How Do I Prepare for the Actuary Exam?

Actuaries work with figures and formulas to calculate financial risks for companies. Most employers expect applicants to have earned at least one of the professional certifications. Read on for some test taking tips to help you study for your exam. Schools offering Risk Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

The Actuary Exam

Completing an actuary certification program could earn you the designation of associate or fellow of one of two actuarial societies. The Society of Actuaries (SOA) is the largest professional actuarial group and it's made up of actuaries who work in pensions, employee benefits and life/health insurance. The Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) is made up of those who work in worker's compensation and liability, car and fire insurance. Each society offers multiple exams that lead to a certification or actuarial credential. Many employers require that you have passed at least one of the initial exams to be considered for employment.

Important Facts About Actuaries

Job Outlook (2014-2024) 8% growth
Median Salary (2014) $96,700 per year
Work Environment Full time hours in an office environment, often with a team of other business professionals; large insurance companies, government positions
On-the-Job Training Junior actuaries receive training from a more senior actuary; start out doing fundamental tasks and work up to more complicated projects.

Source: U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics

Exam Prep Tips

Before you go to take your exam, you'll have likely completed at least four years of undergraduate education in actuarial science from a college or university. Many of these programs are designed to prepare you for your big exam day. In addition, you may want to take the following tips gleaned from the actuarial societies into consideration.

Don't Cram

The exams are made up of several areas of knowledge: insurance-related topics, probability, contingencies, interest theory and risk management. Once you have decided which exam you are going to take, the actuarial societies say that you can expect to dedicate about 100 hours of study for every hour of the exam. The exams each last between three and four hours, so you should assume you'll need at least 300-400 hours of studying time for each test. Cramming, in other words, shouldn't be an option. The best thing you can do is to study hard and be prepared.

Use Study Partners and Materials

Find a study group or ask a friend or family member to quiz you. Also, make sure you have all study books and materials on hand. Just studying and reading material over and over until you can cite it in your sleep isn't enough. You must completely understand each mathematical concept. Before the exam, take a look at practice tests available on the actuarial society's web page.

Formula Vs. Multiple Choice Strategies

If you are taking the math exam, work problems repeatedly so that you understand each formula. If your exam is multiple choice, make sure that you work at a suitable pace through each of the questions. If you don't know an answer, you can skip it and come back to it. If you are stuck on a question, move on to the next question; this will help you save time. You can always go back later and try to answer one you skipped.

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