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TIPS and TIME SAVERS for Exam P

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  • #16
    Originally posted by JDav View Post
    Yes. With a 10. In an hour and a half.

    No, it wasn't luck, thank you. While I don't really want to escalate things, perhaps this is the difference between mathematics and actuarial science -- one teaches you to think, the other teaches you not to.
    With that kind of an attitude, you're going to find it very difficult to (a) get into this field, or (b) last long in it. Put shortly: I know three people - all of which have papers included in the syllabus of a CAS exam - who, if interviewing you for a job, would listen to a remark like that and tell you "just go ahead and leave, because I guarantee we're not hiring you."

    If you think actuarial science doesn't teach you to think, . The exams require that you know all kinds of shortcuts and tricks ... but the work itself? Oh, it's full of all kinds of thought - and to simply dismiss the entire volume of work done in this field with such a huge brush, ........ well, maybe you should find another field that actually makes you think if you have that view of actuarial science.
    "You better get to living, because dying's a pain in the ***." - Frank Sinatra

    http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blogger_ar...blogger_id=174 - where I talk about the Blues and the NHL.

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    • #17
      Let me clarify: my disdain was not for the profession, but for the preparation process being extolled, within which I'm including the actuarial science curriculum (though this may be painting with too broad a brush -- more on this later).

      We can probably agree that the first couple of tests do not accurately reflect the work that an actuary actually does in the course of his/her job. Of course an actuary thinks, as do most other professionals. IMO, someone who aspires to that career should start sooner rather than later, and a professor actively suggesting a student _not think_, testing situation or not, really rubs me the wrong way.

      Now, there's a big cottage industry attached to the actuarial exams, and it's clear that the Princeton Review playbook is being used -- don't worry about learning the material, learn the test. And that makes sense, because "50 quick tricks to get you through test XYZ" will always sell.

      Actuarial science as a free-standing academic discipline is still rather young. I'm still not sure if it will end up being a purely pre-professional track, or more of a liberal arts discipline. I fear the former. The effect, of course, would be freshly-minted graduates who really aren't prepared for anything else. The alternative, like a traditional mathematics curriculum, would prepare students for any number of careers, including engineering, law, education, etc. I think the deciding factor will be whether the faculty involved direct their students to think or not to think.

      But what do I know?

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      • #18
        It is a little ironic to suggest Dr. O is pushing to just memorize formulas/problems or whatever... I'm not interested in a participating in a flame war, but his manual has plenty of formal proofs and explanations of concepts - I certainly never got the idea that it was just teaching to the test! Reading some of the comments about the practice exams in his manual (and having taken many of them myself) I really wouldn't say that Dr O specifically is trying to teach only to the test - to the test's syllabus maybe, which only makes sense, but not to the test.

        I don't mean to put words in anyone's mouth, but what I've taken from his "don't think" comments is that you should know the concepts, know the formulas, and have done a lot of problems that require you to use both and then anything you see in the exam will be old hat.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by JDav View Post
          We can probably agree that the first couple of tests do not accurately reflect the work that an actuary actually does in the course of his/her job. Of course an actuary thinks, as do most other professionals. IMO, someone who aspires to that career should start sooner rather than later, and a professor actively suggesting a student _not think_, testing situation or not, really rubs me the wrong way.
          Dr. O was not implying that a student "not think". He was stating a known fact about actuarial exams - if you have to think about how to answer a problem, you're losing valuable time ... and while it might not be a huge deal for the preliminary exams (which are all multiple choice), it will be an issue for the upper-level exams where you have 45 questions and the associated subparts, all requiring essay answers - and you have 4 hours and have to get a score high enough to (A) get you to 70%, and (B) get up in the top 1/3rd of all exam candidates. Know the concepts, know how to boil them down into a few steps to solve a problem. When all else fails, know which suggested answers make absolutely no sense, and why - and choose from the rest.

          AFA "the first couple of tests do not accurately reflect the work that an actuary actually does ..."
          -- If I had a set of historical losses and wanted to put together a model to predict future losses, would you know how to set up the model without understanding the difference between a Pareto distribution, a Weibull distribution, an exponential distribution, and a lognormal distribution? Which one is more suitable, and why? How good does it really fit the data? Does it really have predictive value?
          -- If I wanted to look at losses excess of $100K and losses excess of $250K, would you know whether or not your answer made sense? How does it change if I want losses excess of $500K? $50K? What about the layer in between? That model you built above - what does it say? Does it reasonably match the data, or is it cranking out garbage?
          -- If you were asked to help price a buyout of 12 years of insurance policies, what's a fair price to charge the insured? What's the possible range of values that price could take - and does it provide a suitable ROE? How would interest rate changes affect the price? How would changes in the economy over the next 6-12 months impact the price? What about claim settlement rates - would they be better or worse, and why? How much better/worse, and how does that impact the price?

