Enhancements to Credentials are Coming: The Admissions Transformation Plan and You

by Emma Casehart, ACAS

The future of actuarial credentialing has arrived. The CAS recently released the Admissions Transformation Plan (ATP), which will “evolve our credentials to reflect the evolving actuarial profession,” as described by CAS CEO Victor Carter-Bey in an announcement about the plan. The ATP has been a significant and continuous effort over the last 18 months to enhance the direction of CAS Admissions.

For years, the CAS has successfully and professionally validated that people are qualified to be credentialed actuaries. That’s not changing. What is changing is the way the content and structure of that validation is determined. Transformations are coming to both of those areas. While the nuts-and-bolts of those updates are well-covered by the transformation plan, and I encourage you to explore the plan on your own at https://www.casact.org/atp, I wanted to share a few insights on how the ATP might change the content and structure of your exam pathway.  

Content changes

In the future, the validation of your skills through exams, courses and VEEs are going to represent what actuaries do at work. While exam content has always represented the actuarial topics and methods used in practice, the process for finding out what actuaries do at work is changing.

To determine the right content for exams and courses, some of our credentialed members participated in a Job Task Analysis (JTA) in 2020. Conducting a JTA is standard practice for other credentialing systems to hear from active members on what they do at work, and the CAS was guided by a psychometrician (an expert in testing and validation) in conducting the analysis. JTA results are the guide for what is tested; if it’s not used in practice, it doesn’t make it into the exam. The JTA included actuaries from diverse backgrounds and practice areas, including ratemaking, reserving, nontraditional roles and more. This is a reliable and repeatable process to update exam content in the future, so changes in what an actuary needs to know are reflected in what is tested. In other words, as new methodologies become relevant and old ones are replaced, exam content will change alongside them.

While the CAS has always worked to include relevant material on exam syllabi, the JTA is a more frequent process that will be conducted regularly in the future. Once you’re credentialed, many of you will be asked to step up and share your job duties with the CAS, thus directly connecting the CAS membership to the work that actuaries do. As the content of your work changes, the CAS wants to reflect those changes in more frequent updates to the exam content outlines.

Content structure

In the ATP PowerPoint Presentation on casact.org/atp, you may have seen some planned changes to how we test, such as eliminating the guessing penalty for MAS exams, adding bathroom breaks, instituting faster grading, including different item types and enhancing exams study materials.

Right now, exams are either a multiple choice or constructed response exam, with the CAS providing raw materials to review.  In the future, exams will be the same level of rigor, but will potentially have multiple item types in a single exam, will be based on the JTA content outlines, and will have study materials.  

Solid objectives, ongoing refinements

These updates may not sound like much to you or they might sound like a lot! Enhancing the process of admissions is gradual and continual, making it hard to envision right now. The ATP outlines the concrete milestones that will be achieved to demonstrate refinements in our credentialing process. Some of the changes are small, like changing the word “syllabus” to “content outline” when talking about the content tested on exams. Some changes might feel major, like incorporating a formal process for surveying actuaries about techniques in practice and continually updating exam content with that knowledge. Changes large and small are part of the enhancements in how CAS validates knowledge.

To make the ATP a reality, volunteers and CAS staff are working together to refine the admissions process to match our updated methods. We have new data on what actuaries do, and now we’re implementing an enhanced process for testing that information. Our current process is effective and accurate, but the updated JTA data and process leads to a new way of testing and validating.

The CAS is on the road to transformation. The ATP has a clear focus on the value of CAS credentials, the candidate experience in taking exams, and the need to test what actuaries do every day. It was designed with feedback from candidates and credentialed actuaries as a blueprint for the next three years and beyond. The ATP is the start of a new way of thinking about our professional organization to ensure actuaries have the skills of the future they will need to be successful.

If you would like to give feedback to the CAS on the Admissions Transformation Plan, you can email the CAS directly at casatp@casact.org.