Future Fellows - March 2008
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Pass Marks on Joint Exams To Be Released
By Brett Rogers, SOA Registrar and Director of Exam Analysis

Editor’s Note: The CAS began releasing pass marks for CAS-specific exams in 2000. The CAS and SOA have agreed to start releasing the pass marks for joint exams. The original unabridged version of this article appeared in the Fall 2007 issue of The Future Actuary.

What Is The Pass Mark?
One of the most frequently asked questions about the multiple-choice actuarial examinations is, “What was the pass mark for the exam?” In other words, “How many questions did I need to answer correctly on the exam to pass?” In the few weeks that follow the release of grades (on the familiar 0-10 scale), this question is asked repeatedly of the Education and Examination (E&E) staff by various interested parties such as exam candidates, employers, and others who are just plain curious. Until now, everyone has gotten the same answer: Pass marks for all SOA examinations (including those jointly sponsored with the CAS) are confidential. However, for the multiple-choice exams, all that is about to change.

Multiple-Choice Examination Pass Marks To Be Released
The CAS Board of Directors and SOA Board of Governors both passed resolutions in June 2007 requiring that pass marks be released for all multiple-choice examinations beginning with those to be given in November 2007. The grades for those exams will be released to candidates in January 2008. The multiple-choice exam pass marks will be published on the SOA and CAS Web Sites as percentages, rounded up if necessary to the nearest whole percent. Exam P/1 is administered via computer-based testing. As such, multiple forms of the exam are given and the number of correct answers needed to pass may differ from one candidate to another. For this exam, information about the range of passing scores will be provided.
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A Word About the 0-10 Grades
The 0-10 grading scale, with scores of 6 and greater being passing grades, will continue to be used on all joint CAS/CIA/SOA exams. (For CAS Exams 3L and 5–9, no numeric score is given for those who pass an exam.) Raw scores are converted to 0-10 scores using increments of 10 percent of the pass mark. For example:

  • A grade of 6 represents raw scores of at least 100 percent but less than 110 percent of the pass mark.
  • A grade of 5 represents raw scores of at least 90 percent but less than 100 percent of the pass mark.
  • A grade of 0 represents raw scores that are less than 50 percent of the pass mark.
  • A grade of 10 represents raw scores of at least 140 percent of the pass mark.

When setting the pass marks for the actuarial exams (multiple-choice or written-answer), the examination committees have one goal in mind: separating candidates who have demonstrated adequate knowledge of the material—and therefore deserve to pass—from those who have not demonstrated such knowledge. Scores are only meant to give candidates a relative idea of how close or far away they were from passing or failing and are not factored in when pass mark discussions are held. Consequently, on rare occasions there have been exams on which achieving a grade of 10 was not possible—even for a perfect paper. For example, let’s say the pass mark was 22 for a 30-question exam. One would have to achieve a score of 30.8 (140 percent of 22) to score a 10. Therefore, a grade of 9 would be the highest possible score by candidates on this exam.

We hope that this change is welcomed by the candidates and will boost everybody’s confidence in the integrity of actuarial education.   


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