How to get over that study rut

Written by Neil Nguyen:

I am a planner. If you are like me, you get excited when a brand new manual is in the mail. 4 months before the exam, you delicately set up a study schedule, and of course, constantly check Actuarial Outpost.

Having gone over the syllabus, you decided ahead of time what date you would finish each chapter, and also generously left one luxurious month for practice exams. At this time, you have more than enough energy to start digging in that mountain of theories and formulas. The rational voice in your head keeps saying: “Following this logical schedule will put me ‘in the money’.”

2 months in, things are slowing down. The thoughts of “starting a new chapter next week” always sounds like a logical move, but work, homework or that family outing are happening NOW and the exam isn’t for 2 months; studying can wait.  Time, the one friend you thought was on your side starts to become pushy and gradually moves to the “evil side” of the exam date (you knew it, too, you were just too “busy” keeping time on your side).

For those who are still wandering around the promised land of being an actuary, I will give you a more concrete picture.

Remember that workout program you started on the day after New Year’s Eve?  Imagine how excited you were when you stepped in the gym ready to get those extra pounds off.  A few pounds after that water-weight dropped, some of us (or at least me) decided that the new episode of “Breaking Bad” is somewhat more intriguing, and hey, we know that the gym is not going anywhere!

You get the picture. So, how do we overcome the voice inside that keeps telling us we still have time? Here are some top-of-my-list tips that I find most helpful to avoid the lag when studying for exams:

  1. Get a study partner

Study with a friend who is sitting in the same window. This will be your best bet to stick to a schedule. I find that whenever I study with a friend, I am less likely to find excuses to skip a day or two. Better yet, get two study partners!

  1. Share your goals with friends and family

You have set your goal and designed a study schedule. That is great! Now, share it with your friends and family. The practice of speaking out about your goal will make it become practical, thus, you will be more likely to stick to it. This is also a great way to get support from your friends and family.

  1. Register for the exam as soon as possible

If you are sure you are going to take the exam, register and pay the fee as soon as possible. As an actuary, I am sure you are great with numbers. Therefore, throwing your hard-earned two or three hundred bucks is a no-brainer. Registering for the exam will also take the option of not taking the exam out of your mind. The SOA is also a great help with their no-refund policy (the only bright side of this I could find).

  1. Exercise, eat healthy and get enough sleep

There is just something about being active and healthy that makes you more alert and energetic (duh!). A bike ride, 30 minutes on the treadmill, or simply an apple for your mid-day snack will always be a good investment toward passing your exam.

Passing actuarial exams is like running a long distance track race and finally becoming a qualified actuary is like a marathon. Persistency will get you far!