If you’ve been concerned about your ability to stay focused for 3 hours while you’re writing actuarial Exam P or FM, you’re not alone.¬† It’s actually really difficult to sit down, doing complex mathematics, for such a long period.¬† So, I’ve put together 4 tips that you should start implementing now so that by exam day you’re able to keep up your mental stamina and remain focused the whole time.

The four things you can do are:

  • Practice taking exams in exam conditions 6-8 weeks before the exam.
  • Take time to stretch during the exam.
  • Be conscious of the foods you’re eating.
  • Get a good night’s sleep and/or take a short nap before.

But, there’s a lot of things to learn about each of those, so I’ll explain them in more detail below.

Practice taking exams

If you’re writing actuarial exams while you’re still a student, you probably won’t struggle with mental stamina as much as someone who hasn’t taken long exams in quite a while.¬† ¬†If that’s you, then this tip is going to be especially important.

Many people start doing¬†practice exams about a week before the actual exam.¬† But, that’s not enough time to adjust to the 3 hour exam time if you’re not already used to it.¬† So, what I recommend you do is start doing practice exams at least 6-8 weeks before your exam day.

For Study Strategy Program members, I get them to do one exam per week in exam conditions all the way up until the second last week before the exam.  It works really well in allowing them to build up the mental stamina.

When you do an exam in exam conditions, you’ll want to make sure you’re timing yourself for 3 hours, you’re not using any notes or formula sheets, and you’re in a room by yourself without distractions.

Stretching on Exam Day

When you sit still for longs periods of time, your blood circulation starts to slow down and your blood pressure drops.¬† It’s the natural reaction your body has because you’re not moving around.

But, the problem is, that when you’re in this state that means that you’re not getting as much blood and oxygen flowing to your brain.¬† That’ll ultimately reduce your brain’s ability to stay focused and concentrate.

Fortunately you can easily work against this by taking some time to stretch during your exam time.¬† Stretch¬† your arms, neck, shoulders and legs.¬† Get some movement into your body.¬† It’ll increase your circulation and you’ll quickly notice that you’re able to focus better than you were before.

An added bonus is that is also allows your brain a few minutes to refresh and rejuvenate too!

Ideally, you should do about 2 minutes of stretching every 45 – 60 minutes.¬† I know that feels like a lot of precious time being wasted, but I believe that your increased mental focus will ultimately reduce the number of mistakes you make so it’ll actually save time in the long run.

Be Conscious of the Foods You’re Eating

The food you eat on exam day and in the weeks and months leading up to the exam can have a big impact on your ability to focus and concentrate on exam day.

This article goes into detail about 9 different foods that help boost focus and concentration.¬† I’ve included a few of them below that I thought would be interesting for you.

Blueberries & Avocados

These fruits have actually been proven to enhance blood flow, ultimately getting more blood and oxygen to your brain.  It has a similar impact on your body as stretching that I talked about previously.

By introducing these foods into your diet now, you’ll very likely be benefiting from the affects by your exam day.¬† It’s definitely worth a try! There’s nothing to lose.

Leafy Green Veggies

These veggies include anything like kale, spinach or romaine lettuce.  There are lots of others too.

They all contain Vitamin B and folic acid.¬† Both of these have been shown to improve your brain’s ability to stay focused and think clearly.

If you don’t like eating them plain (like in a salad) you can start adding them in small pieces to your other foods.¬† You probably won’t even notice they’re there if you chop them up small enough.


Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids.¬† It’s been shown that people that are deficient in them often become fatigued easier.

They’ve been shown to increase mental performance and aid memory.¬† Interesting how foods can have such a big impact on your ability to study and remember things, isn’t it?

Types of fish that are particularly high in omega-3 are salmon, trout, herring, and sardines.


I know this technically isn’t a food but I’m including it here anyway because it’s incredibly beneficial and necessary for every part of the human body to function.

If you don’t currently pay much attention to how much water you drink, now is the time.¬† It’ll make a huge difference in your ability to think quickly and remain focused on exam day.

Unfortunately, you can’t bring water or any food into the exam center for your 3 hour exam.¬† But, if you have a medical issue that would require you to need water or food then you’ll need to contact the SOA in advance of your exam in order to get special authorization.¬† Otherwise the proctor won’t allow it on exam day.

Get a Good Sleep or Take a Nap

The last tip that I have for you in order to be as refreshed and energized (and therefore focused) on exam day is to get a good night’s sleep the night before.¬† Or, if your exam is later in the afternoon you may even consider having a short nap.

For practice exams in particular, this made a huge difference for me because I’d have to do them after a long day at work.¬† Usually I was pretty mentally fatigued by the time I got home so I’d need to refresh by taking a nap for an hour.¬† Then, I’d be able to stay focus and concentrate for 3 hours while I took a practice exam.

I know it can be hard to get to sleep the night before exam day.  A couple weeks before your exam you may want to experiment with taking a natural sleep supplement called Melatonin.

Melatonin (like this on Amazon) is naturally produced by your body at night but you can buy it too to help improve your sleep the night before your exam.¬† It’s natural and is often used by people that suffer with insomnia. If you do get it though, just make sure you test it out a few days or weeks before your exam so you learn how it works with your body.

Will These Tips Work for You?

It’s really difficult to say which tips will work.¬† It’ll be different for everyone.¬† That’s why I recommend testing them all out during your practice exams to see if they work for you, or not.

If you want more studying tips & advice for Exam P and FM, don’t forget to stay in touch by signing up for my regular studying tips emails.¬† Get them by entering your email address in the box at the top right hand corner of this post.

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Get all my best tips on how to become a TOP actuarial candidate so that you can get your actuarial dream job.

Just add your email below.