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Answers to 11 common questions about Exam FM

by | Jul 29, 2018 | Actuarial Exams |

How is Exam FM scored?

I created this video a while ago that explains how Exam P is scored.  The scoring process for Exam FM is exactly the same though.  The only difference is the Exam P has 30 questions and Exam FM has 35 questions.

Exam FM is scored on a scale of from 0 to 10.  A score of 0 means that you met less than 50% of the grade needed in order to pass, while a score of 10 means you reached at least 140% of the grade needed in order to pass.

A passing score on Exam FM is a 6.  But this doesn’t mean that you only need to get 60% of the questions right.

Actually, you need to get 70% of the questions right to pass (according to the April 2018 SOA Exam FM passing percentages file). This 70% stays fairly stable from one sitting to the next so it’ll likely be about the same for yours.

But watch out! It’s a little more complex than that. SOA adds “pilot” questions to your exam, but they don’t count towards your final score.

The SOA uses pilot questions to test the difficulty of new exam questions before they’re used (and counted) on a real exam. So essentially, they’re using you as a ‘guinea pig’ for those new questions.

Unfortunately, you don’t know which questions are pilot questions and which ones are not.  They want you to treat them just like a real exam question so they scramble them into your exam randomly.

But just to be clear, pilot question DO NOT count toward your final score. So if there are, for example, 3 pilot questions then your exam score is based only on the 32 non-pilot questions. Therefore you would need to get 70% *32 = 22.4 (essentially 23) of the non-pilot questions right.  (Note: there could be more or less than 3 pilot questions – they don’t tell us how many pilot questions are on any exam)

Another thing to take into consideration is that the SOA creates several different “sets” of 35 questions.  They do this so that every person doesn’t get the exact same set, or exam.  Instead, there may be 50 different exams, for example.

The passing score for each set of questions (or exam) can be different depending on the overall difficulty level of the questions.

For example, if Set A is easier, maybe the passing score is 75% whereas for Set B the passing score could be 67%. The weighted average passing score could be 70% in this example, but people that got Set B didn’t need to achieve 70% to pass.

See how there are a lot of complexities in this system?

It’s impossible to come up with an exact number of questions that you need to get right to pass.

Taking all these things into consideration, a score of 26/35 or 27/35 is almost guaranteed to pass but it is certainly possible to pass without getting that many right due to all these nuances.

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How should I study to pass Exam FM?

Most people start studying without much of a plan.  That’s the wrong approach to take when studying for Exam FM, or any actuarial exam.

Since studying usually takes 3-4 months, it’s really important to have a study strategy.  I actually believe that it’s the #1 thing you need in order to pass FM.  If you want more detail, read this post from several months ago, called The #1 Thing You Need to Pass Exam P and FM.

Here’s an overview of the pieces of a successful study strategy:

  1. A study schedule.
  2. Accountability.
  3. Somewhere to get answers to all your questions.
  4. Guidance.

A Study Schedule will ensure you know exactly what you need to accomplish daily in order to be ready by exam day.  If you just study whenever you have time, you’re unlikely to be ready in time for your intended exam date (unless it’s 9+ months into the future, but who wants to study that long for one exam?).

Accountability will help you prioritize studying.  By having someone check-in with you regularly to ensure you’re keeping up with the schedule, you’ll be motivated to fit studying in even when other areas of your life get busy.

Having a place to ask your questions can save you hours of study time because you don’t have to try to figure things out by yourself.  Since fully understanding everything is key to passing, you’ll want to be able to get quick answers to your questions.

Guidance from someone that has already passed Exam FM (and other actuarial exams) will give you a huge advantage when you’re studying for it.  That person can make recommendations and suggestions on how you proceed at each point of your studying journey.

My Study Strategy Program for Exam P and FM candidates includes all 4 of these elements.  If you want to exponentially increase your chances of passing, you should definitely check it out.

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How hard is Exam FM?

The concepts on Exam FM are not that hard to understand.  If you’ve chosen good study materials (here are my recommendations) then the exam topics will be explained very clearly.  The harder part is trying to do questions within such a short time limit (about 5 minutes).

So as long as you’re willing to put in the necessary study time and have a good study strategy, passing the exam won’t be too difficult.

