How Failure Fueled My Success

Written by Allison Vognild: IMG_460399477

Actuary exams were a foreign world to me when I began my sophomore year at the University of St. Thomas. Looking to change my major to something that showcased my math and analytical skills, I discovered that actuarial science was my new calling. However, I soon found out that I would need to take and pass these “actuary exams” in order to get a job someday. “You’re good at math, you can do this!” I told myself. I knew I would have to study, but I had no idea the extent of it.

I registered for the May 2015 Exam P and began using Coaching Actuaries for 2 weeks. Not doing the best on exams, I found myself cheating by looking at formulas to raise my Earned Level. I knew that the higher the level, the more likely I was to pass. However, I learned that I was only cheating myself when the exam day came and my EL was only 4.86. I knew if I got the right questions, I could pass. I started the exam and went through all the questions that I knew I could do, skipping the ones I didn’t know. I went to review the exam and saw that I had skipped over 14 questions. My heart sank knowing that I was not going to pass. This was reiterated by that horrible message, “Our preliminary analysis shows you were unsuccessful…” after submitting. The tears began to flow.

I was not the type to fail; I worked hard for my near 4.0 in college and high school. Anything I put my mind to, I typically found success through hard work. However, I knew this was going to test my ambition, dedication, and work ethic like nothing else. I was not going to fail again; I was going let this failure fuel my fire for success. I immediately registered for the July 2015 exam and framed my failure letter by my desk for motivation.

I began working as a full-time analytical intern during the summer and knew my studying was limited. I would come home each night from work and study until it was time for bed. I learned that while Adapt is good for testing your knowledge, the quizzes are an extremely helpful tool for learning the material in an SOA format. I used the study schedule to keep myself accountable, studying and reviewing topics each night. While it certainly was not a “fun” summer, I was determined to pass.

I took the entire week off from work and studied each day leading up to my exam. I completed over 20 practice exams and had an Earned Level of 10. When the exam day came, I was confident that my hard work was going to pay off.

I began the exam with the same plan as before, do the ones you know and come back to the ones you don’t. I had skipped 8 questions this time around, but I reasoned and confidently answered 6 of those. I couldn’t believe I still had an hour to check over my work, much different than the last time. I found 2 mistakes, and with 3 minutes left, guessed on the 2 I didn’t know.

My heart was full of happiness and my hands began to shake when I saw “Congratulations!” on my result screen. I did it- I had conquered my first actuary exam. I am convinced that it felt even better to pass after that horrible feeling of failure the first time. I now know the extent and academic intensity of these exams. They are nothing to underestimate, but with proper studying and a solid study plan, you can pass them. Don’t let failure get you down, let it motivate you.