Navigating the SOA PA Exam and 5 Tips for Effective Studying and Success

While all actuarial exams are challenging, Exam PA presents unique difficulties for candidates. Let's explore the distinct challenges: 

  1. Lack of conceptual understanding cannot be hidden behind mechanical calculation skills on Exam PA.   While candidates are required to perform some direct calculations, they must also discuss tradeoffs, compare and contrast, and provide recommendations or critiques with sufficient justification. 
  2. There is a real-world business focus to this exam. From the very start of a data analysis, candidates must keep in mind how the business problem informs the analysis. 
  3. The exam requires interpretation of numerical and graphical output from R. Candidates may need to develop familiarity with R output through study.  
  4. The exam requires written communication skills. Candidates must effectively communicate their findings, interpretations, and recommendations in a clear and concise manner.
  5. The format of Exam PA is different from the multiple-choice exams that candidates will be familiar with. This means candidates will have to learn how to assess their exam readiness with respect to each of the requirements detailed in Points 1-4. 


But we know that candidates can rise to meet these unique challenges and achieve success on Exam PA. Here are insights from a recent Exam PA candidate regarding his study approach and the successful strategies he employed to pass the exam.

  1. Read the case studies in the manual carefully, and understand them thoroughly. Pay close attention to the statistical and business principles that motivate different modeling decisions made in the case studies.
  2. While it's easy to breeze through the Crash Course in R (Part I of the manual), don't skip it entirely. It holds valuable insights and specialized information that can make a difference on exam day.
  3. Don't underestimate the value of memorization. Studying the Review Sheet ("Cheatsheet") to aid memorization will allow you to significantly speed up your written responses on exam day.
  4. Your written responses have to demonstrate your understanding of the essential concepts. Read each chapter of the manual, and use the conceptual review questions at the end of each chapter to assess your understanding and build a strong foundation.
  5. Instead of leaving the exam format to chance, you can increase your chances of passing with the PA Graded Mock exam, designed by Ambrose Lo. With the Graded Mock Exam, you’ll get exposure to the exam style and receive invaluable feedback from an expert. 

Over the years, The ACTEX PA study manual has been proven over and over again to be the essential tool for those who want to be confident & prepared for their exam. The 10th edition of our acclaimed ACTEX Study Manual for Exam PA is available now on ACTEX Learning. And with the addition of the PA Graded Mock you have all the tools you need for success. 

Good Luck with your studies!