View Full Version : My additional comments given in the CAS Course 4 Survey
Course 4 Escapee
05-16-2002, 11:39 AM
The CAS/SOA needs to sit down and decide what requisite level of understanding of the material is needed and stick to it. The increased level of difficulty on the Course 4 exam, particularly with Nov 2001 and May 2002 is such that someone that passed the May/Nov 2000 exams needed to understand considerably less than they would need to know to pass now. Is the true purpose of the exam process to provide a framework for actuarial students to have the educational background to do their job properly? Then why the inconsistency in difficulty and emphasis from exam to exam?
It seems that a high pass rate is just too threatening to whomever is in charge to just be consistent in what is tested. The biggest problem in my opinion is that it is never clear the level of understanding expected by the CAS/SOA. Obviously, using past exams as a guide is insufficient because the bar is raised a notch or two each six months. It appears that to be successful in passing it boils down to having huge resources of time and money and/or the ability to successfully guess what curves are going to be thrown at the test-taker on the upcoming exam.
I received a 5 on the Nov 2000 exam and since have received consecutive 3's on the 2 most recent attempts. This despite studying 100-150 hours each time (having lost company-sponsored time). Is this to say that I have forgotten what I knew in Nov 2000?
I am sure that if exams were were similar in emphasis and difficulty that the pass rate would increase significantly over time. But if a given exam is a fair evalutation of mastery over the material, is there something inherently wrong with a high pass rate?`
05-16-2002, 12:13 PM
You're missing the point. The exams, despite all assurances to the contrary, are designed to limit the supply of credentialed actuaries. So yes, there is a problem with having high pass ratios. I'm in the same boat and am not trying to say this is fair or right, just the rules of the game we all decided to play.
05-16-2002, 12:18 PM
1. Quality of exam
I don't understand what is expected of me. Some questions were so easy they made the exam seem like a joke, others were so hard I wondered if we were expected to solve them. The best guage a student has of the nature of an exam is past exam questions. I don't think that someone preparing for this exam next sitting will be able to fully appreciate the depth of knowledge they are expected to have based on the four exams that have been released.
I am not sure why the decision was made to not release exams anymore. In who's best interest is this? Certainly not the students who need all the resources they can get. Is it that you recycle problems? What do you have to lose by releasing exams?
2. Quality of readings
I didn't really use them because most of my study was self study and I found the text too complicated. Also, the questions were not helpful as some where simply theoretical and others didn't lend themselves to exams. On a score of 1 (not at all valuable) to 10 (very valuable) I'd give them a 3.Also the study notes ahd some good problems, but no soultions, making them less valuable.
I hope everyone has responded to the survey. They may not act on what we say, but at least they'll know how we feel. The profession can only continue as long as people want to be a part of it. Hopefully they'll wise up and see that the hoops they put us through may actually be putting the nails in their coffin. Of course, I can't pass their exams so maybe they don't want me in their professional circle anyway. :-?
Course 4 Escapee
05-16-2002, 12:24 PM
I'm in the same boat and am not trying to say this is fair or right, just the rules of the game we all decided to play.
Unfortunately, I was naive enough that at the start of my actuarial career to think the exam process wasn't an artificial mechanism to limit the number of accredited professionals. Now that I see the light, I've invested too much time to easily switch to another career, given my skill set. If the society were to come clean and call the exam process for what it is, they would be sued out of existence. It basically is a 5 to 15 year-long version of "Thank you sir, may I have another?".
05-16-2002, 02:31 PM
You don’t get it do you? Some questions are easy, some are hard- how can they do that you ask? It’s inconsistent you whine. They aren’t fair you complain. What do you want? 40 easy problems, so the only way to pass is to have a basic understanding of all (however irrelevant the topic it to your place in the actuarial profession) topics? Or 40 hard problems, so you spend all your time trying to master a couple of topics and the pass score is 10 (guessing + 2). Or do you want some questions that test if the student has spent enough time to memorize key formulas (testing dedication) some medium questions which test whether the student is intelligent enough to apply the basic concepts to various situations (testing whether or not the student went beyond learning basic concepts, and actually understands them to some degree) and some more difficult questions that separate the men from the boys (or to be PC the men from the women), and then some killer questions that are just on there to benefit the academics among us that insist on completely understanding a topic at the expense of being able to cover every topic (I am not one of these, but know several).
Point- Quit whining. If you have failed Part 4 four times (this time makes a fifth?), you are not smart enough nor dedicated enough for this profession. Good-bye.
