Written by Anonymous:

When I failed Exam FM – I wasn’t surprised. After taking a class called Financial Mathematics at my university, I thought I would be adequately prepared for the real deal in mid-June. I used Coaching Actuaries for two weeks prior to the exam, but I unfortunately didn’t use Adapt to its full potential.

Instead of working the problems out all the way to the end, a method called active learning, I used a method called passive learning. I would look at the solutions to the problems or the video solutions and assume I could do it on the test. I was proven wrong. Even on the problems I could have solved in class months prior, I was unable to solve during the exam. I was a sitting duck.

Luckily I can retake it and am not the least bit turned off from becoming an actuary. I had to ask myself the honest question of whether or not I thought the Exam FM was hard. It was an important question, especially since the later exams are much harder. I knew FM wasn’t hard to me and that my study habits were what I had to overcome one way or another. I learned the hard way that passive learning is an inferior studying method to active learning.

I compare studying to one of my favorite activities, working out. Doing small amounts of weights over and over again isn’t really the most beneficial technique in becoming stronger. Routine exercise is a good analogy to passive learning. By not thinking for yourself and taking the easy way out, you may not reach the necessary strength to pass the exam. A heavier weight, depending on your strength level – is the better way to go. I feel that the Adapt levels are a good analogy for these heavier weights, and they really do make you stronger in your abilities. It’s recommended that students get up to a level 7 in order to have the best chance of passing the exam. There’s no way to fake doing a rep of a heavy weight, so I encourage you to have good form to build up your strength and I would be willing to bet that you see results both in the gym and at your study table.

That is the essence of becoming an actuary, and because there is no graduate school, it’s all up to the student to self-teach the material. I believe this is the best way to learn and becoming an actuary sharpens this important skill. After the exams are over, you can study anything you want. To quote the author Issac Assimov, “self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.” However, the catch is that you have to have good self-education habits, because this isn’t high school anymore.

Study habits are one definitely the most important habits to pick up while working to become an actuary. Being able to sit down for hours every day, with no lectures, and no one else but you is truly a rare skill. This separates us from many of the business professionals in the financial industry. Studying for hundreds of hours outside of work is a difficult task for anyone. This skill can pay off dividends for the rest of your life, and as actuaries; the sky’s the limit.