Understanding the time commitment of the early exams is one of the most pressing problems for aspiring actuaries, yet the hardest problems to find answers for. Actuarialoutpost.com has tons of threads to this note, but for every asker, you will find ten different answers. The background or intelligence of the responder is difficult if not impossible to glean, so in many cases you will end up more befuddled than you were when you began your quest.

The prevailing message is that the exams are more difficult than you think and that you are embarking on a huge commitment that will take up many years of your life...blah blah blah. I am here to tell you that this is far from the truth and the message is actually more harmful in that it probably causes a number of potentially great actuaries to prematurely disqualify themselves from the field.

If you are considering taking the first SOA/CAS exam P/1 (Probability), you should absolutely do it and don’t think twice. What I am proposing is somewhat radical, but I believe it is the most efficient way to test your capability for the field while minimizing your opportunity cost (namely, lost time).

If you are considering actuarial work, you are likely enrolled in math courses. If you are not enrolled in math courses, see an academic advisor immediately and tell them of your career interests. You do not need an actuarial science degree by any means, but you do need some type of focus on math (or a very math-intensive field such as physics or economics with a concentration in math). Make sure that you are planning to enroll in a probability course. Many universities split probability into two semesters, typically Probability Theory I and Probability Theory II, or something like that.

Become familiar with the ACTEX manual as you take your first probability course. If there are overlapping topics, read the lessons in the manual and try to incorporate the concepts as much as possible into your daily life. By doing this, you are saving yourself countless future hours of study time. Your core study time will be the three months prior to your selected exam date. Spend the

Finally,

Don’t worry if you are no longer a student, you can still maximize efficiency with some simple strategies. If you are not a student, you probably don’t have much time to study. Instead of the usual “try your hardest the first time” approach, I suggest the complete opposite accelerated approach for a few reasons. One reason is that if you are cut out for the actuarial field, I believe you should be able to learn at a fast pace. The Probability exam is one of the most basic and straightforward actuary exams you will ever take. So if you struggle mightily with this one, you may want to rethink the career path. However, if you take the accelerated approach and then just barely miss (fail with a score of 5, say), but you enjoy the material and you know you can succeed on your second try, then you also saved a lot of time. Yes, you will have to pay* to take the exam another time, but because it is offered so frequently, you won’t have much additional study time.

*Remember that your time is the most expensive part of exam taking, much more expensive than the cost of the exam itself. (Note: these strategies don’t apply if you are unemployed or otherwise have no time constraints , in which case you are better off dedicating as much time to studying as possible and passing on your first try).

The accelerated approach involves rapidly getting through the material and practice problems and then allocating the same amount or even more time to the ADAPT sessions. The exact strategy will differ based on preference, but I suggest a compact 2 months totaling around 60-80 hours depending on your availability.

60 hours in 2 months would translate to about 7-8 study hours per week. For someone with a full time job, I suggest a daily routine of studying through your lunch break (eating at your desk) and then one hour either in the morning before work or evening after work. Make sure that the extra hour is spent when you are at your best. (i.e. If you are a morning person and usually hit a slump before dinner, then study before work.) That routine alone could give you ten hours per week without too much of a noticeable difference in your routine.

On top of that, add as many weekend hours as you can. Sometimes, you may not have time to study during the weekends, but others you might be able to get 6-10 hours per weekend.

Create your schedule around the perceived importance of the lessons. For example, if a lesson is on a rare exam topic, then give it less attention than the more important lessons, even if you don’t fully understand the concepts.

In

I endorse this strategy because I believe it is a shame to disqualify yourself from a potentially great career choice based on perceived (but unknown) difficulty. If you try my accelerated strategy and fail or decide the field is not for you after all, you won’t have wasted too much of your valuable time. If you do pass, however, you will find a renewed confidence and excitement about your potential career.

The prevailing message is that the exams are more difficult than you think and that you are embarking on a huge commitment that will take up many years of your life...blah blah blah. I am here to tell you that this is far from the truth and the message is actually more harmful in that it probably causes a number of potentially great actuaries to prematurely disqualify themselves from the field.

If you are considering taking the first SOA/CAS exam P/1 (Probability), you should absolutely do it and don’t think twice. What I am proposing is somewhat radical, but I believe it is the most efficient way to test your capability for the field while minimizing your opportunity cost (namely, lost time).

**Current Students - Leverage your Coursework for more Efficient Studying**If you are considering actuarial work, you are likely enrolled in math courses. If you are not enrolled in math courses, see an academic advisor immediately and tell them of your career interests. You do not need an actuarial science degree by any means, but you do need some type of focus on math (or a very math-intensive field such as physics or economics with a concentration in math). Make sure that you are planning to enroll in a probability course. Many universities split probability into two semesters, typically Probability Theory I and Probability Theory II, or something like that.

