5 Tips to Consider When Studying for the Exams

Written by Greg Monson:

I am a senior at the University of Iowa studying Actuarial Science. I have currently passed exams FM, P and MFE and I used the help of Adapt for exam MFE.


The Adapt study tool was easily one of the main resources that led me to having such great success with exam MFE.  Its ability to determine areas where you need improvement was definitely helpful when preparing for the exam. A definite “must have” resource!

There are many great studying tips on this blog site. I thought I would share a few tips with you guys that have helped me get through my three exams:

  1. Study with others – It is extremely helpful having someone else to go through practice problems with. By doing so, you’re able to discover multiple approaches to the problems and you will pick up on quicker ways to solve things. It also helps to explain these concepts to someone else. You will develop a better intuition on how these concepts work and you will become better at determining how you are going to solve a problem before you actually solve it.
  2. Whiteboards – Whenever I am studying for my actuarial exams, I always try to find a location where I can bust out problems on a whiteboard. As I mentioned before, it is great to go through these problems with someone else. By doing them with someone on a large whiteboard, it’s easy to walk through the problems and talk about them with each other. It’s sometimes hard to follow someone else’s work on a piece of loose-leaf paper…  Whiteboards are the way to go!
  3. Know your calculator – You can save a great amount of time on the exam if you are very comfortable with your calculator. There were a lot of questions on my FM exam that would have taken me a lot longer to solve if I did not know certain things about my BA-II Plus calculator. Some examples would be – being able to calculate the modified duration using the TVM buttons and then quickly converting it to the Mac Duration, using the m-thly interest rate converter, and just being able to quickly store and retrieve numbers throughout a calculation. It’s best to practice becoming faster with your computational skills… you will definitely free up some exam time.
  4. Make use of Microsoft Excel – I think using Excel with problems that deal with amortization (for exam FM) or problems that deal with life tables and recursion formulas (for exam MLC) can be very helpful.  Not only will you improve your Excel skills, but you will also get to see the big picture of how certain things move (principal/interest payments, life annuity values, etc.).  When it comes time to crunch out these values on an exam question, you can kind of have a sense as to if a value should be greater than another value or vice versa based on the trends that you pick up from looking at the big picture.
  5. Do a lot of practice problems – This tip may be one of the more obvious ones, but it is definitely one of the most important ones. When you do a lot of practice problems, things start to click and you start to develop routines on how you solve problems. I think it’s important to take as many practice exams as you can before the actual exam. That way you can really get a feel for how the testing environment will be. Another thing I utilized with my Adapt subscription was the quiz creator. Quizzes on Adapt are nice because you don’t have to allocate a whole 3 hours like you would with a practice exam. It’s sometimes nice to take shorter quizzes on a specific topic on the syllabus. This way you can really focus on what you need to improve on in that specific area.

In the end, it’s all about developing a good intuition. Memorizing formulas will only get you so far. I believe that if you can easily explain your exam concepts to someone and you understand how things work in a big picture sense, you will most certainly have no problem passing your exam.

Best of luck everyone!