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      Hello All,

      I have sat for this exam twice now and both times I felt like I have performed better than the scores I got would indicate. Obviously I am not doing something right but I do not have any peers at my company that who have taken the exam since it moved to CBT. Does anyone who has been successful in this exam have any study tips or a methodology for how they approached this exam?

      Dustin Conrad

        Hey Adam,  Analyzing someone’s exam performance can be a broad topic.  I would say that you need to determine where you are performing least efficiently.  I will give you 4 high level categories that I like to use:

        1. Points from math based questions
        2. Points from list type questions
        3. Points from your broad based knowledge
        4. General exam strategy

        Depending on where you believe you are under performing I give different advise on how to improve someone’s score.  I will comment on your specific question and make some assumptions, but I would think about if there are any other categories where you can improve your performance.

        Before I give you my personal opinions I will make sure you know about the resources that the SOA provides about exams.

        1. Broad based advice from a townhall style talk that is video recorded:  https://www.soa.org/education/general-info/edu-guide-written-exams-seminar-vids/
        2. The written guide by the SOA for general exam advice: https://www.soa.org/globalassets/assets/files/edu/edu-guide-to-written-exam.pdf
        3. (I will say that I think some of these answers are not the best recommendations i.m.o. !) The sample CBT questions/answers: https://www.soa.org/globalassets/assets/files/edu/2020/fall/fall-2020-gh-examples.xlsx
        4. Demo video of the testing environment:  https://youtu.be/TBATFFsHa7E
        5. Demo video of the exam taking experience:  https://youtu.be/TBATFFsHa7E

        If you are concerned with the CBT part of the test then I will assume that you are losing points on math based questions.  Are your solutions easy to follow?  If you want to do send me a sample of what you think your excel based solution looks like I could let you know how well I think you are doing in this area.  I will share a handful of the ideas I give during my exam strategy session at my seminars.  Assign your model parameters and assumptions a value in a cell.  Next to that cell describe what that value represents (think short description like 5 to 10 words). Then when you use that value later in a formula you just reference the cell.  Also I would also briefly describe what the cell is calculating either with a comment in an neighboring cell or with a “titling” type comment above a set of cells.  This effectively shows the formula you are using and describes your thought process.  Next is to keep your formulas in each cell simple.  If you could not explain, in words in about 10 seconds, to your grandpa what the cell calculation is doing than it is to cumbersome.  Split up the calculation into more cells so that it can be easily followed by the grader.  Do not try to use some fancy efficient formula to do a calculation in one cell that could be easily broken down into a simple table with 3 or 4 columns.  In the table method, you move down the columns where each step is doing/listing one simple calculation/value.  Then at the end you do a sum, sumproduct, or what ever you need to do to combine it all together.  Let me give you an example:

        Fall 2020 FV-A #1c

        You need an annuity due factor … DO NOT try to remember that formula!!!!!!  The main reason being is that if you mess it up you will get no partial credit.  The formula its self does not show conceptually that you understand what is the logical process that is happening.  I would suggest you build a table with the following column titles: Annuity PMT, Discount factor, Decrement factor, Time, APV.  Then as you fill out the table it shows the grader that you understand exactly how to calculate the actuarial present value of a series of cash flows.


        I will stop there since I need to get back to preparing for the seminars myself!  If you have more specific questions you can email me, or, as a plug for my business, come join me at the FV seminar this March.  In our seminars I have an in-depth discussion on exam strategy.  Also all of the math problems that I present are done in excel in a method similar to what I described above so you will have plenty of my examples.

        I wish the best for you on the exam,



          For me, it was hammering the flash cards and being honest with myself for the math portions. My biggest focus with the flash cards was trying to recognize language the SOA used as a way to indicate what list to quote. It can be incredibly subtle.

          For the math, it was learning how to organize my answers. For solutions using tables, I would revisit the problems until I could recreate the table in a way that made sense to me (sometimes that meant a different order than the solution, or an additional column or two to show more steps). Medicare COB and NPPBC are some examples.

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