Future Fellows - December 2006
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Exam Tips

By Benjamin Clark, FCAS, Candidate Liaison Committee

After taking an exam, do you ever wonder if the CAS can provide hints to help improve your ability to pass exams? Well, I’m not here to give you any tips. This has been a fairly common topic in Future Fellows. Instead, I will direct you to the best place to look for answers.   

There are a few excellent links on the CAS Web Site that can provide guidance about the exam process. For example, you can go to past issues of Future Fellows online and review five articles that provide suggestions about how to improve your studying methods and ability to pass exams. These articles are found in a great index that has links to previously published Future Fellows articles. The five articles are located under the title “Tips.”

While you are there, feel free to take a look at the articles about study tools, pass marks, career development, and anything else that may interest you. If you click on the Casualty Actuarial Society link at the bottom of the page, you’ll be connected to the CAS Web Site homepage. I recommend that you take a look at the CAS Web Site beyond just the syllabus material. It is a great Web site that has recently been updated. I have frequented it for articles on various actuarial techniques that help me do my job better (to search for articles, see the DARE article search. There is also a Frequently Asked Questions link in the “Admissions/Exams” section that can provide answers to many common questions and concerns.   

If you still cannot find what you’re looking for, you can submit questions directly to the Candidate Liaison Committee. We are here to provide a concise voice of the candidates in the admissions process.   

Okay, I’m going to go back on my word and actually provide you a tip or two on answering essay questions on the examinations. The CAS examination committees do stress that it is quite beneficial to have short, cohesive answers. Students do not need to put long sentences in all of their responses. In fact, sentences may not even be required. As long as your answer has the key points, the graders will give you credit for the response.   

The following is an example of an acceptable short response. On the Fall 2004 version of Exam 9, Question 39 asked candidates to look at a table of losses to standard premium across various levels of experience mods for four types of experience rating plans. There were then two parts to this question: (a) what was the best performing plan and why; and (b) explain why each of the other three plans is inferior to the best performing plan. This was a three-point question.   

The CAS published the following response as getting credit for this question:

    a) Plan C: This is a better plan because the loss ratio to standard premium is closer to unity. It better corrects for cost differences that it identifies and no identified trend in the std loss ratio.   

    b) Plan A: Since std loss ratios are increasing when mod are increased, it means that plan is not enough responsive (lower mods required much lower mods and higher risks required higher mods).   

    c) Plan B: It is the inverse of Plan A, the plan is too responsive to cost differences it identifies.   

    d) Plan D: Again as for Plan A, we see an increasing trend in std loss ratios when mod is increased.


These responses are short and to the point. Even though the responses are sentences, the candidate could have shortened the response even more and only provided the relevent information in fragment form. Overall, the format is very simple to follow and the candidate has easily shown a grasp of this topic. The grammar may not be perfect, but the CAS is not grading your grammar.   

I have one more recommended tip—writing clearly goes a long way in helping the graders ensure you get proper credit for your response.   

By trying to relax and write shorter responses, you’ll have more time to think about your responses and help ensure you get to all of the questions. You’ll also feel less pressure and your writing can come out clearer. But, I do understand this is easier said than actually done.

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