those ones I just made sure I was consistently getting questions right before I moved on. After going through the study manual and the practice exams at the back, I purchased a subscription to Adapt and that proved to be the most helpful study material.

Adapt allowed me to take exams at a level of difficulty that I felt comfortable with. The program also helped me become more efficient when solving problems. I was able to get through my exams in less than the allotted three hours. Thus I had time to check my work. It wasn’t easy for me to keep track of time while doing paper exams so this was a definite plus. I woke up on exam day fairly comfortable but found myself nervous when I arrived at the test center. Fortunately I was able to pass on my first try. Though timing wasn’t an issue there were several instances where I struggled to understand what exactly the question was asking as the wording was different than what I was used to. I knew for my next exam I needed exposure to more practice problems so that I wouldn’t encounter a similar issue.

After passing Exam FM, I immediately started preparing for Exam P as I was scheduled to take it a few months later. I was hoping to learn from my mistakes and go into the testing center with more confidence than before. I basically followed the same routine that I had adopted for FM, but I decided to make a few tweaks. When I finished the manual and started using Adapt I began playing around with the quiz option. Through this, I was able to focus on the areas that needed the most work. The quizzes allowed me to see my accuracy for each section which helped me to find my struggle spots. I also made sure that I got my earned level up to about a 7. This way I knew the practice exams that I was taking would be representative of the actual exam. Needless to say I felt very confident walking into the test center and passed Exam P. I also used the same process with Exam MFE, which yielded similar results and am currently doing this for Exam C.

Ultimately everyone has to determine what works for them. Though figuring that out might be difficult, it will definitely help in the long run.

Takeaways for Exam Studying:

1. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to study. (Cramming the month before is definitely not ideal)

2. Don’t skip sections in the manual. (You never know which questions you’re going to get)

3. Do as many practice problems as possible. (I usually give myself a month to do practice exams)

4. Make sure you keep an eye on the clock. (If a problem is taking you a lot of time, skip it and come back)

5. Answer all the questions for CBT Exams. (It’s a shame to leave something blank when you won’t be penalized)

6. Feel confident when you enter the exam center. (A negative attitude will make you nervous)