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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Advent of change

Jason Whalley believes change is inevitable, uncompromising, and generally for the good.


The greatest teacher, failure is
The greatest teacher, failure is

The IFoA is making changes to the Associate and Fellowship qualification process.

With effect from 2019, the first half of the exam structure is set to be changed, as the Core Technical examinations are grouped together and statistical packages implemented in order to bring the syllabus closer to real-world actuarial work. This will primarily affect the actuarial students who have joined the IFoA within the past few years, as most of the specialist assessments are staying true to their topics and format.

Work-based skills are gradually being phased out of the requirement for qualification as a Fellow; replaced with personal and professional development.

Clearly, the actuarial governing body is striving to update the syllabus to be more in line with the skill set of the modern actuary. Although, ultimately, the task of amending the path to qualification will remain a never-ending job.

The IFoA provides the opportunity for students to speak out about change at the student consultative forum, where student representatives can raise issues as requested and push for resolution.

But what changes would current students like to see in 2018 and afterwards? More opportunities to sit examinations each year? A more objective – and less subjective – mark scheme for the later assessments?

It was not so long ago that exact marks were hidden from students. Unbeknown to some, breakdowns of marks are actually available upon request. Perhaps the IFoA could go one further, if demand was high enough, and provide marked scripts for students – to allow students to identify where they went wrong.

After all, “the greatest teacher, failure is,” according to one wise old swamp-dwelling hermit.

CA2 spreadsheets and papers can be submitted online, negating the requirement for an assessment centre. Although an issue with publishing pass lists back in December highlighted the governing body’s next area to target for improvement, other technological changes may be just around the corner, if enough people were to call for it. The option to perform examinations using computers – rather than pen and paper – represents a viable alternative for those who can type faster than write. 

Examination centres experience frequent complaints, and such problems could potentially be solved by sitting assessments online – albeit this could introduce complications for those without a stable internet connection.

In recent times there have been calls for clarity on the operations of the IFoA, especially concerning the communications policy. The back-and-forth over CT9 could undoubtedly have been handled more appropriately – and is certainly not the only example of unclear communication that left students in the dark over prevalent qualification issues.

The student consultative forum was recently notified of a request for greater transparency surrounding the marking procedure, of which some students are still not fully aware, and also of the reasons that would cause an additional script reviewer to be involved. 

The papers are marked by two separate examiners and the average mark taken to be the final grade, unless a third reviewer is required – perhaps owing to a high disparity between the two grades. 

However, there have been situations where the same individual scripts were judged to have a difference of up to 24 marks between two different assessors, which calls into question the attentiveness of those involved in marking for the IFoA. 

Furthermore, it should cause concern that a pass or fail could, ultimately, depend on who is allocated to review each script. 

The Student Consultative Forum takes place biannually, and the representatives act to provide a voice to each and every student member of the IFoA. Representatives liaise with the actuarial governing body about certain topics and make sure issues are properly discussed, receiving necessary attention.

Joseph Mills and I are happy to raise any issues at the student consultative forum; please feel free to share your thoughts by contacting us at student@theactuary.com