Anyone have a donut I could borrow?
05-16-2002, 02:41 PM
I can understand the disappointment of someone who's taking Course 4 for a while and hasn't been able to pass it. But I think I'm still entitled to my opinion. I think that this exam was not that difficult, at least not that more difficult than the last 4 sittings for Course 4. I believe that in order to pass it you need to put at least 300 hours of quality study time - doing this you not only are guaranteed to pass, but also to have learned the material that is supposedly important for an actuary to know. I feel bad for someone who just doesn't have this much time to study, but studying less than 200 hours just won't do it. Even if you take the exam twice and study 150 hours each time, it's not the same as having a full 300-hour study well-planned schedule and executing it to pass it at once. Honestly, if I knew I didn't have enough time, I would not even pay over $300 to take the exam and most likely fail it. Now I'm sure that there are some people out there that have the time, but instead of using it to study they find other stuff to do because it's (understandably) more fun - and still complain about the high pass mark when they do 15 to 20 out of 40 questions in the exam. I have no simpathy for the latter, since I myself put over 350 hours, including waking up at 3a.m. to study before going to work 3-4 times a week, just to guarantee that I'll leave the exam room feeling good about my chances to pass. And better, I also feel like I learned the material, even if I'll not use it a lot in my work.
Course 4 Escapee
05-16-2002, 03:03 PM
I feel bad for someone who just doesn't have this much time to study, but studying less than 200 hours just won't do it. Even if you take the exam twice and study 150 hours each time, it's not the same as having a full 300-hour study well-planned schedule and executing it to pass it at once.
I studied over 300 hours the first attempt, over 200 the second attempt. I then lost my study time and with my consulting work hours combined with trying to balance the remainder of time with my family allowed me to only get in 100-150 hours studying.
My point it this: if I was able to get within a whisker of passing and spent most of my study time after that on the problem types that gave me trouble from before, shouldn't that put me in a position to improve? If I got a 5 and then increased my knowledge of the material by every measure I have available to me at the time (past exams, practice problems from study guides) should I have any reason to expect to do worse? That is the source of frustration. I'm sure I understand the material better now than 18 months ago but I seem to be further away from passing than before.
05-16-2002, 08:56 PM
It's a mean, cruel world out there. And the SoA is indifferent to your lack of study time, likewise to the presence of your family. If it's any help, there are people who've failed exams more consistently and have attained credentials.
Tests get tougher over time. As the material becomes known, the exam takers have the choice between increasing the pass mark or making the questions gradually more and more weird.
It seems to me that you must find a position with study time; and you need to be able to take a few hours per week going over the material.
05-17-2002, 04:56 AM
Unless your job is at stake do what I'm doing, move on... this was my 4th attempt, and not once did I think I did bad on this exam. So I sat for 6, to get familiar with the WA process, which I must admit, looks a lot easier than course 4. :duh: Then after course 6 was up, I crammed in 5 days of course 4, not needing more than 3 days to regurgitate the 800+ hours I already committed to this nightmare. Eventually, it seems statistically likely that they will have to publish an easier exam, one that includes all the problems us career c4'ers have committed to instinct.
05-17-2002, 10:06 AM
"Is the true purpose of the exam process to provide a framework for actuarial students to have the educational background to do their job properly?"
No. That is what a lot of us forget when we talk about the society doing logical things. This is a game. One part control the number of accredited people. One part control their revenue by insuring almost 2/3 will retake the exam. One part make sure you get a good educational background for actuarial work.
Let's see. They give you a 1-10 score with no feedback on questions you got right or missed, no feedback on how they determined the pass mark, and generally doesn't release the Q & A's until months or years later. Anyone who tells me that is framework for a strong educational program get a 0 credibility factor in my book.
05-17-2002, 10:16 AM
Control their revenue? That is moronic. Last time I checked “SOA” and “CAS” were not stock tickers. (Actually they are, but they’re not the SOA and CAS we are all so familiar with). If you really think that these organizations attempt to parasite from the students through exam fees in order to keep the members dues down they you truly are the definition of a cynic.
05-17-2002, 10:27 AM
Well, you certainly have as much tact and respect for others as the real HomerJ.
Every organization needs money. There's two ways to get it: current members and prospective members. Which one do you think the current members (who make the rules) are going to go with?
I also said it was part of the game, not the whole point of the game. It's not really all that cynical.
05-17-2002, 11:24 AM
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