for many more—should be “evidence” enough of the
usefulness of the methods and strategies presented in
the book. And some of the citations appear to not really
be relevant to the support intended for their process.
It is also clear that the authors are pursuing credentialing through the Society of Actuaries, and many of
their exam examples relate to a preliminary exam that is
common among American actuarial societies. However,
there is a significant difference in how one should prepare for the preliminary exams versus preparing for the
“upper-level” exams. It would be very helpful to have
some discussion not only about how the actuarial exams
differ from many college class exams, but also how the
upper-level exams differ from the preliminary exams.
But this is something that can be addressed in a future
edition of the book.
Overall, I am impressed with the general principles
outlined in the book. It is structured into two general
sections that address two key concepts of their strategy:
effectiveness and efficiency. And on page 7, they give a
rather good definition of these terms: “Effectiveness is
doing the right things; efficiency is doing things right.”
The foundation of the authors’ strategy lies in frequently tying back concepts presented in the syllabus
readings to the exam’s syllabus. They also emphasize the
need to read the source material outlined in the syllabus
and not just rely on study guides. While some of that
material may not be explicitly tested on the current
exam the student is preparing for, understanding how
it relates to the material that will be tested will make
preparation for later exams far easier.
Their outline for the strategy on studying more effi-
ciently challenges a traditional notion about measuring
study effort with just “time spent in the books and
working out problems.” The authors discuss the need
to assess the quality of the time spent studying during
which you were focused. They also give some good ex-
amples of activities that will diminish this quality (e.g.,
frequently checking and responding to social media).
The book contains additional discussion on both
length of time for focused studying and how to effec-
tively structure some of those study sessions to better
prepare for sitting for the exam. The authors suggest
for many of the sessions to identify a definite amount
of time (say, 45 minutes) to review a large block of
material (three chapters of a textbook, for example)
and then see just how far you get. This seems like a
good idea given that the exams are all timed, and this
process will help you better assess just how much you
have mastered the material.
While the authors make the promise that their strate-
gies will reduce the number of hours spent studying, this
should be interpreted in the aggregate of all of the exams
for credentialing. The authors do give some additional
study strategies that will initially take more time for a
student to work through for many of the preliminary
exams, but this initial investment in time pays off in future
sittings when the student doesn’t have to “rememorize”
basic concepts in understanding more complex topics
and concepts. These additional strategies are actually
found in literature on mathematics education and train-
ing methods to develop problem-solving skills (see, for
example, “Mathematical Thinking and Problem Solving”
edited by Alan H. Schoenfeld and published in 1994).
Overall, the book is definitely worth reading. I believe
that those who might be struggling passing a particular
exam can benefit from reading this book to get some
additional ideas on how to “get over the hump” and
pass. It is not quite at the point, in my opinion, where it
will become a standard reference for “how to study for
actuarial exams,” but it has made a great start in going
in that direction.
JEREMY FOGG is an actuarial analyst at State
Farm. He is studying for his associateship credential
of the Casualty Actuarial Society.
The authors do give some additional study strategies that will
initially take more time for a student to work through for many of
the preliminary exams, but this initial investment in time pays off in
future sittings when the student doesn’t have to “rememorize” basic
concepts in understanding more complex topics and concepts.