          Sure ... the exams don't look like they're teaching you anything, but I guarantee people who actually work in this field will tell you otherwise. If you can't do basic probability problems, if you can't figure out the expected value of a probability distribution, and if you can't understand how the various probability distributions are different and when each might be appropriate, ... well, it's going to make actual work a lot more difficult to understand, much less perform correctly.

          Originally posted by JDav View Post
          Now, there's a big cottage industry attached to the actuarial exams, and it's clear that the Princeton Review playbook is being used -- don't worry about learning the material, learn the test. And that makes sense, because "50 quick tricks to get you through test XYZ" will always sell.
          Find me one (1) professional exam that doesn't have this strategy. Accounting? Limited time, lots of questions, ... learn shortcuts to pass the test. The bar exam? Limited time, lots of questions, ... learn shortcuts to pass the test. In reality, very few employers care what your score was on Exam X or how you did it - they have one (1) question you need to answer: did you pass, or did you not pass?

          There's no special credential for people who get 10's on every exam, and there's no black mark for people who get 6's on every exam. You pass a CAS Exam? The grade slip says "PASS" - that's it. Actuaries don't sit around saying, "... well, that's a great point - but you never got better than a 7 on any of your exams, so what do you really know?" You pass an exam, you move on to the next one. You don't, you reload and try it again. It's that simple.

          Originally posted by JDav View Post
          Actuarial science as a free-standing academic discipline is still rather young. I'm still not sure if it will end up being a purely pre-professional track, or more of a liberal arts discipline. I fear the former. The effect, of course, would be freshly-minted graduates who really aren't prepared for anything else. The alternative, like a traditional mathematics curriculum, would prepare students for any number of careers, including engineering, law, education, etc. I think the deciding factor will be whether the faculty involved direct their students to think or not to think.

          But what do I know?
          Yeah ... I can see the SOA and CAS devaluing the value of the FSA or FCAS credential by just handing them out to every college grad, much like how one can seemingly go to any local junior college and get an MBA. I'm also really sure college faculty are just going to say, "hey ... use this set of tricks to pass the exams, don't worry about actually knowing anything about the material - it's not relevant to what you'll be doing on the job anyway."
          Last edited by Irish Blues; August 23 2007, 10:30 AM.
          "You better get to living, because dying's a pain in the ***." - Frank Sinatra

          http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blogger_ar...blogger_id=174 - where I talk about the Blues and the NHL.

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          • #20
            I thought I'd chime in for anyone who is still reading this years later.

            I will be taking this in 2 weeks and I thought I would chime in on what I have found helpful in solving exam p problems faster and sometimes without even understanding the method used to solve it. The first thing I would be sure to memorize is ALL of the distributions properties that are on exam p: memorize the expected value variance, MGF, and any speacial properties ( the exponetial is memoryless, the summnation of a set of poissions is still a poission, gamma is sum of expontials, etc.). I would also commit to memory the fact that for IID random variable the first order statistics SURVIVAl function is (S_X(X))^n, and the last order statistics CDF is (F_x(x))^n. These are also reffered to as the min. and max respectivly. Make sure you know how to do tabular integration as well. Also, undertsand the darth vader rule ( Thanks ASM for the awesome name.) Also, commit to memory how to find the expected value using the darth vader rule when a deductible, a policy limit, or both are present. All of the information above will help you derive solutions a lot faster. Now, there are methods that will help lead you to the answer if your unsure of how to do the calculation. One such method can be used when dealing with sum over that deals with an infinite amount of terms. If you are unsure of how to take figure out what the sum converges to, then you can usually just use the TABLE function ( if you have a TI 30xs), type in the formula which you are summing over, and plug in terms until they become so small they are "insignifigant". Then simply add up all the "signifigant" terms up. Usually, you will be able to tell what the answer is using this method. Please correct me if any of the methods I have mention are incorrect. Good luck on the exam! Also, please let me know if any of this information has helped you pass.
            Last edited by mandrinnd; July 12 2015, 03:25 PM.

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            • #21
              I passed

              For the record, I passed this exam. I can't say exactly what I encountered, but I can say this: make sure to memorize everything I mentioned above. There's certain things I mentioned that sped up the exam a lot ( i finished in less than 2 hours). Good luck on this exam! I'm on to FM.

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