Actuarial Exams: Not for the faint-hearted

Hello fellow aspiring actuaries. My name is Alex DiVerde and this is my first time blogging so bear with me. I am a sophomore at Bradley University and I passed Exam 1/P and Exam 2/FM in the last five months. Studying for an actuarial exam is the most difficult task a college student or professional may undertake. Engineers or pre-med students may disagree with this claim. I would like to challenge them to spend three hundred hours preparing for a test and then they can get back to me. The actuarial exams are not for the faint-hearted. A relentless attitude is necessary when it comes to preparing for the exams. There are some tips I would love to share with everyone which make the task less daunting. 403558_2842779168588_826946626_n

  •  Take a deep breath – The most important tip I can give anyone studying for actuarial exams is to relax and take your time. No exams were ever passed due to worrying night and day about them. Going into the study process in a calm fashion is the first key to being successful on your exams.
  •  Plan ahead – Before you set out to pass an exam you must sit down with a calendar and make a rough study schedule to see if you can study enough. Exams are expensive and there is no sense wasting your time and money on an exam you do not have adequate time to prepare for. In my opinion, you need 3-4 months for an exam with material you have never seen (3 months equals three hours a day and 4 months is 2.5 hours a day). If you have taken a class on the material then you need 2-3 months.
  •  Be realistic – Few people have the time, focus, and willpower to study 5-6 hours a day for a month to cram for an exam. You may want to pass P in January before the spring career fair. However, you will be throwing money away if you start studying for it after Christmas. The exams are only part of becoming an actuary. Sacrificing other commitments such as schoolwork and family is not worth taking an exam earlier.
  •  PRACTICE EXAMS – Every student is different, but I swear by this. Yes, you have to learn the material from a manual or a class, but nothing is going to prepare you for the actual exam like practice exams. It is important to get exposure to the type of questions on the exam. You also must learn how the timing of an exam feels and how draining 30-35 problems are. Whether you choose to take the practice exams out of a study manual, make the free SOA questions into practice exams, or use software such as Adapt, taking practice exams is the best way to study.
  •  Know yourself – Be realistic in your expectations. If you are the type of student who can dedicate three hours at a time to sit down and take a practice exam, then focus on that. If you are the type who burns out after an hour, then work on increasing the length of your study sessions as you progress. No one knows what will help you prepare better than you. You must use your strengths and weaknesses to maximize your exam preparation.
  •  Do not get discouraged – Many of us know fallen actuaries who switched into a different field because they thought it was too hard. Becoming an actuary is not an easy task. There is a reason for the good compensation and the small number of actuaries in the field. Any successful actuary will tell you that it strong study habits and persistence are the key success factors. Natural talent will only take one so far, and learning through trial and error what works best for you is another key to success.

I hope these tips have helped you, fellow actuaries. I will be posting on topics such as specific preparation tips for Exam 2/FM, Exam 1/P, and on what is the best way to take practice exams soon. Thank you for taking the time to read this and feel free to send me any questions or comment on this as you please. Study on and good luck to all!