*The golden period for taking Exam P/1 is in between these two courses.*Since P/1 is offered 5 times per year, this should not be difficult to arrange. Go to www.actuarialbookstore.com and order the ACTEX manual for Exam P/1. ACTEX provides a strong and concise study guide for the first exam, but be warned that many exam-takers, including me, do not recommend ACTEX beyond the first exam.Become familiar with the ACTEX manual as you take your first probability course. If there are overlapping topics, read the lessons in the manual and try to incorporate the concepts as much as possible into your daily life. By doing this, you are saving yourself countless future hours of study time. Your core study time will be the three months prior to your selected exam date. Spend the

**first two months**reading the chapters of the ACTEX manual one by one and complete the exercises for each section as you go. Do not simply read the entire manual without doing problems. This is highly inefficient, yet I still see this strategy employed by many actuaries. Again, try to overlap as much as possible with your coursework. If you find anything similar or different between your manual and your school textbook, visit your professor often during office hours and ask questions.Finally,

**the last month**will be almost solely dedicated to practice problems. When you finish your manual, order the one-month ADAPT package from coachingactuaries.com. ADAPT is by far the fastest and most efficient way to prepare for the exam. ADAPT lets you take practice exams with increasing difficulty as you get better, and a running score that reflects your current level. I believe they recommend an ADAPT score of 7 to indicate a high probability of passing. I recommend aiming for a score of 8. When you have achieved an 8, you are almost guaranteed to pass the exam, and you can dedicate your resources to focusing on more difficult, perhaps more obscure, exam topics that you don’t understand well. With this strategy, you can drastically reduce the suggested whopping 300 study hours to maybe 40 hours outside of your coursework (assuming you are the average-effort math student who does homework).**Non-Students - Minimize your Opportunity Cost to Studying:**Don’t worry if you are no longer a student, you can still maximize efficiency with some simple strategies. If you are not a student, you probably don’t have much time to study. Instead of the usual “try your hardest the first time” approach, I suggest the complete opposite accelerated approach for a few reasons. One reason is that if you are cut out for the actuarial field, I believe you should be able to learn at a fast pace. The Probability exam is one of the most basic and straightforward actuary exams you will ever take. So if you struggle mightily with this one, you may want to rethink the career path. However, if you take the accelerated approach and then just barely miss (fail with a score of 5, say), but you enjoy the material and you know you can succeed on your second try, then you also saved a lot of time. Yes, you will have to pay* to take the exam another time, but because it is offered so frequently, you won’t have much additional study time.

*Remember that your time is the most expensive part of exam taking, much more expensive than the cost of the exam itself. (Note: these strategies don’t apply if you are unemployed or otherwise have no time constraints , in which case you are better off dedicating as much time to studying as possible and passing on your first try).

The accelerated approach involves rapidly getting through the material and practice problems and then allocating the same amount or even more time to the ADAPT sessions. The exact strategy will differ based on preference, but I suggest a compact 2 months totaling around 60-80 hours depending on your availability.

60 hours in 2 months would translate to about 7-8 study hours per week. For someone with a full time job, I suggest a daily routine of studying through your lunch break (eating at your desk) and then one hour either in the morning before work or evening after work. Make sure that the extra hour is spent when you are at your best. (i.e. If you are a morning person and usually hit a slump before dinner, then study before work.) That routine alone could give you ten hours per week without too much of a noticeable difference in your routine.

On top of that, add as many weekend hours as you can. Sometimes, you may not have time to study during the weekends, but others you might be able to get 6-10 hours per weekend.

Create your schedule around the perceived importance of the lessons. For example, if a lesson is on a rare exam topic, then give it less attention than the more important lessons, even if you don’t fully understand the concepts.

In

**month 2,**or exactly 30 days before your exam date, order the 30-day ADAPT subscription. Spend the rest of the month trying to reach a level 8 on ADAPT. This is the most effective learning tool and will give you the most accurate assessment of your probability to pass before you take the exam. ADAPT can be quite addicting and you may actually find that a very small part of you enjoys taking the practice exams.I endorse this strategy because I believe it is a shame to disqualify yourself from a potentially great career choice based on perceived (but unknown) difficulty. If you try my accelerated strategy and fail or decide the field is not for you after all, you won’t have wasted too much of your valuable time. If you do pass, however, you will find a renewed confidence and excitement about your potential career.

**Don't hesitate to e-mail me at actuarialplaybook@gmail.com if this situation applies to you and you have more detailed questions about your specific case.***If you enjoyed this post, sign up to get our best content delivered to your inbox for free. No spam. Unsubscribe at any time.*