7 Tips to Ace Actuarial Studies

Actuaries Digital Editor Kirsten Flynn asks five newly qualified actuaries for their best study tip and gives two of her own, to help you whiz your next actuarial exam.

Passing Actuarial exams isn’t easy! It requires hard work, perseverance and sacrifice. It might mean falling behind on Game of Thrones (and begging your friends not to spoil it for you), staying home to study while your friends are at the beach (at least pale is in this season), or pulling all-nighters at work so you can get that study day (who needs sleep anyway). But before you think about throwing the towel in (you can do it!), take a look these tips from newly qualified Fellows on how to succeed in your Actuarial exams!

1. Make a list (and check it twice) – Kirsten Flynn


Make lists of the points you need to consider, or the steps you need to take, when you get asked questions on a particular topic.

When you’re under pressure in the exam, it’s easy to forget the simple stuff (like that a

question on assets most likely requires you to comment on the liabilities as well)!


2. Start with the easy question – Justin Si


In the exam, do what’s ‘easy’ first. When the exam begins, read all the questions and make an assessment of which questions you think you can answer most confidently and start there. By getting pen to paper sooner, you can break through my exam nerves and get the boost you need to continue on. Throughout the exam, move on quickly when you get stuck and complete the questions you’re more certain about. This leaves the remaining time to think about the more perplexing questions with less pressure, as you’ve already answered everything else to the best of your ability!


3. Study smart = efficiency – Gautham Suresh


Given the nature of the study material (both density and depth of understanding required) and the manner in which exam questions are delivered, studying efficiently becomes key. Achieving this means identifying the areas that you are less comfortable with and becoming more comfortable by looking at past exams, case studies, examples, etc. specific to these areas.


4. Sacrifice (in moderation) – Chenthuran Suthersan


Be prepared to sacrifice (which may mean not seeing your friends or family for an extended length of time). Having said that, make sure you take breaks, because you will burn out without rest. Working full time and spending your weekends studying is draining. Remember Actuarial exams are a marathon not a sprint!


5. Become the teacher – Michael Zhou


Understand the material with an aim to teach. It’s not enough that you understand a past exam solution and can replicate it, you must also be able to apply concepts from the material to new (unseen) exam questions. If you are not able to articulate or teach a peer the material, then you have more work to do.


6. Read Widely – Kirsten Flynn


Read beyond the course material, particularly in the areas you don’t have experience. For my life exams, I didn’t have any reporting experience (I’d only done pricing work), so I read financial statements, the financial condition report of my company, APRA publications and more. To help me get up to speed on general insurance valuation techniques (when I decided to take the general insurance exam without ever having worked in general insurance), I looked at product disclosure statements, course material from overseas institutes and my old university notes!


7. Get into a routine – Viola Chan


I found the most difficult part of studying was getting started! Establish a regular routine, to help condition you to go into “study mode”. This could be starting studying at a regular time, listening to a study playlist or making a study snack to get you in the mood. For me, I put on a Pandora radio station (so I don’t have the distraction of fiddling about with the playlist) and set out some chips.


CPD: Actuaries Institute Members can claim two CPD points for every hour of reading articles on Actuaries Digital.


Image of Steve Schubert
Steve Schubert says

20 July 2015

Kirsten, it's great to see that good study and exam practice is still in vogue and I hope current students listen to the words of wisdom from your recent qualifiers. I used all these tips for my actuarial studies in the early 1980's (just after calculators were first approved for use in exams).
I hadn't thought about Michael's Tip #5 in this way but we did have study groups to discuss past papers where each one of us would take the lead on one question - effectively as a teacher. Sitting the old Superannuation subject made me realise the importance of your Tip #6 - reading widely. As a practitioner in that field I realised how much was not covered by the course reading. This helped me understand that I failed General Insurance because I had only read the course material. I didn't make that mistake again and that was my last fail.
In the pressure of the exam, Justin's Tip #2 is critical. I use to read every question and scribbled down notes on all of them before starting my answers with the easiest question to get some points on the board. Under time pressure there is a temptation to launch straight into answers, but 10 minutes invested up front always paid off and I never ran out of time. Having our two children while working full time and studying made me realise the importance of Viola's Tip #7, Gautham's Tip #3 and Chenthuran's Tip #4 - I had to be efficient and create a good routine to make the most of sacrificing time with my wife and kids.

Image of Sharanjit
Sharanjit says

22 July 2015

My personal tip is "Make a plan". Even down to creating little boxes on a big chart showing how far I'd progressed through the material as I coloured them in. Also in the plan were the social and downtime breaks - good to have them there to remind me that whilst I was sacrificing, I wasn't sacrificing everything!

Comment on the article (Be kind)

Your comment will be revised by the site if needed.