Actuarial Science & Law

Written by Joseph Unfried: IMAG0574

I had always scored well on standardized tests. I scored so highly on the LSAT that during law school, I took a job helping undergraduates prepare for it. I tracked my students’ progress through practice tests, watching their scores improve. I was proud of my work, and felt certain that my testing skills and instincts were so exceptional that I would find Exam P a piece of cake. Was I wrong!

I designed my own plan for Exam P/1, similar to ones I’d used on other tests. I concentrated on a subset of the test questions found on practice tests — questions on frequently addressed subject matter, and of middling difficulty. I came up with this plan on my own, and did not bother seeking advice from those who knew Exam P/1 better than I. I became narrowly focused on perfecting this plan, rather than actually mastering the material.

On exam day, the unthinkable happened. I got the printout explaining I had not achieved a passing score! I was flabbergasted and ashamed to have failed in something where I had always considered myself so proficient. Surely, I thought, the fault could not lie in my plan. Perhaps bad fortune had delivered an unlikely set of particularly difficult questions!

Few attorneys take Exam P/1, but I was dissatisfied with my legal career. I attributed this to bad luck, rather than myself. I was stagnating, disenchanted with the field.

The P/1 exam experience made me examine my legal career path. I’d seen other attorneys prosper despite poor health, accidents, and other challenges greater than mine. One had even lost all his files, both paper and electronic, in an office fire; but that hardly slowed him down. Finally I admitted it: my luck hadn’t been great, but it hadn’t been terrible either. It had simply been run-of-the-mill. By developing a tunnel vision about how to approach the practice of law, I had missed some opportunities for success in that field, in much the same way I had with Exam P/1.

We all know hard work, attentiveness and persistence can’t change what numbers come up on a roll of the dice. But they do help us recover from setbacks, and find more opportunities. We can’t literally manufacture good luck, but we must always remember we can still improve results. And that’s worth doing.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the SOA Candidate Connect in Hartford last week. I found I wasn’t the only career changer, because right now looks like a great time to become an actuary.

I also recently passed Exam P/1. I reached out for help, broadened my approach, and studied intensely. In short, I brought my “A-Game”. I can’t always influence random events in the way I’d like — but by persistently monitoring my focus, I can improve my results.

We all can.