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  #41  
Old 12-06-2017, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnLocke View Post
Was college wasteful? high school? You do forget a lot. If remembering is so important we should have to retake the exams periodically.
Why teach algebra, biology or chemistry in school? Most people aren't going to use it anyway.

Look, the reality is that there's a lot of useful material on the exams, and where your career goes will determine whether you actually get to take advantage of it. But the credential is there to at least make it more likely that you've seen it when you do come across it.
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  #42  
Old 12-06-2017, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by r. mutt View Post
But the credential is there to at least make it more likely that you've seen it when you do come across it.
The SOA should use that statement in marketing people will be lining up to hire actuaries.
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  #43  
Old 12-06-2017, 12:02 PM
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The SOA should use that statement in marketing people will be lining up to hire actuaries.
It might still be better than "I only learned four things, but you can train me!" (TM)
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  #44  
Old 12-06-2017, 12:25 PM
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It might still be better than "I only learned four things, but you can train me!" (TM)
Valid point. Yea I don't think it's a bad thing to learn things that you might not use. When people say that the exam material isn't useful in actual work, I think they forget that it's their choice whether or not to look for those applications. If you don't look for them, you definitely won't find them. I think they're plentiful. It would be nice for the exams to require a depth of understanding to notice these things. That's my contention.

At least when I brought up "useless skills" acquired on the exams, I was simply referring to carrying out fairly shallow computations and being practiced enough to do it in under 5 minutes. That seems like a silly focus for the exams. It also seems like most of the time spent preparing for these exams is gaining that skill which will be quickly lost afterward.

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  #45  
Old 12-06-2017, 03:18 PM
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This thread is a gold mine!

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Originally Posted by jas66Kent View Post
That works only if you have strong schools and vetted (by the profession) exams.

The US does not so it is a horrible idea.
Obviously, the US has some strong schools but those schools don't overlap with schools that have dedicated "strong" actuarial programs. CAE?

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Originally Posted by Colonel Smoothie View Post
Ideal travel time should be 2 years. Otherwise, you'll be bogged down with exams while the data scientists who are fresh out of masters programs are outcompeting you because they're devoting more time to actual work.
Well, if you focus 2 years of your time fully on actuarial exams, you could get most of the way to FCAS/FSA...

...but as joking as it sounds, actuaries should have concerns on if they are spending their time wisely with these exams in comparison to other professions.

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Originally Posted by MathStatFin View Post
IMO, most companies just want people that can follow procedures and put in the effort (attributes that tend to be correlated with those needed to pass professional exams).
This is probably the best summary as to why the exams are still in place. Can you follow process? Can you grind hours if needed? Fortunately, people outside of the profession that know about the exams still hold their value pretty high, but the opportunity cost is extremely high as well.

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Originally Posted by Ito's Phlegm View Post
Perhaps, but the claim that exams discourage hypothetical talent from pursuing actuarial science is tired and overused, and not unique to our profession.
I know plenty of people who could crush the actuarial exams but don't see the point in taking them. If you're smart enough, you don't need a credential to sell that smartness. That does not mean that there aren't smart people with credentials, it just means it is lower value for those individuals than other ventures.

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Originally Posted by MathStatFin View Post
Yeah like this hasn't been discussed before. It's not going to change due to various reasons like the fact that CBT is cost effective and it's hard to test "creativity" with CBT.
Well now that they are pushing credentialed actuaries into poverty by upping the fees by $30, they should be able to afford better testing methods?

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Originally Posted by JohnLocke View Post
In real life hiring, I think most people hire based on skills and persistent knowledge. FSA or FCAS is just the bare minimum.
And I think this is reasonable. To me, it is ultra concerning that someone sells the credential itself as their only value. Aka threads of "I'm an FSA in the bottom 10%".

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Originally Posted by r. mutt View Post
Why teach algebra, biology or chemistry in school? Most people aren't going to use it anyway.

Look, the reality is that there's a lot of useful material on the exams, and where your career goes will determine whether you actually get to take advantage of it. But the credential is there to at least make it more likely that you've seen it when you do come across it.
Yes, because high school courses that are focused on broadening ones entire understanding of the world should be compared to a very specific exam track that is suppose to show competence in a profession.

-Riley
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  #46  
Old 12-06-2017, 03:30 PM
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I think that there is no need for modules 1-8. The entire course could be the two assessments and the readings etc.
Am I understanding your complaint here that you would prefer that there not be breaks in the module learning component and that individuals should just be able to enroll in assessments and take them?

By extension, do you believe that college should be able to be completed on one's own schedule and that there is nothing gained from participating in a structured class over a specified period of time (which is likely longer than you would have spent on it if studying independently)?

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The readings should absolutely be reduced in number since many are redundant. Currently there are so many redundant readings that each gets very little attention from candidates. It's exhausting reading the same thing so many times. An effort to reduce them to the essentials would lead to candidates getting the most out of each one. Candidates would also have a more clear understanding of what will be tested on the assessments.
I don't think that providing one viewpoint/approach on one topic is responsible. Yes, multiple readings may cover the same topic, but different readings have different viewpoints & details on the topic.

