8 Ways to Speed Up & Reduce Errors

by | Actuarial Exams

When you’re writing Exam P or FM, you’ve only got between 5 and 6 minutes to answer each question. That means you don’t have time to take it slow. You don’t have time to think about it. You’ve just gotta be able to read a question, figure out the best approach and then do your calculations as quickly as possible.

But of course, speeding up means increasing the risk of making errors, so these are my top 8 tips for trying to speed up while also reducing errors when you’re doing practice problems and the real exam.

#8 Get a Multiview calculator

I didn’t know these existed until about 2 years ago, long after I had written Exam P and FM. But I really wish I had known about them from the start.

These calculators display 2 lines so you can see the equation that you actually input at the same time as you see the result.

Why I love them so much? Because you can easily give your equation a quick look to make sure you typed it out right before you use the answer.

And if the equation was wrong, you can simply edit the equation right there, press enter, and get an updated answer. EASY! (and a great way to reduce errors)

#7 Have a consistent layout for similar question types

You should always try to keep a similar format or layout for your written solutions for certain types of problems.

For example, an “integration by parts” question on Exam P can get a little messy but if you develop a step-by-step method and a solution layout that you become familiar with during your study period, it’ll make you less likely to make errors on exam day.

It makes problems more “plug and chug” rather than having to use your mental energy to remember where all the important stuff is on a messy page.

#6 Double check all the numbers you put into your calculator

It’s so easy to accidentally hit the wrong number or sign on your calculator. Take 2 seconds after each calculator input to quickly check that the number was entered correctly.

It’ll save you time later (when you get an answer that isn’t one of the options) and you have to redo.

#5 Get extremely comfortable with your calculator

Get your calculators as early on as you can and use them while you’re preparing for your exam. Don’t go into exam day with a brand new calculator that you’ve only used a couple times.

Know how to store numbers and retrieve them quickly. Know how to reuse past equations. Find out if your calculator has and hidden special features that you can use for the exam – just search google for your calculator and add “Exam P tricks” to the end.

#4 Consciously make an effort to write neatly

When you’re rushing, it’s super easy for an “x” to turn into a “y”, or 4 to turn into a 9. Practice writing clearly even while you’re just doing practice problems so that on exam day it’s second nature.

You don’t want to get caught making 3 errors like this and having that be the reason you didn’t pass!

#3 Do drill Problems for speeding up

In my post here, I talk about drill problem as a way to improve on your weaker exam topics. But they’re also an awesome way to speed up.

Imagine spending an hour doing the same type of question over and over again… that’ll definitely increase your speed quickly.

Doing this also allows you to develop a consistent layout/format for these types of questions which is important for reducing errors, as mentioned in #7.

#2 Draw diagrams whenever possible

Both Exam P and FM have lots of opportunity to draw diagrams. For exam P, finding your region of integration goes really quickly if you draw it out first. For exam FM, drawing timelines really helps to turn complex/wordy problems into straight-forward calculations.

It only takes about a minute or less to draw a diagram but I assure you that in most cases, it’ll save you much more time when it comes to doing the actual calculations.

Whenever I explain solutions to clients, I always try to include a visual representation and often that immediately clears things up!

#1 Practice, Practice, Practice

The most important thing you should do during studying is tons of practice problems. HUNDREDS!

I’ve already talked about repetition can really help to speed things up and reduce errors.

But also, just doing a huge variety of different questions means that you’re mind can more easily see exactly what to do in given scenarios.

As you do more and more questions, the wording used will start to suggest different methods to you. That means you spend much less time trying to figure out an approach and you can just jump right into doing calculations.

There is no replacement for practice, so if you take only one thing out of these 8 tips, take this last one and do as many practice questions as you can squeeze in! (Of course, equally important is to understand the solutions when you get them wrong so that you can do them right next time!)

So that it. Those are my 8 tips. Now go do some practice problem!

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