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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

The mature student page

For too long now the answer to the question ‘So how are the exams going?’ has been ‘Not bad. Just the one to go now’. It’s beginning to get a little embarrassing.The reasons for this sad state of affairs are manifold. It wasn’t helped in the first place by the decision to give up the exams some years ago having been awarded with the certificate in actuarial techniques (I know – it’s called something else nowadays). A persuasive manager got me back on the road to qualification and, for a while, things were motoring along quite nicely, albeit in the slow lane. And then there was, in the great words of Stock, Aitken, and Waterman, a roadblock.At my first sitting of the last exam (subject 404) in September 2004, I simply didn’t know my stuff well enough. Much humble pie and cream consumed.Six weeks prior to the April 2005 exam (now SA4) I found myself with plenty of time on my hands and threw myself into features editing at the expense of studying. It was, and still is, so much more interesting than learning pensions guidance notes. But, hey, I knew my stuff well enough to pass the multiple-choice P paper in the afternoon, so I really was down to the very last paper.My September 2005 sitting was two days prior to a seven-week trip travelling through South America, which naturally needed plenty of planning and some proficiency in Spanish. I walked out after 45 minutes. And I didn’t even attempt it in April because I was doing two part-time jobs, which added up to more than one full-time one. Studying was out of the question.Now I really want to pass in September. There are so many advantages, besides never having to sit an exam ever again. For example, I can list my professional qualifications on my CV in three letters instead of a long list of subjects, most of which I have to look up as their names and numbers have changed so many times over the too many years.There’s a bottle of champagne in my fridge earmarked for the moment I see my name on the website among the list of qualifiers. It laughs at me every time I reach for the milk. I want to be able to drink it before it goes past its best-before date. It would be a shame if a good bottle-shaking resulted in a little dribble upon pulling the cork, rather than a fountain of froth.Besides, I’m too old to be a student, even an actuarial one. Tristan Walker-Buckton, the student page editor, mentioned in April’s issue watching the game show Knightmare (sic) as a kid. What is that? In my day, it was Blockbusters, in which geeky teens with even geekier mascots would make us snigger by asking for a ‘P’ please, Bob.So with all these fabulous reasons to pass my exam, why is it so difficult to study? As soon as I sit down at my desk at home, other tasks become so much more appealing: staring at the sky, de-matting my cat, picking a scab on my arm, polishing light switches until they gleam, or (my personal favourite) rewriting my study timetable. Even now, I am procrastinating by writing this editorial.Another enjoyable activity of the moment is daydreaming about what I will do on the afternoon after my morning exam. Will I sit in my friend’s garden gossiping over a bottle of white? Will I spend it sat in the cinema catching a film or two? Will I have coffee and cake and indulge in a Times ‘Deadly killer su doku’? The possibilities are endless. But I know I will only enjoy the afternoon if I have given the exam my best shot.By the time you read this, I will be just days away from the big day. Wish me luck! Or if you are one of our readers who likes to preserve their copy of The Actuary in its polyfilm wrap for a while before reading it – who knows? I might have qualified!