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The SOA should be transparent about its grading policy on the assessments and provide feedback to candidates with every failing score.

The SOA should also force itself to randomly regrade papers that have already been graded to demonstrate that their process is consistent and investigate when there are mismatches between a new score and the one originally issued. The mismatch rate should be published on their website. This would quickly lead to practices that ensure consistency. Every grader should have to provide internal documentation detailing why they issued the score that they did to aid in this effort and to make providing timely feedback possible.

EDIT: A huge advantage to these changes would be that the SOA would not have to manage so much module content and the burden on graders would be significantly reduced. This means they could address all of the broken links and errors in the slides and case studies and maintain them properly. With a reduction in grading workload, each candidate would get the proper attention he/she is owed (and paid for) and grading would be completed in a more timely fashion. Candidates, employers, members and the public would have increased confidence in the integrity and value of the credential. It's interesting that my suggestions would make the FAP course much closer to resembling the CAS OC1/OC2. Maybe they're doing something right.
And if/when you get your FSA, you'll be a part of this solution by volunteering your time and efforts to enact these suggested changes to the FAP modules, right?

I don't disagree with your suggestions to improve the process. I think what you suggest will require a LOT more resources than are currently available, though.

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Having the ability to make recommendations and effectively communicate is paramount, but must be coupled with complete information (or at least as complete as possible) and real data/analytics/science/expertise. I hate to say it, but the FAP course currently encourages actuaries to be confident in hand waving more than anything else.
Does a project need big data in order to qualify as "real data/analytics"? I agree that there should be some level of analysis, but I don't think that you need to necessarily have to work with 1,000,000+ rows of data to be able to make a decision and justify it without considering it "hand-waving".

And to the extent that big data will become a part of what we do, that's what PA will be there for.


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There are a lot of people that agree with you on that. I would say that simply requiring deeper insight into the concepts tested would lead to more actuaries that have better problem solving skills and the ability to recognize when the concepts can be applied effectively at work. Not everyone will have that breakthrough, but at least they would be forced to acquire the necessary tools. You might be surprised how many people pass exam P and can't tell you what a random variable is. That's not a good sign.
Eloquently describing a random variable isn't what I'd call a necessary tool in the actuarial procession. Applying the concept likely would, but I don't think people show a complete mastery of probability and its applications after having passed Exam P. I wouldn't expect someone to teach a course on probability after having passed Exam P. But application of the basics taught in the preliminaries gets reinforced through the basic education process, through the FSA credential.

For anecdotal evidence, it's been years since I've taken Exam P (in its previous form) and I've forgotten a lot of the "tricks" that you refer to. But when asked about specific questions, I can begin to make sense of the questions being asked of me and know where to look for reference to the point that I can provide some insight into the problem that wasn't there previously. (Perhaps you can ask the students I supervise whether that insight is helpful or not.) I'm saying that the skills will come along, and that the current state of the exams do help with developing those skills, but that you may not have them on immediate recall following the exam.
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  #47  
Old 12-06-2017, 03:54 PM
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Originally Posted by wat? View Post
Am I understanding your complaint here that you would prefer that there not be breaks in the module learning component and that individuals should just be able to enroll in assessments and take them?

By extension, do you believe that college should be able to be completed on one's own schedule and that there is nothing gained from participating in a structured class over a specified period of time (which is likely longer than you would have spent on it if studying independently)?
You are understanding me correctly. I see very low value in the individual modules. A large portion of candidates pass them without doing the readings. They seem to just test your ability to settle on an interpretation of the scenario and communicate a solution effectively. Passing the assessments already do this in theory. Why force a candidate to prove the same skills 6 extra times?

This is very different from taking college courses, but I still tend to agree with what you're saying as well. I have a degree in pure math. I often skipped classes because self study was usually more productive for me. Well designed classes can be extremely valuable to attend though.


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Originally Posted by wat? View Post
And if/when you get your FSA, you'll be a part of this solution by volunteering your time and efforts to enact these suggested changes to the FAP modules, right?
Sure.

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Originally Posted by wat? View Post
I don't disagree with your suggestions to improve the process. I think what you suggest will require a LOT more resources than are currently available, though.
The SOA loves this excuse to avoid doing almost anything. I don't see why the cost of the additional things I suggest would outweigh the benefit of not having to grade 6 EOMs for each candidate.

Quote:
Does a project need big data in order to qualify as "real data/analytics"? I agree that there should be some level of analysis, but I don't think that you need to necessarily have to work with 1,000,000+ rows of data to be able to make a decision and justify it without considering it "hand-waving".

And to the extent that big data will become a part of what we do, that's what PA will be there for.
I agree with you, but I would also say that the module exercises provide painfully incomplete detail to solve the exercise with any sort of integrity. They are poorly designed in many ways.

Quote:
Eloquently describing a random variable isn't what I'd call a necessary tool in the actuarial procession. Applying the concept likely would, but I don't think people show a complete mastery of probability and its applications after having passed Exam P. I wouldn't expect someone to teach a course on probability after having passed Exam P. But application of the basics taught in the preliminaries gets reinforced through the basic education process, through the FSA credential.

