“The Passing Formula”

by | May 2, 2017 | Actuarial Exams

You want a formula to follow for your studying? Well, here it is!
 
This is the exact process that I used to pass my last two preliminary exams (the two hardest) after struggling with them for many sittings.  This formula works just as well for any preliminary exams so no matter which exam you’re writing you’ll definitely find value in this.
 
I call it the “QuadPro Formula” because it’s a formula with four distinct and important processes in it – hence, QuadPro (Quad = 4, Pro = Processes) Formula.
 
First, let me tell you that this formula is only about 30% of the exam study strategy.  Using just this formula alone will eventually get you to a pass but I’m sure your goal is to pass your exam the first time, not after 2 or 3 tries. The other 70% is made up entirely of ACCOUNTABILITY. 
 
If you’ve read some of my other blog posts, you’ll know how EXTREMELY important I believe accountability is when writing actuarial exams. Not having this at the beginning was one of the main reasons I failed exams so many times.  At that time, I also didn’t know how to study properly for the exams either, but that’s what you’re going to learn here.
 
For most of us, our schooling and our work have us trained to get things done by a deadline.  It’s easy to to procrastinate on getting things done when no one’s waiting on you for it.  (That might be why it’s taking me so long to finish my “I Failed My Exam, Now What?” short e-book that I’ve been working on).
 
Since studying for an actuarial exam is really just a “self study” program, it’s really hard to stay on track with your study schedule when other more urgent things come up day-to-day.  I mean, no one’s going to care if you get a week or two (or three or four) behind schedule.  You’ll just plan on “catching up” later.. and all seems good. There’s no pressure. (Sounds way too familiar to me!)
 
So, let me tell you first hand that you will be far better off if you find someone that you can be ACCOUNTABLE to.
 
And I don’t mean just someone that’s just going to say their an accountability partner (like your best friend, mom or brother, but instead someone that’s actually going to ask you if you’ve completed what you need to.  Someone you don’t want to disappoint. Someone that’s not going to “let you off the hook”.  That’s why someone you don’t know very well usually makes the best accountability partner!
 
Psst… This is one of the main advantages that my coaching students in the Next Step Community have over their competition!
 
Now, here’s that QuadPro Formula that I was telling you about (sorry for the previous accountability rant!)

 

— STEP # 1:  READ THROUGH YOUR STUDY MANUAL
The purpose of this read-through is to get a general understanding of everything on the syllabus.  You’ll learn the theory, methodology, and underlying math behind how everything works.
 
It takes some time (5 weeks if you’re following my 12-week Exam P study schedule), but you’ll find that most of the information is pretty easy to understand because it’s broken down into small chunks that layer on top of one another to form the bigger picture.


In this step, you don’t want to get bogged down by any particular topic.   If there’s something you’re not completely understanding, make note of it, ask the study guide author about it (most of them provide you with an e-mail address or a forum) and then move on.
 

Study Tip: If you do end up spending some time trying to figure out how something works, make some quick (but clear) notes about it because you might forget later and then have to re-learn it.

Study Tip: I like to put a sticky note sticking out of my study manual as a page marker for any subjects I need to come back and review later.
 
— STEP # 2:  GO BACK AND REVIEW DIFFICULT TOPICS
Going back to review any topics that were sorta “fuzzy” for you the first time around is really important.  Usually once you’re through the whole study manual then come back to these topics, they’ll “click” for you much easier.
 
In this step, you need to spend as much time as necessary in order to understand the topic.
 


Did the author get back to you after contacting him/her in step 1?
Have you looked at different sources that explain the topic from a different perspective?
 

You may have to stray away from your primary study manual to get the understanding that you need.

You can also search Google, Actuarial Outpost, YouTube, Reddit or the Next Step Community for more help on the subject that you’re not understanding.  It’s very likely that other people have had trouble with the topic before too and there are tons of resources available to you.
 

I keep an Exam P resource page up to date too where you may find some other useful sources.

— STEP # 3: DO UNTIMED PRACTICE PROBLEMS WITH SUPPORT
In this step, its time to put your knowledge to use.  Find any and all exam problems that you can and do them (there are lots of free practice question sources on my Exam P resource page). 


If you need a formula sheet that’s fine, use it.  If you need to review topics in your manual, go ahead.  Nothing is off limits.  Just learn and understand as you go.  Review the answers as you do them but make note of any problems that you have difficulty with.  You should come back to them later in this phase.
 

Aim to do at least 300 questions but if you have the time, definitely do more.  The more you do the better and faster you’ll get. 

Also, make sure to use a variety of sources for your questions.  Different resources tend to have different question styles and it can be difficult to predict exactly which style of question the actual exam will use.  So if you get practice with a variety of questions you’ll be prepared for anything.
 

I also recommend a 30 day ADAPT subscription during this step (never heard of ADAPT? Read this!)

When first getting started in this step, it usually feels pretty overwhelming.  You may feel like you’re completely unprepared and like you didn’t just spend the last 7 weeks learning everything in your study manual.  That is OK (and very common)! You’ll quickly learn the common question formats and how to answer them correctly.
 
— STEP # 4: DO TIMED PRACTICE EXAMS WITHOUT SUPPORT
In this last step, you’ll be doing full practice exams under exam conditions.  That means no looking at a formula sheet or your manual, and only giving yourself as much time as you would get on the real exam.
 
Use these practice tests to see where you’re at and what you need to improve on.  When you’re done each exam, review the solution to any answers that you got incorrect and review the topic in your study manual if you need to.
 

If you didn’t get ADAPT in the previous step, now is the time to do it.  You’ll need lots of complete and organized practice exams for this step and those are difficult to find for free. 

 
During this step (you’ll have started this step about 2-3 weeks before your exam) you’ll need to devote some time specifically to formula memorization if that’s something you’re finding is holding you back during the practice exams.  15 minutes of formula memorization every day for the last 2 weeks can do great things!
 
And there is it.  Sounds pretty simple right?
 
Each of these steps and the time allotted to them is crucial in being prepared for exam day.  Otherwise you’re significantly lowering your chances of passing.
 
If you’re looking for a study group, check out our groups in the Next Step Community (free). You can also ask any questions you have about this process in the Next Step Community forums too!

Do you have study strategy questions? Ask in the Community!

Save yourself all the Google searches and get an answer that applies specifically to you! Ask your Qs in the Next Step Community.