Study Techniques – The Practice Exam

By Ken Fikes
Posted on

An important step in successfully preparing for an actuarial exam is taking practice exams. Before trying that first practice exam, it is important that you are fully prepared. You want to understand the material and have worked many practice problems. Here are some tips on getting the most out of your practice exams.

First, you want to take these in exam-like conditions – no interruptions, no distractions.  It is important to take practice exams seriously. If you feel a little nervous before you start, that is good.  You will most likely feel this way on exam day, and this helps you better prepare for when your actual exam day comes.


During your exam, write down your calculations.  You will use this when grading your performance. Also, write down the time it takes to complete each problem.  A good method for this is to start a new sheet of paper for each problem with the number at top and the time remaining when you start the problem.  If you skip and go back, just keep track of the time again after you go back. After you finish, calculate the time that it took to do each problem.

For each problem you miss, identify the reason, such as not understanding the problem or topic or maybe you just made a simple calculation error.  Make sure that you also identify the problems that you got correct even though your method does not match the method in the solutions. You need to make sure your solution is a correct method.  Finally, note the topic of any problems where you spent more time than you should have.

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At this point you will have identified common mistakes you made and some specific topics in the course that you need to work on.  Review these sections. Work more problems. You need to become better prepared so that you can answer more questions, work problems quicker, and not make silly mistakes.  Depending on how you do on the first practice exam, you could need as much as a week to get ready for the next one. That’s okay – we are trying to avoid spending several extra months retaking the exam.

By the time you have completed this process a few times, you will be ready to take the real thing with confidence.  I often hear of candidates taking 15 or 20 practice exams as part of their final stage preparation for the preliminary exams.  Many times, these candidates are taking multiple practice exams each day. Unfortunately, for most candidates this is not the best way to use that time.  This method has two important drawbacks – spending too much time working problems in your areas of strength, and not enough time working problems in your area of weakness.  Plus, the time that should be spent focusing on knocking out your weaknesses gets wasted as you make the same mistakes over and over on subsequent practice exams. Your study time is too precious to waste any of it taking practice exam after practice exam without using them properly to improve your readiness for exam day.

Understanding the important role that practice exams play in exam preparation, CAS Student Central partnered with The Infinite Actuary to provide members with access to practice exams for Exams P and FM.  This benefit underscores the CAS’s continued commitment towards helping Student Central members make the successful transition from classroom to career.

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The Infinite Actuary grants members of CAS Student Central exclusive access to two additional free sample exams on P and FM, beyond those already offered for free on The Infinite Actuary website.  Each problem on these full length sample exams offers a video solution to ensure that students have a strong understanding of the material.  This exclusive access is usually only available to students through the purchase of an Online Seminar through The Infinite Actuary. Our instructors take great care in evaluating the material and choosing a distribution of topics and level of difficulty that is close to what a student will actually see on exam day.  Taking the practice exam on our software that closely resembles the CBT exam allows the student to work on timing and strategy.

So make the most of your time.  Prepare yourself to be successful and pass your exam.

Ken Fikes, FCAS
President, The Infinite Actuary

About the Infinite Actuary

In 2007, The Infinite Actuary became the first company to offer online actuarial exam prep products. Since then, the company has helped tens of thousands of actuarial students taking preliminary and upper-level exams. The Infinite Actuary works with highly qualified actuarial exam instructors to deliver a top-quality experience to customers. Online products are available throughout the year and can be viewed on a computer or using our iOS or Android apps.

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