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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Why Andrew Smith failed the exams

I regret the distress that two questions in the April 2005 CT4 exam caused Andrew Smith (‘Why I failed the exams’, October 2005). I also regret any distress caused to other students by these questions and by Andrew’s comments.

I would like to reassure all students that the Exam Board is committed to ensuring the delivery of a fair examination system to all.

The production process for exam papers and sample solutions involves a number of steps designed to minimise the risk of ambiguous or unfair questions or inappropriate solutions:

  • examiners produce draft papers and solutions;
  • staff actuaries review these, checking them against the syllabus and core reading for each subject and advising on any potential ambiguities that they identify;
  • volunteers, usually recently qualified actuaries, attempt the papers and provide their comments;
  • the examiners, with input from the staff actuaries, then meet to decide if any changes should be made;
  • different volunteers, again usually recently qualified actuaries, provide comments on the (revised) papers and solutions;
  • There is then a final review by the examiners and staff actuaries before any final changes are made and the papers are set.
  • Once the exams have been sat there is further work done to identify alternative approaches and solutions and any possible issues with the papers. In particular:

    • shortly after each exam a sample of scripts is reviewed by the examiners, staff actuary, and markers, and valid additional points are identified for use in the marking process;
    • ActEd reviews the paper and submits any issues or alternative approaches for consideration;
    • during the rest of the marking process markers continue to raise any issues with the examiners as necessary.

    It should be remembered that the solutions given on the website are indicative of the points which the examiners expected. In general, they are not intended to represent the only valid answers. With all exams, alternative valid solutions are awarded equivalent marks.

    Unfortunately, despite these best endeavours to produce and deliver a quality product, issues can sometimes arise with individual exams. If examiners are made aware of a potential issue with any element of an exam they review the material and make any changes they feel appropriate. In addition, they take any necessary action to review student scripts, marks, and pass lists.