Bill Marella: Welcome, my name is Bill Marella. I'm the CEO of Actex learning and this is part 2 of a multi-part series on exam preparation and beyond. I am joined by Roy Ju, who has been recognized by the Society of Actuaries as the youngest FSA ever. In part one we talked about the effectiveness of his program along with his co-author Mike Jennings. In part 2 today we're going to discuss the efficiency of how you should approach your actuarial exams, and how to study and master the material in less time. Welcome Roy.
Roy Ju: Thanks Bill, glad to be here.
BM: So right out of the gate in part 2 of the book you talk about restructuring your study sessions, explain why students need to do that.
RJ: I hinted at this in the last video, but really the first thing is to be very intentional about setting your study sessions to be optimal. In the effectiveness section of the book we really detail a lot of different ways to effectively understand the material. I think in regard to ingraining things to memory and being able to recall the information, that is equally as important as getting the repetition the right way for said study approach. Within the efficiency session we detailed something called the “reading approach”. I want folks to think of this as not just practicing problem after problem ad nauseam. There is an element of repetition that is important, but I like to think of this as a quicker way of ingraining principles and concepts to memory.
An analogy I like to use is if you think about reading a novel. It's easy to get confused along the way as you're reading about different characters and different elements of the plot if you read very slowly and have long breaks in between chapters. Folks that read through an entire book in a day will recognize that you can kind of see the forest above the trees and see how everything fits together.
I think the same goes for actuarial exams. With the reading approach–and a lot of the efficiency tactics we detail in the book–the premise is taking the practice problems and setting them up within a study approach to more effectively ingrain those principles into memory. With both the reverse reading method as well as the reading method, the way to look at it is that the quicker way to better understand the material is to use practice problems and repetition to better understand the concepts of the whole.
BM: You end the book with part 4, titled “What do you do if you fail”. Talk to the viewers about what they should do differently if they fail an exam.
RJ: I think step one after any kind of exam failure is first taking a little bit of a break, to avoid burnout. On the website as well as in any of the exam advice-giving sessions I’ve done, I always advise folks to have a very long term perspective when it comes to exams. The exam journey is very very long and if you jump right into the next exam, regardless of pass or failure, you might burn out a little bit. There is an intense amount of studying per exam, and I think sometimes folks get caught up in the trap of you study so much, get to exam day, then hope and expect to pass. And if you pass it's like “OK, this is why I spent all this time and I passed”. But if you fail it’s a little bit more asymmetric. Folks would be really really down on themselves and it vastly outweighs even some of the happiness you would get if you had passed.
So that being said, I think it's important to just keep a long term perspective. The very, very large majority of folks that get the FSA have failed exams along the way, right? And I think what's more important than even understanding what your different problem areas are, is having the right mindset to overcome adversity and recognize that it's a long journey. Recognize that you need to take breaks, avoid burnout, and keep energy levels high to then prepare yourself to study some of those problem areas. That's probably the first thing. Having a little bit of a mindset shift and being a little bit more optimistic and long-term minded with regard to the exams.
Then second is definitely focusing on your problem areas. Certainly when you go into an exam and things don't go well, you generally have a good sense of which areas of the syllabus you need to focus on more. Giving a little bit more punctuation and emphasis to those sessions is going to be important. But again, it's easy to forget material along the way, so even sections that you're solid on need to have some kind of element of repetition and study to make sure you keep that material fresh.
BM: I think that some students kind of forget that almost everyone who achieves fellowship has failed an exam. I'm not sure if you did, though. Roy, did you?
RJ: I failed the FM exam twice. I was very early on in my studies and failed twice in a row. So even I have one exam that really gave me a lot of problems. But, yeah, those were the two instances.
BM: Well this is from the youngest FSA recognized by the SOA, who still struggled with Exam FM. So anyone that's watching or reading should take heart and take heed because this is some very sage advice from Roy Ju. Roy, I'd like to thank you. We're going to end it here, and I appreciate you coming on.
Watch Bill Marella's interview with Roy Ju below: