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Feedback on the "Report of the CAS Task Force on Education"

by John J. Kollar, FCAS
Chairperson, CAS Task Force on Education

The CAS Task Force on Education would like to thank the members and students for the substantial amount of valuable input on the "Report of the CAS Task Force on Education" (June 1997). This feedback led to the changes that were announced in Kevin B. Thompson's letter of July 30, 1997. Rather than provide individual written responses to this feedback, the task force would like to communicate the most frequently raised issues to the membership at large.

Many respondents applauded the new syllabus as a substantial improvement over the current syllabus, particularly with regard to the organization of subject matter.

The area of the report that generated the most comments was the transition rules with new Exam 2 having the most frequently discussed transition rules. As new Exam 2 will be jointly administered with the SOA, the CAS and the SOA wanted to have reciprocating recognition of each Society's transition rules. If the CAS does not accept the SOA transition (conversion) rule for new Exam 2, college students who succeed at the SOA approach to new Exam 2 before 2000 may reject a casualty career rather than requalify for new CAS Exam 2. [The SOA transition (conversion) rule for new Exam 2 requires the candidate to pass Course 140 or 141 and also have 20 unassigned credits, which can be achieved by passing Parts 1 and 2. At the request of the CAS, the SOA explored alternatives to this transition rule but could not come up with a better solution.]

Many CAS students remarked that the SOA route might be an easier way to obtain credit for the new Exam 2. While the Task Force recognized this possibility, the interest in it far surpassed the Task Force's expectations. This led the Task Force to recommend a new option for obtaining credit for new Exam 2-Parts 1, 2, and 5B. The Task Force felt strongly that it would be better for CAS students to take Part 5B than SOA Course 140 because 5B covers the important subject of finance. Also, new Exam 8 covers investments and will require an understanding of finance.

The SOA currently has a waiver policy that gives credit for course 140 for students who passed Part 4A. As a result of discussions between the CAS and the SOA, this waiver policy will not apply for students who pass Part 4A subsequent to July 1, 1997 as it relates to conversion (transition) on January 1, 2000.

Some respondents questioned the applicability of Part 3C material to new Exam 4. A student will receive credit for the new Exam 4 for passing Parts 4B and 3C, or alternatively Parts 4B and 5A. While the 3C material is not covered on the new Exam 4 and will be dropped from the new syllabus entirely, the Task Force decided to give transition credit for this option under the new syllabus provided that Part 3C is passed by the November 1997 exam. The Task Force wanted to encourage students to study economics rather than numerical methods. Students who expect to receive their associateship before the new syllabus is introduced in 2000 will have to pass Part 3C.

Some have recommended additional lead time, a period of joint administration of current and new exams, a partitioning of new exams, and/or increased frequency of administration of Parts 6-10. The CAS is providing more lead time than for past restructurings. Parts 1 and 2 will be given seven times each before implementation of the new structure. The sub-parts of Parts 3, 4, and 5 will be given five times each. Parts 7 and 9 will be given three times each and Parts 6, 8, and 10 each will be given two times each before implementation of the new structure. Increasing the frequency of the current exams would put a tremendous burden on the Examination Committee and the CAS Office. The same would be true about giving the current exams after the implementation of the new exams in 2000. During the next couple of years the Examination Committee and the Syllabus Committee will be working on the development of the new syllabus and eventually the new examinations for the year 2000. This in itself will place a substantial burden on these committees.

In developing its recommendations, the Task Force recognized that a perfect solution was not possible. For example, priorities were assigned to certain subjects recognizing that some students might become Fellows without being exposed to every subject on the new syllabus. Others may be tested twice on the same subject on a current exam and a new exam. The same, of course, was true in past exam restructurings.