Time Management on Actuarial Exam Day

Prior to beginning each exam, calculate the number of minutes allocated to each question. A 4-hour exam containing 40 questions is implicitly allocating 6 minutes per question. During the exam, periodically check to ensure that you are properly pacing yourself. In this scenario, after 1 hour has passed, you should have completed at least 10 questions.

Make a first pass through the exam, solving the straightforward questions first. If you have spent the allotted time on one question, and are not very close to the answer, move on to the next question. Resist the temptation to solve a problem at all costs; it will harm you in the longer run even if you ultimately succeed in obtaining the solution to that specific problem. You can always revisit unsolved questions later as time permits.

If you have prepared properly, you should be able to solve many of the questions on your first pass in far less than the allotted time. Then, continue to make subsequent passes though the exam, progressively solving harder problems. Use the time saved on your first pass to help you answer the more involved questions on subsequent passes.

Other Exam Day Tips:

 Bring More than One Calculator and Pencil

Having backup pencils and calculators may seem like a baseline expectation to many students, but surprisingly, I have witnessed dozens of students enter the examination room unequipped with such devices. Do not jeopardize your chances of success on an exam for which you have studied for several hundred hours, and on which future salary increases and professional respect depend, by failing to properly procure basic “school supplies!” Bring at least five pencils and two calculators. If you are taking an exam on paper, make sure the lead in your pencils corresponds to the allowable darkness indicated (most of the time, #2 pencils suffice). You should also bring a separate, clean eraser in case you have to change your answer on the Scantron sheet (stray or incompletely erased marks may create problems in grading your exam). Make sure that at least one of your calculators is battery-powered, as opposed to solar-powered, to reduce the risk that insufficient lighting conditions will impact its functionality. This is particularly true if you are taking the exam at an examination center with which you are unfamiliar.

 Computer-Based Testing (CBT)

Computer-based testing was introduced to the SOA and CAS actuarial exam process in September 2005 for Exam P/1, and has since been expanded to several more preliminary exams. Exams P, FM, MFE and C are now only available through CBT in most locations, while SOA exam MLC, CAS exams 3L, 3LC, 3ST, 5, and 6, and the EA exams continue to be offered in a paper-based format. In addition to the benefit of more frequent administrations of CBT exams, you will receive an unofficial pass/fail result immediately upon completion of the exam.

If you have never taken a computer-based test in a testing center, you should definitely practice prior to sitting for your actuarial exam. It is very important that you be completely familiar with the process before you sit for the actual exam. You can take a 30 minute test drive, in which you can experience a complete run through of the testing process, including the scheduling, registration, and check-in processes, introduction to test center staff and surroundings, and a live 15-minute generic sample test demonstrating the testing process itself. The Test Drive is only available on Tuesdays from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. local time at select test centers. There is a fee for this, but if you’ve never taken a test electronically, it is well worth it.

NOTE: The above is an excerpt from Making the Grade: The Aspiring Actuaries Guidebook to Consistent Exam Success and Advancement in the Workplace, 4th Edition, by Nicholas Mocciolo, Published by Actex Publications, Copyright 2005, 2007, 2010, 2013. It is reprinted here with permission. A complete e-book version of this text can be downloaded for free here.