Test-Taking Strategies

Written by Leo Bird: graduation

Struggling with exams? I have a lot of tips that can save you some time!

  1. If there is even one part of the problem you do not know how to do, skip it. One thing that makes a multiple-choice test harder than a free answer test is that you do not get partial credit. Therefore, it will waste time to do a lot of work on a problem that you do not know how to do.
  2. I cannot tell how many times I have missed a problem just due to things like the difference between an annuity immediate and an annuity due or a miscopied number. So it is very important to READ THE PROBLEM CAREFULLY. One symptom of doing the problem wrong is if the problem gives exact numbers like 177.39 for choices and your answer is not close to one of them, though it might be in the range. A symptom of doing the problem right would be if after doing complicated calculations you get a round number like 14.9989 (that is close enough to 15).
  3. Just because your answer matches one of their answers, it does not mean you got the problem right. The people who write the tests know the common errors that people make when doing the problem, so they give a choice in the answers that correspond to a wrong but likely thought process.
  4. Get a good Internet connection. It is distracting to have the Internet connection halt right in the middle of taking a test and also does not simulate actual testing conditions. I solved this problem by using my iPhone, as it connects to the Internet differently than my computer.
  5. Tell family and friends about your study needs. Someone who is unfamiliar with actuarial science may not know the demands of the exams, and might encourage you to take more time out of your schedule than you can.
  6. Do not use formula sheets when you are solving problems. When you are first studying, you will probably need to refer back to the formulas. However, on the actual exam, you will not be able to use a formula sheet, so the formulas need to be memorized.
  7. Use the same calculators studying as you would when taking the test. A graphing calculator makes it easy to refer to previous calculations. On the calculators you use for the test, however, the screens only allow for one line of text so it is harder to check answers.
  8. If the question calls for two numbers, you might only need to solve for one of them. This is possible when both numbers in a choice are unique. If one number is found in more than one choice, then you can eliminate a few of the answers.
  9. If the answer does not make sense after reading the worked out problem, watch the video or go to the discussion board. Those sources go into more detail. I learned how to pronounce perpetuity by watching videos (I thought it was per-pet-chu-ity but it is per-pa-tuity).
  10. Talk to one of the actuaries at Coaching Actuaries. When I emailed for a 20 minute call, I got a quick response. I checked the tutor’s LinkedIn profile and was impressed by his educational background and experience working with students. (That is one reason good grades are important.) He affirmed that having a 6.81 in Adapt and doing 20 – 30 problems every day was on the right track for an exam in 1.5 to 2 months away. There were a few things that might have been easier to explain if I drove to his office, like with formulas.
  11. If you encounter a formula that does not look like it can be simplified into one of the choices, substitute choices A, B, C, D, and E into the problem, or substitute numbers into the equation. Some equations are too difficult or even impossible to simplify. Or maybe there is a way, but you do not have the time on the test to find out.