Don’t give up so easily

Written by Zach Steckler: ZachSteckler

We’ve often been told that if at first we don’t succeed, we should try and try again. But what exactly is it that keeps us going? Well, my journey to becoming an actuary thus far has led me to believe that the key ingredients are passion, and understanding what didn’t go right the first time and figuring out how to fix it.

I started taking actuarial science courses nearly two years ago as part of my graduate degree. The more I studied the subject, the more I fell in love with it. And eventually, I decided to pursue SOA exams myself. The first time I sat for exam P was in July 2014. I had studied for the earlier part of the summer, but after about a month of going through practice exams I was almost 100% confident that I knew the material and would nail the exam. When I took the actual test, I was going through the questions with a fair amount of confidence but still had to guess on several of them. When I hit the submit button and saw the results, however, I was shocked to see that I had not achieved the passing score.

My initial disappointment from not passing on the first attempt, together with rumors that I had heard online of how oversaturated the actuarial job market was, led me away from the actuarial track for a while. Two months after my first attempt, I got my results back, and not surprisingly got a score of 5 (which is just one point away from passing). When I saw my score, I was frustrated that I was so close.

Over the next few months, I contemplated retaking the exam but still had my reservations. However, at the end of the school year I took a few minutes and figured out just how much time and money I had already invested in the exam. Those, together with my passion for the subject made me ultimately decide to retake the P exam in July 2015. My parents even graciously offered to help me pay for the exam fee. But I knew that if I retook it, I needed to figure out what went wrong on the first attempt and make sure it didn’t happen again!

After telling a professor of mine that I planned to retake the exam, he introduced me to Adapt. I was immediately hooked on the program. I loved how similar it was to real exam conditions, as well as the user-friendly interface that helps you focus on the material you don’t understand.

This past summer, I spent an estimated 200 hours on practice exams and SOA questions (which doesn’t count the time I spent initially learning the material). I also took close to 60 Adapt exams and spent long hours in my office until I was 100% confident with the material. But it all paid off in the end! When I took my exam just this past July, I received the “congratulations” result that I had worked so hard for!

If you are truly passionate about anything, don’t let any amount of struggle or competition get in your way, and you should definitely not give up as easily as I almost did. Now I am back on the actuary track, and plan on continuing to use Adapt to help me master the material for subsequent exams. I owe a big thanks to Adapt and Coaching Actuaries for helping me thus far!