I’ve been running the Study Strategy Program for Exam P and FM for just about 1 year now, and throughout that time I’ve given members hundreds of little nuggets of advice.
In this post, I thought it’d be a good idea to share some of them with you! So, here are 50 tips for actuarial exams, specifically Exam P and FM. If you’re writing one of them soon and want even MORE tips, sign up for my Study Strategy Tips and Advice emails at the top right hand corner of this page (or at the bottom if you’re on mobile).
1. Don’t memorize anything until the last week.
3. Schedule study time into your calendar, just like you would a doctor’s appointment or class.
4. Do 700+ practice problems before exam day.
6. Start studying with at least 14 weeks left until your exam. (You’ll qualify for the Pass Guarantee in the SSP if you do.)
8. Do a practice exam at least once per week for last 6 weeks (more in last 2 weeks).
9. Accountability makes a world of difference. It helps to significantly eliminate procrastination.
10. Don’t study for two exams at the same time. You may end up splitting your effort 50/50 and then scoring only 50% on both (that’s two fails and no passes).
11. The last 6 weeks is the most important part of your study period. Don’t let everything fall apart now. Keep up the hard work so it all pays off.
12. Get your calculator early so you have lots of time to practice with it before the exam. Here are my recommended calculators.
13. Redo each practice question you get wrong 2-3 times before exam day.
14. Don’t move ahead until your level of understanding for a section in your study material is at least 75%.
15. Fully understand the solution to every single practice problem you do.
16. If you fail, don’t give up. It just means that you still have more to learn and you’ll get there eventually. (In the SSP I’ve helped people pass on their 3rd, 4th and 5th attempt – anything is possible!)
17. Wait until close to the registration deadline to book your exam.
18. If you’re not sure where to start or how to study properly, then having a coach or guide throughout this process would be perfect for you. That’s what I offer in the SSP. You can take the techniques you learn for your first exam and apply them to future actuarial exams too.
19. Before you commit to writing an exam, figure out when you’re actually going to fit in time to study for it. It’s different for everyone, but a very general rule of thumb is that it takes 100 hours of studying for every 1 hour of exam. So, that’s 300 hours of studying for Exam P and FM.
20. ADAPT is great if you need more practice questions but there are lots included in your study manual and online for free. Instead you could get personal support from me in the Study Strategy Boost during your last 6 weeks.
21. Don’t wait to write your exam until the timing is perfect. This is your career!! Figure out how to make it happen, even if you have to take it slow.
22. Easiest way to stop making silly mistakes is to FOCUS. Turn off autopilot.
23. Schedule fun events every week or two to give yourself something to look forward to. Life doesn’t have to be all about studying when you write an actuarial exam.
24. If you fail an exam, take some time off to refresh, relax, and rejuvenate before you start studying again. Same if you pass an exam!
25. If you have a medical condition that may put you at a disadvantage on the exam, the SOA may make a special allowance for you. Just contact them.
26. Aim to consistently score 24/30 on Exam P practice exams and 28/35 on Exam FM practice exams.
27. In your last week of studying, redo tons of questions you got wrong in the past. Here are some other tips for your last week.
28. Everything you do in your last month should be timed.
29. Khan Academy and YouTube are great free resources to search if you’re not understanding something.
30. You don’t need two different sets of study materials. Just choose one and use that as your primary studying resource. If you have a second one only use it to get a second perspective on things you don’t understand.
31. Get rid of ALL distractions while you’re studying. If you want to spend less time studying then you need to make your study time more efficient. Distractions kill efficiency.
32. Picking an exam date near the end of the exam window gives you a bit more time to study which you’ll probably be thankful for later.
33. You may be able to get a discount on your exam fee depending on the country you live in.
34. Having trouble staying focused? Figure out what you want to get done and set a timer for yourself. The time pressure allows you to focus and get things done more efficiently.
35. If you don’t understand something, ASK. (In the SSP there’s a forum where you can ask questions about anything… ACTEX questions, ASM questions, SOA practice problems, TIA problems, .. anything!)
36. Having a hard time studying after work or class? Try studying in the morning or during your lunch break. Or have a nap after work/class to refresh and then you’ll be able to focus again.
37. If you’re using ADAPT, aim to achieve 24/30 or 28/35 on level 6 exams and you’ll be in pretty good shape for exam day. (Here are some ways to increase your ADAPT level)
38. If your calculus is a bit rusty, #1 place to go is Khan Academy. They have tons of really helpful videos.
39. Do 15 practice problems in a row on subjects that you’re having difficulty with or that you’re slow on. It’ll help you start to see similarities.
40. Begin with the end in mind. Create a realistic study schedule in advance that’s going to get you from beginning to end – don’t make it up as you go because then you don’t know whether or not you’re on track to be ready by exam day.
41. Before exam day, read my post about what to expect and what to bring.
42. The foods you’re eating during your exam prep period can make a big difference in your ability to focus and concentrate. This post has much more info about foods that can increase your focus and concentration.
43. Learn to say no to things you can’t fit into your schedule (or things you don’t want to do but feel pressured to do). You’ll have to make sacrifices at some point, so start with the things you never wanted to do in the first place!
44. Talk with your partner or spouse before you decide to write an exam to ensure that they understand how much of your time this is going to take and some of the additional tasks that they may need to take on for you.
45. Exam fees that you pay yourself are tax deductible! (In Canada, at least.)
46. Fear you won’t be able to pass? Have faith and confidence in yourself. You’re smart and you CAN pass these exams. With a proper study strategy in place, I’m confident anyone that’s determined to can!
47. Draw diagrams whenever you can.
48. Allocate your time wisely. Only about 1 month or ⅓ of your study time (whichever is less) should go towards reading your manual. The rest of the time should be spent on practice problems and practice exams.
49. A college course (or two, or three) isn’t enough to prepare you for an actuarial exam. Invest in yourself! Get the study materials and support that you need to pass so that you can pass exams as quickly and efficiently as possible. About 55-60% of people fail each sitting.
50. You don’t have to do this alone! There are over 1000 other people writing Exam P or Exam FM in my private Facebook groups that you can connect with. I can personally help you step-by-step through this entire journey too in the SSP. You can do this, and I’ve made sure that you have all the resources you need in order to make it happen!
Well, that’s all for now but I’ll try to add to this list regularly. Remember, you can get tons of other tips for Exam P and FM just by signing up for my regular Study Tips and Advice emails at the top of this page (or below if you’re on mobile).
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