More Tips on Taking Exams
by Beth Fitzgerald, CAS Examination Committee General Officer
Future Fellows periodically publishes articles on exam-taking tips. I asked the CAS Examination Committee officers if they had any additional suggestions for candidates. Here are the suggestions:
Explain all assumptions and state the method you are using when answering essay questions. CAS exam graders must consider alternative approaches on essay questions and an alternative answer can receive full credit.
The general exam instructions state to clearly outline your approach, showing calculations where necessary for mathematical and computational essay questions. Although each applicable essay question does not state "show your work," you should SHOW ALL WORK to maximize partial credit and to receive full credit.
For essay questions with multiple parts (a., b.,), CAS exam graders cannot penalize a candidate within one part of the question for a prior error in another part of the questions. So if you answer part a. wrong and use that answer in part b., you will receive full credit for part b. as long as you answered part b. correctly.
As mentioned in a previous tip, you are allowed to use multiple sheets of paper to answer one essay question. At the top of each sheet, make sure you fill in the exam, candidate, and question numbers. It also helps to add "page 1 of 2" and "page 2 of 2" to help the graders follow your answer.
Please remember that the essay papers are graded from a photocopy. Do not use different colors to respond to a question, such as "The red line above represents " Use a dark pencil or ink as instructed. Also, do not use a highlighter to emphasize your answerthe copier blacks it out! Instead, boxing your answers or using arrows to help the grader follow the flow of your answer is very helpful.
Only write on the lined side of the paper when answering essay questions. Only the lined side of the paper is photocopied for the graders, so anything you write on the other side will not be sent to the graders.
On a more general note, one Exam Committee officer suggested that at the start of the exam, you should go through the entire exam and prioritize the questions based on the topics you know best and the point value of each question. This way you will not miss a question you are able to answer if time runs short.
Other great exam tips can be found under "General Exam Information" in the "Exams" section of the CAS Web Site.