My name is Dan Ma. Welcome to my blog for Exam P/Exam 1, the first preliminary exam in the SOA/CAS exam syllabus. I will detail below my thought on exam prep for the actuarial preliminary exams. First, I would like to point out that one reader was kind enough to inform me that she passed Exam P by using my blog (see the second comment below). If you find this blog useful, please let me know. I always welcome feedback from readers.
My Thinking on Exam Prep
My goal for the blog is simple – to provide practice problems for probability topics that are covered in Exam P/Exam 1, which is the first exam in the math portion of the actuarial exams.
The practice problems are designed to be as similar as possible to the actual exam problems, with respect to style and context. Each practice problem is identified by a number. Most of the problems consist of a main problem and an alternate. With the exception of the earlier problems, the more recent problems are multiple choice problems.
In the actual exams, some problems are straightforward. Some are just plain hard. Some exam problems are very accessible provided that you can zero into the central idea. Sometimes, it is a matter of having a clear thought process in thinking about a given method or theorem. Sometimes, it is about being able to organize the given information into a form that you can use. My postings here are my small attempts in making some of these thought processes and central ideas clearer.
This blog is created based on my philosophy and experience with the math portion of the actuarial exams.
In an earlier phase of my career, both as an educator and as a quantitative professional, I took the equivalence of the 4 preliminary exams (P, FM, MLC and C). I found that the best preparation was working problems. To pass, I had to work problems fast (achieving enough correct answers in a short amount of time). To be able to do that in the exam, I needed to work a lot of problems in the preparation phase.
One of the best ways to interact with the course material, for me, was through working difficult problems. For example, finding a problem that I could not do was “exciting” because this showed that there was a gap in my understanding of that topic. I would then go back to the books and manuals to firm up that topic. Once I felt that I knew more about that topic, I would then work problems to reinforce what I thought I knew. It was this back-and-forth process between learning and problem solving that helped me build competency and confidence on the course material.
To me, confidence is another way of saying that the material began to stick in my head. Once that happens, passing is much likelier.
When I was taking exams, I was always on the look out for good practice problems – either from SOA or from some study manuals. I also tried to create some practice problems on my own. This blog is my small attempt in creating practice material that can help you interact with the Exam P/Exam 1 material.
In addition to practice problems, you will find a series of short pieces – observations, shortcuts and other helpful ideas to demonstrate how some of the practice problems are done.
by Dan Ma