If you recently failed an actuarial exam, I completely understand if you’re feeling like you have no clue what to do differently next time. Lots of people feel that way, and it’s very normal.
Why did you fail your exam? Well, here are 3 possible reasons for failing an exam:
- You didn’t studying enough or as much as you had anticipated.
- You didn’t understand the material well enough.
- You didn’t answer question fast enough.
No matter which one was the problem for you, you have to do something different next time around. If you do the same thing again, it’s probably not going to work any better. Something has to change!
So here are my suggestions to change these problems for next time. By the way, you can get lots of Exam P and FM study tips through my studying tips and advice emails.
Reason for failing # 1: Didn’t study enough
Many people go into actuarial exams without much planning and preparation around how much time they’re going to spend studying each day. Never mind actually planning out exactly when that time will be spent.
If you’re one of those people, you’re making a big mistake! You need to have this planned out so that you know that you can actually fit in enough studying time amongst everything else you have going on in your day, week, and month.
Without a plan, you’re unable to prioritize. You just do things as they come up. And studying often gets put on the back burner because your exam seems so far away that studying doesn’t feel urgent.
How do you fix this?
Set up calendar with every hour of every day in it. There are 168 hours in a week. Here’s the template for the 168-hour schedule that I give to my Study Strategy Program members.
This will help you figure out what time you’re going to dedicate to studying. Rather than squeezing studying in whenever you find some time, you’ll intentionally be planning your study time into your life. This is a much smarter way to study.
The best time to study for actuarial exams depends on you. Everyone is different, and you should experiment to see what works best fo ryou. Some people prefer the morning so that their mind is refreshed from a good night’s sleep. Others prefer the evening, when the house is quiet and there are no distractions.
If you’d like to study at night but feel too tired, you could try taking a nap when you get home from work or school. That’s what helped me stay up to 2am or 3am in the morning studying even when I had to go to work the next day.
Accountability can also make a big difference in ensuring that you actually fit in your studying when you plan to. An accountability partner could be me (in the Study Strategy Program), a friend, or just someone else you know that’s writing the exam at the same time as you.
Reason for failing # 2: Didn’t understand the material well enough
Its common for exam candidates to feel like they need to do a lot of memorizing while they’re studying. This is not true!
Memorizing often results in not actually understanding what the formulas do and how they work. This makes it hard to apply the concepts you’ve been taught in a wide range of different scenarios like the exam would require you to.
Another common reason for not understanding the material well enough is that the candidate rushed through the study material, without taking time to understand what the author was taking about. Often times the topics that are taught early on are built upon later so if you don’t have a good foundation of understanding from the beginning, you’re going to get stuck later.
How do you fix this?
In the Study Strategy Program, I emphasize understanding what you’re learning at a level of at least 75% before you move on to the next section of your study material. If you don’t, then you should take time to go back and reread or rewatch the material until you do understand the majority of it.
It’s also a good idea to do 5-10 practice questions after you’re through each section. It doesn’t matter that you get them right on your own or not. The important part is to make sure that you understand the solutions completely.
It’s common for exam candidates to do practice problems and just skip the solution if they don’t understand it right away. This is the wrong approach to take. Whenever you get a question wrong you know that it’s a topic or formula that you struggle with, so it’s a very valuable use of your time to understand the solution and why it works.
Reason for failing # 3: Didn’t answer questions fast enough
You already know that Exam P and FM are 3 hours long. You’ve got 30 or 35 questions to get through (depending on which exam you’re writing). That means you can spend between 5 and 6 minutes on each question, on average.
Without sufficient practice, it’s almost impossible to do this for most people. The questions are too difficult to go into the exam without working on speed beforehand.
How do you fix this?
The only way to fix this is by doing tons of practice exams or timed practice problems. I recommend you start incorporating timed practice exams into your studying about 6-8 weeks before your real exam.
By doing this, you’re giving yourself lots of time to increase your speed, judge how well you’re doing, and adjust your exam taking strategy before the real thing.
Ideally, you should do a minimum of 13 practice exams during your study period. For many people, you’ll need to do more to reach the level that you need to in order to feel confident that you’ll pass the exam. If you’re interested, this post goes into how Exam P and FM are scored so that you know how to judge your level of preparedness.
When you’re reviewing your exams, make sure to note which types of problems are causing you difficulty and work on them. I often recommend redoing all the questions you get wrong on any exam.
Want help with your study strategy?
If you’re looking for personalized guidance and support so that you can exponentially increase your chances of passing next time around, you can get that in the Study Strategy Program.
The Program is a place where I provide step-by-step guidance on how to pass your exam so that you know exactly what you need to be doing each day of your study period. I’ve helped many people to pass on their second and third attempt at the exam. Others were successful in the program on their fourth attempt!
I know you can do this. Study strategy is very important to making it happen though. If you’d like to learn more about it you can go here to read all the details and join. I even have a $225 Pass Guarantee where I pay your next exam registration fee if you don’t pass (conditions apply).
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