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  • in reply to: Finance Track – SDM, CFEFD, ERM #18210

      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!

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