Study Tips and Tricks — A Time Travel Adventure

by Agatha Caleo, ACAS and Candidate Representative to the Candidate Liaison Committee

Whether you are starting a new exam, have decided to change up your study strategy for another attempt at your old nemesis, or something in between, you may have overlooked an important resource for "new-to-you" study tips and tricks. Hook up your flux capacitor, jump in your T.A.R.D.I.S., or activate your tachyon drive and follow me back in time to the Future Fellows archives!

Before we walk out into "The Past," we do have to go over some ground rules. I assume you are properly trained in avoiding temporal paradoxes and the like, but please note that not all of what you see here will be useful for everyone or even applicable in "The Present." You are responsible for assessing any study tips and tricks you find here. The same goes for any advice that comes directly from me, your tour guide. If something does not work for you (or if you start to notice yourself fading from old photographs), do not keep wasting effort on it.When you click on the "Study Tips" section, it expands to "Study Options, Tips, and Tools." (Yes, the archives are bigger on the inside!) Towards the bottom, you will see several articles about actually sitting for an exam: "Tips on Taking Exams" (Original & Part 2) and "Preparing for Your First Upper-Level Exam." If this is your first upper-level exam, you should take at least one practice exam. Do your best to match the exam conditions when you practice: Take it at the same time of day, with the same bathroom breaks and food restrictions, similar clothing and hairstyle, and same location, if possible. Do it several weeks in advance and repeat as necessary. If you find that time management is an issue without your tachyon manipulator of choice, open the "Candidates & Exams" section and find "Strategies for Maximizing Your Points on Exams" under the "Exam Experience and Process" heading. When exam day comes, you can focus on the content instead of the format and environmental factors. Practicing an exam under similar conditions has been shown to reduce anxiety and help with recall.

I am clearly suffering from a slight chronological misalignment. Before you can take the exam, you have to get the information into your brain! Reading the syllabus material and study manual can be challenging. Fortunately, the technical reading advice in "Words, Words, Words" (under "Study Tips") is particularly insightful.

Once that information is in your brain, you have to be able to recall it. The most effective review methods are active, and one of the most common active review tools is the flashcard. I am taking you on a slight detour from the archives to the Future Fellows blog, which has some excellent tips on flashcard use in "Ask an Actuary: Genny Jones."

Have you been studying alone this whole time? The Doctor travels with companions, but is that right for you? We return to the archives under "Study Tips" to take a look at the pros and cons of study groups with an article that expands on some survey results about "Study Styles: Solo vs. Group." If you think a study group sounds like the right move, get some tips on how to keep it on track with one of our most recent articles, "Getting the Most Out of Study Groups."

No study session is complete without practice problems. When I am first learning material, I do practice problems in whatever way comes naturally. In early review, I often write my practice problems as though they will be graded just to keep myself in this mindset and so I do not get in the habit of skipping too many steps. Open the "Candidates & Exams" section and look under the "Exam Experience and Process" heading for "Straight from the Source" to find tips on what the graders are looking for in your exam paper. Writing each practice problem this way can be time-consuming, so in later stages of review, I switch to doing the practice problems more or less in my head, going through the process and possibly not even getting a numerical answer, just "talking through" how I would do it and then checking the solution to see if it was done the same way.

There are many more study tips and tricks in the Future Fellows archives, and you are welcome to visit any time.