Exam P/1 Recap

This is the second in an ongoing series of posts regarding exams.

Resources I Used:

  • The Infinite Actuary
  • ASM
  • Hassett and Stewart’s Probability for Risk Management

Total Study Hours: 165.5

How I Studied:

Having essentially no background in statistics or probability, I wanted to gain a good base understanding of the material, so I read chapters 1 through 11 of Hassett and Stewart’s probability manual and worked all odd-numbered problems.

I also read all of TIA’s Exam P slides and worked most of the section-end problems (all initially, then odd-numbered only as the exam date – and finals! – neared).

I read the slim ASM manual twice, and then it was on to practice exams: two TIA exams and a few ASM ones.

What I Liked:

Practice problems and TIA especially: I liked having groups of problems pertinent to each topic. Doing groups of problems together felt efficient to me, especially for challenging topics.

What I’d Do Differently:

Give myself more time! I signed up to take P three and a half months after taking FM, two weeks after a tough round of final exams, and one week after my brother’s wedding. And no, I didn’t have a strong math background.

Looking back, I would have felt far less stressed and more confident had I eased rather than rushed into the exam. I certainly studied hard and was pleased to pass but would remind others that taking exams is a marathon, not a sprint. Set realistic expectations for yourself.

Questions? Comments? Please reach out below.

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Exam FM/2 Recap

I recently passed Exams P/1 and FM/2. Since I’ve found reading about others’ exam experiences to be helpful, figured I’d pass along the favor in a couple of brief posts here.

Resources I Used:

  • Kellison’s Theory of Interest
  • McDonald’s Derivative Markets
  • The Infinite Actuary
  • ASM Manual
  • Final 14 days: Coaching Actuaries’ Adapt

Total Study Hours: 171

How I Studied:

I had no background in finance or interest theory when I started studying for FM; in fact, I hardly knew what an annuity was. As a result, my first attempt to teach myself from Kellison’s book quickly failed. The notation alone was overwhelming.

At that point, I purchased TIA’s FM course using a student discount code and watched all of the videos, taking notes and working problems sporadically along the way. I then returned to Kellison and read most of the relevant chapters.

Still feeling overwhelmed and wanting to understand the concepts well, based off of internet research, I turned to ASM. I read through every chapter and worked all of the odd-numbered problems, returning to the even-numbered problems for topics I especially struggled with (loan amortizations, bond premium and discount problems, etc.).

I read the McDonald chapters on the syllabus to gain a better understanding of the derivative market problems, and then moved on to practice exams!

I took the first several ASM exams, a TIA exam, and several Coaching Actuaries exams.

Walking into the test, I wanted to keep studying but did feel I had a firm grasp of key topics.

What I Liked:

ASM: the explanations, practice problems, and exams. It’s an awesome resource.

Granted, for me, using additional resources helped deepen my foundational understanding of the material and “build up” to a more difficult text. For anyone with a background in finance, though, I’d recommend just purchasing ASM.

On a practical note, I tracked my hours studied using Excel and would absolutely recommend this to anyone sitting for an exam.

What I’d Do Differently:

Personally I wasn’t a fan of Coaching Actuaries. I preferred the ASM exams. If I could go back, I’d stick with ASM and save my Adapt money.

Exam Day

TIA does a great job explaining an effective exam strategy: Breeze through the easy questions, marking harder ones you know how to do and leaving ones that you don’t initially know how to do blank. Review your marked questions first, then the incomplete ones. This ensures that you answer as many questions as possible even if you run low on time.

Questions or additional suggestions? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

The Trusted Advisor

By David H. Maister, Charles H. Green & Robert M. Galford

Studying for actuarial exams? You know firsthand that becoming an actuary requires technical expertise – lots of it. Learned fast.

Is mathematical knowledge sufficient for being a great actuary once you have started working in the field, though? In their book The Trusted Advisor, Maister et al. argue no. In fact, “the key to professional success” (they write) “is not just technical mastery of one’s discipline (which is, of course, essential), but also the quality to work with clients in such a way as to earn their trust and gain their confidence.” 

One minute, you might protest. What if I don’t have clients?! Not all actuaries are consultants, after all… 

Stop. You have clients. Every employed person has at least one “client,” whether it be a boss, project manager, external client  or contact from another branch of your company. So let’s repeat that: You have clients.

What’s there to glean from The Trusted Advisor then? And is the book worth reading? In order to answer the second question, let’s start with the first.

1. What’s in the book?

The Trusted Advisor shares plenty of common sense, distilled in a pithy way that’s altogether not too “common.”

The primary theme I took away from the book was to consider the needs, fears and problems of others before ever offering an “expert solution” of one’s own. In the words of the authors, “the ability to focus on the other person… is evident in virtually all the trusted advisors we have encountered.” Basically, stop trying to show off your skills; ask instead what the client needs.

How does this work? While the book explains other-orientation in detail, I’ll share just a few points that resonated with me: Trusted advisors accept responsibility for their work and don’t blame colleagues and clients when things go wrong. They’re good listeners and ask engaged questions. They understand that “problem definition” adds more value than “problem answers.” They help their clients achieve their (the clients’) goals. They underpromise and overdeliver in the work they do.

All this (and more!) can be summed up by the “trust equation,” as follows:

Trust = (Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy) / Self-Orientation

(The higher the score, the better, of course.)

Think about that for a moment. Think about your own life. Do you listen well to others, giving them a chance to articulate the problems they desire to be addressed? Do you consistently follow through on your work?

None of us is perfect, but for all of us lots of little habits add up over time. The Trusted Advisor seeks to ensure those habits are the right ones – not only for your personal professional benefit, but ultimately for the benefit of your company and clients too.

2. Do I recommend it?

So would I recommend The Trusted Advisor? Definitely. It’s a fairly quick read that brims with sage examples, common-sense reminders and advice.

Check it out the next time you need a break from… you know… all that technical stuff. And happy reading!