Don’t Choose Half-Measures When Preparing for Exams!

Written by Byron Brane, Vice President of the Actuarial Society at the University of South Florida

“I chose a half measure, when I should have gone all the way.”

-Mike Ehrmantraut, Breaking Bad

Often in our exam preparation, we will seek out the advice of others who have already passed. When I was studying for exam P/1, I frequently found myself scouring forums to reassure myself. Through this process, I noticed quite a few people who suggested to only study for a 6. They ensured the readers of their post that studying for anything more than a 6 was a waste of time as employers only care if you pass. Some of that may be true, but I would advise strongly against taking this approach to studying for actuarial exams.

If you fail an exam due to the strategy of studying for a 6, you will face not only a greatly prolonged period of studying but also a financial burden. Actuarial Exams are expensive; not only in testing fees but study materials as well. With a registration fee of $225 for exam P/1 and FM/2, your wallet will wish you had gone all the way in studying. Time spent studying for the same exam could be better spent in leisure or preparing for the next exam. Those on the actuarial path know that times of leisure are few and far between.

Half-measures include but are not limited to: not giving yourself sufficient time to prepare, not sticking to a schedule, not taking the exams seriously, doing too few practice questions, and not taking practice exams in exam-like conditions. If you feel very unsure if you will pass when approaching your exam date, perhaps you should have gone all the way.

To fully commit to studying, the first step is to start early. The Society of Actuaries recommends starting at least 8 weeks prior to your test date for the P/1 exam. Do not underestimate the exams. It is expected that everyone taking them has a strong math background and so this alone will not be sufficient to pass.

When studying for exam P/1 I spent six weeks learning the material from a study manual followed by completing 15 practice exams in strict exam conditions. I spent time fully reviewing every missed problem and working similar problems. Utilizing the Adapt program, I was able to achieve an Earned Level of 10, greatly boosting my confidence.

Come exam day, if you see the dreaded message “A preliminary analysis of your test results shows that you were not successful in achieving the passing score…,” do not let it discourage you. Sometimes failure is the only way to learn to succeed. Analyze what went wrong and strengthen your approach for your next attempt. Remember, when it comes to preparing for actuarial exams, never risk choosing a half measure when going all the way might ensure a pass.