Actuarial Attitude

Three sittings later, I finally passed Exam FM (Financial Mathematics). I didn’t breeze through it like I did with Exam P, but six months’ worth of training taught me several things. I guess it’s true that failure can teach a lot more than success. I write this to remind myself that I know the path to success, I just need to START and be CONSISTENT.

First is that conventional study methods (which I tried twice) may not necessarily work. I took detailed notes before, registered for ADAPT subscriptions and solved lots of problems, which I think kinda gave me false confidence. I didn’t realize that I was at first content with having solved them that I didn’t take the time to analyze the solutions.

You need the discipline to stick to a study schedule. My goal was to do at least 2 hrs a day during weekdays, at least 4 hours on Saturday (and even watch Kdrama in the office as a reward XD)
I found Yufeng Guo’s guide to be the most helpful of all. ASM exams are very hard, so I didn’t expect a good result. The online CBT mock exam was very helpful for that exam feel. I didn’t subscribe to ADAPT this time and decided to practice on my own steam.
For the first time, I studied with another person. I have a colleague who like me was also struggling to pass. I found that teaching him the solutions makes it easier to realize the parts where I still lack understanding, and forces me to actually defend what I know so far. I also actively collaborated with a colleague whom I made my office mentor. In a more personal context, he taught me the value of “bringing problems into the light”, and that’s exactly what I did… Whenever I had solutions that were not so easy to understand, he explained everything in person or through email.

You need to GET CREATIVE especially with a mechanical exam such as FM. Two formulae (one about price sensitivity and one about the relationship between duration and convexity) were such a pain to memorize, so I wrote them on the whiteboard and displayed it in my room so I could passively look at them every day for a month. Sure enough, I can now picture them in my mind effortlessly.

I solved every problem in the sample exam in the way that Guo described it. Think simple. Prepare scripts.

It’s not enough to know the concepts. You need to solve fast! On the last week of the exam, I practiced speed-solving. … You need to know which items to give up. I got the CBT experience.

I formulated a time-management strategy for my exam. …. Goal is to solve 18-20 problems in the first hour.

I also prepared a reward system… i read 10 chapters of manhwa in between sessions, bought a dress I really liked and asked my friend to hold on to it til I pass my exam… Funny how I tend to seek enjoyable distractions come exam season… But more than the material rewards, I convinced myself that I need to pass it this time to finally be able to start learning bass guitar and study korean and poker seriously. (learning objectives that I have always wanted to do but never gotten around to starting…)

This time I paid attention to my health and diet. I looked up food for optimal brain performance (thanks Glenn for the nutritious night-before-exam dinner!), and took a relaxing walk before my exam, and hydrated well.

Good luck meal

Or maybe too well… Halfway into my exam, I already felt the need to use the comfort room and it got me solving even faster :((( I usually answer the survey after the exam just to psych myself up for the results, but this time I didn’t care, I just skipped it to be done with it. I think I got more relief from the after-exam bathroom break than the onscreen congratulations. :)))

But that day I proved that it was possible that even if you have several ventures to focus on, even if you’re busy with work, AS LONG AS YOU DEVELOP CONSISTENCY, it’s possible to do well in this exam and be confident about the results even before seeing it for yourself.

My main takeaway is this: In this steep ladder to an ASA designation, there will surely be a lot of sacrifices. But I don’t have to give up the things you enjoy just to be able to pass. (Fun fact: I drank soju the weekend before the exam because why not…)

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