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Old 03-07-2008, 03:26 PM
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Mary Pat Campbell
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Default Dealing with FSA exams

I've been making comments inside the FET subforum, and I thought I'd draw it out over here now, as it doesn't just relate to FET:
http://actuary.ca/actuarial_discussi...d.php?t=129476
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I don't think intense memorization is necessary to pass, because I definitely didn't pass with memorization (I do not do well with that, and failed Course 5 once and had to really work on memorization intensively to pass it the next year). However, it is a part of the educational system, just as memorizing times tables is a part of elementary math education (or should be.... that's a different argument).

The grading outlines are entirely based on readings from the syllabus. So if you've thoroughly memorized all the material, and can pull out which material you need, that will indeed get you quite a bit a ways.... but some problems pull material from several different readings. And then there's the calculation problems. For FET, you've got to know how to actually solve the problems and I don't think memorization really gets you that far there. And finally - analysis.

I did a quick perusal of the released FSA exams from last year - there's some straight list questions, but there's also a bunch of "explain how this pertains to the particular situation we just described". This requires a certain amount of understanding. I'm not just referring to the investment track -- I see this in ILA, GH, RP questions, too.

Now, it's not like you come out of the particular exam with a deep understanding of the topic. These materials are merely introductions, in my opinion (okay, "introductions" in the way that grad-level math classes are "introductions" to a math field). For true understanding, it's going to take on-the-job experience. You're never really sure that you've understood a concept until you have to apply it in real life. But you need to have a basic foundation of common terms and concepts.

The current FSA exams may not be the most efficient way to test mastery of these topics. But I think there needs to be rigorous tests of =some= sort, for quality control. This is something I think a lot about with regards to the new continuing education standards (and this is an argument that has been thoroughly aired elsewhere on the AO). Obviously, for these topics, we need something more complicated than multiple choice exams.

As these FSA exams are going to be the major obstacle for most people going for FSA, I think they should receive special scrutiny. Politically, I think it's unlikely that the FSA exam structure will change in the near future (i.e. 5 years); but I keep my mind open as to what is most effective and efficient, so I'd like to hear other ideas. The only idea I have right now is to break up these exams into smaller ones and give them more often. But, again, I think this would be an unpopular move politically (for several reasons, mainly due to practicality.)
Also, I've written about Preparing for written exams at my own website (adapted from various AO threads).

I encourage other FSAs to supply their own advice on dealing with the FSA written exams (the current ones are similar to the old Course 8s, so advice for passing those is helpful for passing the current ones).
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Old 03-09-2008, 09:23 AM
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Thank you! for sharing helpful comments!
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Old 03-25-2008, 03:08 PM
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More on FSA exams from the Future Actuary (i.e., article written by me, mainly stuff I've written on the AO several different places and put into one article).

That's at a non-SOA site, and I'm sure the SOA site links will be up in the next couple weeks.

The link to the Volokh Conspiracy at the bottom looks messed up. Here it is:
http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2...tml#1168382003
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Old 03-25-2008, 03:15 PM
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You did a great job on that article Mary. Thanks for posting it here!
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Old 04-24-2009, 09:56 AM
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Reminder to all taking the FSA exams -- best of luck!

FSA Exam Advice from a[n ex-]Grader
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Old 10-08-2009, 05:38 AM
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Started a new thread on the topic here:
http://www.actuarialoutpost.com/actu...d.php?t=176788
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Old 04-23-2010, 10:09 AM
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Old 10-21-2010, 10:22 AM
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Old 04-11-2011, 01:24 PM
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It's that time of year! Sharpen up your pencils!

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Old 10-07-2013, 11:19 AM
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Thank you for all the advice you post pretty much everywhere. I've found a lot of help from you from both some of the Prelims (I bought your TIA C seminar a few weeks before Dave took over) and I really appreciate all your articles and threads on FSA exams.

[quote=campbell;2756033]

More on FSA exams from the Future Actuary (i.e., article written by me, mainly stuff I've written on the AO several different places and put into one article).
/QUOTE]

It appears the SOA might've taken this article down, did you happen to have this article posted anywhere else?

Again, thank you for all the resources! I actually started reading some of your FSA threads years before I was on the FSA exams just to get a glimpse of what they'd be like.
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