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  #1  
Old 06-01-2017, 08:47 AM
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Shaft Shaft is offline
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Default All exams to be electronic submissions

This post is prompted by one incident and one observation:

The incident:
The CAS has a problem with lost transcripts (May sitting for CAS 6US, Nancy has responded on the linked thread).

The observation:
I see the increasing trend in electronic exam taking offered by other professions.

For a number of years I have felt it not particularly the best test of a candidate's time and pressure management to have them write out in pen on paper items such as reserve triangles, development factors etc etc - nobody in the real world has done this for at least 30 years.

Even list answers should be typed up. Why make candidates do something that nobody in the profession does day-to-day?

Surely it is possible for CAS, SoA, CIA etc to move to all-electronic exam structures where candidates type their answers rather than scribble - often illegibly - on paper. If the question requires a formula, it can be constructed from a formula tab on the test-taking software.

Electronic format allows for different types of question-setting to evolve, e.g. ability to insert note answers in a table of data or GLM model outputs or any modeling input/output for that matter.

The logistics may work better for electronic exam-taking: more exam centers like Prometric (that administer the prelims). Ability to schedule multiple sittings of the same exam (with appropriate adjustments on question content for different sitting days). Even the actuality of not having to stick with Spring and Fall testing windows and let candidates enter when it suits their work and personal circumstances.

We really need to move on from the dark ages of test-taking.
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  #2  
Old 06-01-2017, 08:59 AM
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Abelian Grape Abelian Grape is offline
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Relevant thread: http://www.actuarialoutpost.com/actu...d.php?t=317622

Relevant quote from relevant thread:
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Originally Posted by Arlie_Proctor View Post
Until very recently, offering exams by computer has been pretty thorny for a number of reasons:

- The CAS offers exams worldwide, not many testing vendors offer sites worldwide.
- Using a testing vendor adds cost, exam fees would need to increase.
- Security and cheating are harder to control -- if you offer the exams via an internet portal, then you are subject to being hacked and the computer on which the exam taker is working needs access to the internet (where all of the exam materials can be found). Yes, that can be monitored, but that adds cost.
- If you are going to allow test takers to use software like Excel, Word, R, SAS, etc, you would have to ensure all of them use the same version. The US versions of those packages differ in some cases from the export versions.
- There has always been a reluctance to endorse specific software packages for testing purposes. If you don't, then grading becomes more difficult. If you do, then some candidates will have to learn the endorsed software in addition to the exam material. Those who know the software better have a distinct advantage.

The CAS Institute is piloting a computer testing method using virtual machines that overcomes many of those problems. If successful, I would anticipate that the CAS will adopt it quickly for actuarial exam purposes.
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Old 06-01-2017, 09:00 AM
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agree that should use electronic capabilities to maximum extent. however, they not perfect either. can lose or damage paper transcripts, electronic records have their own potential for problems, be they accidental or hackers/bad security. You are talking in absolutes. Believe it or not, some people have done triangles and such by hand on occasion in past 30 years. Computers do go down. Advantage of doing some things by hand, at least initially, is that you learn/understand it better imo. Lot of black box worksheets and tools out there nowadays, which is doubtless much much more efficient but that has its downside also.
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Old 06-02-2017, 09:08 AM
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I think a major issue is that "kids these days" don't write fluently. Yes, they can laboriously write long hand. But it's an additional cognitive burden and makes it harder to do the exam.

I remember struggling with the same problem when I first had to submit typed papers. It was hard enough that I wrote them by hand, first, and then typed them up. But today's younger adults are mostly fluent at a keyboard, it's handwriting that is a burden for them.

I know the CAS has been looking for an appropriate platform for years. Most platforms (Like anything standard from prometric) don't offer anything like a spreadsheet, and even typing formulas is pretty horrible. Don't even ask to be able to draw graphs.
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Old 06-02-2017, 09:14 AM
Westley Westley is offline
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Seems like some combination wouldn't be that difficult. Give somebody a piece of paper, an Excel spreadsheet, and a Word doc (I realize it wouldn't actually be Word and Excel).

