In order to achieve professional actuarial status in either the United States or Canada, candidates must pass a series of exams administered by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and/or Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS). SOA exams are named with letters and CAS exams with numbers. The first three of these exams are called the introductory exams, and each society accepts the other’s exams. Students must also complete approved coursework, known as the Validation by Educational Experience (VEE) requirement.
Passing actuarial exams is essential for an actuarial career, as most employers prefer to hire candidates who have already passed one or two examinations. The exams may be taken in any order, but Valpo students should aim to pass Exams P/1 and/or FM/2 (along with the VEE) prior to graduation. Students can find general information about the exam requirements, including the registration deadlines, in the SOA course catalog, and students can register for the exams online via the SOA website.
Some students may be able to pass Exam IFM/3F.
Individual Actuarial Exams
Exam P (SOA)/ Exam 1 (CAS)
Exam P/1 (Probability) is a three-hour multiple-choice examination covering calculus-based probability and statistics. Many of the problems on this exam are set as word problems involving risk. The exam is administered by the SOA and offered six times during the year via computer-based testing. Students should be prepared to take this exam after completing STAT 441.
Exam FM (SOA)/Exam 2 (CAS)
Exam FM/2 (Financial Mathematics) is a three-hour multiple-choice examination covering interest theory and introductory financial mathematics. The exam is administered by the SOA and offered six times during the year via computer-based testing. Students should be prepared to take this exam after completing ACRS 325.
Validation by Educational Experience (VEE) Requirements
In addition to professional actuarial exams, The Society of Actuaries and Casualty Actuarial Society also require that students complete approved coursework. The CAS requires courses in two areas: 1) economics and 2) accounting and finance. The SOA in addition requires coursework in a third area: mathematical statistics. Valpo courses that have received VEE approval are listed below. A student must receive a grade of B- or better in the course to receive VEE credit. Additional information about the VEE process can be found on the SOA website or CAS website.
VEE Approved Courses:
- Mathematical Statistics – STAT 442
- Economics – ECON 221 and 222
- Accounting and Finance – ACC 205 and FIN 304
Studying for the Exams
The actuarial exams are challenging, and students should plan to spend additional study time on them beyond the college coursework. The general rule of thumb is to spend 100 total hours of class and study time preparing for each hour of exam time (for example, spend about 300 hours preparing for a three-hour exam).
For the preliminary exams, it is essential that students work through practice problems, and it is recommended that students purchase or borrow a study manual. Valparaiso University’s actuarial science director has one or two study manuals students may borrow, or students can purchase a study manual through an actuarial bookseller.
Students can find the syllabus for the exam in the online SOA course catalog. Within the syllabus are electronic links to any required study notes, plus a set of sample exam problems with solutions. Students should download these. There are also additional practice exam problems online.
Valparaiso University offers exam-prep courses for Exam P/1 (ACRS 400) and for Exam FM/2 (ACRS 402).
Study resources are available on the Actuarial Links page.