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Is actuarial science difficult?

In this blog, Chloe Hung, Amazon best-selling author, uses her experience to explain what makes the actuarial examinations difficult and how best to prepare for them.

Has anyone ever told you that actuarial science is a difficult course to study?

When I was an actuarial student, I used to wonder what it was about actuarial science that was so difficult. I understood that as an actuarial student I had to pass several professional exams to qualify as an actuary, but that’s no different to medical students who have to undergo years of study to become a doctor. So, what is it about actuarial science that makes it so difficult?

I never truly understood why the public viewed actuarial science as extremely challenging or why people consider actuaries so clever until I went through the actuarial professional exams myself. The university course on its own wasn’t too difficult, especially if you’re good at numbers.

My struggle as an actuarial student started when I began preparing for my first actuarial exam. I used to think that the actuarial exams were simply just maths exams that you could easily pass if you studied hard for them.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The professional exams are challenging because you need to have an in-depth understanding of the various concepts and materials at hand to pass them. You need to be quick and accurate with your calculations and concepts as you will usually be required to complete the exam within a specific time frame. There’s no room for careless errors.

In addition to that, you need to be prepared for the pressure on the actual exam day. Last minute studying and cramming is not a good strategy if you’re serious about passing your actuarial exams. Blindly memorising formulas in the hopes of regurgitating them again on the actual exam day is also not going to work because those formulas are not going to be useful without a thorough understanding of the concepts at hand.

Remember, the professional exams play a very important role in your journey to becoming an actuary. That’s the main reason why I believe actuarial science is a difficult course to pursue if you don’t have the right attitude and mindset for it.  Actuarial students are considered to be smart and good at numbers. Every time you sit a professional exam, you will be competing against other highly clever individuals.

Use good study aids to help you in your exam preparation. Stay up-to-date with the exam syllabus by checking the IFoA website and reading the communications from your professional body. Most importantly, do not give up if actuarial science is your calling. If you ever feel disheartened or demotivated, remember that you have now joined a profession where people are both intellectually smart and ambitious.