Three Key Assumptions That May Be Holding You Back From Passing Your Exams 

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”–Albert Einstein 

The actuarial profession is rife with assumptions. When you’re an actuary, you’re going to be using assumptions to assess risk, value future outcomes and put a price tag on that risk. 

However, there are three key assumptions you might likely make when it comes to passing your actuarial exams. 

Destination of This Journey 

With the destination of this lesson, you’ll be able to: 

  • Identify the three key assumptions you might be taking for granted concerning studying.
  • Choose your response to these assumptions, and others like it, more deliberately.
  • Discover how to avoid these assumptions and stop derailing your studying. 

Assumption 1: Will Power is Always On Will Call 

What does this mean? You have the habit of thinking that because you want the will power to be able to study when you say you will, and you will always have it. 

Not necessarily so. Author Gary Keller, author of The One Thing says, “Will power is not on will call.” 

Just because you end up not studying when you say you will doesn’t mean you lack will power. It could simply mean your will power is depleted completely for the day. 

Think of it like this: At the beginning of the day, you wake up refreshed and raring to go. You have a full tank of will power, ready to use. Every time you make a decision, you end up using some of that will power. Easy routines take up very little power, but difficult decisions can nearly wipe you out. And doing something you really dread doing tends to take up the rest—and you’re likely done for the day. 

If this is the case, how to turn this assumption on its ear and make it a gain, and not a loss? 

There are plenty of options, and you need to take the time to experiment with what works for you. But, say, for instance, your will power tank is fullest at the beginning of the day. So you might shift your study time to the first thing in the morning—or at least earlier in the day than when you first started. 

There are two upsides to this: start your studying early in the morning and you not only mark a milestone for the day, but you also have your evenings free for whatever it is you wish to do—as long as you can get up in the morning. Win-win, right? 

Assumption 2: Studying for Exams is Just Like Studying For College 

True, right? Not necessarily. 

In college, you have a teacher, a syllabus, and a definite course of action to take, a specific number of chapters to read for the next class period, specific class times dates for tests, quizzes and all of that. 

But when you’re studying for the actuarial exams, it’s self-guided studying: you are your own teacher, you write your own syllabus, set your own study deadlines, etc. The only thing that’s set for you in stone is the date of the exam you’re studying for. You don’t have a teacher to whom you’re accountable. You are accountable only to yourself—or perhaps to a mentor. But that’s still different, because they aren’t going to determine your study roadmap for you. 

There’s a bit of freedom to this, because we often feel we study better on our own and not with others, but it can also be overwhelming because you are the one doing all the thinking and planning.

So, taking all of this into consideration, it’s fair to say that studying for actuarial exams is definitely not like studying for college courses. A different plan and approach are needed when it comes to self-guided studying.

Assumption 3: Self-Guided Studying = Solo Studying 

When it comes to actuarial exams, people taking those exams tend to put themselves on islands. This really isn’t necessary, though the thinking is understandable. Though there might be people who have taken the exams before, relying on yourself to get through things is a common practice. And there’s really nothing wrong with this.

However, there are benefits you might not have thought of to including others in your studying in one form or another.

You can ask each other questions, be accountable to each other, and you can definitely learn by teaching. It gives you a chance to paraphrase what you’ve learned, and teach what you know. It’s a powerful method for information retention as well as learning how to present information overall, which is going to be key when you land your first actuarial job.

Also, when you find other aspiring actuaries, you won’t have to feel alone. They’ll understand why you’re not going out.

So how to find people when you feel very much like a one-person actuarial island? First off, there’s the internet, rife with forums and social media, especially LinkedIn. You can also go to ActuarialJourney.com and join the conversations there. You can also be a leader and create your own study group. It doesn’t matter if it’s live or virtual, just commit to it.

Finally, if you prefer more one-on-one action, find a mentor to work with. It can be a formal or informal relationship, but it has to be someone you trust more than anyone, and it really doesn’t have to be an actuary.

You’ve Reached Your Destination 

So, to recap the destination:

A) Identify the 3 key assumptions you might be taking for granted when it comes to studying:

Assumption 1: Will power is always on will call—definitely not the case for most.

Assumption 2: Studying for exams is like studying for college.

Assumption 3: Self-guided studying means you have to go it alone.

B) Choose your response to these assumptions—and others like them—deliberately.

C) Discover how to avoid these assumptions and stop derailing your studying.

The actuarial field may be full of assumptions and assessing risk, but there are just certain assumptions about studying for the exams that, when held onto, are clearly more trouble than they’re worth.

Want more help with your journey?

  1. Actuarial Community: Feeling alone on your journey? Become a part of the Actuarial Journey Community!
  2. Create a study plan you’ll actually stick to!: This free video series will show you the step-by-step process to create you own Personalized Study Roadmap and design your Study Lifestyle
  3. Actuarial Job Course: a completely free full-length course with videos, worksheets, tools, and community all geared to help your get your entry-level actuarial job and start your actuarial career.
  4. Actuarial Journey Podcast: Get more insights and lessons learned each week sent directly to your phone!

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?