If you’re looking for someone to guide you through this process, you can check out my Study Strategy Program where I show you step-by-step how to prepare for Exam FM.  You can apply the same concepts you use there to other actuarial exams too, like Exam P and Exam IFM.

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How long is Exam FM?

Exam FM is a 3 hour exam with 35 questions.

There is also a 15 minute orientation time at the beginning of the exam in addition to the 3 hours.

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How much does Exam FM cost?

There are several costs to consider when writing Exam FM.

Registration fee for the exam is $225 (but you may qualify for a discount if you live in one of these countries).

New study materials can range from about $75 to $500+.  Here are my study material recommendations for FM.

Calculators will cost approximately $70.  Here are my recommended calculators.

(Optional but recommended) My Study Strategy Program is a monthly subscription.  The price will change over time so you can go here to see the current price.

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When should I take Exam FM?

Exam FM is often the first actuarial exam I recommend anyone takes.  That’s because most people find it to be the easiest of them all.

Ideally, you should start taking actuarial exams in your second year of college or university.  I highly recommend you take Exam P or FM first.  Here’s a post that will help you decide.

If you’re already through your second year, you should write Exam FM soon.  Most people take about 14 weeks to fully prepare.

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How many questions are on Exam FM?

There are 35 questions on Exam FM and there’s is a 3 hour time limit, which means that you should answer each question in less than 5.15 minutes.  Of course, some questions are going to take longer than that and others will take less.

On exam day (and when you’re doing practice exams) I recommend that you watch when you start each question, add 5 minutes to the start time, and then write down that time on your exam paper so that you know when you need to stop.

It can be very dangerous to allow yourself to consistently go over 5.15 minutes per question on exam day.  You’ll run out of time quickly if you do it enough.

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How long should I study for Exam FM?

The amount of time it takes to study for Exam FM varies depending on the person.  There are several factors to take into consideration, such as daily study time availability, familiarity with the study material, your study strategy and your ability to catch on to concepts.

There’s a rule of thumb that you should commit 100 hours of studying for every hour of exam. But, due to all the factors stated above, it may not apply to you.  It’s safe to say that it’ll take much more studying than any other exam you’ve written before!

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How do I register for Exam FM?

You cannot register for Exam FM until about 2-2.5 months before the exam window.  The “exam window” is the range of dates in which the exam is offered.  I suggest waiting until close to the exam registration deadline because you cannot move your exam date to a different exam window once you’ve registered.

The only time when registering early may be beneficial is if you only have one exam center near by, and you’re testing in July, August or September when everyone was studying during the summer break.  Sometimes exam centers fill up but you can check availability on the Prometric website.

You can check the registration deadline by Googling “Exam FM dates 2018”.

To register for the exam, you can go here.

First you’ll register for the exam with the SOA. If you’re writing a CBT (computer based testing, NOT paper and pencil) exam then you’ll receive an email from the SOA a few days later with details on how to sign up with Prometric.  Prometric administers all the CBT exams for the SOA.  At this time you’ll choose your exam center and date.

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Should I take Exam P or FM first?

Most people find Exam FM to be the easier of the two exams, so that’s likely the one you want to start with.  I’ve included much more detail about making this decision here.

There is no required order for actuarial exams, but I highly recommend taking Exam P or FM first.  And then IFM after that.

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What is the Exam FM pass rate?

Currently the pass rate for Exam FM is about 48%.  Sometimes it’s a bit lower and other times it’s higher.  You can go here to see the historical pass rates for all exams, including Exam FM.

The effective pass rate (this only takes into consideration candidates that scored 50% of the passing score) is about 55%-60%.

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Get FREE study tips and advice for Exam P & FM!

You can get my best studying tips and advice sent right to your inbox. Just add your email below. Learn things like:

• How to get 80%+ questions right.

• Why you shouldn't memorize.

• The quickest way to pass your exam.


Bobby passed his first actuarial exam! Watch the video below to learn how.


Want to learn more about the Study Strategy Program? Go here for all the details!

Get FREE study tips and advice for Exam P & FM!

You can get my best studying tips and advice sent right to your inbox. Just add your email below. Learn things like:

• How to get 80%+ questions right.

• Why you shouldn't memorize.

• The quickest way to pass your exam.


Bobby passed his first actuarial exam! Watch the video below to learn how.


Want to learn more about the Study Strategy Program? Go here for all the details!

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