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Click on the picture for the milestones Coaching Actuaries believes you should be achieving throughout the exam studying process.
Written by Brittany Baudier:  The first two weeks of my internship were extremely interesting. Written by Chloe Hung:  Studying for Exam C was definitely a very challenging experience for me. In our last post we talked about the importance of managing your time leading up to the exam. Raise Your Odds® is registered in the US Patent and Trademark Office and Earned Level™ is a trademark of Coaching Actuaries.
Coaching Actuaries is now offering Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam prep with Adapt through our new brand AdaptPrep CFA. The CFA is a designation for investment professionals, particularly those involved in research and portfolio management. Becoming a CFA charterholder involves passing three exams (Level I, Level II, and Level III) and having four years of qualified experience. The most common answer we hear is that actuaries are taking the CFA exams to fill their VEE credits.
Another common thing we hear from actuaries it that they’ve taken an interest in investments and finance. Some actuaries find themselves in unique actuarial roles, like in an investment management arm of an insurance company. For those with a passion for teaching, gaining additional credentials is always helpful for a career in a college or university. We’ve been seeing an increasing number of actuaries taking the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams, including many on the Coaching Actuaries staff!
The CAS announces a new Exam S to replace Exam LC, ST, and the VEE Statistics requirements for the ACAS designation starting Fall 2015. After some research and personal past experience preparing for exams, this is my personal methodology to prepare, divided into three simple stages: theory, practice and execution.
Practice: After finishing the manual, there is nothing to do but practice as many problems as possible. Do your research and pick all the methods and tips that suits you, talk to people who have passed exams and ask them all the questions regarding preparation. Disclaimer: The content of this blog post is the sole opinion of the author and is not associated with Coaching Actuaries, its team members or its brand. Having completed elementary and middle school in China, I’ve experienced what it takes to survive the exam driven (if not dominated) education system in China, which is also common in many other Asian countries, such as Japan and Korea. Like many of you, my journey began with the first preliminary exam, Probability, and as luck, or rather, probability, would have it, I failed my first attempt.

There’s advice for 3-4 months prior, 1 month, 2 weeks, 1 week, the day before and the actual day of the exam! This was a natural decision for us given the overlap of topics and the number of actuaries who take the CFA.
The CFA exam is focused on knowledge about accounting, economics, portfolio management, and security analysis with also a strong emphasis on ethics. Level I is held twice a year (June and December) and Level II and III are held annually in June. A passing score on the CFA Level I counts for VEE Microeconomics and VEE Macroeconomics credit.
So after they’ve passed a few exams or gotten their ASA designation, they now want to pursue the CFA to take a step toward a career in investment or finance. These actuaries may end up benefiting from having a CFA in addition to their actuarial credentials. Abraham Weishaus, author of popular ASM Manuals and instructor for our MFE, MLC, and C eCourses, is both an FSA and a CFA charterholder.
However, becoming a CFA charterholder may be an appropriate designation to open up new role opportunities depending on the type of actuarial background you have. This is why Coaching Actuaries and Mike Carmody, FSA, CFA, MAAA (of StudyJAM fame) have launched AdaptPrep CFA, offering Adapt and our quality video learning experience to the CFA exams. Finding that optimal balance in life, however, is not easy; it involves a continuous process of learning, experimenting, and trial-and-error. If you have not passed either LC or ST yet, you are required to take new Exam S even if you have received the VEE Statistics credit. If they are the same or similar in total difficulty, it would be a no-brainer to choose the Level I and Level II exams instead.
That’s how Coach Kester starts on the intro video from Coaching Actuaries, and it’s the first thing I remember when I started the exam process. Maybe there is no “right” or “better” way to study, but it’s important to have a plan based on a timeline towards the dreaded exam day. Everything needed to pass the exam is there and more (in fact there are bits on the manuals that are superfluous and the author always indicates it, by all means skip them). At least one month to practice is ideal but that might depend on the person, however using Adapt or a similar resource is a must.
Coaching Actuaries provides an opportunity for actuaries to share their ideas, but does not claim any responsibility for the content provided. I had some previous experience with Financial Mathematics from different courses at UConn, but I was still left wondering how I should study.
CFA charterholders often work in investment firms, hedge funds, pension funds, insurance companies, or banks.

Pass rates are around 45-50% for each exam, but only about 15% of people who start end up completing.
I want to share with you three apps that I found useful in this process of finding balance. I think it is more common for people on the SOA track to move into other areas like finance. Actuarial exams are different from any other exam I can think of, it is a long and slow process full of challenges and sacrifice. I am always asking around friends and researching online to get an idea of what other fellow exam candidates are doing to prepare.
After carefully reading every chapter and going through the example problems, I usually do the odd problems at the end of every chapter and all of them if it’s a crucial chapter. At the beginning is normal to struggle with every single problem, forget entire chapters and formulas. Dealing with the nerves and the fear of failing is the most difficult and unpleasant part of the exam process in my opinion, and there is little to do about it except try your best and hope that is enough (easy to say but very hard to do). For investment professionals, the CFA designation is debatably equal or more valuable as an MBA for financial professionals. As an aspiring Actuary I need to benchmark everything: how many hours of study per week, how long before starting to prepare for each exam, how many problems per chapter, how many practices exams, etc. This stage is the longest and hardest one in my opinion, the sooner the better and it doesn’t matter if one has already taken a class that covers some topics.
Personally I start right away doing full tests, but taking breaks, using cheat sheets, and reviewing the manual as I go through. The number one tip for the exam is to skip hard problems and leave them for last, it’s ok to spend some time trying to figure it out, but if the solution doesn’t come, get to the next problem and don’t panic – there’s a chance to solve them at the end IF there’s enough time.
Going through the manual is a must because it’s geared towards the exam, and everything else is supplementary. Then little by little formulas start to stick and concepts that seemed very abstract start to make sense.
The advantage of doing full tests from the start is that the material is weighted similarly as it is in the real exam. There are always hard and easy parts of the material but learning how to juggle with them is key. An evenly distributed attention to all the material with special focus on the key chapters is a good approach.

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