Exam MLC is challenging. It’s the only preliminary exam with a written-answer portion, which can seem daunting when you’re used to the multiple-choice CBT format. These are some helpful approaches you can take to preparing effectively for this exam. Keep these in mind when you’re studying and you’ll feel more prepared on exam day.
Master Your Time Allocation Skill
Exam MLC is a 4-hour exam with a total of 96 points, so you should spend approximately 2.5 minutes for each point. The first part of the exam consists of 20 multiple-choice questions for a total of 40 points. Each question is worth 2 points, so you should spend no more than 5 minutes, on average, per question. The second part consists of 6 to 7 written-answer questions worth a total of 56 points. The point value for each written-answer question is indicated at the beginning of each question. For example, a question that is worth 8 points should take you no longer than 8 x 2.5 = 20 minutes.
Many students find lack of time hinders them more than lack of knowledge. It is important to ensure you have enough time to work through the questions you know how to solve, and save the challenging questions for the end.
Here are a few tips on mastering your time allocation skill:
- Always time yourself when practicing
- Try to work faster every time you practice
- When you read a multiple-choice question and feel like you cannot solve it within 5 minutes, skip it and come back to it later
- For some of the written-answer questions in which values are needed for subsequent calculations, the question will usually ask you to show that the answer is a certain value. If you cannot match the value within your allocated time, move on to the next part using the value provided.
Conquer the Written-Answer Questions
The written-answer questions are challenging to most candidates because all of the other preliminary exams (prior to the 2018 changes) are administered in multiple-choice format only. However, if you master the strategies of answering the written-answer questions, you will find that the written-answer questions offer some benefits that the multiple-choice questions do not.
For this exam, points are credited to calculations and justifications that support the candidate’s answers. More often than not, there is more than one way of solving a written-answer question. Points will be awarded to any reasonable approach. Even if you cannot get to the final answer, you can still earn partial credits by showing the appropriate steps. The grader looks to see if the student understands the question, not just the ability to calculate the answer. Do not underestimate the power of partial credit. Having 1 point for a 2-point question is significantly better than 0 points.
Here’s the bottom line—written-answer questions are all about partial credit. To pass the exam, your focus should be on gathering as many partial credit points as possible. Therefore, for the written-answer questions, always try to share your thought process as much as you can. Even if you feel like you cannot arrive at the final answer, write all the important steps or points down clearly. If you cannot calculate the correct answer, do not attempt to mask your solution to trick the grader into thinking you calculated the correct answer. The grader will see this and you will receive little to no partial credit. Justify your calculations or your answer to a theoretical question. Most importantly, attempt every part of the question!
Here are a few tips on preparing for written-answer questions:
- Work on all the past SOA written-answer questions and review the SOA’s model solutions. This gives you exposure to the types of questions that the SOA asked in the past.
- Work on the SOA sample written-answer questions. Again, review the SOA’s model solutions.
- Work through Adapt’s written-answer questions.
- Show an understanding of the basic principles for each question. Partial credit will not be given for messing up a shortcut formula, but will be given for showing an understanding of the basic principles of the topic.
- Show your thought process in each solution. This will ensure you receive the most partial credit even if you make a small calculation error.
Fully Utilize the Read-Through Time
For Exam MLC, a 15-minute read-through time is given prior to the start of the exam. If you can fully utilize this read-through time, you will have a great head start. You are not allowed to write, highlight, or use a calculator during this 15 minutes. What you want to do is read through ALL the questions, both the multiple-choice questions and written-answer questions. However, do NOT try to think of how to solve the questions. Instead, understand what each question is asking for and try to identify easy versus hard questions. Your plan is to answer the easy questions as fast as you can, then move on to more challenging questions that require more time to solve.
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