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  #1  
Old 05-03-2018, 11:23 AM
Pension.Mathematics Pension.Mathematics is offline
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Default Are the prelims badly designed as the entrance to the Actuarial field?

Don't get me wrong, I am making this post as someone who finished the prelims faster than Roy Ju (not as fast as whoanonstop though).

Here are the problems with prelims (P/FM/MFE/C/MLC at the time of writing) in my opinion:

They are too homogeneous: pure math (A) and multiple choice (B).
  1. (extension of A) They give people the false impression that the actuarial field is somehow designed for people who are good at math, that there is this magical short-cut for smart cookies to land a job in the 11th best profession.
  2. (extension of A) There is a clear goal: "know every single formula well enough". People are more motivated to keep going with a clear defined goal.
  3. (extension of A) There are lots of resources to help you study. unlike FSA exams (at least for my track) where you need to go through limited old exams on your own and compare your solutions with the official solutions, which are sometimes poorly written to begin with.
  4. (extension of A) manual authors are friendly and helpful, it is easier to help students out with quantitative questions when you don't need to go back to the source readings to answer emails. it is easier to keep going when you get constant help and feedback from both manual authors and fellow students.
  5. (extension of B) They are tailored for people who can go through practice questions mindlessly, which is hands down the best way to pass any multiple choice exam. but when you run into problems at work, they are never multiple choice questions!
  6. (extension of B) Partial marks are obtained via pure luck "I get 20% partial marks if I choose C for all questions that I don't know the answer to". (irrelevant, as pointed out by Elinor Dashwood below)
  7. (extension of A and B) They require almost zero English / communication.
  8. (extension of A and B) Hard work is immediately rewarded. It is easier to keep going when you get immediate feedback: "I chose B, the correct answer is C, therefore, I need to remember formula XYZ"

The list can certainly be expanded but I think you see where I am going with this. TL;DR: prelims are too one-dimensional right now. They give people, both employers and students, false expectations. SOA should consolidate the math prelims and squeeze 1~2 qualitative preliminary exams into the ASA qualification process.

Last edited by Pension.Mathematics; 05-16-2018 at 05:10 PM..
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  #2  
Old 05-03-2018, 12:11 PM
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Elinor Dashwood Elinor Dashwood is offline
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My opinion in green.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pension.Mathematics View Post
Here are the problems with prelims (P/FM/MFE/C/MLC at the time of writing) in my opinion:

They are too homogeneous: pure math (A)
That's why they added FAP as an important component of ASA, and encourage students to not leave it until last.
Quote:
and multiple choice (B).
MLC is mostly written answer, and in addition to the prelims there are VEEs and FAP which utilize other metrics.
Quote:
1. (extension of A) They give people the false impression that the actuarial field is somehow designed for people who are good at math, that there is this magical short-cut for smart cookies to land a job in the 11th best profession.
Only 11th best? Man, we're slipping. Used to be consistently in the top 3. Yes, to some extent there is still the impression out there that this is a math job, when it's really more of a math-intensive business job. I'm not convinced that changing the prelims is the way to counter that false impression though.

Quote:
2. (extension of A) There is a clear goal: "know every single formula well enough". People are more motivated to keep going with a clear defined goal.

3. (extension of A) There are lots of resources to help you study. unlike FSA exams (at least for my track) where you need to go through limited old exams on your own and compare your solutions with the official solutions, which are sometimes poorly written to begin with.

4. (extension of A) manual authors are friendly and helpful, it is easier to help students out with quantitative questions when you don't need to go back to the source readings to answer emails. it is easier to keep going when you get constant help and feedback from both manual authors and fellow students.
I don't understand why you think any of these are problems unless you subscribe to the BS notion that the exams are supposed to be primarily about hazing.

Quote:
5. (extension of B) They are tailored for people who can go through practice questions mindlessly, which is hands down the best way to pass any multiple choice exam. but when you run into problems at work, they are never multiple choice questions!
"Mindlessly" ??? When I went through the prelims (under a different system, admittedly) there was nothing "mindless" about them. I don't understand this criticism at all.

Quote:
6. (extension of B) Partial marks are obtained via pure luck "I get 20% partial marks if I choose C for all questions that I don't know the answer to".
And that is taken into account when setting the pass mark, so it doesn't seem like a big problem to me.

Quote:
7. (extension of A and B) They require almost zero English / communication.
Again, that's why we have FAP. In the very olden days the first prelim was an English exam, but they got rid of that a while ago. I think FAP is better than an English exam but YMMV.

Quote:
8. (extension of A and B) Hard work is immediately rewarded. It is easier to keep going when you get immediate feedback: "I chose B, the correct answer is C, therefore, I need to remember formula XYZ"
Again, I'm confused as to why you think this is a problem.
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Old 05-03-2018, 12:23 PM
Pension.Mathematics Pension.Mathematics is offline
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Originally Posted by Elinor Dashwood View Post
Again, I'm confused as to why you think this is a problem.
After I passed all the prelims with flying colors, I felt really good about myself, which caused unnecessary delays down the road. I just wish I was a little more prepared for the FSA level exams and I do not think the prelims or FAP helped me at all.

I only failed 1 FSA sitting so it wasn't too bad, but I know someone who failed 5 times in a row, it pains me to see them go through that.
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Old 05-03-2018, 12:32 PM
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Are you suggesting that the preliminary exams should be more about preparing you to take the fellowship exams?
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Old 05-03-2018, 12:38 PM
Pension.Mathematics Pension.Mathematics is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Old Timer View Post
Are you suggesting that the preliminary exams should be more about preparing you to take the fellowship exams?
They should teach you the value of unrewarded and self-disciplined hard work, which indeed does help with the fellowship exams.
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Old 05-03-2018, 12:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pension.Mathematics View Post
They should teach you the value of unrewarded and self-disciplined hard work, which indeed does help with the fellowship exams.
Almost no one would say that should be the purpose of the preliminary exams. Some would say that it would be desirable if they did, as a byproduct.
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Old 05-03-2018, 12:51 PM
Pension.Mathematics Pension.Mathematics is offline
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Originally Posted by Gandalf View Post
Almost no one would say that should be the purpose of the preliminary exams. Some would say that it would be desirable if they did, as a byproduct.
what do the prelims accomplish at the moment? very little in my opinion for a process that takes 3 years on average.

I am curious, what do you think should be the purpose of the preliminary exams then?
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Old 05-03-2018, 01:00 PM
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Always a search for things to complain about.
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Old 05-03-2018, 01:31 PM
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I wouldn't say the exams are preparation to do well at your job... they help you understand the fundamentals. If you have poor communication or don't understand your work, you probably wont progress very quickly anyway.

Just like all credential exams, its just a way to set a benchmark for what people should know.
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Old 05-03-2018, 01:39 PM
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Wait, we're only the 11th best profession now? I need to go find a new career.
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