Studying for Exams: School Year or Summer?

Written by Ryan Duffy: 2014-06-22 11.26.12

A question that many students, including myself, have during their preparation for initial exams is whether they should do the majority of their studying over the summer or during their college classes.  As someone who has done both, I can say confidently that both approaches have their pros and cons.

On one hand, summer may provide more free time to study.  It is certainly appealing to argue this to yourself when you are in the middle of a busy course load.  But many students forget that they will have internships or jobs that take almost as much time as their classes at college would, or even more time in some cases, during the summer.  Even for those that do not have jobs, may find that summer is not the most effective time to study for exams.  It is very tempting to let spending summer days with friends and family become the norm and, before you know it, the time you planned to spend studying is gone and that exam you registered for is now right around the corner.

That being said, if you have the time and the discipline, summer can be a great option for studying for exams.  I know that I have a finite amount of time I can spend each day studying.  When you study over the summer, you do not have to worry about other classes taking up time studying and can better focus your efforts on preparing for the one exam you are studying for.

Studying during college semesters can also have its pros and cons.  The obvious downside to studying while taking classes is that it can become difficult to focus on both at once.  Prioritization can end up putting classes first, as the deadlines are more short-term during the beginning of your exam studying, and it is easy to find yourself cramming in the weeks before your exam date if you are not careful.  Still, there are upsides to college studying.  To start, you have easy access to your peers.  If your school has a formal actuarial program, it can be a great resource between your fellow majors and the professors.  Even if your school does not, there are most likely others at your school who have taken the exams you are studying for and can provide advice and help where needed.  Also, while you might have less actual time to studying during classes, some people find it easier to actually get their studying time in because they are in the correct mindset for working towards their intellectual goals, and that is harder to find during those warm summer months.

The strategy that will work best for you depends on your individual personality and time constraints.  One thing, however, is for certain: take the exams in college while you can.  You have a lot of resources available and time now that you will not have in the future, and passing two or three exams before you graduate is a great way to show employers your commitment to the actuarial profession.