I was one of those poor exam-writing student myself not so long ago, so I know that the cheaper something is, the better!
I mean, if you can get something that will work “just as well” as any other option, why wouldn’t you go with that… right?
Well, I’m here to convince you that you should reconsider trying to do everything as cheaply as possible for your first actuarial exam, at least if you want the best chance of passing. (You do want to pass, I assume)
There’s a reason that most people choose to pay for study materials even though there are free options available. And it’s not because they just feel like spending some money.
Things that are really valuable and helpful usually cost money. That way, authors have incentive to keep the study materials up-to-date, respond to your questions and provide an overall great experience. That’s not to say that authors of free study materials won’t do this, but if you pay for something you know you’re going to get the most up-to-date version and that the author is currently willing to answer questions (if that’s part of the purchasing agreement).
I’m not suggesting that you don’t use any study materials that are available for free. There are lots of resources that you can (and should) use that are completely free.
- Practice exam questions offered by the SOA,
- The Etched Actuarial YouTube Channel (shameless plug!)
- Finan’s study manual
- Mancinelli’s got some great YouTube videos
These just shouldn’t make up your entire list of study resources.
Now, I know you’re probably asking, “Well Brea, how should I afford all these not-so-free study materials then? I’m on a budget you know.”
When I was writing exams, I always wrote during my co-op terms (similar to internships, except you need them to get credits to graduate). I had a total of 6 terms where I was a co-op student and was getting paid for the work I was doing. For me, this was the perfect time to write exams because I didn’t have to study for school exams at the same time and I had enough money to be able to purchase the materials that I wanted.
You could do the same – write exams while you’re on your co-op terms, while you’re at your internship, or while you’re working during the summer. There is no need to rush to get all your exams done as quickly as possible. Get 2 or 3 (max 4) in before you graduate when you have the funds available.
Another avenue that I never took because I wasn’t aware of it, was freelancing. There are thousands and thousands of people looking for people to do jobs online that would allow you to work on your own schedule and make an income, all while never leaving your own house. (Fiverr and Upwork are two places that come to mind, although I’m sure there’re lots more)
I’m sure you have lots of skills that others would pay you for and you can utilize them to get the extra income you need for exam materials. In fact, I hire freelancers all the time to do lots of things I need to help keep Etched Actuarial up and running.
There are also the other more typical ways that people suggest getting the money you need it in order to afford study materials. Your parents (and grandparents) want you to succeed, right? Maybe they’d be willing to lend you the money until you’re able to get an internship or job.
You could also take a look at your weekly spending habits and see if there are a few things you could cut out (I know there are.. don’t try to tell me otherwise!!). Maybe your daily take-out lunches, that enormously high cable bill, that insane phone plan you’re paying for every month, or pizza every Saturday night?
I’m just saying, trying to pass actuarial exams while “not being able” to afford the study materials will be difficult. So start saving up so that you don’t have to waste 2-3 extra months restudying for it.
How will you (or how did you) afford study materials for your first actuarial exam? Let me know in the comments! Others will love to read your suggestions!