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Test Taking Tips

November 4th, 2007

In my opinion, the difference b/w a pass and a fail can often come down to test taking strategy.  If you don’t have a good strategy, then you are a serious disadvantage.  The first thing to realize is that all questions count the same.  That means answering the easiest question correctly on the exam is worth just as much as answering the hardest question on the exam.  For that reason, it is imperative that you get to attempt every problem on the exam.  You must not run out of time and force yourself to guess on any questions without first having a chance to devote a few minutes to solving them.

What does this mean?  You must be willing to skip a problem.  If you read a problem and don’t have a clear picture in your mind of how to solve it, then skip it.  If you read a problem and you are confused on the wording of even a single sentence, then skip it.  If you read a problem, but can’t think of an elegant solution and the one you have outlined in your head is a long a tedious one, then skip it.  If you start to get frustrated with a problem, then skip it.  Please do not be scared to skip a problem.  You are not required to work them in order.

The key to passing the exam is getting all the questions you know how to do right.  If you spend 10-20 minutes working on a problem that you likely wouldn’t get even if you had 30-45 minutes, then you made a huge strategical error.  That means you have less time to devote to problems that you do know how to work.  You will be rushed on the easy problems and could make a careless mistake b/c of it.  Don’t fall into that trap.

When the proctor tells you there is 15 minutes remaining make, stop whatever you are doing and make sure you have an answer bubbled for every problem.  There is no penalty for guessing and you do not want to find yourself with one minute and stressing over if you have everything bubbled in.

Bring at least one extra calculator.  Make sure it is the same model as your other calculator.  You would hate to have to switch calculators and be unfamiliar with the 2nd calculator.

James Exam Tips

  1. Ben
    August 5th, 2008 at 08:28 | #1

    As someone who passed exams 1-4 on the first try, I wholeheartedly agree with this. Here was my strategy, which worked well for me but might or might not work for you:
    1st pass-through — skip the questions I am struggling with or don’t have an immediate solution to (though I read the question completely so my subconscious can start working on it). I also mark the questions which I answer but am not very confident in.
    2nd pass-through — go through the questions that I didn’t answer the first time through. At this point I know how much time is left and how much time I can afford to spend on a question. Taking practice tests with exam conditions helped me get a “feel” for the time available. If I’m low on time or can’t figure out a question, then there’s nothing I can do but skip it.
    3rd pass-through — go over any questions that were “marked” the first time. If I still have a good amount of time left, I will ignore my notes and re-do the problem from scratch, making sure I get the right answer. Also, time permitting, I go over the “2nd pass-through” questions again.
    4th pass-through — if I still have time, that is good. I just start from the beginning and either look over my work or re-do the questions.

    May 11th, 2009 at 22:48 | #2

    I wonder that those difficult questions would have more marks or every question is equally graded?

  3. May 12th, 2009 at 07:00 | #3

    Every question has the same value. The SOA simply counts how many you get right and compares this number to the pass mark. For example the pass mark might be 26 / 35 questions. If you get 26 questions or more right then you pass. It doesn’t matter if you get the 26 “easiest” problems on the exam correct and get the 9 “hardest” questions wrong. You still pass.

    May 13th, 2009 at 02:00 | #4

    Thanks, James.

    I just want to cross check because another friend of mine said that her professor was invited to write the actuarial exams and he said the more difficult questions get more marks. I’d presume that this was the old information then.

  1. May 27th, 2008 at 09:34 | #1
  2. May 4th, 2009 at 11:38 | #2