Plan. Set a schedule. When do you plan on taking your test? Are you going to take a class to help prepare? Will working with a partner help or will working alone work better? Is there a time during the day that you plan on setting aside to study? Are there days that you plan on taking a break? All these questions will help to plan out a schedule for how you should study for your test. Coaching Actuaries suggests setting aside at least thirty days, and to work on a section each day with some days off to retain and refresh. I would suggest adding extra time to that for unforeseeable days off as well as time to gather the sections together into one test. Next, know where and when you will be taking your exam. Give yourself extra time to arrive to avoid any feelings of being rushed the day of your exam.
Study. There are many possible ways to study for any of the actuary exams. Many colleges offer prep classes that review the material found on each exam. Many of these classes use books specifically for your exam. These books could also possibly be used outside of the class and many can be purchased online. Coaching Actuaries offers one of the most helpful study aids that I have used. Their website offers study materials, formula sheets, timed quizzes and tests of all difficulties. Choose one or more to help you get started studying for your exam.
Prepare. While knowing the material is extremely helpful, you must also be prepared for the format of the test. During the three-hour period you will be given thirty multiple-choice questions with five possible answers. In other words six minutes for each problem. To pass you must correctly answer seventy percent of the questions. So twenty-one questions. I found that practicing in this format and timing myself proved extremely helpful. Using a format closely mirroring that of the exam, I found some strategies worth sharing. Do the easy problems first. Train yourself to skip the more difficult ones and return to them later if time allows. If you have underlying OCD like me, you probably want to finish them in numeric order. DON’T. It would be extremely upsetting for time to run out without answering a question you KNOW the answer to. Return to the ones you don’t understand later. Another important hint is to use the same calculator that you plan on using for the test. It helps to become comfortable with the buttons and such so when sitting for the test, it comes naturally.
Relax. During the test, take comfort in knowing that you are prepared. Breathe! Don’t freak out. You have spent time and effort in your studies and should rely on that. Remember the tips you have gathered from my blog, other blogs, or your own personal trials. (As an extra little tidbit, some studies have shown that mints can help the brain with remembering information. For my own test I chewed mint gum, which I also found calmed my nerves!).
It’s over! If you passed, that’s great! Congrats! If not, don’t sweat it. Many people are unable to pass their first time taking a test. The experience will come in handy if and when you decide to retake a test. You now can understand the format of the test as well as be more comfortable in a testing environment on your next try.
I hope these tips are helpful on your quest to becoming an actuary! Good luck!