Many students, when they first take a step into the actuarial world, may face severe difficulties or failure in passing their exams. It can be a traumatic experience for them, especially for those who are not used to experiencing academic failure.
I too, was one such student. When I first decided to become an actuary, the first exam I attempted was Exam P, and I failed miserably at it. As a consequence, I became hopeless and was down in the dumps for quite a few weeks.
However, it is very important for an actuarial student to realize that the path they have chosen is full of thorns, but by working hard and taking the right steps, these thorns can be easily removed.
Soon after I had failed, it dawned upon me that I had committed some cardinal mistakes which resulted in my failure, and I resolved to correct them so that I do not have to suffer the same fate again.
It is an important decision for any student as to which exam to give next. This decision should be based on many factors, the foremost being your current knowledge of the exam matter. If you have taken up quite a sufficient amount of courses on probability during your time at your institute, then it would make sense to take Exam P first. On the other hand, if you are well-versed with financial concepts, you may be better off giving Exam FM a try first. This decision also depends on other factors such as the amount of time you have left to prepare for the exam, and the amount and difficulty level of the syllabus of the exam.
One of the two cardinal sins which I had committed was not asking other actuarial students and mentors for guidance. Being the first one among my friends and family to take up this career path, I was clueless as to what to do and how to prepare for the exams. I was hesitant to ask others for advice, and as a result ended up trying to prepare for Exam P only from the textbooks recommended by the SOA, rather than using a manual. This proved to be a rather foolish decision, since it is a cumbersome task to go through even one textbook properly in a period of 2-3 months (which I had for the exam), and I had wanted to go through at least 2-3 textbooks. It would have been much more sensible to use a manual, which effectively combines all the important and relevant concepts from the suggested textbooks. Of course, not all students may hold this opinion, but most students I have now asked recommended me to use a manual instead of textbooks. I also got other useful tips by asking people for advice, which are helping me prepare for my exams. Had I done this earlier, I may have saved myself from failing Exam P.
The other sin I had committed was not practicing enough. I cannot stress this enough, but practicing actually teaches some students more than manuals and textbooks do. You should not only practice questions from the manual and the SOA website, but make use of resources such as Adapt. This investment will go a long way, and will help you clear your exam. I realize now that had I done this before, there may be a quite a high probability that I pass the exam.
Hopefully, if you follow these tips and study not only hard but also smart, you will be able to successfully pass your exams!
Best of luck to all of you!