The journey to become an FSA or an FCAS is not easy, with most actuarial students spending 3-5 years taking exams to reach Associateship and 6-10 years to reach Fellowship. Below is a short guide to help you prepare, because preparation is the key to success when it comes to exams!
Get Organized – Many first-time exam takers underestimate the amount of time they will need to cover all the material, so put together a study schedule to keep yourself on track. Once you have scheduled your exam, make sure you have a clear idea of what material is going to be covered. There are resources on both the SOA and the CAS websites for each individual exam, with an overview, syllabus and a list of supplemental study materials at www.soa.org and www.cas.org . You definitely do not want to feel like you are cramming for an exam as the date approaches. If you are currently employed and your company offers you study time, be aware that you will also need to dedicate a significant amount of your personal time in addition to those study hours.
Take advantage of available resources – in addition to the information on the SOA and CAS websites, purchase the appropriate study manual. This will provide you with study material based on the syllabus and also includes practice tests. You can also sign up for online or in person classes through a variety of providers.
Join a study group – you can find study groups for the specific exams on the Actuarial Outpost (Actuarial Outpost – Connecting Actuaries). People outside of the actuarial profession don’t always understand the commitment involved in becoming a designated actuary. Other students who are going through the same struggles with the actuarial exams can be a great support system and help you stay on track. It is helpful to have a study group where you can go over the material and quiz each other.
Mentors and fellow students – speak to your mentor or other actuaries about their experience studying for exams. They may be able to give you some pointers that will help you avoid pitfalls. Your fellow students can be a source of support as you go through the process together.
Don’t overcommit – it is best to take only one exam per sitting. The volume of material for each exam makes it less likely that you will pass two exams at once.
Congratulations on beginning your journey as an actuary! The actuarial community offers a wide range of opportunities in an excellent industry that is consistently rated as one of the best jobs by U.S. News & World Report. It’s a journey, but the result is an impressive accomplishment that will be well worth the commitment.
By: Patty Kennelly – Partner