As I am a previous exam taker myself, I am all too familiar with the dreaded weeks of studying that lead up to the exams. The days, weeks, months of studying seem to go by so quickly, only for it to start again for the next upcoming sitting. There is a real reward in passing the exams, as with each successful exam, comes a salary increase and one step closer to those three beautiful letters…… “FIA”.
I am hoping to pass on some useful tips that I found helped me with the exam preparations. Some of this might sound intuitive, but sometimes even when you have all the materials available to you, it’s hard to know what will make the difference. Most employers these days offer very competitive study support packages which will include them paying for various study material for the exams. Other than the core study material, the revision notes (A5 booklets) and flash cards are very beneficial. They are small enough to be able to revise on your journey to work on the tube/train and give good examples from previous exam papers so that you can see the calculations in practice. They are also good at summarizing the key points from each chapter. My Revision notes were highlighted with every colour under the rainbow which really helped me to remember the key points.
I cannot stress how important it is to attend Tutorials for the various exams. In my first job as an actuarial analyst I never use to sign up to them as I was passing the exams just fine. Only when I got stuck on one of the CT’s did I decide to sign up to the tutorial and wow did I only wish I had signed up to all of them. They force you to revise regularly and stop you from cramming in just before the exam. They also allow you to work through difficult questions you are unable to tackle by yourself at home. Once you understand the principle and see the key trends in questions, you are able to apply them to more difficult examples. It is also useful to sit in a room with other students who are writing the same exam and be able to compare how far they are in their studies. It will either give you the relief in that you are doing enough, or kick you in the backside to do a lot more.
A lot of employers will also offer internal subject specialists for each exam who will be happy to mark mock exams for you. It is good to try and get 1 or 2 exams done under exam conditions to see if you are able to finish the exam in time. Many times the biggest issue with the exams is not being able to complete them in the given time.
As a converted actuarial student to recruiter, I see everyday how much emphasis actuarial employers put on the exam progress and speed to qualification. I can only hope that some of my tips above will help you on this journey. Good luck with the studying and remember that some of the best students in the market are the ones that find a good balance between studying and “having fun”.
Despo Mouyis – Director of Actuarial Life (Perm and Interim recruitment)