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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Past papers/The learning log

Past papers
Exams have been the cornerstone of the education of actuaries for decades, but how has the system changed over time? And have things got easier or harder? In the 1960s student actuaries were often required to pay to take their exams and for the accompanying study materials. Back then, there was only one study period a year, September to April, which made for a more pleasant summer but a longer qualification period. The tutorial system was in its infancy and was available only for later, essay-based exams; most tutors were volunteers. And, of course, students used log tables, not pocket calculators!

The late 1980s saw the arrival of Hazell Carr Training, which began to compete with the Institute and Faculty in providing study materials. From this point on, the voluntary aspect of tutorial provision started to be replaced by the more formal structure that students know today. Hazell Carr Training merged with Institute and Faculty Education (the subsidiary of the Institute and Faculty responsible for ensuring that actuarial student tuition is available) in 1995, and later became BPP Actuarial Education Limited, of which ActEd is a subsidiary.

One thing for which, perhaps, to be thankful is the splitting up of subjects into two smaller parts; instead of having to pass a pair of exams, it was possible to pass two separate ones. This happened in the late 1990s and survives today in the form of CTs 1-8. On the one hand, having to pass a pair of exams meant you could offset poor performance in one paper with good performance in the other; on the other, a failure would have meant resitting two exams so perhaps there was greater incentive to pass first time. CA1, of course, resembles this structure and is perhaps the subject students are most loath to resit.

As actuarial science degrees began to establish themselves in the UK, exemptions became more common and the knowledge of new student actuaries became more sophisticated. Stochastic modelling and financial economics are around a decade old in exam terms and reflect the broadening of actuaries’ activities over time. CA2 and CT9 are very young in exam terms and again suggest a broadening of the education system itself. The continual review of the system is one reason why new courses are added and the profession continues to be relevant.

Are things harder now than they used to be? Probably not, even if there are now more hurdles to surmount. That may give you some encouragement while revising this month.

Stephen Paines is the student page editor

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The learning log
Do you remember what you did at work two summers ago? I don’t, but my learning log does. It keeps a record of tasks, achievements and lessons learnt from various activities at work. It’s also the document that I copy-and-paste from to fill up the official one, required by the Institute for qualifying.

The learning log is a resource with many uses: in the appraisal process, applying for a new position or job, looking up approaches used in previous projects and mistakes never to be repeated. I have a tendency to locate orphaned documents and search for best approaches to typical problems within my log entries. The entries have become a great knowledge resource and allow me to reflect on my work patterns. Jotting down lessons learnt not only prevents them from being forgotten, but also embeds them in my mind.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the learning log is not what’s in it, but what’s not in it. Are there any missing work experiences that prevent you from performing at a higher level? Maybe you are happy where you are; but are you happy about where you’re heading? As part of a control cycle, our careers now require as much monitoring as the businesses we are involved in.

I’m keeping my learning log handy and up to date. As I brainstorm more details to add to my logs, I’ll be glad to add a new entry — “Got published in The Actuary”.

Justin Chan is an actuarial assistant for Hannover Life Re (UK).

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Exam time
Finally, good luck to everyone taking exams this month!