For anecdotal evidence, it's been years since I've taken Exam P (in its previous form) and I've forgotten a lot of the "tricks" that you refer to. But when asked about specific questions, I can begin to make sense of the questions being asked of me and know where to look for reference to the point that I can provide some insight into the problem that wasn't there previously. (Perhaps you can ask the students I supervise whether that insight is helpful or not.) I'm saying that the skills will come along, and that the current state of the exams do help with developing those skills, but that you may not have them on immediate recall following the exam.
If you pass an exam with material almost entirely about random variables and can't tell me what a random variable is, that's not good. There's no reason you shouldn't be able to define it. How can you really solve problems outside of the exam context if you aren't even sure what you're working with? This is how mistakes are made. So many people try to use statistics in their work without being able to trace it back to probability theory and confirm what they're doing makes sense. It's a serious problem in many professions including ours.

The "tricks" you're referring to are less important than understanding the theory so it's not a big deal that you can't remember them. R will compute things for you. It is unfortunate that most of your studying for the exam was spent learning those tricks though don't you think?

Last edited by Z3ta; 12-06-2017 at 04:02 PM..
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  #48  
Old 12-06-2017, 03:55 PM
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Was college wasteful? high school? You do forget a lot. If remembering is so important we should have to retake the exams periodically.
For the vast majority of people, yes. Not so much for me though, since I'm a nerd.
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  #49  
Old 12-06-2017, 03:58 PM
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Originally Posted by r. mutt View Post
Why teach algebra, biology or chemistry in school? Most people aren't going to use it anyway.
Which is why it's very wasteful. If someone is going to end up delivering pizzas anyway, what's the point? Just teach it to the people who are really going to use it. That way you can reduce class sizes without having to dumb down the material to the lowest common denominator.

If people don't want to learn something, don't force them to. They'll get around to voluntarily chosing to learn a subject when they feel the need to.
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  #50  
Old 12-06-2017, 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Z3ta View Post
You are understanding me correctly. I see very low value in the individual modules. A large portion of candidates pass them without doing the readings. They seem to just test your ability to settle on an interpretation of the scenario and communicate a solution effectively. Passing the assessments already do this in theory. Why force a candidate to prove the same skills 6 extra times?
I'd have more confidence that the person were doing it correctly after 6-8 times than 1-3 times.

Also, if you consider the assessments as midterms & finals, you can consider the EOMs as homework. If I were creating a course, I don't have the confidence that students would be able to adequately explain themselves without first practicing how to do so.

Quote:
This is very different from taking college courses, but I still tend to agree with what you're saying as well. I have a degree in pure math. I often skipped classes because self study was usually more productive for me. Well designed classes can be extremely valuable to attend though.
I was as well. I did the same, but I've come to appreciate what I missed out on in my college experience by taking that route. At the time, I thought it was the best. Knowing what I know now, I'd do things a little differently.


Quote:
The SOA loves this excuse to avoid doing almost anything. I don't see why the cost of the additional things I suggest would outweigh the benefit of not having to grade 6 EOMs for each candidate.
It's not the financial cost that's an issue, it's the human resource issue. How many graders do you think are involved in grading EOMs? How does that compare to how many people you think will need to be involved in creating, administering and grading these written exams for thousands of test-takers?

It's an excuse that's oft quoted because it's true.

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I agree with you, but I would also say that the module exercises provide painfully incomplete detail to solve the exercise with any sort of integrity. They are poorly designed in many ways.
a) That's part of work. There will be times that you will have less than a desirable amount of information/time/resources, but will need to make a recommendation based on what you have available.
b) To the extent that the FAP modules are poorly designed, it's not a justification to do away with it entirely, but rather to re-vamp the design. Insufficient data isn't a good enough reason to say the modules are useless.

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If you pass an exam with material almost entirely about random variables and can't tell me what a random variable is, that's not good. There's no reason you shouldn't be able to define it. How can you really solve problems outside of the exam context if you aren't even sure what you're working with? This is how mistakes are made. So many people try to use statistics in their work without being able to trace it back to probability theory and confirm what they're doing makes sense. It's a serious problem in many professions including ours.

The "tricks" you're referring to are less important than understanding the theory so it's not a big deal that you can't remember them. R will compute things for you. It is unfortunate that most of your studying for the exam was spent learning those tricks though don't you think?
For me, no. Personally, I learn better by extrapolating via examples, and I don't consider myself smart compared to other actuaries, so it takes quite a few tries for me to get there. The bolded above is essentially what professional development and one's career is all about. Power be to you if you've got full understanding & retention of a concept the first time you see it. But to me, the exams are a first step in understanding. If you've passed the exam, you've got the first step down. Later in your career/training, you'll see an application and better understand why things were done a particular way. Then you'll see it again later and have an even deeper understanding of why. And so on.

If the profession was only about the exams, then I think the exam system would be inherently flawed, because there is no reinforcement. But your career *is* the reinforcement.
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