They write in the Word doc "I used the formula from the Bault paper, which I've written on paper and labeled "Formula 1" to create a spreadsheet which I've saved as "Spreadsheet 1". As explanation of what I've done.... " Is there a problem with combining in that way? Asking the candidate to do too much organizing at the same time as they are trying to solve problems and such could be cumbersome, not sure if that's the issue.
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Old 06-02-2017, 10:39 AM
Chopin-Lover Chopin-Lover is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Westley View Post
Seems like some combination wouldn't be that difficult. Give somebody a piece of paper, an Excel spreadsheet, and a Word doc (I realize it wouldn't actually be Word and Excel).

They write in the Word doc "I used the formula from the Bault paper, which I've written on paper and labeled "Formula 1" to create a spreadsheet which I've saved as "Spreadsheet 1". As explanation of what I've done.... " Is there a problem with combining in that way? Asking the candidate to do too much organizing at the same time as they are trying to solve problems and such could be cumbersome, not sure if that's the issue.
Like you said, this seems like a lot of organizing to do during a time limited exam. Also seems like it'll take more resources to grade the exams.
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Old 06-02-2017, 12:06 PM
Westley Westley is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chopin-Lover View Post
Also seems like it'll take more resources to grade the exams.
I think the graders spend a massive amount of time trying to decipher handwriting scribbles, following arrows across pages to understand the logic that the writer was trying to explain. Having more typed and less written seems like a clear benefit to them IMO.

Disclaimer: I've never been a grader, just my take based on conversations.
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  #8  
Old 06-02-2017, 12:21 PM
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PeppermintPatty PeppermintPatty is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Westley View Post
I think the graders spend a massive amount of time trying to decipher handwriting scribbles, following arrows across pages to understand the logic that the writer was trying to explain. Having more typed and less written seems like a clear benefit to them IMO.

Disclaimer: I've never been a grader, just my take based on conversations.
I've been a grader. Naw. I spent a huge amount of time trying to decipher the writing of one person with especially bad handwriting, and was modestly inconvenienced by several others. But the vast majority of papers are perfectly legible, if not always pretty. And it's rare for an answer to span multiple pages, and when it does, it's usually in order. Granted, I was only a grader for 3 or 4 sittings, and didn't see any extremely complex problems. But I can only remember a single paper where I had any trouble at all following (on the paper) the logic the writer was trying to explain. And that was a candidate who derived an answer from first principles (after a couple of false starts) that most candidates answered from a memorized formula.

Having to keep track of a lot of documents, and bounce around between different documents to follow the logic of a single answer, would be a vastly greater burden than what graders have now. I think they need to keep the answers to a single system, that can cleanly deliver a printed copy of the full answer to a grader. (An electronic copy is harder to mark up with comments, but I suppose it could be easier to follow the math. That could be acceptable. I note that the CAS experimented once with giving graders a PDF instead of paper, and they ended up way over-spending their budget reimbursing graders for printing out the PDFs. So my preference for paper isn't unusual.)
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  #9  
Old 06-02-2017, 12:39 PM
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Childish Gambino Childish Gambino is offline
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I've stopped taking exams but if they went to computer in the near-future, I would probably try again. That's a huge hurdle out of my way. Hate writing. And I have to go really slow to make it legible. Plus if you make a mistake, it's much harder to correct compared to digital.

Sounds like you lot are only discussing CAS though.
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  #10  
Old 06-02-2017, 12:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Childish Gambino View Post
I've stopped taking exams but if they went to computer in the near-future, I would probably try again. That's a huge hurdle out of my way. Hate writing. And I have to go really slow to make it legible. Plus if you make a mistake, it's much harder to correct compared to digital.

Sounds like you lot are only discussing CAS though.
It's easy to "correct" a mistake on paper. Just draw a line through it, and write the right answer.

If you had some really long formula, and made a mistake at the start, and caught it, and didn't have time to re-do the arithmetic, you could jot down a note saying that ("I put in 1.2 when I should have put in 1.12") and I can't imagine you'd lose more than a quarter point. And there aren't a lot of really long complicated calcs, since, you know, written by hand.
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