May 3, 2022 at 9:01 pm #9531
Hey – thought I would start a spot for the Finance track here.
Also a shout out to the Actuarial Outpost. I literally just asked them to create a separate forum for FSA exams and they did just that!
I think this allows those who are moving into FSA exams to have a dedicated spot to discuss them and not get drowned out by the (useful) discussion on the other exams.
By the way, I teach for the SDM exam at XP Actuarial. Check out more comments at the XPActuarial website or GoActuary.
SteveJuly 11, 2022 at 5:15 am #18190
Good luck to those getting results this week!
For those writing SDM next sitting, know that all of the SOA study notes can be found online. I have posted links to each of them on GoActuary.com (that site is a bit easier for posting multiple links!)
And also, just a reminder that for SDM you have an alternative for study material. XP Actuarial helps on SDM as many students found they needed much more to get SDM (as they were up against the best students who had already passed two written exams) and appreciated having an instructor that was dedicated to this exam and developing solid practice questions rather than instructors spread out across 3 very different exams. As many students say for XP “using anything less for SDM is a poor strategic decision!”
SteveJuly 15, 2022 at 8:06 pm #18210NicoleParticipant
Hi I took SDM in April 2022 and it is my last exam in the CFE track. I used Steve’s XP Actuarial as study manual. I think it was very helpful in achieving the results. I have some thoughts to share on the study materials. This is not intended to be a slam on either of the study materials. I think as exam takers we absolutely need them. I’m just sharing some of my thoughts and hope this can help you find the right product for you.
<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Study Manual: </span>
I had been a PAK study manual’s person the entire time but I have struggled with it. It maybe true to some exam takers that PAK’s study manual can be a replacement of the textbooks, because it picks out key points from the source readings and copy pastes them into the study manual. This didn’t work for me because I needed the whole pictures, the examples and charts in the source material to understand the concept. The flow can be a little weird too going from topics from topics if you skip the source material. Note that PAK also explicitly said that it is not a replacement of the source material.
Steve’s manual is mostly his own words, his own understanding of the concepts. When he quotes the source material it’s usually absolutely necessary. I think this helped me because it prevented me from being lazy and just read the study material while skipping out on the source material entirely. Steve would emphasize in several places throughout the study manual “Do not Skip the source material”. I kind of have to because his paraphrase of the source material can be terse. It does make a whole lot of sense after reading the source material and then come back to read Steve’s manual. It also helps to hear something explained in another way (not a repetition of the original text) because it’s already regurgitated. I think that’s a big plus and the ultimate goal of study manuals (cliff notes).
<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Flashcards:</span>
Both PAK and XP have a pretty good library of flashcards. If you as an exam taker can do well in flashcards, it’s half the battle already. I personally can’t do flashcards. It has not been feasible or possible for me. Not only do I hate it I also can’t do it efficiently. Because it’s a huge time waste for me I choose to do practice questions instead.
<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Practice Questions:</span>
PAK’s practice question can be very interchangeable with flashcards. The questions are often formatted in the way that’s like if you were doing flashcards with a partner. The questions are like flashcards prompt. The quantitative ones are taken straight from the source material, which is a helpful repeat because we need to be familiar with the calculations.
Most of XP’s practice questions are like that too. Steve will sneak a challenge question or two in each objective. In this area, both XP and PAK are pretty similar to each other. This is expected because practice questions serve to jog your memory and help you increase your familiarity with the content.
<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Practice Exams:</span>
Unfortunately PAK’s practice exam’s difficulty is a bit behind from an actual SOA Past Exam questions. It’s an advanced “flashcard prompts”. The question stems are sometimes too straightforward . So you kinda have to use SOA’s past exam to train yourself on that. Not to say SOA past exams can be skipped at all. They are in fact the other half of the battle (the first half being flashcards, aka memorization/solid understanding of the source material).
Steve’s mock exams on XP Actuarial are a lot more challenging (fewer in the number of exams compared to PAK). I got a good practice on the syllabus in the last week. Not to say XP’s practice exam can replace SOA Past Exam, but it is definitely more like the real thing in terms of complexity and difficulty.
<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Feedback for students</span>
I’ve gotten good advice from both Eddy and Steve and I think I benefited a lot from both. I would say they are both very caring and knowledgeable instructors.
<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Video Seminars</span>
PAK’s video seminar covers the basic idea and can be used to either refresh your memory or getting an idea for the first time. I like how Steve uses real world examples and doesn’t just stick with textbook examples to illustrate a concept. His commentaries are interesting and really help you understand the concept. Overall both PAK and XP have good video seminars.
<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Audio Flashcards</span>
Both XP and PAK have audio flashcards. I think PAK’s audio has better quality and the flashcards are split into readings as listed in the syllabus, so it makes it easier to review.
<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Overall</span>
I’m glad I bought XP in addition to PAK this time. XP helped me a lot in getting ready for the exam. I’ve always struggled with FSA exams because I’m terrible with flashcards and memorization. I’m glad XP offered another way that really challenged my understanding and critical thinking. Recommended!July 16, 2022 at 5:16 pm #18215
Thanks Nicole for the comments!
Thanks for pointing out the value of our application questions, practice exams, and detailed feedback. That is specifically what we found was critical for SDM and has allowed for several sittings with pass rates in the 80’s and even one sitting at 92% pass rate (11 out of 12 students).
Many more testimonials from the current sitting can be found at GoActuary.com
(Fact: Every student that posts a testimonial on XP for SDM would have have also used PAK at some point in their finance track exams – so they are the only ones able to give a true and accurate comparison as to why XP is better!)
Good luck everyone this sitting!July 16, 2022 at 10:52 pm #18217PriParticipant
Hey everyone! Just passed SDM at the April 2022 sitting – on my 3rd attempt.
When I didn’t pass this enigma of an exam on my 2nd attempt last year, I was super deflated. I didn’t know what else needed to change in my prep. At that point, I reached out to a colleague who had passed the exam, for ANY possible pointers/advice. And she only had one: get XPActuarial.
I was skeptical. I had only heard about PAK until then, and this was new. But I decided to take a leap of faith because ‘If you want different results, do not do the same things.’
So here’s what I appreciated most amongst the gamut of things Steve at XP offered: individual focus, rigorous practice, quality mock questions (emphasis on quality. Because SO much thought goes into them), case study insight, and feedback on my attempts at the mock papers.
Above all, he helped me get into the right mindset. This proved to be instrumental because I had an exam experience from hell. For starters, I was running a high fever on the D-day. Then at the prometric center, the computer refused to load the SOA exam. As the clock ticked away, the admin was having no luck with getting it to work, and they told me that if it doesn’t work in the next 3 hours, they’ll have to reschedule me(!). Thankfully, they resolved it after 2 hours and 10 minutes of tinkering. And then it was go-time. What got me through that nightmare was my confidence, bolstered by all the prep Steve provided; it really helped me navigate all the curveballs the universe was throwing at me.
For all the future SDM exam takers out there, this one is a toughie but it can be conquered. Keep faith, you got this!January 11, 2023 at 8:33 pm #23872
Good luck everyone on the results this Friday!
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