Navigating SOA Exam FAM

Insights into the SOA Exam FAM along with tips for effective study and success. 

While all actuarial exams are challenging, Exam FAM presents unique difficulties for candidates. As we all know when studying for these exams, consistency is king and with the amount of content to be learned for FAM, it is even more important when preparing for the FAM exam!

Let's explore the distinct challenges:

  1. The syllabus is very long. It’s probably safe to say there’s twice as much content here as in the P syllabus or the FM syllabus. There are a lot of topics to cover. Not only is this intimidating, but it also poses practical challenges. Candidates must follow a sustainable study schedule that provides enough time to both learn new things and review past material. 

  2. Some syllabus topics are open to a wide range of difficulty levels. Candidates need to be ready to perform both “formula work” for well-known special cases as well as “first principles calculations” for more customized cases. 

  3. The exam requires skill in both short-term actuarial mathematics and long-term actuarial mathematics, which have limited conceptual overlap. While short-term actuarial mathematics feels like an extension of Exam P, long-term actuarial mathematics requires a blend of P and FM skills. Candidates need a strategy for growing in short-term actuarial mathematics and long-term actuarial mathematics.
  4. The exam itself is longer than P, FM, and SRM. With forty questions to tackle, candidates will certainly feel the time pressure on this exam. Candidates must combine accuracy and speed.


We know that candidates can rise to meet these unique challenges and achieve success on Exam FAM. Here are insights from two recent Exam FAM candidates regarding their study approaches and the successful strategies they employed to pass the exam.

Find a way to lower the barrier to progress in your studies. Each candidate offered a different suggestion to achieve this:

Prioritize practice.

Rather than reading about topics for a while before doing calculations, one recent FAM candidate jumped right into doing exercises. The sense of immediate progress was helpful to the candidate to stay motivated, and poor performance on an exercise provided a clear indication that concepts, definitions, or formulas needed to be reviewed through reading. 

Watch videos.

Some candidates find that watching videos helps them gain familiarity with concepts more quickly than could be gained through reading. 

Find a way to split your studying of short-term and long-term topics in a way that works well for you. Consider the two different ways our FAM candidates made it work:

Long-term topics build on one another, so it can be advantageous to study all of this material first. Then you can turn your attention to mastering various short-term topics, as many of these topics are less conceptually dependent on each other. 

On the other hand, if you’re nervous about devoting too much time to one half of the syllabus, consider a study schedule that alternates. For example, If you study twice a day, say, in the morning and in the evening, you could use the following pattern over five days: 



Despite their differences and variety of approaches, the two FAM candidates did strongly agree about three aspects of FAM exam preparation:

Use formula sheets and flashcards to fine-tune your performance.

Seeing all the most important formulas in one place can help you quickly assess your progress and help you identify areas you need to review or learn. Flashcards can help you strengthen your familiarity with conventions, regulations, and vocabulary related to short-term and long-term insurance coverages. 

Get familiar with the formula tables.

The FAM-S tables from SOA are very comprehensive, and if you’re comfortable using them, you can devote much less time to memorizing FAM-S formulas and more time to mastering the concepts and refining your calculations. The FAM-L tables won’t substitute for your memory of formulas, but your success on the long-term portion of the exam depends critically on your ability to consult these tables quickly and accurately. 

Consistent studying.

Remember that, at the end of the day, this is still a multiple-choice actuarial exam. While the syllabus is longer and the topics might feel more disparate, success on this exam comes down to consistency in preparation. By maintaining a sustainable study schedule and making incremental progress day by day, you can put yourself in a position to succeed on exam day! 

Good Luck with your studies!

Don't forget, ACTEX has made formula and review sheets available for free!

Check out a recent YouTube video for insights into a FAM candidates study journey.