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How to Pass Actuarial Exams?

Are you someone who love taking exams? As an actuarial student, that is what you will be doing in the first few years. You have to try to take and pass the first five preliminary tests to become an actuary. And these five tests require a lot of self-discipline and determination.

I believe that determination and persistence are the key factors in helping someone to become a successful actuary in the future. I never understood the importance of these until I experienced it myself. I started taking my first actuarial exam, Exam FM/2 in 2010. Back then I believed that doing as many exam problems as possible would help me pass this exam. I spent a huge amount of time studying for this exam. I completed the whole ASM and Actex manual for this exam and I felt like I could pass it when I walked into the exam center.

Unfortunately, I failed the exam in my first sitting. I was devastated. I kept asking why and how is this possible? I was angry and sad at the same time as it was actually the first time that failed an exam. Everyone thought that I would pass the exam since I studied so hard for it. It was a really tough time for me as I felt really down and depressed. However, I realized that wallowing in your own self despair is not going to get you anywhere. I have to move on and learn from this mistake. I learnt that doing as many questions as you can before the exam is not really an effective way to pass the exam. I then decided to focus instead on the chapters that I was not very strong at as I skipped through a few of the chapters that were deemed not so important for the exam previously.

So I went registered and sat for the exam again for the second time. And guess what? I failed it again. I was shocked. I couldn’t understand what went wrong. I studied much harder than most students in my first sitting, finished all the questions in the ASM and Actex manual, followed a strict study schedule and I even focused on the chapters that I was weak at previously for my second sitting but I still failed the exam again. I was obviously sad but it also made me even more determined to pass this exam. I was determined to not make failure stop me. I registered for the exam again the next day after I received my result and started analyzing what went wrong with the previous exam.

I then realized that my basic foundation for the exam was actually not very strong. And we all know that something cannot be built based on a weak foundation. I had to change my studying habit. I spent time trying to understand the concepts that were being explained in the study manual. I learnt to ask why instead of just accepting the answers given and memorizing formulas blindly. This change in my strategy helped me to pass the exam on my third attempt and I was really relieved.

I applied the same strategy when I was sitting for my Exam P/1 and it worked. I passed my Exam P/1 on my second sitting as I was unprepared for the exam when I first sat for it. This was also another lesson that I learned. We must always plan our time wisely and we cannot expect to pass an actuarial exam with only a few weeks left to study. I tried doing this for my Exam P/1 in my first sitting and it was definitely a bad move.

Based on my own experience, I would say that being a successful actuary would require a lot of determination and persistence. Hard work is definitely needed but careful planning is equally important as well. I have never understood what it really means to study smart until I sat for the actuarial exams. Studying hard does not guarantee a pass in the exam but studying smart will. Actuarial students should not be afraid of taking exams because actuaries are trained to always treat risk as an opportunity.

Failing an exam provides students with an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and change their studying habits. It trains us to analyze our mistakes and to come up with solutions for these mistakes. I believe that this is a really important quality that good actuaries should have.

In a nutshell, the strategy to passing actuarial exams are:
• Study smart not hard
• Analyze a problem and ask questions
• Plan your time wisely and carefully
• Be persistent, determined and disciplined
• Never give up

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