So you’ve decided to write your first actuarial exam! So exciting, isn’t it?  But how do you know whether to write Exam P or FM first? That’s the big question.

In summary, if you’ve taken calculus courses that taught double integration then take Exam P first.  If you’ve learned about the time value of money, take Exam FM first.  If you’ve learned both or neither, start with FM because it’s probably going to be easier of the two.

To get more details, either click play on the video above or keep reading.  I’ll help you make this decision!

Choosing between Exam P and FM is actually a pretty easy decision and really comes down to which courses you’ve already taken.

Or, maybe you’re in a situation where you’ve learned the topics on Exam P and FM before, but that was a while ago so now you’re a bit rusty.

No matter what your situation right now, this post will help you decide whether you should take Exam P or FM first.


Have you taken any courses in calculus and probability?

Calculus and probability make of the majority of Exam P, so it’s ideal if you’ve taken courses in both.  The concepts of probability can fairly easily be learned through your study manual (here are my study manual recommendations for Exam P).  But calculus is a bit harder to learn that way.

Ideally, you’ll have already passed your Calc II and Calc III level courses, where you do double integrals and use joint probability distributions.

If you have, then taking Exam P first is a definite possibility.  But keep reading because Exam FM tends to be the easier of the two exams so if you’ve taken the required courses for that exam then you’re probably better off starting with the easier exam.

Have you taken any courses in financial mathematics?

If you’ve taken courses that teach you about the time value of money (discounting cash flows), force of interest, and accumulation functions, then Exam FM is a good place for you to start.  Here are my Exam FM study manual recommendations.

Still can’t decide?

Like I said above, there may be situations where you’ve passed all the relevant courses for both exams so the above information doesn’t really help much.

Or maybe you’re completely new to the actuarial world and haven’t taken courses in either.

If that’s the case, I recommend you start with the one most people feel is the easier, Exam FM.  Of course there’s no right or wrong. And you’re going to have to pass them both eventually anyway.  So why not start off with the easier one?

For most people, I think Exam FM is easier because you can more easily imagine the different situations that they throw at you.  Many of us have some knowledge of the time value of money and how interest works so the concepts tend to be easier to grasp.  All the calculus on Exam P makes that one more difficult for most people.

The Best Study Guides for Exam P And FM

Now that you know which exam you’re going to start with, it’s time to pick study materials.

I’ve written two posts that I think will help you decide on which study guide to purchase depending on which exam you’ve decided to write.

Click here to read the study guide comparison for Exam P.

Click here to read the study guide comparison for Exam FM.

And if you’d like me to send  you regular study tips and advice that’ll help you pass your first exam, just fill out your email in the box below and I’ll send along some helpful information right away.

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