How Exam 8’s New Study Note and the Syllabus Readings Process Were Updated

by Rachel Hunter, FCAS

Studying for more than one sitting of my final two CAS exams, I noticed a number of changes to the syllabus. At the time I was studying, there was a major change that involved renumbering of Exams 8 and 9 and shifting of the syllabus learning objectives related to profitability provision between exams. But another interesting thing occurs with the syllabus where learning objectives do not change but the associated readings do. I imagine both candidates and those who care about candidate education are curious about this process, so I reached out to a member of the Syllabus and Examination Committee (S&EC) who helped guide creation of the new Exam 8 study note to learn more about it.

In the case of the new Exam 8 study note, the decision to make a change had been in the works for several years. Although the learning objectives and knowledge statements in the syllabus were deemed to be up-to-date, the content used to familiarize candidates with the material was seen as needing a update. Section B of the Exam 8 syllabus included some core readings that were around 40 years old and did not contemplate a lot of today's more computer-reliant methodology. The syllabus for section B previously included more than ten authors represented across even more individual readings in this section. Since much of this material is new to candidates who have never had commercial lines roles, the learning curve could be steep. It was believed a consolidated voice and consistent notation (or narration/narrator), like we now see in the Exam 5 study materials, would further aid candidate understanding of the material. So a request was sent out to find a team willing to write a new study note to replace the older content.   

The CAS commissioned a new study note to replace the majority of the readings for section B. The new study note is supplemented by selected chapters from the CAS Monograph "Distributions for Actuaries." Section B still requires candidates to read and understand ISO and NCCI experience and retrospective rating plans, but many smaller papers have their concepts absorbed into the larger study note. Creation of a new study note of this magnitude is no small job and the resultant study note was contributed to by multiple authors with many years of experience in commercial lines pricing. The end product is that the Section B syllabus now consists of just the Study Note, the readings from the monograph and the three excerpts from ISO and NCCI.   

The S&EC has an annual budget that allows it to commission new study materials when needed. The S&EC uses the budget wisely by prioritizing the need for updates, but it also reviews newly published material for appropriate readings to keep the syllabus relevant. The S&EC may also identify new readings published by the CAS or other organizations that fit in well with the exam syllabus. In 2016 Exam 8 experienced another major change to syllabus readings with the replacement of the Anderson GLM paper with the new GLM Monograph. CAS monographs have a different purpose than study notes commissioned by the S&EC. Monographs are designed to be practice notes for the entire community; study notes are designed to introduce and educate candidates to a level of competency expected for newly credentialed actuaries. As such, study notes may require more background information and description of insurance mechanisms. With some introduction to GLMs now covered on Exam S, the new GLM monograph was seen as appropriate for Exam 8.   

In addition to keeping the syllabus up-to-date with modernized readings, the S&EC budget may also be used to commission study notes covering new learning objectives deemed appropriate for actuaries of the future or keeping up with the latest practice. Both 6U and 6C see frequent updates as regulations change over time. Existing texts, such as those used on Exam 5 and 6, may also be incrementally updated as needed. One way the S&EC identifies the need to update readings is through comments in the exam survey and feedback from those volunteering to write and grade the exams. If you are interested in helping shape this process, please take the time to comment on readings in your exam survey or by direct email to the S&EC or consider volunteering to help shape the syllabus for future actuaries after you finish your exams.