Quality vs. Quantity

Written by Kujtim Hoxha: photo

To date, I’ve passed three actuarial exams, all of which have been quite different experiences. I can’t say that any of these experiences have been easy. The first exam I decided to take was FM. When I read that the SOA recommended that you should spend at least 100 study hours per exam hour, I really took that to heart. I decided that if I spent at least 350-400 hours studying, I’d pass, so I did just that. I went through the recommended text, then a study manual, and then finally used Adapt, as recommended by my university professor. My study-system would be to take a practice exam every other day, while carefully reviewing my solutions. I wound up passing that exam, however, 8 weeks later, I was surprised to have gotten a 6 after all the time I had spent preparing.

I decided that a pass was a pass, so I proceeded with taking exam P shortly after, and used the same routine again. However, to stay on the safe side, I took one full-length practice exam each day for the month preceding the exam. Sadly this time, I failed (a painful 5). I had spent just about 350 hours studying for this exam, and realized that I wasn’t spending my study time efficiently. For my second attempt, I decided that I would have to spend more time on sections that I was having more trouble with rather than taking full-length exams like I had previously. One of Adapts great features is the quiz tool, which I utilized more extensively for this attempt. I focused on my weaker areas that I struggled with the first attempt, and watched many of their video solutions to the SOA 153, which were immensely helpful. The result this time was a pass.

For my third exam, MFE, I decided to do what I had done for my second attempt at P. I went through the material, and highlighted sections that gave me trouble. After taking a decent amount of practice exams on Adapt, it was clear to me what sections I needed to focus more on, and did so using their quiz tool, and the corresponding sections in the ASM manual. I also would watch their review videos on some of the more confusing topics (such as yield volatility and some of the exotic options you’ll encounter) and these were also very handy. When exam day arrived, I had accumulated about 250 study hours, much less than P and FM even though the material on this exam was much lengthier. However, I can honestly say that this was the most prepared I had ever felt for any exam. I submitted the exam, confidently answering every question, and received a preliminary pass result.

The moral of the story is that rather than trying to accumulate tons of study hours, like I was trying to do in the beginning, you should carefully allocate them to what needs more time. If you feel comfortable with mostly everything on FM, but are struggling with immunization, focus on doing problems for that section rather than taking full-length practice exams.

Good luck studying to everyone taking these exams, and make sure to spend time where it’s needed!