Studying for and passing an actuarial exam has arguably been one of the most strenuous tasks I have ever had to set my mind to. Passing an exam shows genuine dedication, passion, and intelligence for any individual. These exams are undeniably the most vital part to becoming and succeeding as an actuary.
Unfortunately, to achieve true actuarial proficiency – a person must bring in another dimension. While exams are the most fundamental asset as an actuary, the ability to communicate and portray actuarial models is imperative for development in the field. I would be overjoyed if I could say that accidents follow a Poisson distribution with lambda equal to five and the entire world would know exactly what I meant. The fateful truth is that only a small percentage of the population will understand what that is referring to. This is why actuaries must view themselves as more than merely risk mathematicians. In my perspective, an actuary can be viewed in another sense as a translator. Any type of applied mathematics is essentially using a bunch of numbers, letters, and symbols to describe a real-world phenomenon. Is this any different from what the English language attempts to do? To me, actuarial mathematics in its purest form is a language used to describe future, uncertain events. Therefore, as an actuary, one inherits the responsibility of taking normal English questions, translating them into math, obtaining solutions, and then translating them back into English for anyone to understand. If an actuary cannot explain the results of his or her work, then the significance of those calculations has vanished.
So how exactly can an actuary become fluent in both English and mathematics? The good news is that the exams themselves do an excellent job of testing one’s ability to take a realistic word problem and use actuarial methodology to reach an answer. Through my experiences, I have found numerous other strategies that can equip actuaries with the skills needed to communicate their work efficiently.
One of the most valuable resources actuaries have (especially if attending college) are their fellow peers. While I am an advocate for individual studying, group studying allows students to look at concepts from a different perspective that they may have not considered before. In addition, it facilitates sound communication skills as students explain their perception of a concept or problem to their peers.
In a similar way, any sort of tutoring or teaching that can be picked up will go a long way. Teaching forces one to be able to comprehend concepts in such a concrete way that they can adequately explain it to someone else. It also allows one to gain a more detailed knowledge of exam topics, as teaching requires a keen understanding and comprehension of the syllabus.
Another promising way to bolster communication skills is working on any type of project that utilizes concepts from exams. For example, from doing projects at my internship in the life and health field, I have obtained a stronger practical knowledge of the MLC syllabus. However, an internship is not the only place to go for real-world, hands-on work. Many actuarial organizations offer a wide array of practically centered resources and studies for those interested. Moreover, an actuary can find exam topics applied almost anywhere. The more broad exams such as Exam P would have applications in any scenario where probability fundamentals are present (from the amount of people with the same birthday in a given room to the amount of hurricane damage that will plague the state of Florida).
Overall, I think that this distinguished career path should be looked at more than solely the attainment of exams. While exams are undoubtedly proof of actuarial expertise, quality communication is an imperative supplement for an actuary to experience limitless growth and accomplishments.