3 Crucial Studying Tips To Nail A Multiple Choice Exam

Along your actuarial journey, there’s no doubt that you’re going to come across many multiple choice exams. When studying for these exams, most people tend to use an ineffective and unstructured approach.

Some just blindly follow the advice they’ve been told.

 “Just study a ton of questions.”

“Take a lot of study exams.”

“Only study the questions you get wrong.”

Others may have never received advice, and will just wing it, making strategies up as they go along.

Approaches like these are misguided, and in some cases, damaging. If you spend countless hours studying without moving forward and actually learning, you will just be wasting your time.

Today, you will learn about unconventional yet extremely effective studying strategies for multiple choice exams. By the end of this article, you will:

  • Know how to decide what topics to focus on, and when.
  • Learn a technique that gives you a deeper insight on the problems you study.
  • Recognize when it’s time to move on from a problem.

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee

This quote brings us to the first studying tip:

  1. Recognize your strengths. Diligently build upon them.

We know what you’re thinking. “How can martial arts possibly relate to a multiple choice exam?”

Consider this scenario: Person A is an actuarial journeyer who, during his studies, tries to cover every type of question at least one time. He tries to become a jack-of-all trades, and masters none. When he takes the test, he performs decently in each section, but also struggles on some questions in each section.

Person B is also an actuarial journeyer. However, person B took the time to recognize the sections of the exam and the types of questions that he strongly excels with. He also recognizes what he has trouble with.

To complement his natural strengths, he selects a few other topics he believes he has the best chance of mastering. Overall, his natural strengths and topic selections encompass about 80% of the test’s material. When he takes the test, he aces the 80% that he mastered, and decently performs on the remaining 20%.

Which person do you think will score better on the test?

Obviously, the answer is person B. This person recognized his natural strengths, and selected runner-up topics to encompass most of the test. This method is effective because, on a multiple choice question, there are only two possible outcomes for you. Either you get the question correct, or incorrect…

You don’t get credit for “almost” getting the question correct. You don’t get credit for studying each question 90% of the way.

Person A’s method is flawed, because by studying everything equally, he was, on average, unable to answer any question with 100% certainty.

Whereas, in person B’s method, he was able to answer 80% of the test with 100% certainty.

This is called a binary system. Multiple choice questions have two possible outcomes. Right, and wrong. Make this work for you, instead of against you, by recognizing your natural strengths, and selecting runner-up topics to master.

Whether your topics of choice are the Bayes Theorem, the Time Value of Money, or about the Binomial Tree, you should have no problem recognizing your natural abilities.

  1. Master your natural strengths and runner-up topics through problem sets.

Many aspiring actuaries place too much attention on practice tests, while ignoring problem sets.

This comes from the flawed mindset, mentioned in the beginning of this article, that encourages the “just study a lot of problems and you’ll pass” behavior. People who have this mindset will tend to rush through the study/practice material once or twice, and then spend the rest of their study time taking practice tests.

Do not neglect to practice using problem sets. A problem set helps build competency, and ultimately mastery by:

  • Allowing you to practice with one type of problem.
  • Giving you valuable insight by showing you how the same problem can have a dozen different appearances.
  • Building your speed with specific types of problems by making you familiar with the patterns and logic required to answer them.
  • Further building your speed as you familiarize yourself with how to set up your scrap paper for each type of problem.

Conversely, a practice exam builds the skills required to effectively take a test. Skills like, agility, endurance, and mental rigidity.

  • They get you familiar with the agility required to jump from one topic to another.
  • They build the endurance you need to stay focused for 3+ hours at a time.
  • They refine your mental rigidity so that you’re able to stay on track when roadblocks and obstacles that wane your confidence rear their ugly heads.

If you take on a multiple choice test without practicing problem sets, you’ll find yourself surprised when you meet problems that you don’t know how to do. You’ll waste time trying to read through and comprehend questions. You will waste even more time searching for the correct answer.

If you take on a multiple choice test without doing practice exams, you’ll have trouble staying focused. You’ll lose your confidence and may even freeze up. You won’t be acclimated to the topic jumps.

As we stated earlier, most people will neglect the problem sets and place too much emphasis on the practice tests. Make sure you place equal emphasis on both.

Perhaps the biggest benefit that you’ll see from doing practice tests involves your mind and muscle memory. You’ll see a problem on a test, and without even thinking about it, know exactly how to tackle it. Powerful, isn’t it?

  1. When you get a problem wrong, start over.

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. By default, people will go back through the work, and scan for what they did wrong. When the find it, they’ll say to themselves, “Oh! That’s what I did wrong. Okay, next.”

This method is okay, however, it’s far more effective to work through the entire problem again. Then, you compare your new process/answer to your old process/answer. Over time, this method will prove its value to you.

You’ll find yourself noticing small details that you would have missed if you had just scanned through your old work.

These small details will add up to tremendous advancements in your knowledge and growth, and will definitely contribute to higher score on your exam.

There are two important things to keep in mind when you do this:

  1. Give your mind some time to rest before going back to a problem you got wrong. You’ll be surprised at the amount of mental space that gets cleared up when you take on a new problem. A good rule of thumb is to do at least one other problem before going back. However, the most common method is to go back through the problems you got wrong after you finish the test.
  2. When re-working a problem, try not to let the process take longer than twice the amount of time it took you to get your first answer. Use a timer to help you keep track. Consider fifteen minutes a hard stop. No problem should take you more than fifteen minutes.

You’ve reached your destination!

Above all, these strategies will allow you to pursue your ideal study lifestyle by helping you pass your exams the first time, every time. This spares you from the horror of waiting months for the next exam to come around.

  • Be the person who recognizes his strengths. Take the time to select runner-up topics that encompass most of the test.
  • Don’t neglect to utilize practice problem sets. They are especially important for multiple choice exams. And remember, you can only get the questions right or wrong; there is no in-between.
  • Re-work all of your problems. It’s a bad idea to just scan through your old work. Create new work and compare it to the old.
  • Believe it or not, these are among the most lucrative strategies for studying multiple choice exams. Good luck!


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Let us know in the comments below – Which one of these principles do you think would be the best for you to focus on for the next month?