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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Actuarial Agony with Jen & Jean

Many thanks to all those that contributed their views in response to Jean’s article in the August issue. Please be assuredthat, while we may at times publish controversial views in order to get you writing, above all we seek to represent theviews of the student population as accurately and fairly as possible and will always ensure that your comments arepassed to the relevant people. The biggest positive to be taken from this saga must be that following the sheer volumeof responses that were put forward to the profession, it has advised that calculator policy is ‘still under review’.Profession-speak, one suspects, for ‘We had no idea they felt so strongly, we’d better have a rethink’. So look out for a‘final’ version of the policy in the months to come.We are pleased to award the Faculty and Institute-approved Casio FX85ES to Aled Davies of KPMG for his originaland entertaining letter.

Letters

From Owen Griffiths, NorwichUnion

Calculators: a strange subject toevoke such passion. The choice of aninstrument so fundamental to somuch that we do is partly personalin nature – probably one of the reasonsbehind the adverse reactionfrom so many people. The conductof the Faculty/Institute on thematter is probably not encouragingacceptance.There is a flaw in the assumptionthat you will do better simplybecause you have a ‘better’ calculator:the majority of marks inexaminations are allocated fordemonstrating understanding byshowing intermediate stages andworkings. Did none of the studentswho felt they were disadvantagedever consider obtaining a better calculatorthemselves?Most people have had their currentcalculators for a long period andhave confidence in using them atexam speed. The task of learning acalculator up to exam speed shouldnot be underestimated: just thinkhow difficult it can be trying to figureout a friend’s mobile that is differentfrom your own! For those withlearning difficulties who find themselvesalready disadvantaged inexamination situations, thesechanges pose yet another significantobstacle.The new rules seem excessivelypunitive and inflexible. The fact thata student may risk disqualificationsimply because their calculator doesnot have a solar panel is a littleworrying!I agree with the aim of the newrules but not the method norimplementation… The verdict so farwould have to be ‘more thoughtrequired, could try harder’.

From Giselle Woodhead, MitchellConsulting

I have to say that your student pagein the August issue was most dismissiveof all the comments you’veheard/received since the new calculatorpolicy was introduced. As astudent I find it most annoying thatyou, who are supposed to representthe views of the students themselves,publish the comments you’vereceived and then dismiss them outof hand entirely.I own a Sharp EL-531WH and aHP12C. However, I do not own aSharp EL-531WB or a HP12C Platinum.I do understand that we aretrying to avoid a list ‘of hundreds, oreven thousands, of permitted calculators’but surely specifying themodel down to the last digit of themodel number is spurious accuracy?You make the point that £10 is notgoing to make a huge dent in mostactuarial students’ pockets. Fairenough, but the HP12C Platinumcosts £60, not £10.Most annoying to me, personally,is that if the Institute/Faculty doesnot change its policy (or introduce atleast some leniency) I will need tobuy a new calculator for hopefullymy final exam in April next year.Never mind that my last exam willbe the specialist application paperwhere I’ll probably not need a calculatorfor anything more importantthan simple sums, although younever do know what they’ll throw atyou!No, this is not the biggest controversythat has ever rocked the actuarialstudent’s world. However, it isone that affects each and every studentwho does not have one of thecalculators on the list published bythe profession. One presumes that asizeable proportion of students donot feel that it is in their best interests.Perhaps, as a member of theSCC, you should communicate thatto the powers-that-be.

From Aled Davies, KPMG

Fair play Jean. A very good realitycheck for all the students who thinktheir actuarial world is going to collapseon them following this news!In my opinion there are a fewcamps where I think this will reallyaffect them and hence where all thisnoise is coming from:u the outright cheaters who store allthese formulas in their calculator;u those with some snazzy functionsthat make life exam little simpler(including me);u those who are so lazy that theyhaven’t changed their calculatorsince A-levels and can’t imaginebeing amputated from their dearold graphical buddy;u those too tight to want to spend£10 on a new calculator (me againprobably… hence why I want towin this calculator of yours!).Ultimately, the new rules won’tdisadvantage anybody, it’ll justmean everybody starts on a levelplaying field.On a related note, I would like tostart a calculator amnesty, wherethose with ‘illegal’ calculators cansend them in to me without fear ofprosecution and with their anonymityguaranteed. Please send to…

Exam Position of the monthPosition: The OverachieverDifficulty rating: HighSpecial props: Answer booklet,raised hand, invigilator, morepaper, more paper, morepaper…Satisfaction rating: The Overachievercan enjoy multiplesmug sensations as his fellowexaminees marvel at both theever-increasing length of hisanswers and his appetite forextra paper as their pens dartfuriously over their ownseemingly inadequate offerings.

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