What is the best order to take the actuarial exams?
Whether you’re just getting started on your actuarial exams, or you’ve already passed a few, you’re here because you want to know the best way to proceed going forward. So, what’s the best order to take actuarial exams?
The short answer is: there isn’t a required order to write exams in, so it’s completely up to you on how you proceed. But, Exam P and FM tend to be the easiest for most people, so you should start by passing those two first. The third exam now depends on whether you’ve already started preparing for IFM as the final sitting for this exam will be Fall 2022. It will be replaced by ATPA, a take-home assessment, which launched in January 2022. Passing IFM in 2022 will give you transition credit for ATPA. After that, order should be determined based on your schooling and experience.
But let me help you decide on which order would be best for you based on your current situation.
Like I said in the short answer above, Exam P (Probability) or FM (Financial Mathematics) should be your first. Most people find Exam P to be harder than FM because of all the calculus that it involves.
So, for most people, I recommend taking Exam FM as your first exam.
There is one exception to this though. If you’ve recently taken courses in advanced calculus, including double integration, then you should write Exam P first while the content is still fresh in your mind.
The longer you go without using calculus, the more difficult it gets to recall. So, if you’re planning to write an exam soon and you just finished a course that included double integration, then you should get Exam P out of the way first.
Since you’ve now hopefully decided, you may want to join the Actuary Accelerator Community for step-by-step guidance, training, and motivation while you’re studying.
Whether you decide to write Exam P or FM first depends on a few factors, as stated above. Whichever you didn’t take will be the exam to tackle second.
I strongly advise you get these two exams out of the way first. They’re the easiest ones and the topics that you learn on these exams will be helpful for the future ones.
They’ll also teach you the amount of commitment and dedication required to pass actuarial exams.
Your third exam should be IFM (Investments and Financial Markets) if you have begun to prepare for any sitting before the last administration of the exam in Fall 2022. Other than Exam P and FM, this is the only other exam that is accepted by both the Society of Actuaries and the Casualty Actuarial Society. However, we don’t currently know if there will be a replacement exam after Fall 2022 for the CAS route, only that the first two exams will still be equivalent.
What’s this mean? Well, the Society of Actuaries is the primary actuarial society in the United States for life insurance actuaries. If you decide to be an actuary that works in life, health, or pensions then you’ll eventually become a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries. To do this, you’ll need to write SOA exams going forward.
Alternatively, the Casualty Actuarial Society is the primary actuarial society for property and casualty (P&C) insurance in the United States. So, if you decide to be an actuary that works with auto, house, or other property insurance, then you’ll become a Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society. You’ll need to write CAS exams going forward.
Currently, Exam P, FM and IFM are all accepted by both societies, so you don’t have to decide which route you’re going to take until you’ve completed these three. However, going forward it is likely that you’ll need to pass the first two exams then make the decision.
Once you reach your fourth exam, you’re going to need to decide whether you’re going the SOA route or the CAS route (more on that here).
Likely, you’ll choose this once you’ve got your first job because by then, you’ll know whether you’re working with life insurance or P&C insurance.
For most people, wherever you get your first job determines which exam path you’ll follow. And from there, order doesn’t really matter.
One strategy is just to choose whichever exam topics most closely relate to your work. Another option is to look at which topics feel most interesting to you.