Exam 6-Canada Intro

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How Exam 6 is Different

Many of you have already taken Exam 5 so you're familiar with an upper level exam, but Exam 6 is different:

  1. It's an essay-style exam (versus multiple choice)
  2. It has a huge memorization component (versus calculation)
  3. People generally find that Exam 6 takes about 15% more study time than Exam 5.

For an essay-style exam, you have to learn to write quickly and to cover the essential points with as few words as possible. Regarding memorization the split between essay & calculation problems is roughly 70/30. You still have to practice the common types of calculation problems (with our randomly generated practice templates) but as actuaries we're already pretty good at that. The number 1 reason people fail this exam is insufficient time spent on memorization. As you study, you have to be very aware of the following:

  • What have you covered?
  • How good is your retention?
  • When, and how often, do you need to review material you've already studied?

Because of the volume of material on the syllabus, it's difficult to keep track of all this without a good system. BattleActs was designed largely to address these issues Our unique scoring & tracking system, the BRQ (Battle-Readiness Quotient) is updated continuously and measures your progress through the syllabus. Your overall BRQ is always visible in the navigation bar next to your name. There is also a more detailed breakdown of your scores available in the the subsections of the main BattlePlan page. You'll quickly see how this works once you begin using the system.

Using data we've collected on BattleActs users from past sittings, we've created a preliminary profile of a successful Exam 6 candidate. See the wiki article BattleActs Analytics for more details.

The BIG Picture

It’s tempting jump in and immediately start studying but if you take a little extra time up front to read our introductory articles, you'll save yourself time and headaches. (And also $$$ for those bottles of aspirin you won't have to buy!). The wiki article BattleActs Analytics highlighted a few characteristics of successful candidates. Here a couple of other big picture items to also keep in mind:

  • Accept that you cannot learn everything. There are 2,500 pages of material on the syllabus and nobody can learn all that. But our Study Hacks (see below) will guide you to efficient study using a sensible study plan and study schedule.
  • Manage your time on exam day: This is NOT a little thing. We have awesome Exam Hacks that will get you over the hump! (See also Nearing BattleDay and On BattleDay.)

Note that the BattleActs system ranks the readings from 1 to n (where n = current number of readings on syllabus) based on points-per-exam for each reading across recent exams. That way, if you run out of time by exam day, you'll at least have covered the most important stuff. This ranking is the most significant factor in organizing your study. Check the BattleBriefings wiki page for the precise ordering.

And don't forget to check out BattleActs Analytics, which summarizes what we've learned from observing user behavior on the website.

Study Hacks!

Observation 1 (important papers)

The top 24 readings on the syllabus (out of 60+) account for about 80% of the points on the exam. (This is based on points-per-exam over recent exams.)
Study Hack 1:
  • Spend 80% of your time on these top 24 readings. (Learn them thoroughly)
  • Spend 20% of your time on the remaining readings.

This is the single-most important observation in guiding your studying: Study the exam topics in order of importance. Now, spending 20% of your time on 40-plus papers may not seem like enough, but using the wiki articles, you can learn the relevant material on each of these low-ranked papers often in just an hour or two. Then use the BattleQuizzes to review as necessary. Check the BattleBriefings wiki page for the precise ordering.

Note that your BRQ gradually decreases over time to reflect the fading of memory. So, when you see your score for a particular paper going down, that's your signal to review it.

Observation 2 (new papers)

The CAS has added 4 papers to the syllabus for Fall.2018. Where do these new papers fall in the rankings?

Since these new papers have not appeared on prior exams, they would be be ranked at the bottom by points-per-exam over recent exams. That may not reflect their true importance, and it is a judgment call on how much time to spend on them.

New readings for Fall.2018 and their tentative rank:

[49]   CIA.Models
[50]   ICBC.Affordable
[51]   IFA.Solvency2
[52]   Marshall.Benefits

Originally, I thought CIA.Models was the most important of the four. But the Fall.2018 exam tested the other 3 and didn't cover the modeling paper at all. Does that reflect what the exam committee deems important? Or will the modeling material appear in Spring.2019? There's no way to know. Either way, any questions they do ask likely won't be very hard. Easy points!

Study Hack 2: Pay attention to new readings even though they currently have a low rank. (They can't be properly ranked until they've been on the exam for a few more sittings.)

Observation 3 (outdated papers)

Papers are periodically removed from the syllabus, but the corresponding questions are not removed from the old examiner's reports.

If you are studying the material for the first time, you have no way of knowing when a particular question from an old exam is no longer relevant. I often get questions from students about this so we strive to clearly identify such within the BattleActs system.

Study Hack 3: Don't won’t waste time studying questions from outdated syllabus readings.

Most Important Exam Hack!

Candidate Observation (time pressure)

You will be under time pressure to finish the exam.
Most Important Exam Hack: You must have a time management plan for exam day. (See On BattleDay for details.)

Bloom's Taxonomy

Bloom’s taxonomy is not a new idea. It was created in 1956 by psychologist Dr. Benjamin Bloom to promote higher order learning versus simple memorization.

  • In light of this, the CAS is moving away from exam questions that can be answered with simple memorization. Newer exam questions, while still based on facts, often require further interpretation, and/or synthesis of facts from more than one reading.
  • Such interpretive questions are indeed better questions, but they take longer to answer and open the door to multiple interpretations. There are instances where a valid answer may be different from the answer in the examiner’s report.
  • Time-permitting, dump anything & everything you think might be relevant into your answer.

Syllabus Organization

The CAS website explains what you need to know for this exam in terms of knowledge statements, etc. (I don't like being critical, but I personally didn't find that to be very helpful in organizing my studying.)

Another way to get your bearings is to notice that there are:

  • 15 CIA readings (Canadian Institute of Actuaries).
    • These cover mainly insurance-specific accounting topics.
  • 11 OSFI readings (Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions).
    • OSFI readings generally apply to any financial institution, but also have insurance-specific topics.

The remaining readings cover a range of topics including:

  • legal precedents
  • specialized lines of business such as: agriculture, earthquakes, floods, terrorism
  • rating regulations
  • accounting frameworks

That's not an exhaustive list, but it's enough to get you started. (Check out the tables on the BattleBriefings page.)

Note on Formatting

I sometimes use parentheses to separate and highlight phrases. If you can break a long sentence into chunks, it will be easier to grasp the meaning, and also to remember it. Here's an example from Dutil.FA, the paper on Facility Association (FA):

The #1 fact to memorize about FA is:

Goal of FA: to ensure (auto insurance availability) for (all owners & licensed drivers) unable (to obtain coverage through the voluntary market)

The phrases in parentheses are not really parenthetical statements - they are meant to separate and highlight.

Note on Retrieving Previous Exam Questions

Note that many BattleCards (or flash cards) are actually old exam questions. To see the actual question and answer from the examiner's report, click E in the left-hand column when you're viewing a BattleCard page.


The BattleActs study system is designed to help you focus on what we believe to be the most important and most frequently tested topics on the exam. Questions may come up from material not covered in our study system. We suggest that you use your own judgement where to use your time when reading the source material.

Next Steps...

  1. Make a big pot of coffee. :-)
  2. Keep calm and carry on...
  3. Back to BootCamp